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Gilroy Gardens

Specialty rides highlight the area’s agricultural roots

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If you're still searching for a way to get your kids to eat their veggies, take them to this charming agricultural amusement park in the Garlic Capital of the World. The garden-themed rides—with silly names like Artichoke Dip (think spinning tea cups)—are so mild, some allow infant riders. Climb aboard a hungry worm for a trip around an apple core or crawl into the center of a giant garlic bulb for some whirls and twirls.

In addition to low-key rides and attractions geared especially for little ones, Gilroy Gardens is home to “Circus Trees” by Axel Erlandson, who helped them achieve their whimsical shapes through an elaborate grafting process. Your child can go on a scavenger hunt of the famed trees—just grab a brochure at the entrance. They’re all masterpieces, but the basket tree and the four-legged giant are must-sees.

The shady 536-acre property has six botanical gardens, the largest being Monarch Garden, set in a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse. Some of the gardens have specialized tours—like a relaxed boat cruise through the flower-filled Rainbow Garden. Or you can climb aboard a re-creation of a Model-T car to tour the South County Backroads area, landscaped to show how this broad valley south of San Francisco was once almost exclusively farmland. Kids will also have a blast seeing the tropical and subtropical plants from on board the park’s miniature replica of a steam train.

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