Pumpkin patches are a no-brainer for me: Fall is my favorite time of year, I love farm settings…and Halloween? I could celebrate it all year long. What better way to indulge these things than with a visit to a pumpkin patch.
Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, I was accustomed to urban, makeshift patches where pumpkins were trucked in and piled up in the town’s infamous vacant lot. These soulless patches make the Halloween spirits cry. Thankfully, the Bay Area offers options for a richer experience with genuine farm settings and our favorite orange squash grown on site. Here are 8 of my faves:
1) Muelrath Ranches
This is a charming, low-key patch in the undeveloped farmlands of Santa Rosa. Free corn maze, tractor rides, and a really fun (and kid-friendly) haunted house. They have a great variety of cooking pumpkins. And don’t pass up a jar of homemade pickles! On Fridays and Saturdays, they do a fun campfire night where you roast hot dogs, marshmallows and take nighttime tractor rides.
2) Peterson’s Farm
A lovely, intimate family farm setting. Pick your pumpkin from the field it grew in. You’ll also find bee hives, honey, fresh eggs, and livestock you can feed. Just mind those cows: their scratchy tongues are no joke.
3) Adobe Pumpkin Farm
Lots going on here: animals, mazes, play structures, pony rides, food, crafts and houses both bouncy and haunted — when will someone combine the two?! It gets busy but it never feels crowded thanks to the vast, picturesque setting. An ideal destination for the young; kidless patch lovers might do better elsewhere.
4) The Great Peter Pumpkin Patch
A scenic, peaceful ranch under a big blue sky on the outer edges of Petaluma. Snip a pumpkin from its vine. Sink a pitchfork into the soil and dig for delicious butterball potatoes. Make sure to sample their delicious homemade jack and cheddar cheeses. Lots of animals to visit including adorable piglets, calves and a cow you can milk. It’s a working farm, so pack your fly swatter.
5) Farmer Johns
This is one of the more down-to-earth spots in busy Half Moon Bay. Regulars come back year after year to say hi to Farmer John who can usually be seen in his dungarees and sun hat. You’ll love the huge variety of pumpkins you can cook with. Kids will love the teepees.
Half Moon Bay
6) Lemos Farms
This place feels like a theme park. Or a Halloween Chuck E. Cheese. That’s not a bad thing per se, but the corresponding crowds can be. You have to really love kids and the crush of Halloween humanity to step foot here on a weekend (note: crowds tend to thin in the afternoon). It’s popular because of its extravagant decor and the number of attractions. What’s funny about Lemos is that they used to have really grotesque, macabre decor scattered throughout the property. Like melted faces of the undead. It seemed totally inappropriate since most visitors were young children. Their old Ghost Train ride (which we loved by the way) was a veritable ride through hell! This year, they’ve stripped away the gore and the website proclaims that the redecorated train ride is now “not scary.”
Half Moon Bay
7) Pastorino Farms
Just across the road from Lemos is Pastorino Farms, a welcome respite from the bustle (said road is actually Highway 92 so they offer timed, guarded crossings). Pastorino has great Halloween decor. The haunted house is one of the better ones on this list: rich atmosphere and more amusing than terrifying. Do the train ride for a peek at some fun dioramas. The gift shop has a nice selection of holiday crafts seemingly handmade but actually hiding a Made in China sticker. Note: Pastorino charges for parking (unlike Lemos across the street), so you do the math.
Half Moon Bay
8) Arata’s Pumpkin Farm
This attractive spot is about 10 minutes south of the throngs in central Half Moon Bay. That’s not to say it doesn’t get busy here too. A giant, complex hay maze is the prominent attraction (you might want to cancel any immediate plans once you enter). Other ticketed attractions include a train, petting zoo, play area and a good, scary haunted house — the kind where hidden, costumed actors suddenly lunge at you, provoking mild cardiac arrest. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Half Moon Bay
(a junior Weekend del Sol staffer contemplates the maze)
For other spooky resources, check out Haunted Bay for a complete listing of Bay Area pumpkin patches, haunts and events.