Garlic on the chopping board at the Gilroy Garlic Festival
Toni Zernik

JULY

Gilroy Garlic Festival

Vampires beware: the Gilroy Garlic Festival is one garlic-infused weekend that creatures of the night may want to avoid. Everyone else—go at least once to this unforgettably odiferous and one-of-a-kind three-day late-July festival in the Central Coast town of Gilroy. See how creative chefs can be when it comes using this flavouring staple: you’ll find garlicky stir-fried prawns and chicken, breads slathered with every kind of garlic butter, and moreish garlic fries—as well as more adventurous offerings, such as garlic ice cream and popcorn. It’s all available along Gourmet Alley, the main avenue of the festival, which is lined with self-described 'pyro chefs' who put on a blazing show while preparing their specialities.

Besides the plethora of garlicky foods, the festival has the Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen Pageant competition as well as over 100 carefully curated arts and crafts merchants. The price of admission also includes the family-friendly live music performed on three stages, ranging from jazz to rock to reggae to country. Kids will be entertained in the Children’s Area, which includes child-friendly food options, stalls, rides and games, and the weekend is full of various garlic-themed cooking competitions, including one just for little ones. 

Tickets are valid for all three days and are $20 for adults and $10 for children over 10; those 9 and younger are free. You can purchase passes in advance online at a discounted price, and VIP ticket packages are also available. To make sure you don’t miss anything, download the Gilroy Garlic Festival app for a full event timetable, food stall and arts & crafts listings, a map of the festival grounds and more. 

Can’t make the festival? Don’t worry—the city of Gilroy never forgets its favourite bulb. At any time of year, you can shop for garlic products, presses and souvenirs at shops around the town.

Insider tip: though parking is available for a modest charge, on the Saturday and Sunday of the festival Caltrain offers a chartered 'Garlic Train' to the event, leaving from San Jose in the morning and returning late afternoon. The Garlic Train is scheduled to connect to regular Caltrain services from as far north as San Francisco. Tickets are only available in advance and as part of a transportation and festival admission package.