By Jordan Latham
October is here, and man are we ready! It's been a long hot summer, and now it's finally time for the cool down. Along with the lower temperatures of October, we here in the East Bay are all geared up for pumpkin season. Here's a breakdown of my very favorite spots to hit with my young boys when fall finally hits.
In years past, Speer Family Pumpkin Patch has been located beside the outdoor shopping mall Bay st., in Emeryville. This year it's scooted on over to 2153 Ferry Point in Alameda. It's a beautiful area, but it can be windy so close to the Bay, so bring coats for your kids. This pumpkin patch opens October 1 and runs all the way to Halloween. They are rockin' a bounce house, a petting zoo and face painting. Opening at 10am and staying open all the way until 10pm, a day pass will run about 20$. It's a little pricey, but most days I'd happily pay that amount to keep my boys entertained and engaged with something fun outdoors!
About a 30 minute drive from Oakland lies Ardenwood Farm in Fremont. It's host to JE Perry Organic Pumpkin Patch. This spot is no frills, down and dirty pumpkin picking. There is no kitschy Halloween games and decoration, and it is serene and beautiful. The large span of open outdoor space equalizes all the noise, and it feels very quiet. Ardenwood Farm is a functional old school farm, with a big beautiful farm house and original equipment such as tractors and tills pulled by horses. Monday through Friday they're open from noon to 7pm. Saturday and Sunday they open a little earlier from 9am to 7pm and charge 1$ as pumpkin patch admission. It feels like a genuine rural farm experience, with chirping birds in fresh air, and the kids will be wiped out tired after running up down rows to pick the perfect pumpkin (bonus!).
My favorite pumpkin patch is about an hour away, off Mines Rd in Livermore called Joan's Farm & Pumpkin Patch. Joan's is totally adorable, and it's the whole package. First off, the location is worth the drive, Mines Rd is an absolutely beautiful display of fall. Wild turkeys free range all over the farm properties lining the road. Upon arrival you snag a pull wagon from the parking lot, they supply them for hauling around pumpkins. They also work well for hauling small children and the load of lunch boxes and diaper bags that they require. There's a lot to do, so plan on spending some time to take in all the activities. The corn maize is fun and not too expansive for small kids, so you won't get lost. There's an old west town, it's little and great for using that child's imagination. There are hayrides, and pony rides. My boys enjoy the pig pens, they're smelly and they're huge, covered in mud. They section off three large areas full of pumpkins by size. One spot for huge pumpkins, a section for medium and a section for little tiny pumpkins and gourds. They are open daily from 9am to 6pm, but they're cash only so be sure to hit an ATM.
If you are a real pumpkin buff, and want a more adult experience of all things pumpkin, the annual Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival is the place to be. The weekend of October 17 and 18 is the 45th year they've put on this event. It features huge, heavyweight champion pumpkins, pumpkin carving contests, pumpkin pie tastings and even a "smashing pumpkins" battle of the bands. With four live stages there's music throughout the day as well as live pumpkin sculpture carving by local artists. They do a full haunted house, a zip line, and a bungie jump. There's a costume contest, and for those who need a little liquid courage before getting on stage, there's all kinds of local pumpkin ales, wines and cocktails to be had. The challenge about this event is traffic and parking. Half Moon Bay is located off of Highway 1, which quickly becomes overwhelmed by festival goers and becomes a traffic jam. Arriving and leaving early seem to be the best advised method. This year, you can actually download a free Pumpkin Festival App! Not only does it have a full event run down, but it has a detailed itinerary of performers and contests for every stage and a list of food and drink vendors. It features a "Find Parking" aspect, with the goal of using maps to alert drivers which lots are full and where you can still find spaces.
October can be a busy month, but make time and mark a weekend or two on the calendar to get the kids out and see some of the festive, fun pumpkin patch activities! You ll be glad you did.