At only 80 kilometers outside of San Francisco, Gilroy, California, is a great place to play and stay outside the big city. Visitors go there to enjoy the rolling hills and vineyards of the southern Santa Clara Valley through the region's many parks and natural attractions. The visiting eco-adventurer will not be short of attractions that display the natural splendour of the area or organic restaurants and eco-friendly accommodations that place conservation and sustainability on the same level as quality of service.
creativecommons.org/ Marc Davis
With over 20 fun rides, Gilroy Gardens may seem more like a theme park today, but it has remained true to its name and original purpose - to provide a beautiful and scenic garden for the town of Gilroy. Littered through the carnival-like attractions, Gilroy Gardens hosts six majestic garden areas, each one hosting a unique setting. The park hosts several special events throughout the year, including overnight camps for children. The eco-adventurer that has had their fill of the rides and games can take docent-guided eco-tours through the gardens and take part in their interactive exhibits detailing the different plant life found in their unique multi-biosphere park.
The surrounding hills and mountainous ridges that run through the Santa Clara Valley are certainly a beautiful sight all on their own, but occasionally they are left wanting a little colour. The Syngenta Flowers garden supplements by adding a vast field full of beautiful flowers to the town of Gilroy. Nearby Gilroy Gardens, the Syngenta Flowers company hosts its own experimental garden that is a must stop for those in Gilroy. Visitors can walk the one-kilometre trail that runs through the field on self-guided tours through the different flower gardens. The grounds host award-winning varieties as well as trial fields looking for the flower company's next big and beautiful winner.
Henry C. Coe State Park
creativecommons.org/ Don DeBold
For those that want to see the Santa Clara Valley at its best then Henry C. Coe State Park makes the perfect day trip. This vast natural treasure, the second largest state park in California, hosts a varied and beautiful terrain. With lofty ridges and steep oak-studded canyons, this land once served as the home to local Ohlone Native Americans. Visitors can walk the 50 kilometres of hiking, biking and equestrian trails to view wildlife like white-tailed deer, foxes and rabbits, as well as the occasional mountain lion that prowls the area. The hiker that is willing to undertake the challenge should try their hand at trying to conquer the intimidating Mount Sizer, the highest peak in the park - as well as the county. It is the toughest trail in the park, but also boasts sweeping views over the surrounding area.
Thomas Kruse Winery
Gilroy is home to a number of wineries and tasting rooms in the up-and-coming Santa Clara wine region; however, not all of them practice the sustainable practices that keep the land perfect for wine production. The Thomas Kruse Winery is a small vineyard that has had a commitment to quality, small-lot estate wine and sustainable farming practices since the 1970s. Their limited production assures that each bottle of wine is given the time and attention that it deserves. Thomas Kruse Winery produces a variety of Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot and Zinfandel vintages that showcase the brilliant wine potential of the region.
The Milias Restaurant is the oldest and most respected restaurant in Gilroy. Diners will be delighted with the unique and friendly atmosphere that surrounds them in the Milias, but that is not what keeps diners coming back time and time again. It is, of course, the food. The chefs at Milias serve up a mix of American classics and Mediterranean-style meals that utilize ingredients found throughout California. With vegetarian and vegan options available, the Milias Restaurant serves wholly organic meals made from ingredients from only the most trusted California farmers and ranchers each day. Their spicy roasted mussels, prosciutto-wrapped goat cheese and Angus beef sliders are eternal favourites, but there is a wide and varied menu for diners to explore.
Portola Hotel and Spa
Every visitor needs a base of operations to start their adventurer in an area. While Gilroy has a number of chain hotels, the Portola Hotel and Spa is the only establishment that puts a major focus on environmental sustainability.
In their crisp, clean modern rooms, guests will find the ultimate in comfort. Their plush bedspreads and sheets are made from organic cotton and washed chemical-free. Linen cards are available that allow for guests to use the same sheets for their entire stay. The bathroom comes equipped with low-flow fixtures and motion sensor lighting with florescent bulbs. While the rooms clearly show their commitment to energy conservation, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes at Portola. They donate to a number of environmental charities, often sponsoring a number events for them. For the eco-conscious traveller, there is no better place to stay in Gilroy.