Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pumpkin Patch Report: Lemos Farm (Half Moon Bay)

Our second day of pumpkin-patching took us to Lemos Farm on Highway 92 in Half Moon Bay. (Warning! The link above brings you to the Lemos Farm website, where a terrifically cheesy video of Cowboy Bob welcoming you to the farm starts playing immediately, and loudly. If you're at work or have a napping toddler, turn down the volume first.)

And wow. Just wow.

Lemos is like the Las Vegas/Disneyland of pumpkin patches. It is a pumpkin patch on steroids. Really, it feels strange even calling it a pumpkin patch, given that the actual "patch" part is just a small segment of this Halloween adventureland, and is somewhat overshadowed by the goats and bounce houses and train and hayrides and play structures and ponies and fountains and rocking horses and diggers and gazillion photo opportunities. While most visitors probably do leave here with a pumpkin or two, the big orange squash is really not the primary focus of this spectacle.

Overall, I thought Lemos was really fun -- much different than I expected a pumpkin patch (or a farm) to be, but fun. Toddler X had a blast, and Grandma and Grandpa X, who accompanied us, loved helping him explore the gazillion offerings. I will definitely come back in the future, and if you enjoy Disneyland or Vegas or the like, you will probably enjoy Lemos too. But if you're searching for a pumpkin patch that is all about pumpkins, that is peaceful and uncrowded and non-commercialized...well, maybe pass this one by.

I'm having a hard time even getting started on my description of Lemos -- there's just so much much-ness to cover -- so I'm going to break my report into categories. Here goes.

  • Located at 12320 San Mateo Road (Highway 92) in Half Moon Bay, on the right-hand side of the road if you're driving west from 280. See my Half Moon Bay post for general directions.
  • Open daily in October, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. No fee for parking or admission, but rides/activities/petting zoo require tickets for kids over 14 months. Here is the price list:
  • Parking is in a dirt lot adjacent to the entrance, with overflow parking in another lot a bit further away. We didn't bring a stroller and didn't need one -- in fact, with the crowds and some narrow passages, it might have been an encumbrance -- but we had three adults tending one toddler, which obviously makes it easier. If you do have to park in the overflow lot and choose not to bring a stroller, you may have to do some toddler-carrying to/from the car.
  • There are plenty of picnic tables available, although some areas are reserved for private parties. Bathrooms are in a permanent trailer, not port-a-potties, and were surprisingly clean. They sell food and drinks, including a vast array of Halloween cookies that looked tasty.

Features and Amenities
  • There's not a lot that Lemos doesn't have when it comes to pumpkin patch amenities. A mechanical farm tractor that kids can operate for $2, two pony-riding areas, a petting zoo with goats, a playground area with structures and a playhouse (you have to pay to enter this area), an array of really cute stylized rocking horses, a pond with ducks, a fountain (where Toddler X managed to get his entire shirt wet -- you'll notice he's in a different outfit at our second patch of the day), and more.
  • Lemos offers both a hay ride and a train ride. We did the latter, and it was one of the highlights of our visit. It's a little trackless train that circles around the inside of the farm, then heads off on a trail through a hilarious, well-constructed and well-thought out, Old West-style ghost town on a toddler scale (see bottom row of pictures, above). We had a great time pointing things out to Toddler X, and since you go out and back on the same route, he had fun spotting things that he had seen a minute or two before. Best train ride I've taken at a pumpkin patch.
  • The petting zoo was the other highlight for Toddler X (okay, I'll admit it -- for me too), not because of the wide variety of animals (it was just goats), but because the goats were the friendliest, most gentle creatures imaginable. They carefully ate the goat food ($1, and it includes entrance to the corral) out of Toddler X's hand, and were very tolerant of his hugs. The goats at Happy Hollow can sometimes be snappish -- these guys were sweet. You can pet the goats and give them food through the fence, which is plenty of fun, or go into the corral itself and risk stepping in goat poop. We, of course, went with the poop.
  • Perhaps the biggest attraction of Lemos Farm for moms (and some dads, but this seems to be primarily a mom phenomenon) is the vast array of photo ops. Seriously, everywhere you look, it seems like an area was constructed just for taking your toddler's photo (see below...this is just a small sampling). Hay bales with cute backdrops, an old (un)covered wagon, benches and barrels and funny signs. They got me good with the "How tall this fall?" measuring sign -- now that I've taken Toddler X's photo there, I'll have to bring him back to Lemos every year for the rest of my life to measure him again. Brilliant.

General Atmosphere
  • As I mentioned above, Lemos feels more like a Halloween theme park than a pumpkin patch, with the wide variety of offerings and distractions sort of overshadowing the pumpkins. We were there at probably the most crowded time of day on a weekday -- around 11 a.m. to noon -- so it was full of school groups and birthday parties. Everyone was having a great time, but again, a peaceful, bucolic, farm-like setting it is not.
  • The amount of Halloween décor at Lemos is staggering -- every sign, display or inflatable that you could buy or create is here, decorating every inch of available space. Some of it is really cute, some is really kitschy (I don't actually know what that word means, but I'm pretty certain it describes some of the décor at Lemos Farm), but if you're sensitive to clutter, you may not enjoy this patch.
  • Unfortunately, Lemos does feel very commercialized. Obviously they sell rides on the ponies and trains -- that doesn't bother me -- but they were also selling balloon animals and merchandise -- stuff that kids will, of course, declare that they want or neeeeeed, in a place where mom and dad are already spending plenty of money on activities (and, oh yeah, those pumpkins!). It also bugged me that they charged entrance to what was basically a playground area on the property.
And finally...the Pumpkins!

  • I left this for last because the pumpkins do sort of feel like an afterthought here. There is one primary "pumpkin patch" area in the center of the property (see above), but besides that the pumpkins are just spread throughout in various piles or displays, many of which create some of those adorable photo ops I mentioned. I actually really enjoyed that feature -- rather than walking rows of pumpkins searching for the right one, you might just spot the pumpkin of your dreams on the side of the path near a hay bale or piled artistically at the base of a fountain. It was like seeing a display you really like at a store, except being able to just go ahead and grab it for your own. Fun!
  • The pumpkin prices were similar to Spina, based on my recollection (it's hard to remember exact sizes for comparing prices -- these may have been 50 cents or a dollar less expensive, by size). The large pumpkins in the main patch area were individually priced -- with smaller ones, they just told you at checkout. overall impression? Lemos Farm is lots of fun, if you and your toddler enjoy a busy, high-energy atmosphere, don't mind crowds or congestion, and want lots of activity options. We had a great time, so we will be back next year.

However, I would never make this our only "pumpkin patch" visit for the year, as you really don't get the farm-ish, outdoorsy, pumpkin patch feel here, and that's one of my favorite things about the fall.

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