A few years back, my children and I planted a few pumpkin seeds, with visions of a home-grown jack-o-lantern glowing in our heads. After a few months, an enormous vine strangled the flowerbed and threatened to take over the pool. In mid-July, the vine withered in the desert heat and left one puny, anemic globe in its wake.
So much for a home-grown Halloween.
Luckily for all of us, pumpkins are a viable–albeit small–agricultural crop in both Nevada and Arizona, note farm experts in both states. According to Nevada Grown, a nonprofit that promotes the state’s farms, pumpkins are in season now through November, grown in spots ranging from Las Vegas to Sparks. The harvest season is about the same for Arizona, according to the Arizona Farm Bureau, with growers devoting acreage to the gourds in the southern, central and eastern parts of the state.
So, sure, you can get a pumpkin at a farm stand, farmers’ market or even your neighborhood grocery store, but why not make it a celebration, with a visit to a pumpkin patch? You can pick up this year’s blank canvas for a ne plus ultra jack-o-lantern and get a little farm flavor to boot. Here are just a few October pumpkin patches–many of which grow their own–in both states.
This 60-acre Las Vegas landmark dates to 1920, when it was known for livestock, alfalfa and other crops. Today, Gilcrease Orchard is best known for its apple orchard that flourishes in an arid climate, plus its produced-on-site apple cider. This time of year, get out in their field to pick your own pumpkin. You can also score some of their cider, apple cider donuts and kettle corn to complete your harvest feast. thegilcreaseorchard.org
Andelin Family Farm
In Sparks, this family farm’s fall festival lets you pick your pumpkin out in the field, but will likely keep you and the junior members of your squad there for hours with a hay ride, corn maze, a “corn creepers” haunted attraction, lassoing lessons, a cow train, hay-bale maze, duck races and more. andelinfamilyfarm.com
Moapa Valley Corn Maze
Know for growing its own pumpkins, watermelons and cantaloupes, this Moapa Valley farm lends you wagons to haul your gourds back to your car. While you’re there, check out the haunted corn maze, zombie paintball experience, and less nerve-wracking attractions like the petting zoo, hay rides, farm swing and cow train. mvcornmaze.com
At the edge of Phoenix, Schnepf Farms is the largest organic peach grower in the state. In October, their pumpkin and chili party is an annual ritual for many families, with a pumpkin patch, chili dinner, marshmallow roasts and bonfires, pig races, fireworks, roller coaster rides, and a corn maze (this year carved into the form of NHL star Shane Doan’s face). schnepffarms.com
On the west side of metro Phoenix, this urban family farm runs a u-pick produce operation most of the year, but goes all-out Halloween with a six-acre corn maze, pumpkin patch and a haunted corn maze, plus farm-friendly activities such as a petting zoo, hay pyramid and corn box. tomachoff-farms.com
In Willcox, Apple Annie’s is known for (you guessed it) apples and pick -your-own produce. This time of year, hayride it out to the field to find your perfect pumpkin or lose yourself in the corn maze. A new twist to the corn maze? “Find The Wine,” during which an Arizona winery hides tasting stations amidst the corn. (This year’s wine event is sold out, but oenophiles will want to plan ahead for 2018.) appleannies.com