Managing 27 grocery stores and more than 2,500 employees is a stressful task. Nob Hill Foods owner Michael Bonfante learned that the best way for him to manage that stress was to retreat to a shady, secluded spot surrounded by majestic trees. These occasional escapes into nature inspired Bonfante to found a park dedicated to teaching visitors of all ages—but especially children—how to appreciate horticulture, wildlife, and trees in particular. Along with his wife, Claudia, Bonfante eventually sold his grocery stores and committed all of his efforts to educating the public and spreading his love for nature.
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park receives virtually all of the Bonfantes' attention now, and it attracts visitors with combination of educational exhibits, carnival games, and amusement-park rides. The map features more than 40 possible destinations where guests can learn something new about local horticulture, enjoy an adrenaline-pumping joy ride, or simply enjoy the scenery. With family-friendly attractions available for all ages, the park includes everything from carousels to paddleboats to a mine-cart roller coaster that takes passengers through a thrilling series of dips and speedy turns. An interactive water attraction called Water Oasis and the Octonauts live show were just added to the roster in 2014.
Even while visitors are standing in line or buckled into a ride, they are still surrounded by nature at Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park. Five waterfalls—representing the five major styles of waterfalls that occur in nature—gush with torrents of water. The grounds also feature 19 of Axel Erlandson's famous Circus Trees, which he created by grafting saplings so that they grew to form shapes such as hearts, lightning bolts, and basket weaves. In addition to touting the importance of animals such as monarch butterflies and honeybees, the park features six distinctive gardens brimming with informative displays and everything from conifers to tropical and subtropical flowers.
With more than 20 years of equine experience, Jeanette Arnaout instructs students of all skill levels on the fundamentals of horsemanship during lessons and riding camps. Each session carefully pairs riders with appropriate steeds for their skill level, allowing novices to learn basic techniques and experienced stallion tamers to trot to the beat of the hokey pokey. Small-group settings foster an educational atmosphere, and kind, well-trained horses guarantee hiccup-free learning. Lessons include instruction on horse cleaning and care—think grooming and hoof-picking—as well as riding time. Like a molting flamingo, students are encouraged to wear long pants and closed-toed shoes, but Jeanette provides all of the equipment necessary for camps. Those overwhelmed by unruly horses can turn them over to Jeanette for training, during which she gently boosts steeds' confidence to improve their obedience.
The wine enthusiasts at Signaturewines.com—a group of professionals from various industries—foster a community for other wine and food lovers to connect and share their oenophile experiences. They regularly notify their members of tours, tastings, and wine-related events at more than 20 Northern California wineries. They also orchestrate special deals that immerse visitors in settings such as the opulent gilded decor of Domenico Winery, the rustic wooden architecture of Guglielmo Winery, and the verdant vineyards and 200-horse stables of Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards.
Keeping abreast of local and national food events,SignatureWines.com also introduces members to regional wine bars, wineries, and restaurants, and provides an online community where members can read reviews and share wine experiences. VIP cards let customers take part in complimentary tastings and avoid standard hassles such as corkage fees and general-admission mosh pits. Proceeds for such events often go to charities involved in various initiatives.
A miniature Tyrannosaurus Rex—a species that never had to dodge any hunters' arrows—stands outside the front door of Predator's Archery. Anachronisms aside, the fearsome creature presents a worthy stand-in for Curtis Campisi and Mike Pierce's approach to life and business. Since founding their archery shop in 1993, the duo has armed human carnivores with gear such as compound and recurve bows and custom arrows, and taught them how to use their new apparatuses through new-owner orientations on safe handling and technique. Enthusiasts can also visit the shop to launch a few arrows on the indoor range, or enroll in lessons with certified Master Coaches to take their target practice to the next level.
J&J Polo's instructors impart top-shelf swing mechanics and riding techniques to everyone from children to collegiate riders and professional players. Tailored to each rider, individual lessons focus on how nuances in body positioning and pockets full of oats can influence hitting and riding ability. Trainers isolate swinging in hitting-cage lessons that employ a stationary horse or run four-hour clinics where groups of riders move through hitting drills, rules and strategy sessions, and practice chukkers under the guidance of a professional player.
Johnny 6 offers full-service training for aspiring equestrians, its barn stocked to the rafters with expert instructors. Your horseback riding experience will include closely guided instruction and four 30-minute private, one-on-one lessons with a trained horse. Learn the ropes of horseback riding as you gallop on your way to becoming sensei of the saddle. All riders should wear long pants and closed-toe shoes during their lessons—for safety and so they don’t embarrass the horse's oddly specific fashion sense. Whether you're an advanced rider looking to get back on your high horse or a total neophyte who believes horses are no more real than Sasquatch or Richard Nixon, Johnny 6 will help you reach your quest for horse-riding success. Once the riding lesson is complete, your experience may include (if eligible) grooming, tacking, and putting the horse away in the stable. Classes are offered throughout the day, from the morning to the early evening, seven days a week.