Favorite Time of Year
Can someone please explain the Southern California phenomenon of the pumpkin patch that springs up in October in large parking lots? They have straw covering the blacktop and loads of pumpkins trucked in from real pumpkin patches. They have giant inflatable slides and bounce houses and farm animals for petting, all in the middle of a parking lot. Why?
There are still (for the time being) several real farms, with real pumpkin patches you can visit this month to get your fall fix and that very important pumpkin. But I do have to tell you that Pavilions in North Laguna has an excellent assortment ($6 for a large!) of pumpkins this year.
Tanaka Farms in Irvine is only 15 minutes away and lets you and yours have a taste of real farm life. A pumpkin patch that has dirt underneath the pumpkins – many still growing and attached to their vines! Borrow a wheelbarrow and you’re off. My recommendation: bring work gloves (who knew pumpkin vines were thorny?) and a sharp knife. And wear your hiking boots or at least sneakers, especially this rainy year.
Or try South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano. An organic farm with a decidedly hippy air, South Coast has a great farm stand and offers a simple old-time atmosphere for your fall-farm visit.
Feel like really getting away to find your pumpkin? Drive up to Oak Glen, just north of Yucaipa off Interstate 10, about 90 minutes away. You’re in the San Bernardino Mountain foothills where the leaves really change color.
Primarily know for its apples, many of the apple ranches in Oak Glen also plant sizable pumpkin patches for October harvesting. My favorite rancho is Los Rios, which also has hiking trails to help you stretch your legs and commune with nature. One year, the knowledgeable ranger showed us bear tracks going through the orchard. Lots of oohs and ahhs from the girls for that.
My tip: plan your daytrip to Oak Glen for as early as you can on Saturday to best avoid crowds and have a big selection.
The decorations around town are going up and I must give kudos to the family on Locust who converted their driveway to a very eerie cemetery. They even have a life-sized witch riding her broom in front of a full moon up on their roof. Nice job!
My favorite Laguna Halloween tradition? Getting Boo’ed, defined as someone who leaves a bag of Halloween treats on your doorstep after dark, anonymously, often accompanied by strange noises on your porch, laughter and the peeling of tires.
And, for those of you who remember Pumpkin Jesus from last year, alas, he is not to rise again this year. The girls and I did a reconnaissance run to Dana Point last weekend and there wasn’t even a vine to be found. Really shows you how transitory a pumpkin patch can be.
Fun time alert: See you at El Morro’s Boo Blast next Friday, Oct. 29. You don’t have to go to El Morro to have fun at the Boo Blast; heck, you don’t have to be a kid to have fun there. Come out for the sights and sounds of an old-fashioned, small-town Halloween carnival. And have a killer bar-b-que dinner from the Meat House.
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
Great deal alert: Children 11 and younger get in free to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park (now called Safari Park) during the month of October.
Rebecca Meekma is that friend who always knows something fun to do and the Calendar Editor for Parenting OC. Reach her at Rmeekma@gmail.com.