Published in the November 1-14, 2017 issue of Gilroy Life

Jane Howard

The holidays are a wonderful time to welcome friends, family — and visitors from out of town.

The holiday season is a big tourist draw for Gilroy, and that has significant economic benefits for our community.

After all, every time someone comes into town to shop at Gilroy Premium Outlets, play at Gilroy Gardens, go wine tasting, or stay in one of our local hotels, they pay sales taxes and transient occupancy taxes. That revenue all goes into the city of Gilroy’s General Fund and helps to pay for police, fire, roads, parks, and more.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, let’s celebrate all that we have going on in Gilroy over the holidays.

Building on the success of last year’s Lumination, this year Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is hosting a series of “Gardens@Night” events from October through December.

In October, families enjoyed spooky fun during Halloween@Night. This November is the all-new Harvest@Night Beer, Wine and Food Fest. This night-time event features craft beers, fine wines, gourmet food, and live bands and is geared toward the 21-and-older crowd.

Harvest@Night is open from 6 to 10 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in November. For Veterans Day Weekend (November 10-12) only, Gilroy residents can attend for just $10.

In December, Holiday@Night will feature visits with Santa, ice skating under the stars, a live Charlie Brown Christmas Show, twinkling holiday lights throughout the park, and a grand holiday feast with all the trimmings. The park is also open for New Year’s Eve, with a spectacular fireworks show at midnight.

Gilroy Gardens 2018 Premium Passholders get free admission to all the 2017 night-time events.

And the park is still open during the day on weekends and select days over Christmas break, so families can enjoy all the fun rides and attractions.

Of course, the holiday season is also peak shopping season — and Gilroy’s a great place to get all your holiday shopping done without dealing with big-city traffic and crowds.

At Gilroy Premium Outlets shoppers can find savings of 25 to 65 percent on more than 145 exceptional brands, including Coach, DKNY, Kate Spade New York, Michael Kors, and more. And they’ll save even more during the Thanksgiving and Black Friday Weekend Sale (November 23 to 26).

We also encourage both residents and guests from out of town to check out the charming boutiques and antique shops in Historic Downtown Gilroy too.

Shopping at these locally owned shops are a great way to find unique one-of-a-kind gifts — and feel good about supporting small businesses.

Remember, when you shop local, your money stays local — and that benefits all of us in the community.

And speaking of our downtown, be sure to make some time to stroll through the historic paseo located on Monterey Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. Each panel covers a segment of Gilroy’s history and the diverse group of people who have come together to make Gilroy a Community with a Spice for Life.

Not sure what to do with those out-of-town guests coming in for the holidays?

There are lots of options. Take them out to explore the more than 25 wineries and tasting rooms along the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail.

Get tickets for a show at Limelight Actors Theater or South Valley Civic Theatre or check out the latest art exhibit at the Gilroy Center for the Arts.

Or just go take a hike — literally. — along Mummy Mountain Trail, Sprig Lake Loop, or the Uvas Creek Levee Trail, enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise.

We wish you all a very happy holiday season — and encourage you to spread the word about all the fun things to do right here in Gilroy.

Jane Howard is the executive director of the Gilroy Welcome Center and sits on the board of the Central Coast Tourism Council. For more information visit www.visitgilroy.com.