The best 5 pumpkin patches in the Bay Area

Plus a whole pumpkin festival

Yahoo Contributor Network

Halloween is coming, and with it, the minds and hearts of kids of all ages go to candies, monsters, and pumpkins. The official capital of pumpkin patches in the Bay Area around San Francisco is Half Moon Bay. Every October, the city hosts the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival - this year it happens the weekend of October 15-16 on Main Street from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The contest for the heaviest pumpkin is one of a kind and sure to impress even the most blase urban children.

[Related: Best 2011 haunted houses in the Bay Area.]

Still in the South Bay, another traditional pumpkin patch is Lemos Farm (12320 San Mateo Road - Highway 92), open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Kids are allowed to pick their own pumpkin, and they also offer pony rides, hay rides, and a haunted house. This year, they also have a novelty: outdoor laser tag, open just on weekends for kids 8 years old and up.

Down the same road, families can also choose pumpkins in the fields of Pastorino Farms (12391 San Mateo Road - Highway 92), which is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during pumpkin season (September 15 to October 31). They have attractions such as a jump house, petting zoo, and giant slide open during October from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If you want to go organic for your pumpkins, the best bet is Webb Ranch (2720 Alpine Road - Portolla Valley) with 10 acres of organic pumpkins. The pumpkin patch's daily hours go from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the month of October, with activities such as pony rides and a petting zoo happening Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and 45-minute hay rides on weekends.

For city folks who don't want to drive out of San Francisco to get their kids to experience a pumpkin patch, Clancy's Pumpkin Patch (1620 Seventh Ave., 415-309-9667) is an acre full of gourds of many sizes and shapes, including mini pumpkins; Sugar Pie pumpkins; Cinderella pumpkins; and even blue, white, and striped pumpkins. The trees are decorated with scary ghosts, and there is also a hay maze to crawl in and out of. They are open till late daily in October, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

In the North Bay, the place to go for pumpkin patching is the friendly Peterson's Farm (636 Gossage Ave., Petaluma, 707-765-4582), with honey, farm products raised pesticide- and herbicide-free, and happy chicken on the loose in their poultry yard. Their pumpkin patch opens October 1 this year.

Isabel Bonfatti is a San Francisco journalist with a master's degree in anthropology and a wandering eye for art, food, music, and sustainable living. She is finishing her first novel.

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