Gilroy, in Northern California, is the self-proclaimed world capital of garlic and a fun stop on Highway 101. This area has been producing garlic for decades and established their supremacy in the garlic world by launching the first Gilroy Garlic Festival over 40 years ago. It is a famous California event, and 2018 was the first year I got a chance to go. It’s mostly an excuse to eat all the garlic food you can imagine, but we had a lot of fun checking it out; here is all the information.
- $18 for tickets online, $20 at the gate
- $10 to park
- Only one weekend each July
- This information was from my visit in 2018
Here is a video I made of the highlights.
Parking is the biggest issue with the festival as all of the lots are off-site, and you have to take a shuttle to the festival grounds. Once you get off the freeway and make your way to the Christmas Hill Park, signs direct you to the parking lots. I recommend getting there early as there can be lines to get on the shuttle, especially near lunchtime. Also, note the letter and the color you park in so you board the right shuttle after the event. It takes about 15 minutes from the shuttle to the festival.
Gilroy Garlic Festival
The garlic festival is a lot like the state fairs that happen all over California each year, but the rides have been replaced with garlic related items. The highlight is the food, as it is garlic everything, but there are other things to do as well. Here is what we did.
There are a bunch of shopping vendors selling as seen on tv products, art, and all sorts of other things. We didn’t shop much, but people seemed to be enjoying it.
Cooking competitions are the highlight of the festival for many people. Each day they have different events, some with celebrity chefs judging and some with cash prizes. There are two large stages where you can watch the competitions.
There are a few music stages as well, so you can grab a beer or food and sit down to listen to the performers. The acts were mostly folk/country when we were there.
Of course, the main highlight is all of the food, and it lived up to my expectations.
First, head over to the free garlic ice cream area because you know you want to try it and it is not that bad, plus it’s free.
After that, I recommend stopping by the fire cooking area where they are lighting up the grills and making vast clouds of fire as they cook. It’s a favorite spot and for a good reason, as it is fun to watch.
For actual food, here is what we tried.
Garlic Bread – How do you beat garlic bread at a garlic festival? It is cheap at $3, and it is pretty decadent with butter all over the bread. It was one of the highlights here for me.
Stuffed Mushrooms – Sautéed mushrooms stuffed with cheese and garlic; another good dish, and it was probably my favorite thing I ate, with the garlic bread being a close second.
Garlic Shrimp – Amie got the garlic shrimp, which is a new item for the festival, and even though it is not healthy, i.e., covered in butter, she still enjoyed it.
Combo Plate #1 – This is the most popular dish at the festival because it lets you try all of the main items such as the pepper steak sandwich, pesto pasta, and calamari. The pepper steak was good, but I personally wouldn’t order the other two again as they were not my favorite.
Garlic Beer – Garlic beer was one of the more gimmicky items, but I figured I needed to try it. Honestly, I didn’t taste any garlic, so it just ended up being a nice pale ale.
While walking around, be sure to take photos with the two inflatable garlic men, the garlic mascot, and the garlic with a flame coming from the top. All of them are popular photo spots, so there will be other people there as well.
As you can see, this is a garlic packed event. Amie and I both agreed that it is worth going to at least once, but we were not sure if its an every year type of thing. Let me know what you think in the comments and be on the lookout for the festival when it comes back again next July.