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Garlic put this Central Coast town on the map but you’ll also find farm stands, excellent wine, and outdoor experiences

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Garlic put this Central Coast town on the map but you’ll also find farm stands, excellent wine, and outdoor experiences

If people know Gilroy for one thing, it’s bound to be garlic. That’s no surprise, considering that this Central Coast community is the “Garlic Capital of the World” and hosts the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, a tradition since 1979 that draws devotees of the so-called “stinking rose” from near and far.

While it’s almost a requirement for visitors to try Gilroy’s unique local delicacy—garlic ice cream—there’s much more to see and do. For starters, you can stroll the city’s historic downtown, visit Santa Clara Valley wineries, experience a unique theme park, and explore nearby parks with miles of trails through the rolling hills. But first—garlic! Humorist Will Rogers used to visit this area just 33 miles south of San Jose and once joked that Gilroy “is the only town I know where you can marinate a steak by hanging it on a clothesline.”

Where to eat garlic in Gilroy

Follow the Road to Garlic to the best garlic-themed destinations, including restaurants, gourmet shops, and a giant downtown mural that celebrates the city’s unique agricultural and culinary heritage. Since 1986, the family-owned Garlic World has been the place to go for specialty items including garlic braids, pickled garlic, and infused olive oils. And if you’re finally going to try garlic ice cream, Garlic World is the place.

There’s also a Gilroy food scene beyond garlic. The town is a hot spot for Mexican food and Gilroy’s Taco Trail guides visitors to nearly 30 popular local destinations. For the freshest of seasonal produce, stop into such popular Gilroy area farm stands as LJB Farms (terrific hand-pressed apple juice) and Casa de Fruta, once just a simple cherry stand that has grown into a full-fledged attraction with a hotel, restaurant, and amusement park in nearby Hollister. 

Wine tasting near Gilroy

Gilroy’s wine country begins just outside of town and features a diverse array of varietals. Fortino Winery in Hecker Pass has earned considerable national praise since opening its doors in 1970—mostly for its Malbec. Less than a mile away, Solis Winery traces its roots back to a winemaking operation that started in 1917 on the property and features gorgeous views of the Gabilan mountain range. And for a great value, the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail Pass covers tasting fees at 30 area wineries for a full year.

What to do in downtown Gilroy

Back in downtown, take a self-guided historic walking tour that leads past 19th-century buildings, as well as a number of structures designed by noted California architect W.H. Weeks. Among his Gilroy landmarks is the 1922 Milias Hotel, once a destination for such celebrities as Clark Gable and now home to the Milias Restaurant, popular for its BLT Benedict at brunch and lamb chops at dinner. OD’s Kitchen is another popular spot thanks to classics such as biscuits and gravy, country fried steak, and blueberry pancakes.

Family and outdoor activities in Gilroy

If you’re traveling with children, there’s plenty to keep the kids entertained. Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park lets the younger crowd enjoy an assortment of mellow rides, including gentle roller coasters, trains, and paddle boats. But the park is most famous for its Circus Trees, 25 uniquely shaped trees that were created by using innovative grafting techniques. At the Gilroy Ostrich Farm, get a close-up look at the world’s biggest birds, as well as goats, emus, and alpacas. Planning to make a really, really big omelet? The farm’s ostrich eggs are equal in size to as many as 18 chicken eggs.

Explore Gilroy’s gorgeous landscapes along 35 miles of trails in the Diablo Range at Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch County Park, and step back into the area’s Native American past at Chitactac-Adams Heritage County Park. And if you forgot your hiking clothes, you’re bound to find something to wear in one of the 145 stores at the Gilroy Premium Outlets. It’s also home to the California Welcome Center Gilroy, a great source for local information.

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