Signs of Halloween are cropping up everywhere, and it’s time to start thinking about finding your perfect pumpkin. While local farm stands and even grocery stores typically have some handsome specimens, it can be a lot more fun to pick your own straight from the fields they were grown on. A couple of the spots here even allow you to pull your picks straight from the vine, which can be a special experience akin to cutting down your own Christmas tree. Plus, many of these pumpkin patches offer additional activities for families, like hay rides, bouncy houses and corn mazes, so you can turn your hunt into a fall pumpkin patch day trip.
Read to the end, where you'll find my family's favorite pumpkin bread recipe. Yum!
Boston Hill Farm—North Andover
Boston Hill Farm offers pick-your-own pumpkins from mid-September through October; we suggest calling for specific picking dates and times. On weekends, hop on a wagon and take a hay ride to the field to scout out your pumpkins. The farm also features a bakery, ice cream, and a petting farm.
Carver Hill Orchard—Stow
After filling their bags with apples, kids can pick pumpkins straight from the vines. Visit the farm store for crafts, decorations, fresh cider, chicken pies, fudge, peanut brittle, and cookies. A stop at the stand outside for hot cider and donuts is absolutely essential.
Connors has not only pumpkins, but a major corn maze, too! Picking starts in late September, and the field is open every day from 8am-6pm.
From orange to white, Jack Be Little to Big Max, Crescent has plenty of beauties to pick from in its rolling pumpkin patch. A wagon takes you to the patch, featuring great views of the 400-acre farm. There's ice cream, a kid-friendly corn maze, and more tractor and hay rides available.
This century-old family farm offers limited U-pick, and specializes in fat, gorgeous pumpkins. There's a little corn maze to enjoy by day and a haunted hayride on Friday and Saturday evenings to add to the fun.
This big (and growing) U-Pick operation has long included pumpkins—some 25,000 a season! Make a day of it and let kids loose in the play area, which includes lots of structures, a caterpillar ride around the field, a moon bounce, and more.
Nostalgic for the simple PYO operations more common when you were a kid? This sweet little family farm allows you to pick your pumpkins from the vine, starting September 22nd on weekends this fall, and offers hay rides for just $1 per person.
A half-hour from Boston and less than a mile from Kimball Farm ice cream and Witch's Woods, a stop at Pickard to pick-your-own pumpkin right off the vine rounds out a pretty perfect fall day. Pluck some butternut squash for dinner and gourds for decorating, too.
Shelburne Farm offers pumpkin picking for the 2017 season starting September 16; consult the website for the schedule. On weekends, Shelburne Farm offers hay rides, pony rides, a mini hay maze, and other activities perfect for young children.
Smolak Farm—North Andover
Choose your perfect pumpkin and spend the day enjoying an abundance of extras during Smolak's weekend Children's Festivals, with a hay wagon ride, hay maze, face painting, bouncy house, and other children's activities for one package price. The corn maze is available for an additional fee. The 2017 season runs from September 16 to October 31.
Mommy Poppins' Favorite Pumpkin Bread Recipe
Yield: 2 loaves
3 cups sugar
1 1/8 cups oil
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Grease 2 loaf pans (or 24 muffin tins)
- Vigorously mix sugar and oil. Add eggs slowly while mixing.
- In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder. Add to the sugar-and-eggs mixture.
- Add in the pumpkin puree and mix thoroughly.
- Divide batter into pans (or muffin tins).
- Bake for approximately 55 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. For muffins, bake 20-25 minutes.
Recipe from Fresh and Honest: Food From the Farms of New England and the Kitchen of Henrietta's Table, by Chef Peter Davis
Originally published September 2011; updated September 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
Top photo by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism