Carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns and then roasting the seeds is a Halloween rite of passage. And though almost every local grocery store is selling the gourds at this time of year, going pumpkin picking is certainly more fun.
"The kids love it, said Betsy Stuart of Stuart's Farm in Granite Springs. "It's like a treasure hunt for them."
Below are 10 Hudson Valley farms and orchards, separated by location, where you can venture out into a field in search of the perfect pumpkin. Many of these locations also feature hayrides, corn mazes and bounce castles, plus fresh-baked pastries and pies.
The oldest orchard in Westchester County, this farm offers pumpkin picking seven days a week. The pumpkins are on the vine, so visitors get to go out into the field to select the perfect one, a practice that is especially popular among the younger set. Although the kids may enjoy picking their pumpkins, priced at $0.79 per pound, parents may not feel the same way about carrying them, so the fields consist mostly of small sugar pumpkins, typically used in pies; larger pumpkins are housed by the barn for easier transport. The farm also offers hayrides on the weekends.
Info: 62 Granite Springs Rd., Granite Springs; 914-245-2784; stuartsfarm.com. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard
The apple-picking season is ending at this North Salem orchard, but pumpkin season is in full swing. The farm's pumpkin patch is part of its Fall Festival, which takes place every weekend through Halloween and features live music, hayrides, face painting and food, but visitors may also choose to visit during the week to pick the perfect gourd for carving. The farm is technically more a place to select than pick pumpkins, which are off the vine and arranged by size. Rather than priced by weight, the pumpkins are prepriced from $5 to $25 based on size.
Info: 130 Hardscrabble Rd., North Salem; 914-485-1210; harvestmoonfarmandorchard.com. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends for the festival and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays.
Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm
Visitors to this farm can pick their own pumpkins every weekend from now until Halloween. Pumpkins are sold off the vine and tractor rides into the field are offered for free. The farm also houses a bakeshop, which sells fall treats like apple cider and pumpkin pie. While there, you may also want to take a glimpse at the growing Christmas trees, which are available for cutting the day after Thanksgiving.
One of the largest apple orchards in the area, Salinger's also offers off-the-vine pumpkin picking in front of its barn. Visitors should also be sure to stop by its bakery, which is open year-round and offers delicious treats like doughnuts, scones and of course pumpkin pies.
The Orchards of Concklin
Founded by the Concklin Family in 1712, this farm offers both apple and pumpkin picking. Pumpkins, $0.50 per pound, are offered in the farm store. The fields will open Saturday, Oct. 13, for families to pick their own pumpkins off the vine, too. The orchard also features the Jurassic Adventure -- a bounce house with a rock wall and a slide -- as well as a 20-foot inflatable slide on weekends from noon to 5 p.m.
Info: 2 S. Mountain Rd., Pomona; 845-354-0369; theorchardsofconcklin.com. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekends only.
Dr. Davies Farm
Start your fall experience with a hayride into the patch to select you own pumpkin. The hayrides, which run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, and on weekdays by appointment, cost $5, with an additional $3 flat fee to pick a pumpkin. Despite the wheeled transportation, Dr. Davies keeps pumpkins in the patch limited to the small sugar variety, with larger carving pumpkins -- $15 to $30 -- available at the farm stand. The farm accepts cash only.
Housing more than 800 acres of vegetables and orchards, this Ulster County farm has been family-owned and operated since 1680. Visitors can pick on the vine pumpkins in the field for a flat fee of $5. Employee Cathy Schoonmaker explained that all of the pumpkins in the field are medium but "of a carryable size." Be sure to check out the free corn maze, too. Weekend visitors can also opt to take a hayride, pulled by either a tractor or a horse, from 1 to 4 p.m.
Info: 5100 Rte. 209, Accord; 845-626-2676; saunderskill.com. Open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, closed Mondays.
This orchard, which has activity areas for kids, a corn you-pick vegetables maze, apple orchards, you-pick vegetables, live music and several seasonal events, also has off-the-vine pumpkins sold in the shop and on-the-vine pumpkins out in the fields ($0.50 per pound). Unlike most orchards, which allow visitors to pick only sugar pumpkins, Barton's fields are filled with larger pumpkins, so pickers should come prepared with a wagon or a very strong friend.
Info: 63 Apple Tree Lane, Poughquag; 845-227-2306; bartonorchards.com; $3 admission for petting zoo and hayrides; $15 premium admission includes all activities but apple and pumpkin picking. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
Offering one of the biggest pumpkin patches in the area, the farm offers visitors sugar or carving pumpkins from 25 acres of land at $25 for five pumpkins. The farm also gives visitors the opportunity to pet and feed the goats on the property and visit the koi pond behind the nursery. Also on the premises is Gigi Market, which offers a variety of dishes prepared with fresh produce from the Hudson Valley.
Info: 223 Pitcher Lane, Red Hook; 845-758-1234; greigfarm.com. Open 8 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.
Pumpkins are just one of the many things that visitors to Kelder's Farm can pick. Offering corn, potatoes, tomatoes and more, Kelder's may just substitute for a trip to the produce section at the local grocery store. Pumpkins here are a good value, with flat pricing beginning at $2.50 for sugar pumpkins and topping out at $13 for the largest gourds.
Info: 5755 Rte. 209, Kerhonkson; 845-626-7137; kelderfarm.com. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, closed Tuesdays.