Bonfante Gardens offers laid-back alternative

Posted Wednesday, July 7, 2004 9:50 AM | Contributed by Jeff

If you’re yearning for a kinder, gentler, theme park, something that works for both children and adults but doesn’t cost a fortune, a week’s vacation time, or leave you too exhausted, this may be the summer to visit Bonfante Gardens. The park, outside of San Jose, offers gentle rides and botanical attractions.

Read more from The Berkeley Daily Planet.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004 10:05 AM
Mamoosh's avatar Most. Beautiful. Park. Ever! Stunningly gorgeous, and when you throw in Morgan's hella-fun Quicksilver Express and some well-run flats it simply amazes me that this park doesn't see larger crowds. And I haven't met a single enthusiast who has noticed the hillside that runs across the back of the park and hasn't fantasized about Boulder Dash West.

If you're in the Bay Area visiting the two large themers you owe it to yourself to spend a day at Bonfante and that evening at SCBB, the two best parks in that region.

And no, I was not paid to say that ;)

Wednesday, July 7, 2004 10:33 AM
And be sure to stop off at the fruit stall on the way to Gilroy. Yum, yum, best strawberries ever.
Wednesday, July 7, 2004 12:00 PM
This park is one of those must sees. By the way, Paramount must have talked Micheal into cleaning out the barn. Norton is listing an auction of "surplus" rides. Mostly kiddy rides, but most distressing is the listing of the two refurbished, but never run 24" gauge Crown steam trains. Check out

Wednesday, July 7, 2004 12:44 PM
I can't wait... I'm going at the end of this month, after a long time waiting. I'm curious, however... does it take a full day to see it all (assuming I'm going slow, that is)? I've had a number of people tell me that I wouldn't need to spend an entire day there, but they were non-coaster/gardens people, so I'm not so sure. I really want to take my time and see as much detail as possible: rides, shows, gardens, circus trees, etc.... Will I still need less than a day?

Wednesday, July 7, 2004 12:53 PM
rollergator's avatar ROFL...I was chatting with a CA friend last nite about NorCal, and the Gilroy Garlic Festival came up too quick on me this year...

Next year, however, I will be getting there...garlic, San Fran, and Bonfante/SCBB/SFMW (gotta get that last GCII, LOL)...what could be better!
Paid political advertisement, Garlic for president...:)

Wednesday, July 7, 2004 1:22 PM
Mamoosh's avatar JesterMN - If you're merely going to ride the two coasters and leave you'll need an hour, maybe two. Add in the other rides and you're at a half-day for sure. Add walking thru all the gardens, hidden nooks, etc., and you're easily at a full day [defined as "opening until 6pm"]. And of course a lot of this depends on crowds. PLEASE keep in mind that this is NOT a thrill park, but in this case it's a GOOD thing.

Bonfonte is not a park to be rushed thru. Take your time, enjoy the gardens, and ride everything you possibly can. DO NOT miss the car ride [both sides are different], the raft ride [NO rapids!], the train, and the monorail as you get unique views of the park. Don't miss the hidden Claudia's Garden.

With the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk only an hour away you could easily do both parks, watching the sunset and closing the night in Santa Cruz.

And please, post a trip report!

Wednesday, July 7, 2004 1:54 PM
janfrederick's avatar Maaaaan....I grew up in Norcal and I STILL haven't been there. That's it...we're going in August!

