Gilroyans get in free at Gilroy Gardens on Saturday

A juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex – one of the many attractions at

Looking for something free to do close to home this weekend? Gilroy residents can enjoy a free day at Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park this Saturday before the park opens to the public for the season.

“We wanted to make sure that every Gilroy child has the chance to visit the property,” said Barbara Granter, Gilroy Gardens vice president. “We made a free day, so if there was any economical reason why someone couldn’t come, they would be able to.”

At Resident’s Day, locals need to bring some sort of proof of residence – an ID, a piece of mail with a 95020 or 95021 zip code, or the golden ticket that Gilroy Gardens mailed with February water bills  – to enjoy a day in the park both free of admission and parking fees, said Jane Howard, Gilroy Welcome Center director. The park will fully operate with hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“This is the Gardens’ way of thanking the community,” Howard said.

As Granter is crossing her fingers for sun this year, the current weather report predicts rain and wind for Saturday.

The Gardens’ kick-off event features 17 local artists at “Art in the Park,” where painters, potters, musicians and more will demonstrate their talent througout the property.

“It’s so great to see locals enjoying the park together,” she said. “There’s a very special feel.”

Granter said that she is asked often that Resident’s Day include surrounding areas like Morgan Hill, Hollister and San Martin, but she has held firm to keeping the day just about Gilroy.

Those who walk the park on Resident’s Day tend to know each other more, according to Granter, and it tends to be a busier than average day. Last year on Resident’s Day, more than 3,500 people showed up to the park on a rainy day.

Gilroy Gardens is all about families with young children, though Granter said that Resident’s Day is enjoyed (at a much more relaxed pace, of course) by adults without children as well. Garden lovers find the property stunning, and some adults just like to sit at an outdoor restaurant with a glass of wine.

A lunch buffet is available at $13 for adults and $9 for children 3 to 10 years old, which includes menu items such as vegetarian pasta with Alfredo sauce, marinara pasta with sausage, macaroni and cheese, spinach salad and fresh rolls, according to Hoa Le, assistant general manager at Gilroy Gardens. Each meal comes with unlimited soda and ice cream, and children younger than 3 years old eat free. Proceeds from the meal benefit the Gilroy Gardens’ education program, which serves schools in the South Bay.  

Resident’s Day launches what Le hopes will be another busy season at the park. With the economy down and gas prices up, many Californians are turning to stay-cations, and turn to regional parks like Gilroy Gardens for a less expensive, more local family vacation, Le said.

Le said that the park has a lot of exciting things going on this season, both new exhibits and favorites from previous years.

From June 4 to July 28, the park will have a new children’s exhibit called CSI: Crime Scene Insects –  a tour of live insects and how they solve crime in nature.

The lineup of live shows for the season includes beloved children’s characters such as Clifford, Curious George and the Smurfs.

And parents with animal-loving kids, don’t fret: the petting zoo will of course be back this year.

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