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The Gilroy Garlic Festival is a slice of Americana you’d only find in U.S. farm country. Barbecue grill-offs, a “Ms. Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen” pageant, country music, and the aroma of garlic define the atmosphere. You can even fight off the mid-summer inland California heat with a scoop of garlic ice cream.  So, how do you make the most of this unique festival? Here’s a list of tips that will help you take in all the flavor but keep it off your breath.

Gilroy Garlic Festival
Photo by Gilroy Garlic Festival

1. Be adventurous

The Gilroy Garlic Festival breaks the rules on what types of foods can include garlic. So try the garlic ice cream. If you don’t do it here, then where?

2. Bring gum!

If you have any sort of nighttime social plans or you just don’t like having garlic-breath, keep a pack on you. Preferably mint.

3. Don’t let city people shape your opinion of California farm country

Many Bay Area residents will have a negative opinion of Gilroy and the surrounding area, but go out and explore for yourself. The area can feel like a trip back in time and has a distinct kind of natural beauty you just don’t find find in San Francisco.

4. Stay on a farm

If you can find a farmhouse Airbnb, go for it! Waking up to roosters and cows mooing can only add to your Garlic Festival experience. Check out our complete Garlic Festival Event Guide for more ideas on places to stay. 

5. Hit the beach

Make the 45 minute drive to Santa Cruz and spend an evening by the Santa Cruz Boardwalk or on any of the local beaches. Sunsets in Santa Cruz are special and the ocean breeze will be a nice break from the Gilroy heat.

6. Wander Gourmet Alley

Spend as much time as possible in the Gilroy Garlic Festival’s  “Gourmet Alley.” Garlic calamari, pepper steak sandwiches and garlic fries are just a few of the items on the menu at the dozens of vending stations.

7. Be ready for the smell!

Parts of Gilroy smell like garlic all year round. So imagine what festival time is like.

8. Take advantage of the train

The charter train is perfect for festival goers heading to dinner in San Jose or even San Francisco.

9. Be prepared for serious heat

Bring water, sunscreen and a hat. Gilroy gets hot and midsummer sun might not be so friendly to festival goers walking around all day.

10. Collect recipes

Bring a notebook and write down recipes if something in Gourmet Alley hooks your taste buds. The garlic quality back home might not be as good, but you can try and relive your Garlic Festival memories through your own homemade garlic ice cream.

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