p dir=”ltr”>Gilroy Gardens new Halloween Nights program faced a tough challenge: how to be entertaining for adults and not too scary for young kids.
The theme park pulled it off with flying colors and lots of them.
REVIEW: We spent two hours there last Friday and could have stayed a bit longer without being bored. It got two candy-filled thumbs ups from 2-year-old Parker and based on the reactions from other kids there, it was a hit.
“We want to be spooky, not scary,” said marketing assistant Jacob Estrada. We’d say the mix was perfect.
The park is doing what it can to bolster attendance, which fell this year because of the summer heat, and that has recently included adding nighttime exhibits with separate admission. Last year it had the Chinese light program called Lumination. This year it will add a Harvest Festival with food trucks and crafts in November and the Holiday Lights show in December.
Some highlights: the colored waterfalls kids could walk through and the Scary Boo Hay Bale Maze, which took up a good half hour for our 2-year-old who didn’t want to stop following older kids through it. We watched other parents have to drag kids out of it after they’d gone through half a dozen time.
There’s a storyteller who shares not-too-scary weird stories around a firepit that would appeal to older kids. The amphitheater showed classic old TV shows, “Bewitched,” “The Addams Family” and “The Munsters.” We didn’t stop to see them, but would on a second visit. We were too busy running after the ecstatic Ever Ready Bunny of a kid, who didn’t want to sit still.
There’s a coloring area and a place for kids to decorate Halloween bags ($1); a lake with lighted floats like a starry night on water you can walk right next to; spooky selfie spots; a giant lit up spider in the butterfly area; trick or treat stops giving out candy; and some spookified versions of the daytime rides are open.
The ghostly petting zoo was great, with snakes that could be taken out of their cages by a handler and Alpacas. The only negative there was they wanted an additional $1 to visit it. After paying $20 or $25 for an online ticket ($20 if you buy four or more and $30 at the door) and $15 for parking and drop an easy $40 on food, seems like one too many outreached hands.
The best way to afford this 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. exhibit is to spend $90 for a 2018 yearly pass which gets you free visits now and great bargains for the whole next year. Halloween nights are Friday through Sunday until Oct. 29.
Estrada said the park was pleasantly surprised by the first night’s attendance of 2,000.
p dir=”ltr”>It’s a must for families with kids up to 12 for a safe, fun, thrilling Halloween celebration. For older kids, Gilroy Garden’s sister theme park, Great America has one of the best and scariest Halloween Haunts we’ve ever seen, with monsters jumping out all over the place, haunts decorated with the panache of a Hollywood movie, amazing theater shows and creepy stuff everywhere.