Many families in Marin and the North Bay have fond memories of visiting the popular pumpkin patch at Cardoza Ranch outside Petaluma. In 2005, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District and the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department acquired Cardoza Ranch, also known as Tolay Lake Ranch, turning its 1,737 acres of farmland into a county park.
Petaluma Pumpkin Patch, a Halloween fixture in Sonoma County since 1993, is popular for a number of reasons. For one, it's a real pumpkin patch that's not too far from civilization—it's right off the North Bay's major freeway. Second, it offers a nice mix of real country attractions and other more commercial activities like bounce houses, climbing walls, and pony rides. Third, their pumpkin prices are really reasonable: from $1 for mini pumpkins and gourds to $16 and up for really large examples.
The entrance to their large parking lot is located off Stony Point Road just north of Petaluma. Keep your eyes open for the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch sign, because it can be easy to miss. When you first enter, you'll see that they offer a wide variety of squashes of all different types, including Hubbard, spaghetti, and turban squash, as well as ornamental gourds. You'll find some pre-picked pumpkins here, too, but you'll find most of them are off in the huge five-acre pumpkin field nearby.
One of our favorite local pumpkin patches is the Great Peter Pumpkin Patch at Spring Hill Farm, located in the Two Rock Valley area just outside Petaluma. The Great Peter Pumpkin Patch is a classic old-time pumpkin patch that's kind of out in the middle of nowhere (which is part of the fun). It's on a real working farm that produces the yummy organic Spring Hill Jersey cheese that you may have seen in farmers' markets or stores around town.
We've been going there for over 10 years, and we've watched it grow in size and scope to be a major fall production. Peter Pumpkin Patch has plenty of pumpkins—you'll find a vast field of on-the-vine pick-it-yourself pumpkins as well as pre-picked specimens, too.
This weekend we paid a visit to the popular Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch, a certified organic pumpkin patch that has been a Marin County tradition for 20 years! Located in the small west Marin village of Nicasio, the farm is just west of the Nicasio Village Square right on Nicasio Valley Road. Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch is open seven days a week through Halloween from 10 am to 6 pm, and it's always worth a visit.
Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers a wide variety of certified organic pumpkins spread out in an expansive meadow on the farm. Pumpkin varieties ranged from your standard Halloween jack-o-lantern types to white ones, green Italian and Australian varieties, and flat European "Cinderella" style squash. The farmstand also offers of gourds, squash, and decorative cornstalks, apples, as well as drinks and snacks. Pumpkins range in price from $5 to $32.
McClelland's Dairy is a family-run, certified organic dairy farm located just west of Petaluma, and their annual Halloween pumpkin patch just keeps getting better and better every year. McClelland's offers a lot of fun for families, especially if you are looking for a genuine farm experience. If you haven't been there yet, it's definitley worth putting on your fall family itinerary. Attractions and activities here range from a farm animal petting zoo and into the dairy's milking barn to a giant slide and an air-powered pumpkin cannon. You can hang out here and play all day!
The entrance to McClelland's can sneak up on you a little, so keep an eye out for their signs as you head down Bodega Road into the Two Rock area west of Petaluma. Turn into the dirt driveway and parking it to your immediate right. On your left you'll see their big pumpkin patch, where you're welcome to go pick that perfect Halloween pumpkin off the vine. All pumpkins here are organically grown.
Fall has arrived, and for those seeking that true Halloween pumpkin patch experience, here's our annual guide to pumpkin patches in Marin and southern Sonoma counties.
In Marin County, Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers a real on-the-farm experience and the Godmother's Pumpkin Patch at St. Vincent's is a local tradition and an exciting Halloween experience for families. For more real live farms offering pumpkin patches this season, head up north a short distance to rural Sonoma County, where you'll find them in relative abundance. We visited as many of these pumpkin patches as we could last year, and have posted links to our reviews of them below. As always, we'll visit again this year and update our reviews.
We've included dates and hours for pumpkin patches when available. Hours are correct as of the time of publishing, but it's still a good idea to check a pumpkin patch's website or give them a call before you go in case anything changes. As a rule, most pumpkin patches are open during the whole month of October, although a few open in late September. Pumpkin patches listed here are open through October 31 unless otherwise indicated.
While there are plenty of awesome pumpkin patches to choose from in Marin and southern Sonoma counties (see our list of those here), you can find other great places to pick up pumpkins and other Halloween and autumn treats throughout the greater Bay Area. Maybe you're headed on a road trip to the south bay, or bound for the grandparents' house in Sacramento this October—there's probably a pumpkin patch on the way. Here are a few out-of-town pumpkin patches, in Solano, Contra Costa, and San Mateo counties, that we've visited at one time or another or had recommended to us.
Western Railway Museum Pumpkin Patch Festival
5848 Highway 12
(707) 374-2978 www.wrm.org
Saturdays and Sundays, October 8–23, 10 am–5 pm
The Western Railway Museum in rural Solano County holds its celebrated annual Pumpkin Festival every Saturday and Sunday from October 8–23. Ride a vintage electric express train to the pumpkin patch at Gum Grove Station for pumpkins, tractor rides, games, music, a hay fort, a pumpkin launcher, and pumpkins for sale, of course. Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors 65+, and $10 for children 2–14. Admission includes museum entry, unlimited train rides, picnic area use, and parking. Reservations are not accepted.
One of Marin County's most beloved Halloween traditions is the Godmothers of Timothy Murphy School Pumpkin Field, AKA the St. Vincent's Pumpkin Patch. This popular seasonal fixture is located in St. Vincent's field near St. Vincent's School for Boys just south of Novato.
As usual, this year's pumpkin patch is really well done. It's attractive both for adults and children, with colorful plywood cutouts for photos ops, and plenty of spooky decorations, figures, and props to keep everyone interested. They don't actually grow their pumpkins here, but have a large selection of them ready to choose. There are wheelbarrows and red Radio Flyer wagons available for you to haul around your pumpkins (or your kids).
Like many pumpkin patches these days, pumpkins aren't the only draw, and St. Vincent's has the requisite bouncy house and giant inflatable slide for kids to play on on weekends. You need to buy tickets for these: $5 gets you on both the bounce house and the big inflatable slide.
The winner, by a big margin, of our last Pumpkin Patch Poll was Santa Rosa Pumpkin Patch. We didn't get chance to visit last season, but made sure we stopped by this year to see what makes it so popular. This large pumpkin patch is located on a 20-acre farm off of Stony Point Road in Sonoma County. While its address is in Santa Rosa, it's location is really more on the outskirts of Rohnert Park or Sebastopol, making it an easy trip from Marin.
Santa Rosa Pumpkin Patch's popularity is well deserved, as there's a ton of things to do here for the whole family. While picking that perfect pumpkin out of their eight-acre pumpkin patch is of course the main reason for visiting, there are plenty of activities to justify hanging out here all day!
Many of the activities here are offered for free, including a humongous box full of dried corn seed that kids of all ages were playing in, farm-themed tire swings, pumpkin tether ball, a sunflower maze (you can even buy the flowers for $1 each), a hay maze, and a nine-bale-high hay tower.