Friday, October 11, 2013

Toddler X's Two Sentence Pumpkin Patch Reviews


Oh, how easy it seemed.

Each morning this week, I would visit a pumpkin patch. Each afternoon during nap, I'd write a full, detailed review so that you, my kind readers, would be able to choose the very best patches for your toddling fun.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and...well, toddler moms.

So here we are on Friday. I've visited 6 pumpkin patches, and written a grand total of 2 full reviews. The weekend has arrived, and my toddler fans are at risk of going to a less than perfect patch. The solution: two sentence mini reviews. These may not tell you every little detail about each patch, but they'll keep the crunchy nature-lover away from Lemos Farm, and they'll redirect the action and activity seeker from Rodoni. 

So here goes -- the Bay Area's pumpkin patches, in the order I visited them this week, described in two sentences or less (okay, not less -- two sentences exactly, and long ones at that).

Hope this is helpful!

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Spina Farms, San Jose. 2013 Report: This nearby farm has lots of fun features -- a simple train, a fun hayride, a toddler straw maze, and a petting zoo that is only open on weekends (we missed it) -- without feeling too commercialized. Not the largest patch and probably prone to weekend crowds, but its fun, farm-y feel and a toddler friendly atmosphere make this a great pumpkin patch choice for your family.

Lemos Farm, Half Moon Bay. 2013 ReportLess a pumpkin patch than a Halloween theme park, pumpkins play second fiddle to the many available activities on this large property, including the best train ride we've taken and a petting zoo with very friendly goats. Lots of fun, lots of action, LOTS of photo ops, lots of decor, and good looking pumpkins, but this probably isn't the best choice for a pumpkin patch purist. 

Arata's Farm, Half Moon Bay. 2013 Report: A great, somewhat less commercialized (than Lemos, at least) pumpkin patch, with a huge field of pumpkins in a gorgeous setting, fun straw play areas, a corn maze, and my personal favorite petting zoo, filled with docile sheep, sweet goats and three baby pigs (!!). Signage is lacking and it's a bit further than the other HMB patches (from 92, turn left onto Hwy 1 and drive 6.2 miles -- it's on your left), so you may luck out with lighter crowds as we did on Tuesday, when we had this pleasant spot all to ourselves.
  • 2014 Update: Arata's is as fun as ever this year, with a return of the BIG hay maze (as well as a toddler-sized one), petting zoo (scratch the pig's spotted tummy -- he loves it!), hand-led pony rides, haunted house (haven't tried it), bounce house, toddler-friendly play structure, hay climbing and jumping areas, lots of great pumpkins, and super friendly service, all in a lovely glen just across Highway 1 from the ocean. They take all credit cards, have a snack shack with cold drinks, allow well-behaved dogs on leash, and even have nighttime hours, with lighted pumpkin picking until 11 p.m. on Saturday nights.

Uesugi Farm, Morgan Hill2013 ReportAbout 10 miles further down 101 than Spina, Uesugi is the South Bay's biggest, most activity-filled and most popular (read: crowded) patch, with a nice little train, a mini cow train, a carousel, two hay rides, two mazes, live entertainment, a weekend-only petting zoo, and lots and lots of pumpkins in a very neat, organized setting. The pumpkins are beautiful, the property is large, the photo ops are abundant, and it would be hard not to have fun here, but be warned that Uesugi is more Disneyland than rustic farm -- if crowds and commercialization (and a $3 weekend parking fee) are turn-offs for you, you'd be better off visiting one of the other patches. 

Giordano Farms, San Jose2013 Report: This gem, located on Snell just off Blossom Hill Road, is everything a good old pumpkin patch should be -- lots of beautiful pumpkins, actually grown on the farm and sold by the farmer, laid out in a huge field with hay bales, a toddler-size corn maze, and a border of beautiful sunflowers. There is a tiny train, hay tunnels for exploring, goats and bunnies for petting, and a certain purity that many of the more commercial farms are lacking.
  • 2014 Update: Giordano Farms pleased again this year -- though the weather was HOT for our visit, Toddler X and his pals had a blast with the two hay tunnels (one big enough for parents), bunny and goat petting areas, the hilarious little train that goes around in a small circle and features a geyser of water that shoots up once each loop, and the plentiful and pretty pumpkins, laid out very nicely in a clean, pleasant field. Before you stop at this great local patch, be sure to visit the ATM -- they only take cash and checks with a SAN JOSE address and matching ID.
  • 2015 Update: Sadly, Giordano Farms closed in February 2015, and the land is now part of Martial Cottle Park. I'll keep you posted if I hear about any relocation of Giordano, but in the meantime, they are sadly no longer in business.

