Fall is here, which means Halloween is just around the corner and local pumpkin patches will soon be open! For those seeking that that true Halloween pumpkin patch experience, we present our annual roster of pumpkin patches in Marin and southern Sonoma counties. In Marin County, Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers that on-the-farm experience and old favorites like the St. Vincent's Pumpkin Patch (Godmothers of Timothy Murphy School Pumpkin Patch) offer an exciting Halloween experience for families.
To seek out 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. We'll certainly make an effort to visit again this year, and we'll add our updated reviews when they're written.
We've included dates and hours for pumpkin patches when available. As a rule, most pumpkin patches are open throughout the month of October, although some open in September and some run through early November. Admission to pumpkin patches is free unless otherwise noted.
Nicasio Valley FarmsPumpkin Patch
(Lafranchi Pumpkin Patch)
5300 Nicasio Valley Road (1/4 mile north of Nicasio square)
Open daily October 1–31,10 am–6 pm
The Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers organic pumpkins, hay rides, farm animals, bounce house and slide, a farm stand, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company (Thursdays–Sundays) and BBQ and ice cream for sale on the weekends. Popular children's recording artist Tim Cain performs every Sunday (October 6, 13, 20, and 27) from 11 am to noon. Six-piece Western band Manzanita Moon performs Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 12:30 to 4:30 pm. Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) Day is Sunday October 21 from 10 am–6 pm, with kids' games and crafts; barn animals; local food, beer, and wine; educational exhibits; and more. Read our review of Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch.
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 Leisuretown 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 have had recommended to us.
Of course if your favorite isn't here, now's the time to let us know! Leave a comment to this post or send us an email and we'll consider adding it to the list.
Western Railway Museum Pumpkin Festival
5848 Highway 12
Suisun, CA 94585
(707) 374-2978 www.wrm.org
Saturdays and Sundays, October 13–28, 9:30 am–5 pm
The Western Railway Museum in rural Solano County holds its celebrated annual Pumpkin Festival every Saturday and Sunday from October 13–28. Ride a vintage electric express train to the pumpkin patch at Gum Grove Station for pumpkins, tractor rides, games, music, and pumpkins for sale, of course. Admission is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors 65+, and $9 for children 2–14. Admission includes museum entry, unlimited train rides, picnic area use, and parking. Reservations are not accepted.
Cool Patch Pumpkins
6585 Milk Farm Road (right off I-80—look for the iconic Milk Farm sign)
Dixon, CA 95620
(530) 304-0163 www.coolpatchpumpkins.com
Open daily, September 15–November 1, 9 am-8 pm
A humungous pumpkin patch out in Dixon. Several varieties of pumpkins, squash, and vegetables, a 45-acre corn maze (the largest in the world, according to the Guiness Book of World Records), food, hay rides, a teepee village, and pedal karts and tricycles for rent.
This weekend we checked out the popular Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch, one of the few pumpkin patches actually located in Marin County. This certified organic pumpkin patch, located in the small west Marin village of Nicasio, is located 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 definitely worth a visit this season.
Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers a wide variety of certified organic pumpkins spread out in an expansive meadow on the farm. Although in previous visits we noticed pumpkins being grown on-site, we didn't see any this year. Pumpkin varieties ranged from your standard Halloween jack-o-lantern types to white ones, green ones, and flat European "Cinderella" style squash. The farmstand also offers of gourds, squash, decorative cornstalks, apples, and other organic vegetables, as well as drinks and snacks.
Like many Halloween pumpkin patches, Nicasio Valley Farms offers the obligatory jumpy house and inflatable slide, which cost $2 and $1, respectively; a discount book of 20 tickets is available, too. There are also hay rides through the fields ($3 per person), pony rides from Victoria's Fashion Stables ($6), a petting zoo ($3), and some farm animals for children to visit.
McClelland's Dairy, a family-run certified organic dairy located just west of Petaluma, is a relative newcomer to the North Bay pumpkin patch circuit. Actually, that's only partly true—they last had a pumpkin patch on the farm a decade ago, and decided last year to revive this October tradition.
Compared to other pumpkin patches around Petaluma, McClelland's is a low-key affair, but that doesn't mean it isn't a lot of fun. It's just a slower, gentler fun.
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 follow over a little bridge to the dairy farm. On your left you'll see a three-acre pumpkin field where you're welcome to go hunt for that perfect Halloween pumpkin.
In addition to u-pick pumpkins, there's a small bounce house, a hay maze, a big box full or oat seeds (perfect for digging—buckets and shovels provided) and a pen where you can meet some gentle and friendly farm animals, including goats, calves, a bunny, and chicks. Don't miss the large arrangement of pumpkins, squash, gourds, and straw bales—it's perfect for a family photo op.
