Anyone driving on Stony Point Road between Petaluma and Santa Rosa, in the autumn months, sees pumpkins. Sonoma County is known for its abundance of pumpkins during harvest. The brilliant orange orbs fill fields, signs beckon towards side roads brimming with more pumpkins, and roadside stands are popping up, selling, yep, pumpkins.
’Tis the season for baking pies, roasting seeds, making pumpkin smoothies, and carving gourds into ghoulish shapes for Halloween.
Here are five of our favorite patches that get bonus points for fun:
Punky's Adobe Farm, Petaluma
Oh, Linus would love this place. There is no Great Pumpkin, but there is a Pumpkin Fairy Godmother who roams the patch on weekends and blesses pumpkins with fairy dust.
It’s 30 acres of pumpkin paradise, with near endless entertainment. Start with the pumpkins, boasting what is touted as Sonoma’s largest selection of varieties. Then enjoy a hayride, a horse ride, the Spider Hollow haunted barn, an antique tractor display, farm animals and milking demos.
Adults will enjoy an outing, too, since there is a Farmer’s Wife Barntique with arts and crafts, and live music on weekends. You can spend quite a bit of time navigating the six-acre corn maze, but the course is more fun than challenging.
Details: 2478 E. Washington St., Petaluma, 707-579-8474, punkysadobefarm.com
Petaluma Pumpkin Patch and Amazing Corn Maze, Petaluma
This is the patch that most people probably know about, since it flanks Highway 101 near the Penngrove exit. But have you ever stopped to actually check it out? Plenty of people do every year, and you should, too. All the produce is grown right there, by fourth-generation Petaluma farmer “Jim the Pumpkin Guy.”
That includes acres of pumpkins weighing up to 125 pounds, some 50 kinds of squash, and also a living corn stalk maze that spans four acres and will bring back memories of the movie The Shining. Hint: it’s not cheating, and actually really helpful to accept the map and, if you’re really brave, take on the Friday or Saturday nighttime maze exploration, totally in the dark.
Other delightful draws include the 500 bale straw mountain, the petting zoo, weekend pony rides and bounce houses, and a little kids’ maze where tykes can help Farmer Jim find his lost chickens.
Details: Admission is $5 for ages 6 and up, free for kids 5 and under. Night maze is $9. Enter off Stony Point Road, a half-mile north of the Highway 101 Penngrove/Old Redwood Highway exit. 707-781-3132, petalumapumpkinpatch.com.
Tolay Lake Regional Park Fall Festival, Petaluma
In mid-October, this 1,737-acre ranch on Lakeville Highway turns into a pumpkin wonderland. It’s the former Cardoza Ranch, now under the stewardship of the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. Now in its sixth year, the festival brims with pick-your-pumpkin patches, hayrides, and gobs of family frolicking.
One highlight is the display of colorful gourds, mini-pumpkins, unusual squash, multi-colored corn; another don’t miss is the World Record Pumpkin Seed-spitting Contest.
Is the party popular? Last year, more than 15,000 visitors came for tours of a Native American Village complete with heritage demonstrations, a petting zoo, a Night Time Creatures Barn with Creep Crawly Critters room, and nature hikes. This is a nice touch, too – the hayride is wheelchair friendly.
Details: Admission is $4 for ages 13 and up, $1 for kids 12 and under. Parking is $6 per car, or free with a Parks Membership. sonoma-county.org/parks.
The Greater Pumpkin Patch, Petaluma
If you find yourself in this glorious, bucolic village in the rolling hills just west of Petaluma, you may come across Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Co. Pull in and discover a lovely pumpkin patch where you can pick-your-own to your heart’s content.
There are plenty of extra activities, too, including visits with farm animals, cow milking, hay rides, a hay maze, a corn maze and a potato plot for digging. And now nice, you’ll get fed, with goodies like homemade pumpkin ice cream and, naturally, cheese.
Details: Admission is free, but cheese tours are $5, and hey, buy some cheese. 4235 Spring Hill Road, Petaluma, 707-762-3446, springhillcheese.com.
Grandma’s Pumpkin Patch, Healdsburg
Grandma is a pretty busy lady, growing gobs of gourds for you-pick-ems, and she knows how to keep the little ones occupied, too. Adventures at this small, super friendly, homestyle place include macaroni necklace making, touring the hay fort and corn maze, climbing on tractors, and playing with cute farm animals like a miniature cow, sheep, chickens, lambs and kitties.
While the kids wear themselves out, the grown ups can shop in a little general store for drinks, candy and all sorts of Halloween related items from costumes to hair ribbons.
Details: Admission is free, but bring cash for purchases. 17740 Healdsburg Ave. (near the intersection of Lytton Springs Rd. just off Highway 101), Healdsburg, 707-431-8058, grandmaspumpkinpatch.com
Note: Rates are subject to change, please call ahead or check the websites.