Turning the calendar to October means two things in the East Valley: cooler weather and pumpkin festivals.
Searching for the perfect jack-o’-lantern-to-be used to bring many families north to Young’s Farm in Dewey. But the farm closed last year, and several others across the state are willing to fill that void.
“There’s still farms out there,” says Carrie Schnepf of Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek. “You could go to every one and have a different experience.”
Which pumpkin patch you pick has a lot to do with how far you’ll drive for a day on the farm. We’ve calculated drive times for you (based on the distance from the most centrally located farm, Mother Nature’s Farm in Gilbert).
There are no carnival rides at Mother Nature’s Farm in Gilbert. Just peace, quiet and agrarian goodness in the urban heart of the south East Valley.
“People who want the small-farm feel will enjoy our farm,” says farm owner Wade Kelsall.
For $7 kids can pick a small pumpkin from the patch, decorate it, take a hayride, find their way through the corn maze and basically have the run of the farm.
Kelsall grows pumpkins on the farm. Pumpkins vary in size and cost: $2 for a softball-sized pumpkin, $10 for basketball-sized and $1 per pound for pumpkins larger than 100 pounds.
Stop by 9 a.m. Saturday for the Pumpkin Weigh-Off.
Details: 1663 E. Baseline Road. Festival hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Oct. 31. $7 per child (adults can tag along for $3). (480) 892-5874. www.mothernaturesfarm.com.
QUEEN CREEK (27 minutes)
In the world of “agritainment,” Schnepf Farms is an absolute amusement park.
“We’re more like a mini Knott’s Berry Farms,” says farm president Carrie Schnepf.
In the 11 years since Schnepf hosted the first Pumpkin & Chili Party, the event has become larger than your average pumpkin festival. This year’s will feature a roller coaster (new this year), carousel, farm-themed rides, gift shop, Spooky Railroad, corn maze, petting barn and live entertainment in addition to the bonfires, pumpkin picking, marshmallow roasting and chili dinner.
“We still want to be a farm,” Schnepf says. “With all the growth and people moving out here, we’re trying to preserve that experience.”
Details: 24810 S. Rittenhouse Road. Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 28. $14 per person at the gate; $12 tickets available at Fry’s stores. (480) 987-3100. www.schnepffarms.com.
GLENDALE (40 minutes)
Tolmachoff Farms goes back four generations in the West Valley. The Pumpkin Days & Fall Maze celebration features four mazes (including one for the family, a mini maze and a hay maze).
The haunted maze is open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 27, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 28-31. Admission is $10 per person. Other festivities include a petting zoo and farm-themed play areas.
Details: 5726 N. 75th Ave. Take Interstate 10 west toward Los Angeles. Exit at 75th Avenue (Exit 136) and turn right. Festival hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. $6 per person. $2 per train ride. (623) 386-1301. www.tolmachoff-farms.com.
NEAR TUCSON (2 hours, 7 minutes)
Hitch a ride with a wagon pulled by Belgian draft horses and pick your own pumpkin in the 45-acre patch at Buckelew Farm, 30 minutes south of Tucson.
Arts and crafts, food booths, haunted mazes, beer garden and games for the kids are a few of the activities planned.
“It’s a real casual, family atmosphere,” says owner Nick Buckelew. “It’s not stressful.”
Details: Buckelew Farm, 17000 W. Ajo Way in unincorporated Pima County. Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays Oct. 13-28. $4 per person includes hayride. Free for children in diapers. Pumpkins are 35 cents per pound. Corn maze is $8 adults, $6 children ages 6-12 during the festival. (520) 822-2277. www.buckelewfarm.com.
SNOWFLAKE (3 hours)
In about two weeks, the leaves on the cottonwood trees along the creek will change color, and fall will be a fact at the Willis Farm in Snowflake.
Visitors can wander into the five-acre pumpkin patch and cut their own fruit from the vine or explore the 10-acre corn maze (which becomes haunted Oct. 27-28 and Oct. 30-31).
Details: 381 S. First E. Festival hours are 3 p.m. to dusk Monday through Thursday, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. $6 adults, $2 children age 2-4. $7 for the haunted maze. (928) 536-7788. www.thewillisfarm.com.
WILCOX (3 hours, 10 minutes)
Drive to the farthest pumpkin patch from the East Valley and you just might get your hands dirty.
“The No. 1 reason people should come out here is that the pumpkins are grown right here,” says Anne Holcomb, owner of Apple Annie’s Produce & Pumpkins.
“You go out into the field and cut the pumpkin off the vine. We are not entertainment. We are a real farm experience.”
Visitors will take a hayride to the farm’s 25-acre pumpkin patch (which features a variety including white, mini, striped and Cinderella pumpkins).
The farm will also sell Holcomb’s famous apple-smoked burgers, and visitors can sample a bevy of pumpkin-made products, including ice cream and fudge.
Details: 6405 W. Williams Road. Take Interstate 10 east to Willcox (Exit 340) and turn west onto Fort Grant Road. Drive for 11.5 miles and turn left onto West Williams Road. Festival hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 28. $3. (520) 384-4685. www.appleannies.com.
Fiesta de las Calabazas: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 13, Oracle State Park, 3820 Wildlife Drive, Oracle. Art and pumpkins with live music and kids’ activities. $2 per person. Free parking. (520) 896-2425. www.calabazas.org.
Great Pumpkin Festival: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 19-21, Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix. Take a hayride to the pumpkin patch, learn to carve a jack-o’-lantern, get lost in the maze and listen to live music. The first 1,000 children ages 12 and younger can choose their own pumpkins free. $10 adults, $9 senior citizens, $5 students with ID, $4 children ages 3-12. Hayrides are $1. (480) 941-1225. www.dbg.org.
Bashas’ Boo at the Zoo: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 27-28, Phoenix Zoo, 455 N. Galvin Parkway. See what the animals do with pumpkins during the Pumpkin Stomp & Chop and other children’s activities. $14 adults, $9 senior citizens, $6 children ages 3-12. (602) 273-1341. www.phoenixzoo.org.