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Mention Gilroy to any Bay Area resident and they will naturally conjure images of the city’s famous Garlic Festival. Sure, Gilroy is the “Garlic Capital of the World,” but there is so much more to love about this town nestled to the east of the Santa Cruz Mountains in gorgeous Santa Clara Valley.

Gilroy quick facts

  • Gilroy started down the path to cityhood as a stagecoach stop in 1850.
  • It was incorporated into a town in 1868 and a city in 1870.
  • Gilroy is located 16 miles south of San Jose, nearly 80 miles southeast of San Francisco and about 73 miles southeast of Oakland.
  • Gilroy had a population of 48,821, as of the last census.
  • Gilroy has won Tree City USA awards annually since 1979.

Gilroy’s schools

Gilroy Unified School District operates 13 public schools. The highest rated school in the district is the grade 9 through 12 Dr. T. J. Owens Gilroy Early College Academy. With only 242 students, the school ranks 16th of California’s 2,044 public high schools.

According to the Gilroy Early College Academy, “Early colleges are high schools and feeder middle schools that use a transformational strategy of bringing the college into high school. Early college schools expose all students to college coursework, preparing them for college and careers, reducing time and cost toward postsecondary degrees, and building a college-going culture for all students in the school.”

And, no, they’re not only for gifted students. Even struggling students can meet college-ready standards.

Speaking of colleges, Gilroy is home to Gavilan College, a community college offering Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees, plus certificates in several fields, including aviation maintenance technology, nursing, cosmetology, administration of justice, child development, computer science and more. Gavilan College is the host college for Gilroy Early College Academy.

Some of Gilroy’s private schools include Rebekah Services (offers an accredited K-12 non-public school for special needs children), St. Mary School, and Pacific Point Christian Elementary School.

Business and industry in Gilroy

Gilroy has a long and rich agricultural history that extends into the present. In fact, three of the largest employers in Gilroy are Christopher Ranch, Olam Spices & Vegetables and Syngenta Seeds.

Since Gilroy is considered the southern gateway to Silicon Valley, it’s also home to a growing technology sector. With its lower commercial leasing rates, more affordable housing, and development-ready land, Gilroy is attracting the attention of many start-ups as well as established firms. Gilroy, in fact, has about 1,000 acres of industrial land available.

Getting around in Gilroy

U.S. Route 101 is the major highway cutting through Gilroy, making commuting north or south a snap. If you prefer public transportation to get to and from work, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority offers bus service to Sunnyvale and San Jose from Gilroy.

Caltrain operates rush-hour commute-trains to both north and south destinations and Amtrak offers the San Jose-Santa Barbara line which stops in Gilroy.

Gilroy arts, entertainment and events

“The arts are alive and well in Gilroy!” boasts the Gilroy Welcome Center and they aren’t exaggerating. From the South Valley Symphony, the Gilroy Center for the Arts and Gilroy Museum to the Limelight Actors Theater, South Valley Civic Theatre and The District Theater, the arts are completely covered here.

Gilroy is home to the South Valley Symphony, a 40-member, all-volunteer orchestra. Members rehearse at Solorsano Middle School here in Gilroy and performances are held at Gavilan College Theater and the church of Mission San Juan Bautista.

About 40 musicians are regular members of the SVS orchestra. Many are music teachers; some learned an instrument in school and took it up in later years when they had more time; many work full time and others are retired. Some play with other community orchestras and bands or volunteer their time to work with the music teachers in our local schools. All are volunteers and receive no reimbursement. The orchestra rehearses for 6-8 weeks prior to each concert and currently, rehearsals are held at Solorsano Middle School in Gilroy. Musicians wishing to join the orchestra are always welcome at rehearsals and information about attending and who to contact is available on the SVS website.

Despite its name, South Valley Symphony performs a wide range of music including symphonies and other classical pieces, film scores, choral works, and jazz. The musical repertoire is chosen by the SVS Music Director & Conductor with input from orchestra members and the SVS Board of Directors. Four concerts are performed during the season which begins in October and ends in May. There is one General Admission price for adults and no charge is made for children or college students.

