Gilroy, California is often referred to fondly as the 'Garlic Capital of the World' due to their extensive garlic farms that fill the air with the rich aroma of, well, garlic! While the city that produces roughly 660 million pounds of the stinking rose per year has some fascinating garlic-themed tourism, there is more to Gilroy than just the herb used to flavor dishes around the world. Just 80 miles from San Francisco, it makes for the perfect day trip while visiting the Bay Area. Whether visitors head to Gilroy for the garlic or the scenery of the Santa Clara Valley, they will be find a city full of attractions that are sure to please the whole family.
Imbibe at Local Wineries
Located in the heart of the Santa Clara wine region, a quick up-and-comer in California wine country, Gilroy is home to 10 wineries including Hecker Pass Winery, Rapazzini Winery and Solis Winery whose unique vintages are garnering growing international fame. Hecker Pass Winery takes a 'little bit of everything' approach to their wine production with 17 different varieties including reds, whites and blends. They are open daily for tastings of their extensive line up and visitors will be hard pressed without taking a bottle or two home with them. Rapazzini Winery takes a more specialized approach by featuring mainly in red wine, while Solis Winery includes a focused array of merlot, chardonnay and zinfandel wines. Solis Winery also offers tastings daily and guests are free to tour their sprawling vineyard.
Enjoy the Garlic Festival
For those who happen to visit Gilroy in July, they may be able to attend their historic Garlic Festival. Gilroy has played host to the Garlic Festival since 1979 and has grown it to a three-day evnet that is fun for the whole family and not just for garlic farmers. The festival features live music, art displays and craft booths, the sales from which are donated to local charities. However, the main attraction of the Garlic Festival is generally the food. Visitors can experience garlic used right through traditional pit barbeque, garlic chicken and garlic bread. The more adventurous eaters can try the more creative food options like garlic ice cream or garlic almonds. Guests can also pick up some handy garlic cooking tips from the cooking demonstrations that happen throughout.
Visit and Ostrich Ranch
For those who enjoy animals, Gilroy is home to some odd ones. The city is home to the Silver Oaks Ostrich Ranch that features a whole heard of these amazing avian giants. Visitors can watch these eight-feet-tall, 400 pound fast birds run and give them an ominous stink eyes. Scientists say that the ostrich is the closest living thing today, alongside crocodiles and alligators, which are related to dinosaurs. The unique ranch also features Belted Galloway cattle from Scotland and pet miniature donkeys from Sicily, among other animals. Tours are available around the ranch as well as a petting zoo and massive ostrich eggs for children to enjoy and hold. For the adult visitor that happens to be an adventurous eater, USDA-certified ostrich meat is available for sale from the ranch as well as tips on how to cook it.
Take and Outdoor Outing
Just outside of Gilroy is Henry W. Coe Park, California's second largest state park. This park features 87,000 acres of flat California grassland and some steeper mountainous terrain preserving portions of the Diablo Mountain Range as well as over 90 lakes and ponds littered throughout its boundaries. Camping and fishing are available, but those with a taste for hiking can explore the landscape on over 200 miles of dirt roads and trails. While all of the hiking trails showcase something special about the park, hikers looking for a challenge will want to try and conquer the intimidating Mount Sizer, the tallest peak in the park and the county.
Visit a California Road Trip Institution
Just 14 miles outside of Gilroy in the Pancheco Pass is a California road trip institution - Casa de Fruta. This roadside staple started as a humble cherry stand on this lonesome stretch of highway in the 1940s. However, being the only business around apparently had its benefits. Casa de Fruta has since grown massively to incorporate a farmer's market, wine and cheese shop, restaurant, candy shop and a motel paired with an RV resort. While the adults enjoy browsing a wide array of artisanal, organic foods, kids can enjoy the carousel, miniature train and gold panning. Visitors should be sure to try the pomegranate wine, habanero pistachios and the chocolate-covered blueberries that keep visitors coming back again and again. Those who develop a taste for such treats can also order them online and have Casa de Fruta's delights delivered right to their doorstep.
Take Pleasure in Quality Garlic Cuisine
Being famous for growing the stinking rose means that restaurants in Gilroy are obliged to utilize garlic in their dishes and use it right. Two restaurants in the city are infamous for their garlic enthusiasm - Tasso's Old House and Mama Mia's.
Tasso's Old House has been serving up a unique mix American, Greek and Italian cuisine since 1993. Their menu includes garlic-themed specials including garlic seafood pasta, garlic salmon and garlic steak that accents and compliments the flavors of the other ingredients without overwhelming them. Tasso's is also the go-to place for a romantic evening in Gilroy, with an ornate interior and deep red tablecloths that add depth and atmosphere to the restaurant.
Alternatively, Mama Mia's specializes in Italian food, a cuisine famous for its garlic usage. Mama Mia's menu hosts an array of garlic-infused foods such as garlic chicken in white wine sauce, spaghetti with garlic-marinated mushrooms and sautéed calamari topped with - you guessed it - garlic! The restaurant hosts a laid back setting with black tile floors, a full bar and flat-screen televisions on the walls. It serves as a unique mix between a classic Italian restaurant and a sports bar. Regardless, it's where the people of Gilroy go for a good meal and a place to unwind after a long day.