To officially mark the fall season, everyone, it seems, must obtain a pumpkin. Theoretically you could just select one at Vons and call it a day. But then you’d miss the rustic, sawdust-flecked pleasures of an outdoor pumpkin patch, with all its attendant harvest-y rituals. In Southern California, especially, we may long to mingle with nature and be One With the Corn. Or just horse around on hay bales and eat funnel cakes. Whatever your preference, local pumpkin patches do offer an inexpensive way to get your autumn on. Here are some local favorites.
Traditional Patches: All-ages, family-fun-type sites where agriculture in SoCal still thrives
Underwood Family Farms
For the entire month of October, this well-known, you-pick ranch in Moorpark is hosting the 19th 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, like a tractor-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. underwoodfamilyfarms.com/fall_harvest_festival.html.
Open daily through the end of the month, this famous OC farm’s annual pumpkin patch and corn maze features wagon rides, veggie-picking, a petting zoo — and a pumpkin cannon that you can use to launch a pumpkin into the hills. Their website says to come early in the season for the best pumpkins, but it's worth the trip for all the other stuff there is to do. (And admission is only $2.)
5380 3/4 University Drive, Irvine. tanakafarms.com.
Cal Poly Pomona Pumpkin Patch
Their annual pumpkin festival may have already passed, but the Cal Poly pumpkin patch remains open through Oct. 30, and it’s definitely worth visiting. This historic agriculture school grows over 70,000 pumpkins every year, making it one of California’s largest patches. Plus, admission is free and pumpkins from the field only cost $5 (the pick-your-own pumpkins are priced by size).
4102 S. University Drive, Pomona. cpp.edu/~pumpkinfestival.
Trendy Patches: More up-to-date, possibly scarier (and not just because hipsters may be there)
Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch
Expect Silicon Beach types to throng this venue with or without their darling offspring. You’ll find the usual pumpkin-y attractions here, but with a more sardonic feel: There’s an actual sideshow on Fridays with knife-throwing, sword-swallowing, contortionists and more. Admission is free on weekdays (except for the Sideshow, which costs $10 for adults, $5 for children), but the price of admission on the weekends includes a $5 pumpkin voucher. There's also a bunch of kid stuff like pony rides, a superslide, a bounce house and a giant rocking chair.
10100 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City. mrbonespumpkinpatch.com.
Farm Lot 59
On Oct. 30, this Long Beach non-profit kitchen farm hosts its Healthy Halloween Festival, an alternative take on the usual tooth-rotting, stomach-ache-inducing, 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.
2714 California Ave., Long Beach; Sun., Oct. 30, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; $5 (reserve tickets in advance). farmlot59.org.
Irvine Park Railroad’s Pumpkin Patch
This Irvine Ranch attraction steps it up a notch with miniature steam train rides, hay rides, kiddie rides, plus free admission and a load of a activities that cost about five bucks each; there's even a small haunted house and a hay maze. You can enjoy the ongoing attractions of the regional park while you’re there, too (paddle boats, bike rentals, pony rides, horseback riding and the OC Zoo). Open through Oct. 31.
1 Irvine Park Road, Orange. irvineparkrailroad.com/events/pumpkin-patch.
Shawn’s Pumpkin Patch
The concept at this patch's two locations — one in Westchester, one in Palms — is sort of "country fun in the big city," with a straw maze, petting zoo, mountains of pumpkins and heaps of gourds. Admission is free and there are a bunch of inexpensive ticketed attractions: low-key kiddie rides, slides, coasters, bouncy things, pony rides. Open through Oct. 31.
6815 S. La Cienega Blvd., Weschester; 3443 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Palms. shawnspumpkinpatch.com.
Even More Patches: Neighborhood venues that capture that Fall essence
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Tapia Brothers Farm
This farm features a pumpkin patch with (ticketed) pony rides and petting zoo, plus a nice green corn maze. Tapia Brothers is a pleasant, homey operation during the rest of the year, but in Fall it really takes on the scarecrow vibe. Plus, they serve roasted corn — yum.
5251 Hayvenhurst Ave., Encino. tapiabrothers.com.
You’ll find lots of great-looking pumpkins grown right here, an excellent produce barn and one of the best corn mazes around. (Which is extra-special because it shares a border fence with San Fernando Cemetery.) Plus: pony rides, tractor-pulled train ride, and a “farm frolic” area. Open daily through Oct. 31.
15200 Rinaldi St., Mission Hills. fornerisfarms.com/corn-maze.html.
Pa’s Pumpkin Patch
Here’s that street-carnival/country fair pumpkin place you were looking for. Besides pumpkins and corn shocks, they offer a decent number of rides (pony, carousel, roller coaster, slides), fair food and carnival games. And admission is free.
6701 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach. paspumpkinpatch.com.
Debbie and Jeff’s Pumpkin Patch
Your standard pumpkin venue, but they get points for serving the South Bay for 40 years. They sell a nice variety of pumpkins, including those monster-sized ones.
411 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach. debbieandjeffchristmastrees.com/pumpkin-patch.