Even Charlie Brown and the gang would be proud of these patches — which feature more than just a great pumpkin.Not every pumpkin patch is created equal. At many places across Europe, Canada and the U.S., the great gourd serves as the centerpiece to a wealth of autumn-related activities. Where can you get both a pumpkin and a little playtime too? Here are six of our favorites:
Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF raises funds to make a difference in the lives of children worldwide. Now in its 62nd year, the program’s familiar collection boxes are receiving a makeover. New Halloween-themed characters — including a vampire, a black cat and a witch — individually adorn the exterior of six different boxes. A seventh blank box is also available for participants who’d like to create a character of their own. Those designs can then be entered in a contest for a chance to appear in UNICEF’s 2013 limited-edition box collection.
Visit TrickOrTreatForUnicef.org to enter online through Oct. 26.
The Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival, Ludwigsburg, Germany (two hours south of Frankfurt, Germany): Each year through early November, Ludwigsburg Palace’s baroque gardens are overrun with pumpkins: More than 500,000 of them from 450-plus species are on display, with at least 30 varieties available for purchase. While here, sample delicacies like pumpkin strudel and farmart Kürbis-Secco — a pumpkin-flavored champagne — or weigh in on which pumpkin will win as Europe’s largest. www.kuerbisausstellung-ludwigsburg.de
Cool Patch Pumpkins, Dixon, Calif.: Just outside of California’s capital, Sacramento, you can spend a few hours navigating the World’s Largest Corn Maze, then pick your perfect gourd (types include Cinderella, Birdhouse and Goblin Eggs) right off the vine. There’s also a scarecrow contest and an end-of-season pumpkin smash. www.coolpatchpumpkins.com/corn_maze.html
Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express, Bryson City, N.C. (about an hour west of Asheville, N.C.): Board a scenic train for a Charles M. Schulz-inspired journey to The Great Pumpkin Patch. Kids are treated to a narration of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown en route; upon arrival, they’ll meet Snoopy and friends, trick-or-treat (costumes encouraged!) and pick a pumpkin to keep. www.gsmr.com
Pumpkin Village, Dallas (top): Wander through a storybook-themed village at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, which is decorated with more than 50,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash in over 52 varieties — it even includes Cinderella’s Pumpkin Carriage. Pumpkins are available for purchase outside the pumpkin patch and in the on-site gift store. www.dallasarboretum.org
The Great Pumpkin Farm, CLARENCE, N.Y.: Peruse acres of pumpkins in all sizes to find your favorite and (depending on the weekend) catch a Ms. Pumpkin Pie talent show, enter a mummy-wrapping contest or face off with other families in a pumpkin-?decorating contest. Don’t miss the on-site Pumpkin Palace and Bakery for fresh-from-the-farm fruit pies. www.greatpumpkinfarm.com
La Magie de la Pomme, Saint-Eustache, Quebec: Thirty minutes from Montreal, Princess Api waits to greet pint-size visitors and invite them on a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch, where gourds and giant pumpkins are ripe for the plucking. The farm also offers apple-picking excursions and warm, straight-from-the-oven apple doughnuts on weekends. www.lamagiedelapomme.com
Hit the Road, Jack …While pumpkin carving remains a treasured tradition, there are less-messy ways to gussy up your gourd. For something a little different, try the following:
Etching: Create your own template (say the outline of an owl or a tree), tape it to a pumpkin and use a nonserrated paring knife to cut through the pattern. Use a wide-blade cutter to pare away skin within the design.
Decoupage: Glue swatches of your favorite fabric (or even cut-out letters and pics from American Way) to the pumpkin’s exterior. Then seal the entire thing with a coat of Mod Podge Matte-Mat finish. Make it as simple or as abstract as you like.
Dress Up: Use pieces of felt or odds and ends from the junk drawer to create one-of-a-kind faces for your pumpkin. Got an odd-shaped gourd? Paint it red, glue sunflower seeds to its exterior and call it a giant strawberry.