By Samantha Wu
With the Halloween around the corner and your little one eagerly anticipating a night of candy and the chance to dress up, what better way to begin the celebration early than a family trip to a pumpkin farm? A grinning jack-O’-lantern is a staple of spooky décor and although they can be purchased at the local supermarket, heading out to a farm will provide you with a much larger selection and better prices. As a bonus, many pick-your-own (or “u-pick”) pumpkin farms offer far more than just pumpkins — a cornucopia of fresh seasonal produce and a full day of family fun.
At Pingle’s Farm Market located in Hampton, Ont., families come daily for the pumpkins but stay for the many attractions offered. The corn maze, recommended for kids 12 and up, is open year round but spooked up specifically for Halloween. Visitors are escorted via wagon ride to the start of the maze and wait by a roaring fire as a hooked-nosed witch calls their number to begin their adventure. Live costumed actors waiting strategically throughout the maze are ready to scare at each turn.
If a haunted maze is too much for your little princess, she can get an early start on her trick-or-treating with a walk through Pingle’s Spooky Orchard Trail for kids ages three to 10. Parents accompany their kids on a walk through the eerie apple orchard and collect candy at stations along the way.
But if all you need is a pumpkin for your doorstep, you’re in luck. Pumpkins are picked off the vine and left in the field for visitors to select for themselves. Unsure of what to look for? A quick chat with the farm staff will point you in the right direction. After you’ve chosen your pumpkin, you can also stock up for a harvest family feast by checking out the other produce available including apples, squash, cabbage, raspberries and pears.
Out west, Prairies Gardens & Greenhouses in Bon Accord, Alta., is packed with events throughout October for the whole family. Boasting a Pumpkin Festival each weekend, guests are treated to the seven-acre Great Prairie Corn Maze — a full-day attraction with this year’s pirate theme. The maze is cut into the shape of the “Green Pearl” pirate ship. Wanderers are sent on a scavenger hunt mission locating six treasure stations throughout the maze. Finish the maze and the treasure is yours.
The younger kids aren’t left out with a smaller maze just for them, unlimited wagon rides, free scarecrow building, a haunted farm house, an enchanted forest and much more. Costumed characters wander the grounds for a perfect photo opportunity. Worked up an appetite? There’s a Pumpkin Café on site where you can relax for a bit or stop at Snack’n Jack treats for a quick bite.
Ready to take home a fall bounty? Along with their u-pick pumpkins, there’s also a wide assortment of ready-to-pick vegetables including peas, potatoes and beets.
Across the country, there are plenty of local farms with a full harvest selection to fulfill your pumpkin needs and much more. To find a u-pick farm near you, check out pumpkinpatchesandmore.org.