Every autumn, there are more and more elaborate haunts and spooky attractions to choose from in Southern California, but there’s something to be said for going back to basics: searching for the perfect pumpkin to take home. Many people get that ritual October urge to buy a pumpkin when the orange gourds go on display at the local grocery store, but then they’d be missing out on the countrified, sawdust-flecked pleasures of visiting an outdoor pumpkin patch. These local patches offer a simple way to revel in the rituals of fall without a huge cash outlay — plus you get to come home with hay in your hair.
Underwood Family Farms
For the entire month of October, this famous u-pick ranch in Moorpark is hosting its 20th annual Fall Harvest Festival. The farm has a large corn maze you can actually get lost in, plus enough things to do to satisfy the most tireless youngster. It's more crowded on weekends, of course, but there's also more included in the price of admission, such as a horse-drawn wagon ride, pig races, a chicken show and more. Admission's a little steep (it jumps from $6 during the week to $20 on weekends), but, c'mon, fall only comes once a year.
3370 Sunset Valley Road, Moorpark; through Oct. 31. underwoodfamilyfarms.com/fall_harvest_festival.html.
Cal Poly Pomona Pumpkin Patch
The annual pumpkin festival here has already passed, but the Cal Poly pumpkin patch remains open through Oct. 31, and it’s definitely worth a visit. This historic agriculture school grows more than 70,000 pumpkins every year, making it one of California’s largest patches. Plus, admission is free and pumpkins from the field cost only $5 (the pick-your-own pumpkins are priced by size).
4102 S. University Drive, Pomona; through Oct. 31. cpp.edu/~pumpkinfestival.
Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch
You’ll find the usual pumpkin-y features here, but they up the spook factor with sideshow attractions, an Instagram-worthy “pumpkin village” and decor, plus pony rides, slides, bounce houses and an oversize rocking horse. There’s a charge for both admission and parking, so check around for discount offers.
10100 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City; through Oct. 31. mrbonespumpkinpatch.com.
Farm Lot 59
On Oct. 28, this Long Beach nonprofit kitchen farm hosts its Healthy Halloween Festival, an alternative take on the usual tooth-destroying, candy-laden fall activities. Kids are encouraged to dress up for healthy trick-or-treating, fishing for apples, face painting, seed-bomb making and more. The farm stand is open through the fall season for fresh organic veggies, too.
2714 California Ave., Long Beach; Sun., Oct. 30, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; $5 (reserve tickets in advance). farmlot59.org.
Tina’s Pumpkin Patch
Locals love the fact they can find a really good range of pumpkin sizes and colors here, and there are kiddie attractions suitable for even very small children. Tina’s features a small maze, mini train ride, petting zoo and inflatable jumpers, all very low-key — but be aware that not all attractions are available on weekends. Free admission and parking; open through Oct. 31.
4827 Sepulveda Blvd., Sherman Oaks. tinaspumpkinpatch.com.
Open daily through Halloween night, this famous Orange County farm’s annual pumpkin patch and corn maze features wagon and ATV rides, veggie picking, games, a petting zoo — and a pumpkin cannon that you can use to launch a pumpkin into the hills. Early in the season you’ll find the best pumpkin selection, but it's worth the trip for all the other stuff there is to do.
5380¾ University Drive, Irvine; through Oct. 31. tanakafarms.com.
Tapia Brothers Farm
Tapia Brothers is a pleasantly country-ish farm stand during the rest of the year, but in fall it really takes on the scarecrow vibe. You’ll find heaps of pumpkins in all sizes and colors, plus (ticketed) pony rides, tractor-pulled train and petting zoo, along with a sizable corn maze/scavenger hunt with prizes. Plus, they offer hot roasted corn on the cob — yum.
5251 Hayvenhurst Ave., Encino. tapiabrothers.com.
This old north Valley farm has been growing pumpkins and corn for years, and boasts one of the best corn mazes around (which has extra cachet because it shares a border fence with San Fernando Cemetery). For the comfort of little ones, however, this maze is spook-free. Admission includes tractor-pulled train ride and a “farm frolic” area.
15200 Rinaldi St., Mission Hills; daily through Oct. 31, last admission 4 p.m. fornerisfarms.com/corn-maze.html.
Cougar Mountain Pumpkin Patch
This longtime Eagle Rock patch not only stocks a nice selection of pumpkins but also offers a good number of seasonal extras: pony rides, go-karts, giant slides, bounce houses, photo area, carving supplies and costumes
2700 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock. (909) 702-3632.
Pasadena Pumpkin Patch
Yes, it’s a parking lot and not an actual farm, but Pasadenans head here for the good pumpkin selection and kiddie attractions: petting zoo, inflatable slides and bounce houses, pony ride. There's free admission and plenty of parking.
900 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena. pasadenapumpkinpatch.com.
Pa’s Pumpkin Patch
Here’s that street-carnival/country fair pumpkin place you were looking for. Besides pumpkins and corn shocks, it offers a decent number of rides (pony, carousel, roller coaster, slides), fair food and carnival games. Unlike some venues, Pa’s is open late, and admission is free.
6701 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach. paspumpkinpatch.com.