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.
Tolay Lake Ranch is a unique spot, with a freshwater lake, wetlands, diverse wildlife, and 8,000 years human habitation with extensive archaeological and historical sites. Tolay Lake Regional Park is currently under development and access is restricted, although the public can now make use of the park through a day-use permit program.
However, I'm sure what's on many people's minds is "What happened to the pumpkin patch?" The Sonoma Regional Parks Department has kept the spirit of the old Cardoza pumpkin patch alive by holding the annual Tolay Fall Festival, now in its seventh year. This popular event takes place over two long weekends in October; the Tolay Fall Festival 2012 happensThursday–Sunday, October 11–14 and Wednesday–Sunday October 17–21. The Festival is open on weekdays from 9 am–3 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am–5 pm.
One of our favorite local pumpkin patches is the annual Peter Pumpkin Patch at Spring Hill Farm, located just outside of Petaluma. 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 Spring Hill Jersey cheese that you may have seen in farmers' markets or stores around town.
We've been going there for over six years, and we've watched it grow in size and scope to be a major autumn production. Peter Pumpkin Patch is also quite popular with our readers, as it was the runaway winner in our 2009 Pumpkin Patch Poll, and first runner up in the 2010 and 2011 polls.
Peter Pumpkin Patch has plenty of pumpkins—you'll find pre-picked specimens in abundance, and a vast field of on-the-vine pick-it-yourself pumpkins, too. Wheelbarrows are available for you to haul your load back to the cash register. They also have Cinderalla pumpkins, and white, green, and other less traditional pumpkins, as well as gourds, squash, and more.
You can also dig your own potatoes in their potato field, where several different varieties are growing. Tools, bags, and some potato digging pointers are provided. It's dirty, but fun.
The last few years we've bought our pumpkins at Peterson's Farm in Petaluma, which offers not only a wide variety of pumpkins, but a fantastic old-fashioned family farm experience as well. We visited Peterson's yesterday, and it was bustling! We joined several other families in searching through the pumpkins scattered over several acres of rambling pumpkin patch and visiting the animals who live on the farm.
You'll find Peterson's Farm in northern Petaluma, at 636 Gossage Avenue, off of Petaluma Boulevard North. The area is full of suburban bustle, but when you turn up Gossage and head over the hill, you quickly find yourself in a quiet rural neighborhood. The turn into Peterson's Farm kind of sneaks up on you, so be on the lookout for their sign on the right side of the road; start looking after you pass the intersection with Gossage Way. Turn right onto the gravel drive and head around the barn and park in the back.
Probably the first thing you'll notice is that this is a real farm, complete with old vehicles, ancient dilapidated barns and chicken coops, and various agricultural supplies and implements scattered around. Don't let this put you off. This is a genuine working farm, not some side-of-the-road pumpkin patch set up for the season. Of course this is also why an outing here is so much fun.
The 2010 and 2011 winner of the Marin Mommies Pumpkin Patch Poll was the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch and Amazing Corn Maze. This is the big Halloween pumpkin patch that you see on the side of Highway 101 just north of the last Petaluma exit. You may even have been stuck in southbound traffic caused by rubberneckers slowing down to look at it.
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 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. Third, their pumpkin prices are really reasonable: from $1 for the smallest mini pumpkins to $15 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. There are some pre-picked pumpkins here, too, but you'll find most of them are off in the huge five-acre pumpkin field nearby.
This weekend we took the kids to the first pumpkin patch of the season (but certainly not the last). We visited the Adobe Pumpkin Farmin Petaluma, located at the intersection of Adobe Road and East Washington Street. We've sort of made it an annual tradition to visit Adobe on its opening weekend, which usually coincides with the Weekend Along the Farm Trails event. Adobe Pumpkin Farm is also usually the first pumpkin patch to open in the fall, so it's a fun kick-off to the season. Since it's still early in the season they were still putting the fiinishing touches on many things, and some of the attractions like the Haunted Barn and the Christmas Shop were not yet open.
Located just minutes from the suburban sprawl of east Petaluma, Adobe Pumpkin Farm is a real farm that, in addition to pumpkins, also grows flowers and a variety of vegetables. Here you can pick your own pumpkin from a large field, or choose from already-picked varieties in all sorts of shapes, colors, and sizes. Plenty of wheelbarrows are available for hauling your pumpkins back to the Pumpkin Barn and to your car. You can also buy gourds and fresh-cut flowers.