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Garlic put this Central Coast town on the map but you’ll also find farm stands, excellent wine, breweries, 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 known as the “Garlic Capital of the World.” While it’s almost a requirement for visitors to try Gilroy’s various culinary applications of the so-called “stinking rose”—including the particularly 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.

You could say Gilroy punches above its weight class when it comes to breweries, and many of them are located within a block and a half from each other on Monterey Road in the middle of downtown. Pour Me Self-Pour Brewery, Promised Land Brewing Company, Bartenders Union, and Settle Down Brewery & Taproom are all there.

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. Nearby, there are two oases where you can explore Gilroy’s gorgeous landscapes. At Mt. Madonna County Park, visitors can hike or even go horseback trail riding amidst the park’s 4,600 acres dominated by redwood forests. Or step back into the area’s Native American past at Chitactac-Adams Heritage County Park. On the other (eastern) side of Gilroy’s outskirts you’ll find Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch County Park, which offers 35 miles of trails in the Diablo Range. 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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