By the way, I'd recommend taking an entire day for SCBB. Take the train from Roaring Camp. Well...only problem with that is you can't stay for the evening. Then again, you could always see if you could start from SCBB and take the morning train to the hills, jump on the narrow gauge, and then take the afternoon train back to the boardwalk.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004 2:47 PM
Mamoosh's avatar Normally I'd recommend an entire day for SCBB, too, but if someone only has limited time they can easily do both BG and SCBB in a single day, so long as the Boardwalk is open until 11pm or later.
Thursday, July 8, 2004 1:36 AM
Was on vacation last week and did Bonfante and S.C.B.B. Bonfante still beautiful but beware the Illinios Grand Supreme Carousel is a fiberglass copy and NOT an origional. It was made by Brass Ring Entertainment in Southern California. It is one of the slowest full size merry go rounds in any park, but still a beautiful machine. There is a band organ likely an Artizan that has never played since just before opening day in 2001. It's not easy to get to, a few miles from highway 101 thru Gilroy. If attendence doesn't pick up the park may close, and that would be sad already so that Michael Bonfante no longer lives in California, but in Branson Missouri.
Thursday, July 8, 2004 11:15 AM
Thanks, Mamoosh! I don't plan on rushing through at all, I can't wait to take my time! I love coasters, but relaxing is welcome too--it is a vacation, after all. ;) At this moment, I have an entire day planned for the park, although I have family in the area as well, and may need to visit with them the same day.

And rollergator, I'll be hitting the Garlic Festival as well! Also can't miss SFMW & SCBB (though I will be skipping PGA--nothin' new for me there). Should be good times!

Thursday, July 8, 2004 5:52 PM
^What Moosh said, definitely a must see unique NorCal park. As far as a hillside woodie at the park, that was actually once part of the original expansion plans. GCI had even been out to the park to survey the site for ideas (confirmed by ACE), but that was way before the park was burried in their current financial mess. So don't expect to see that hillside woodie anytime soon, if ever.

And you scared the crap outta me Dutchman! Glad they had the clause on the site about this auction not affecting the operation of the park, I was thinking the worse. But it is bad news anyway for rail fans, the intention was to someday replace the current CP Huntington trains with those awesome steam loco's. You can even see when crossing the bridges and tressels that they were all built MUCH wider to someday accomodate the wider track. Very sad that this sounds like it may also never happen.

And JesterMN, full day at BG, skipping PGA = good plan! Most coaster enthusiast do the exact opposite and have no idea what an amazing little park they're missing for a mediocre at best park.

Thursday, July 8, 2004 9:35 PM
Koasterkav, the carousel is a Illions Supreme frame. I believe it's the one that was origianlly at Bertrand Island, Then Circus World in Florida. When it was auctioned wiht the demise of CW,(then Boardwalk and Baseball) the machine was parted out, and the frame and scenery were sold to a collector/dealer in the LA area. It was refurbished and equiped with a new set of fiberglass horses for Bonfante Gardens. Brass Ring made patterns of the scenery and now offer this model as a new machine.
Friday, July 9, 2004 2:53 AM
I've been told everything (including the frame) is new with all new gears/bearings and motor. It was copied from the Grand Supreme that was at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds for over 3 decades. The collector you're refering to is John Daniels who has his "Daniels Den" shop in South Pasadena who purchased the machine from the fairgrounds in the early 80's. Brass Ring recieved permission to make molds from that and the other 2 Illons Grand Supremes. The one that was at Circus World was recently sold to a man named Schott I believe in Maryland.
Friday, July 9, 2004 12:38 PM
I know John, and he at one time owned the three Supreme frames. One of them was sold to the gentleman you mentioned. He's currently advertising in the Carousel News & Trader looking to buy Illions figures to fill out the frame. The other one was sold to Miheal Bonfante and rebuilt by Jim Blackie. If Dan had built the BG machine it would be all over his website as such, trust me. To the best of my knowledge John still owns the Pomana machine.*** This post was edited by Dutchman 7/9/2004 1:18:36 PM ***
Monday, July 12, 2004 7:02 AM
Thanks Dutchman. Do you know how I can get in touch with John (and Cathy) Daniels? I had spoken with him by phone a while back. He answered some questions of mine. I have very fond memories of the Pomona (L.A. County Fair) Illions Supreme. Rode it every year from 1964 to 1979. It had a band organ too, different from the one on the Bonfante machine.

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