The third concert of the season always includes a winner from the Navaroli Young Musicians Competition which is an annual event for children in Grades 8 – 12. Auditions are held in January at the home of one of the orchestra musicians. A qualified music student living or studying in the South Santa Clara Valley prepares the first movement of a concerto or similar piece and performs it before three judges and a small audience. The environment is supportive and friendly and intended to set a relaxed and encouraging atmosphere for the youngsters to perform. Each student receives a written assessment of their performance and the winner – or winners – will perform with the SVS Orchestra at the upcoming March concert.

Annual events in Gilroy include the “Day in the Country” fundraiser for the Gilroy Foundation, the Tequila Tasting fundraiser (sponsored by the Latino Family Fund), Porchfest Gilroy and the granddaddy of them all, the Gilroy Garlic Festival. This town knows how to party.

Shopping and dining in Gilroy

Despite being only 16.5 miles in size, Gilroy offers a wide variety of shopping and dining amenities. The Gilroy Premium Outlets are undoubtedly the most popular, bringing in people from around the Bay Area. The center offers more than 145 stores including Banana Republic, Kate Spade New York, Nike, and others.

The city’s retail centers, scattered throughout, offer national department stores such as Target and Wal-Mart and big-box home improvement retailers such as Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Charming and historic, Downtown Gilroy is immensely walkable and offers a variety of cafes, shops, entertainment, and services.

Dining out brings yet more choices for Gilroy residents. Some of the area’s most popular eateries offer pizza, Mexican, Vietnamese, Indian, Italian and barbecue fare.

As famous as Gilroy is for its garlic, many visitors are surprised to find a large number of wineries in the area. From Kirigin Cellars Winery on Watsonville Rd. to Hecker Pass Winery, Satori Cellars, Fortino, Solis and Martin Ranch Wineries, the grape is aptly represented in Gilroy.

Getting outdoors in Gilroy

Gilroy is a golfer’s paradise, with upscale country-club style facilities to muni tracks sprinkled throughout the city. You’ll play some of the most scenic golf ever here in the Garlic Capital of the World.

Popular with golfers across Silicon Valley, Eagle Ridge Golf Club is a public facility offering 18 holes of golf over an oak-studded course.

Gavilan College offers a 9-hole executive course, ideal for the beginning golfer or for those short on time and long on desire. The track even offers beginner rates and includes a driving range and practice facility.

Gilroy Golf Course is a muni track, named among the “Best 11-Hole Golf Course in the U.S.”

Hollister, just 20 minutes away, also offers some interesting golf options, including Ridgemark Golf & Country Club and the Fred Couples-designed San Juan Oaks.

Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts who buy homes in Gilroy can experience some of the most scenic and serene spots in the entire Bay Area. Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County Park lies just east of Gilroy and offers 6,695 acres with a 449-acre lake for boating and fishing. Anglers here take black crappie, black bass, bluegill and more.

Wildlife within the park includes, according to Santa Clara County government experts, 219 species of birds, including the bald eagle, the rare western pond turtle, turkey, deer and mountain lions.

More outdoor recreational opportunities are on offer at the 87,000-acre Henry W. Coe State Park and the smaller, 51-acre Christmas Hill Park (gorgeous running and walking trails).

There are lot to do for the kids of Gilroy as well. Gilroy Gardens Theme Park, with more than 40 rides and attractions, isn’t merely just a place to seek thrills. The park also offers educational exhibits and, as the founders claim, a place “ . . . to educate guests and to foster a greater appreciation of horticulture.”

Homes in Gilroy

Gilroy is home to nearly 15,000 residential units, with 57 percent occupied by the owners. Most are single-family detached homes, built between 1970 and 2009. You will find a smattering of vintage homes, built in 1939 or earlier.

More than 43 percent of the homes in Gilroy are valued between $500,000 and $1 million, but another large share is less expensive, at $300,000 to $500,000.

Vacant land is in abundance in Gilroy so if you’re considering building your dream home, now may be the time.

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