The trees are shedding their leaves, the days are getting shorter and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is right around the corner. This time of year, it’s only natural that you’ll get the urge to imbibe anything pumpkin-flavored and pick up a fleshy orange gourd of your own. You may even feel called to bob for apples or wander through a maize labyrinth with family, friends or that special someone.
Sure, you can pick up a pumpkin at Trader Joe’s or Safeway, but if you want the full fall experience—haunted houses, petting zoos, hayrides and the like—you may want to venture beyond the city limits.
Read on to learn about seven of the best local pumpkin patches and a few ghoulish grown-up adventures to explore in San Francisco and beyond.
City Slicker Picking
2101 Sloat Blvd. and 1620 7th Ave., San Francisco
Sept. 28-Oct. 31, 9 p.m.-9 p.m. | Free
A third-generation San Francisco company that got its start in selling fresh Christmas trees, Clancy’s became the first and only pumpkin patch in the city in 1979. You can expect just the basics here: pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks and other spooky season produce. Yet with its expansive selection, ghoulish decorations and convenient location, it may just be the easiest way to get your pumpkin fix.
Authentic Farm Feel
Peter Pumpkin Patch
4235 Spring Hill Rd., Petaluma
Weekdays 12 p.m.-5 p.m., weekends 9 a.m.-6 p.m. | Free
When you go to Peter Pumpkin Patch, you are transported to a real farm—where you can meander along the pumpkin vines to cut your own squash, watch a cow getting milked and clamber on to the hay wagon for a free ride to “Western Town.” Come hungry, since the farm has BBQ for sale as well as their own homemade pumpkin ice cream and fresh cheese. Primarily a dairy farm, Peter Pumpkin Patch is home to a herd of 400 Jersey cows whose milk ends up in Petaluma Creamery cheese.
12320 San Mateo Rd., Half Moon Bay
Through Nov. 20, Hours Vary | $15-$30
A long-time favorite among the family set, Lemos Farm truly has it all: pony rides, train rides, petting zoo, haunted house, hay rides, play town and more—so much it bills itself as a “family friendly amusement park.” A popular spot that can get very crowded, be sure to plan ahead and buy your tickets in advance. Reservations are recommended.
Pet a Reptile or Two
2718 Alpine Rd., Portola Valley
Sept. 23-Oct. 31, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. | $8-$32
While many pumpkin patches showcase farm animals of the adorable and fuzzy, Webb Ranch ups the ante with an array of scaly—but not scary—reptiles. They also have an expansive traditional petting zoo, which features alpacas, goats, ducks, pigs, bunnies and sheep. Be sure not to miss the ducks with curly hair! Reservations are required on weekends.
Get Chased By a Minotaur
Arata’s Pumpkin Farm
185 Verde Rd., Half Moon Bay
Through Oct. 31, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. | Attractions: $5-$45
Arata Farm’s picturesque setting along Half Moon Bay doesn’t prepare you for the fear and mayhem inside—namely, the minotaur waiting for you in the middle of the corn maze. This and the creepy haunted barn make Arata’s the best place to get spooked. Don’t worry, though, that minotaur will give you a special gift if you end up finding him in the middle of the maze. There are plenty of non-spooky options here as well, including a petting zoo, a train, pony rides and a hay wagon. You could spend all day at Arata’s.
Fire a Pumpkin Cannon
1151 Chestnut St., Brentwood
Open Oct. 1 – 31 | Free
Need to let out a little aggression? Watching a gourd splatter against the wall might be just the thing for you. G&S gives visitors access to their pumpkin cannons alongside the more traditional activities like pumpkin picking straight off the vine and an expansive corn maze. It’s a third generation farm, and the first farm to plant sweet corn in Brentwood. It’s still known for its sweet corn production—in particular a variety called Brentwood Diamonds.
Amazing Maize Maze
6150 Dixon Ave. West, Dixon
Open Sept. 24 – Oct. 31 | Attractions: $5 – $20
If getting lost is your thing, this is the place for you. The Guinness World Record holder for largest corn maze, Coolpatch Pumpkins creates a new and unique corn maze every year that’s sure to keep you guessing. And it’s not only about the corn—you can do other activities like hay rides and pumpkin pickings while you wait for your friends to find their way out of the labyrinth. On weekends, hot and cold food is available for purchase, too.
Ghoulish Grown-Up Activities
For those without any little munchkins—and for parents who want to leave the kiddos behind—there are plenty of Halloween-themed activities that don’t involve pumpkin picking. Here are two options sure to spook you.
Alcatraz Night Tour
Pier 33, Alcatraz Landing, San Francisco
Tuesdays-Saturdays, Various Times | $31 – $52.70
Alcatraz Night Tour
Maybe you’ve been to San Francisco’s most famous prison before, but seeing it at night is a completely different experience. You can almost feel the ghosts swirling around “the Rock” when you take the ferry to the island in the darkness, especially in what used to be the medical ward—where hospital instruments are backlit with an eerie effect.
2007 Franklin St., San Francisco
Five nights only: Oct. 21-22, 27-29 | $20-$30
Add a side dish of history to the Halloween fun, all while supporting a good cause, at the Mayhem Mansion. This haunted house tour takes place in the historic Haas-Lillienthal mansion, where a guide will inform you about the home’s storied past—alongside numerous ghosts, of course. You can calm your nerves in the manse’s “spookeasy” saloon ballroom, where alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages are served alongside cauldrons of candy.
Terror Vault at the SF Mint
88 5th St., San Francisco
Various Dates & Times | $55-$75
A fully theatrical, immersive haunted house, the “Terror Vault” at the San Francisco Mint Building allows you to become part of the spooking. The empty vaults, narrow stairways and historic past of this place allow for an experience that is truly terrifying. If you need to take the edge off, check out Fang Bang, a vampire-themed New Wave/Goth bar that serves Halloween-themed cocktails during showtimes with no cover charge.
Julie Zigoris can be reached at [email protected]