Pumpkin Farms and Festivals, A Nationwide Tradition

It’s officially fall at my house. This weekend the Halloween decorations went up, the “what should I be for Halloween?” discussion turned serious, and the kids added three pumpkins to the porch. (Before the month’s over, that number will double.)

You could call hunting for the perfect pumpkin a tradition with my family. Honestly, it’s a good excuse to take a break from busy weekends filled with swim meets and laundry and just play.Spending a day at a San Francisco Bay Area pumpkin patch can be like spending the day at an amusement park.

I covered Halloween events for kids across the country a few weeks ago. In addition to those parties and events, farms across the country go hog wild in October, so no matter where you live, you’re in for a treat.

Pumpkin and Apple Picking in NJ, Johnson’s Corner Farm

The Garden State does pumpkin season right. New Jersey may be the brunt of thousands of jokes, but the farms in the state are nothing to laugh at. Time it right and when you visit Johnson’s Corner Farm in Medford you’ll be able to pick pumpkins and apples. Go for a hayride, get lost in Barnyard Bill’s Corn Maze, feed the animals, the choices go on and on. Just make sure you don’t have a big lunch before you go. You won’t be able to say no to things like pumpkin ice cream, fresh baked apple and pumpkin pies and caramel apples. Johnson’s has been a family favorite for over 25 years, and it’s not hard to guess why.

Pumpkin Picking and Corn Maizes in PA, Cherry Crest Adventure Farm

A working farm right in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch County, Cherry Crest Adventure Farms sounds like the great place to spend a day with the kids. Along with getting the important pumpkin, they have a crop of popcorn. Pick your ear right off the stalk and take it home and pop it in the microwave. That sounds cool to me, so I know my kids would love it! But I’m guessing it’s the corn maize that steals the show. Five acres, with over 2.5 miles of paths. I would get lost for hours. I guess that’s why they have “Maze Masters” to help those directionally challenged.

Photo courtesy of Treworgy Family Orchards

Rascally Rabbit Shaped Pumpkins in ME, Treworgy Family Orchards

Corn mazes come in all different shapes and sizes, but I’ve never seen anything like the one at Treworgy Farms in Maine. “Rascally Rabbit” is shaped, you guessed it like a rabbit. The aerial shots just make you go “wow!” Did I mention your ticket includes ice cream when you’re finished? If you’re not too tired afterwards, you can go for a hayride to the patch to pick the perfect pumpkin.

Apple, Pumpkin, and Heirloom Tomato Patches in MA, Smolak Farms

Apple and pumpkin picking in Massachusetts is a fall family tradition. About 45 minutes north of Boston, Smolak Farms has plenty of pumpkins, but they also have more than 20 different varieties of apples and heirloom tomato patches. If you’re taking home all that healthy food, splurge for some apple cider doughnuts.

Propelling Pumpkins in NY, The Great Pumpkin Farm

The Great Pumpkin Farm Fall Festival, in Clarence, New York, takes pumpkins to new heights. They’ve got the list of expected stuff: haunted house, maze and pumpkin weigh off. But what caught my eye was the trebuchet competition. Kids from local high school compete against each other, trying to build the best “pumpkin catapult.” Teams are judged on distance and accuracy, and along with trophies and t-shirts, they can take home funds for their schools. Just imagine, afterschool propelling pumpkin practice. A sight and a mess!

The World Pumpkin Capital in CA, Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival

I’m a big fan of making the trek to the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival to find the perfect pumpkin. It may be the World Pumpkin Capital, but clearly they’re not the only place in the country to put on a good pumpkin party.

29,000 Pumpkins and Counting in NH, Keene Pumpkin Festival

I’ve never been to Keene, New Hampshire, but now that I know about it’s Pumpkin Festival, I want to take my whole family. The event was first organized in 1991, with 600 carved lit pumpkins as a way to bring visitors to the downtown area. Last year the count was just under 30-thousand.(29,762 pumpkins to be exact.) Folks from all over bring a carved pumpkin and votive candle to the event. It sounds like it’s got all the makings of a fun-filled family day; a costume parade, seed spitting contest and fireworks. So if you’re anywhere near Keene on October 16th, check it out, and let me know if I should book plane tickets for next year.

Pumpkin Farms with Pony and Camel Rides in IL, Didier Farms Pumpkinfest

Just reading through all the activities on the website can make you dizzy.About an hour from Chicago, Illinois Didier Farms pull out all the shots. Pony rides, petting zoo, tie-dye t-shirts, bouncy houses, corn mazes, and my favorite, camel rides. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before you go.

Back to Pumpkin Picking Basics at a Working Dairy Farm in IL, Wagner Farm

Bigger isn’t always better. I have many friends who are what I call pumpkin patch purists.Forget the maze and circus atmosphere, all they want is a nice afternoon, and a pumpkin that doesn’t break the family budget. Wagner Farm gets rave reviews from many in the Chicago Area. One of the last working dairy farms in the area, families can pick up all the fun stuff like pumpkins, mums and cornstalks. But the kids come home with a taste for true farm life. They can harvest corn by hand, learn how to build the perfect scarecrow and there’s a great old barn full of animals.

Pumpkin Carving and Cooking in CA, Earthbound Farms

Getting just the right pumpkin could be an excuse for a trip to Carmel, California in my house. Earthbound Farms celebrates the season with what they call “Fall Fun & Flavors Days.” There’s pumpkin carving and decorating, and cornhusk doll making for the kids, and cooking demonstrations for the parents. For those of us that are what I call squash impaired when it comes to cooking, the Farm offers a great guide to help you pick the best pumpkins to decorate and dine on.

Fall Harvest Celebrations Galore in CA, Underwood Farms

About an hour northwest of Los Angeles, Underwood Farms is a family favorite. A year-round, real working farm it’s not just about pumpkins. That said, they know how to throw a good Fall Harvest Festival. Every weekend there’s something going on. Take your pick from the annual Folk Festival, the Antique Tractor Weekend or the All about Pumpkins Weekend. Friends say they love the variety the farm offers, but told me not to tell anyone so it didn’t get too crowded. I assured them the secret’s safe with me … and my closest travel buddies.

This post is part of the Holiday Travel Blog Carnival on BestFamilyTravelAdvice.com. Get more tips on the best pumpkin patches to take kids from family travel experts around the world.

Relevant Links:

2010 Halloween activity round up

Fall family travel, favorite leaf peeping experiences

10 great fall family getaways

Dreaming of a 2011 vacation in Italy? Read this!


  1. I can vouch for the challenge that is the maze at the Cherry Crest Adventure Farm. But happily, they’ll help you out. In fact, you are given a white flag to wave when you go in in case you need rescuing. Also: bring change. There are lots of candy machines selling Skittles for 25 cents inside the maze. My problem is that my children ate them instead of dropping them on the ground to leave a trail…

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