Wherever you are, fall is a wonderful time of the year. It’s time to bake apple pies and pumpkin spice cookies, rake leaves, and get out your sweaters and scarves. Unless you live in San Diego, where it’s still over 80°F in October. Okay, so maybe here you don’t have to rake leaves yet, and it’s way too warm to wear a sweater! But you can enjoy the autumn season by visiting a pumpkin patch in San Diego.
Pumpkin patches have evolved since I was a child. Then you went to a pumpkin farm, picked out a pumpkin, and handed over a few dollars for the privilege of taking it home to carve. Nowadays, a pumpkin patch could be a city block with a few hay bales and an inflatable pumpkin or a full-out Halloween-themed carnival. It could also be a smorgasbord of family-friendly autumn activities including hay rides, corn mazes, photo ops, and a petting zoo. And that would be my favorite pumpkin patch in San Diego! Come — let me introduce you…
It’s called the Pumpkin Station
There are five locations of the Pumpkin Station in San Diego County, but I’m going to highlight the one in Rancho Bernardo for you. It has special memories for me because it used to be a Christmas tree farm where we took our family to cut live Christmas trees every year. (It’s also the closest to my home.) Only the Rancho Bernardo and Bonita locations are actual farms. The Pumpkin Station is a family-run business, and everyone is very friendly, from the ride operators to the sales clerks. There’s a lot for your family to do here, with great value for the cost.
What’s at the Rancho Bernardo location?
First of all, this is a very large farm — 28 acres, in fact. It is nestled in the hills next to Lake Hodges and is very scenic. Of course, you will find plenty of pumpkins for sale, in all sizes and shapes. Pumpkins for carving, for decorating, and for eating. There are also other items for sale, such as pumpkin carving kits, electric candles, treats, Indian corn, hay bales, crafts, and more. Wheelbarrows are available for collecting pumpkins.
Activities include a train ride (see tips below for free ride coupon), a hay ride, a corn maze, and a petting zoo with goats and chickens. There were a few baby goats, and they are sooo cute! Photo opps abound — large painted signs with cut-outs for photo taking, stacks of hay bales, pumpkin pyramids, and even a real tractor to sit on.
The best photo opp at this pumpkin patch might be the gorgeous sunflower fields. To be honest, this was absolutely my favorite part. But I don’t have young children any more. If I had had grandchildren in town, I would have taken advantage of all of the family-friendly fun activities. For me, it was heaven to walk up and down the rows of glorious golden sunflowers and take tons of photos!
You can wander the fields and savor the views, or you can borrow shears from the cashier and cut your own sunflowers to take home — only $2.00 per stem. In my case, I had a hard time cutting these beautiful flowers, but I so wanted a souvenir of my visit at home!
Tips for visiting the Pumpkin Station:
- Hours are October 1-14: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, October 15-31: 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
- There’s no admission charge; parking is free and plentiful
- You can stroll the grounds, walk in the sunflower fields, enjoy the photo opps, take a picnic (outside food & drink are allowed), shop in the store, or see the animals free.
- For the hay ride, train ride, corn maze, or to enter the petting zoo, there is a charge of $4.00 for each, or you can buy packages that give discounts. Enjoy a free train ride coupon here.
- To cut sunflowers, there is a charge of $2.00 per stem. Shears are provided.
- At 2:00 pm on a weekday, I nearly had the sunflower fields to myself!
- There are lots of bees amongst the sunflowers. If you are allergic to bee stings, please be prepared with epinephrin, just in case.
- You are allowed to bring your dog on a leash, but not near the petting zoo.
Visiting a pumpkin patch in San Diego
There are certainly other pumpkin patches in San Diego County. Another one worth mentioning is Bates Nut Farm in Valley Center, with a tractor hayride, straw maze and pony rides. Their event schedule for 2021 includes a scarecrow-making contest, live entertainment, and Halloween costume contests. (No sunflowers, however!)
Since fall eludes us here, I suggest you do make the time to visit a pumpkin patch in San Diego. It is one of the best ways to get the fall vibe and enjoy some wholesome family fun. And buy some pumpkins to carve on Halloween day!
Happy Fall to you…