Rodoni Farms, Santa Cruz2013 Report: It's tough to find a pumpkin patch in a prettier, more natural and bucolic setting than this lovely spot, set alongside Highway 1 overlooking the Pacific. A hillside full of pumpkins, hay bales and wheelbarrows, fresh veggies and a great "playground" made of corrugated plastic pipes and hay all make for a wonderful, non-commercial pumpkin-patching experience for your toddler.

Perry Farms, Fremont2013 Report:  Located adjacent to Ardenwood Farm, Perry offers a huge spread of nice looking pumpkins, within view of the fields from which they were picked, with free admission during the week and $1 for adults on weekends. Offerings include a massive hay bale pyramid for climbing (it's large enough to attract older kids and adults, so watch your toddler closely), tractor rides, a miniature corn maze and various spots for photos, as well as a farm stand near the entrance with year-round organic produce.
  • 2014 Update: Having spent a lot more time at Perry this year than last, this pleasant farm, with its beautiful pumpkins, towering hay pyramid, two hay mazes (one shoulder high, one about knee high) and fun painted tire playground is inching toward the high end of my favorites list. Negatives are that they only take cash, and that there is an admission charge, though the gentleman I spoke with wasn't sure if it was just weekends and just adults, as I heard last year (call ahead if this is a deal-breaker for you).

Webb Ranch, Portola Valley2013 Report: Located just off Highway 280 at the Alpine Road exit, this easy to find and easy to access patch has the prettiest pumpkins I've seen all season, in both the classic orange variety and a range of special colored varieties, along with various activities (though the petting zoo, hay rides and pony rides are only offered on weekends) and a farmers market.The relatively small size of the patch and close grouping of the pumpkins make it easy to find a winner, but could lead to congestion on busier days of the week.

Bob's Pumpkin Patch, Half Moon Bay. 2014 Report: A perfect spot for the pumpkin purist, Bob's focuses on the squash, not the tourist attractions, with nary a bounce house or petting zoo to be found (though you're welcome to greet the resident piglets, goats and fowl through the fence); while leashed dogs are welcome, credit cards are not, so be sure to pack some cash or your check book. Bob's is set on a hillside directly across Highway 1 from the Pacific and is totally uncommercialized and authentic, with pumpkins laid out in a mix of sizes and degrees of...um, "character" that you might not find at other patches, with the opportunity to even pick pumpkins from the vine.

Queen's Pumpkin Patch, Saratoga. 2014 Report: Located on Saratoga Boulevard, in a not particularly bucolic setting, Queen's offers lots of interesting pumpkin varietals (shades of green, white and yellow, and of various shapes and sizes), some fun activities (petting zoo, pumpkin painting, those walk-on-water bubble things), and lots of wooden cut-out photo ops, as well as a cute little cow train that Toddler X and his friend loved. Though this was the pumpkin patch of my own childhood, and we take Toddler X every year for convenience and nostalgia's sake, it's not where I'd go to purchase basic orange pumpkins (they're overpriced and not particularly attractive), and I wouldn't make it my only pumpkin patch stop of the year -- you could do better.

Moreland Educational Foundation Pumpkin Patch, San Jose. 2014 Report: A great idea for a school district's annual fundraiser, this pleasant little patch is situated alongside an elementary school and offers the charm of an all-volunteer effort, as well as a funny little Haunted Trail (actually, two trails -- one that's toddler-appropriate, and one geared toward older kids) and lots of special events sponsored by the individual schools in the district. The pumpkins are only so-so, however, and you're likely to encounter large groups of kids on field-trips (we went with our preschool) -- stop by to support a good cause, but don't plan to make this your only pumpkin patch stop of the year.

Full Circle Farm, Sunnyvale. 2014 Report: A really cool working farm located in the middle of Sunnyvale, Full Circle offers CSA boxes, field trips and a farm stand year-round, and in October they also offer grown-on-site pumpkins, along with pumpkin painting and a haunted trail through corn stalks. The farm is wonderful and we had a blast checking out the plants, playing in the dirt, and getting to know the volunteers, but the pumpkin selection can be sparse (depending on what they're able to grow), they aren't necessarily the most attractive squash, and the haunted trail is hilariously bad -- come to visit for a fun farm experience, but don't come just for the pumpkins.

That's it for now! As I visit other patches, I will add them to the list.

Happy Halloween toddling, friends!

2 comments:

  1. We went to the Giordano farms last week. It was not at all crowded and very good. My son had a blast. We liked everything out there. Its a real toddler friendly farm- i donno if all others are like that. But part of why this one is not crowded is because the farm is really toddler friendly and hence attracts only toddler crowd. Thanks for taking time to review so many farms, we were able to chose the right one for us!

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