Halloween is almost here so I’m throwin’ it back to fall 2016. Let me set the scene for you: It was my first year as a stay-at-home mom and my goal was to visit as many pumpkin patches as possible. I had two kids and was going to rock the season. But, then I caught the flu; followed by hives; followed by the stomach flu; followed by shingles.
Uh, yeah. Fall 2016 was officially not kind. So we went nowhere. But in 2017 we ventured to three pumpkin patches. Yep, not getting sick and going to the places. Winning at life, right?
Here’s a Look at our Favorite North County Pumpkin Patches:

Trader Joes

The Deets:
Open year-round
1111 Rossi Road, Templeton
Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
$$: Cash & Credit Card
Why It’s Fun:
Despite your friends’ Facebook photos implying otherwise, there’s no shame in hitting up Trader Joe’s pumpkin display for your “pumpkin patch” experience this year.
Mom Tip:
If you have sick kids, a baby who doesn’t care about patches anyway or you’re just not feelin’ it this year, TJ’s has some amazing affordable options — complete with a tall enough pumpkin pile outside to squat in front of for that token selfie. Seriously — been there, done that.

Avila Valley Barn

The Deets:
Open year-round
560 Avila Beach Drive, SLO
www.avilavalleybarn.com // 595-2816
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: Free // Some activities cost money
$$: Accepts cash & credit card (but bring dollar bills for animal food).
OK, I know I just said North County only. But what I meant was… North County plus Avila Valley Barn. Because how can you forget the AVB?
Why It’s Fun:
• Feed the Goats (Daily) $1 bags of leafy greens for the goats are available to buy daily at a self-serve table by produce bins in the Vegetable & Fruit Stand. Also available by the cashier, but you have to stand in line for that.
• Hay Rides (Call for days) Pay for tickets at the cashier in the Vegetable & Fruit Stand.
• Pony Rides (Call for days) Pay for tickets at the cashier in the Vegetable & Fruit Stand.
• Two Free Hay Mazes (Daily) There’s a tall maze and a shorter kids maze.
• Great Family Photo Op: Find the decorated haystack pyramid under the painted Avila Valley Sign in front of the Vegetable & Fruit Stand.
Mom Tip:
Did you know the hayride will take you to the orchards located next to the barn property? October’s U-Pick schedule usually includes picking pumpkins off the vine. Not into picking? Stacks of beautiful pre-picked pumpkins await you in front of the Avila Valley Barn entrance.

Jack Creek Farms

The Deets:
Open year-round
5000 Highway 46 WestW, Templeton
Hours: Open Thursday through Monday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: Free + Free Activities // Annual Oct. 6 pumpkin decorating event costs $10 per person
$$: Accepts cash or credit card
Why It’s Fun:
(All Free)
• Fort York Mountain Maze
• Tractor Tire Garden
• Farm Animal Viewing (can’t feed them)
• Hay Stack Pyramid to climb
• Wooden Train Play Structure (and a new Farm Truck Structure!)
Sawhorses to Sit On
• Dummy Steer Roping
• Several Wooden Playhouses
• U-Pick Options (you just pay for the fruit in the gift shop; wire baskets available up front)
Mom Tip:
This farm has portable toilets.
Ps. Jack Creek’s Pumpkin Palooza pumpkin decorating event will be held again this year for $10 per person. It’s set to take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. The price includes one pumpkin plus supplies to decorate it (paint, brushes, glitter, glue, pom-poms, ribbon, wiggle eyes and more) inside the decorating corral. Kids get an apron to wear in there, too.

River K Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze

The Deets:
Open seasonally only
5670 North River Road, Paso Robles
@riverkpumpkins on Facebook
Admission: Free // Activities cost money
$$: Cash only
Why It’s Fun:
• Large Corn Maze
• Harris Stage Lines Hay Ride via a large Belgian horse-led carriage
• Rural location with idyllic country views and photo ops
• Wooden photo stand-ups of handpainted ghosts, pumpkins and skeletons to take picture with.
• Pumpkin picking right off the vine
• Handy wagons available to haul your pumpkins (or kids!)
Mom Tip:
I’m not sure if there are bathrooms here. I didn’t see any last year. Also, fun fact: this patch’s name comes from the fact that it’s run by the Kunze family on River Road. (Get it? River K)
Got a cool tip for us on a great pumpkin patch within a few hours drive that we can add for next year? Email nic@colonymagazine.com