With school in session, football games on TV, and leaves starting to change colors, there’s no doubt about it: autumn is upon us. And nothing quite says fall family fun like a trip to the pumpkin patch. But what’s the best patch for your brood? Whether you’re looking for straight pumpkin pickin’ off the vine, full-on fall festivities (pumpkin cannon, anyone?), or even an educational experience, here’s our roundup of the region’s best spots for perennial pumpkin fun.

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Sharp’s at Waterford Farm
This 530-acre working farm offers three pumpkin-punctuated open house events. At the Day In The Life Of a Farmer activities (Oct. 20), kids learn about beekeeping and how crops are grown, feed goats, navigate a mini corn maze, and take a hayride. At the Pilgrim History program (Nov. 1 and Nov. 9), guests learn about the Pilgrims home life, the chores Pilgrim children were responsible for, the games Pilgrim children played, and also about the Pilgrim’s relationship to Native Americans. Pick a pumpkin and an ear of popcorn at both events. (Note: Registration required.)

4003 Jennings Chapel Rd. (Brookeville, Md)
Cost: $8/child; adults attending with children are free
Open: 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
Online: sharpfarm.com

Butler’s Orchard Festival
The Fairy Godmother may have turned a pumpkin into Cinderella’s carriage, but here pumpkins become fairytale characters who populate the orchard’s popular Pumpkinland. Other attractions include hayrides, a corn maze, giant slides, barnyard animals and, well, picking pumpkins ($.65/pound). Pony rides, face painting and a pumpkin cannon, available only on the last three weekends of the month, cost extra.

22222 Davis Mill Rd. (Germantown, Md)
Cost: $12/person; free for children under 2 (Note: cash only at the entrance gate)
Open:  Oct. 1, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29 at 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Online: butlersorchard.com

Homestead Farm
Looking for something a little more straightforward? Skip the extracurriculars and head here for some simple pumpkin picking. On weekends through Halloween, the farm offers hayrides to the patch, where shoppers can take their time deciding on their favorite member of the cucurbitaceae family, to which pumpkins, squash and gourds belong.

15604 Sugarland Rd. (Poolesville, Md)
Cost: $4/person age 2 and up for hayrides; $.59/pound for pumpkins
Open: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Online: homestead-farm.net

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Clark’s Elioak Farm
Known for its Enchanted Forest, the farm opens its pumpkin patch plus rides, an enchanted forest castle, gem mining and geode cracking on Oct. 14-15. The Countdown to Halloween is Oct. 21 and 22, with the Enchanted Pine Tree Forest, rope maze and face painting. Kids who bring a teddy bear Oct. 7 and 8 get a free hayride, while those who dress up the final weekend of the month can join the Halloween costume parades at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Note: Swing by the petting farm while you’re there. Kiddie-size pumpkins are $2.75 apiece, while larger ones cost $.69/pound.

10500 Clarksville Pike (Ellicott City, Md)
Cost: $6/person 13 months and up to access the petting farm, Enchanted Forest, slides, maze and play areas. $2/ride
Open: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., weekdays; 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., weekends (through Nov. 6)
Online: clarklandfarm.com

Montpelier Farms
Admission includes two corn mazes, hayrides, hill slides, an area for tikes 48 inches and smaller, and a Farm Football Lounge with two 52-inch flat-screen TVs showing that day’s games. Extra fees apply for duck races, pumpkin chunkin’ and a scarecrow workshop. Stop at the pumpkin patch for an orange orb of fall goodness. Pumpkins 5 pounds and under cost $3, while heavier ones are $.60/pound.

1720 Crain Highway North (Upper Marlboro, Md)
Cost: $12/person; 2 and under free; $40/ person season pass or $150/family of four
Open: (through Nov. 5) 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturdays; 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sundays; 5 p.m.-11 p.m., Fridays in October
Online: montpelierfarms.com

Fall Fun Festival at Gaver Farm
Before you pick a pumpkin to schlep around, cover the 45-plus attractions such as the jumping pillow, a petting zoo, giant slides, mini mazes, duck races and photo centers. When the sun goes down, Fall Fun Nights get started with a Moonlight Corn Maze, campfires and s’mores.

Where: 5501 Detrick Rd. (Mount Airy, Md)
Cost: $7.50/person weekdays, $10.25/person weekends, $32.50 for a season pass; Kids 2 and younger free
Open: daily from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (through Oct. 31)
Online: gaverfarm.com

8140181675_8acc4cc0b5_zLarriland Farms
Get into the spirit with ghost and goblin decorations at the farm, which offers 20-minute weekend rides through woods decorated with storybook and other characters. Besides that and the pumpkin field, there’s also a Straw Maze made of more than 1,000 bales of straw and the Boo Barn for kids 4 through 6. It’s a dark passage to the bottom of the Red Barn and full of animated ghosts and goblins.

2415 Woodbine Rd. (Woodbine, Md)
Cost: $4/person for hayrides
Open: Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (Oct 1-30)
Online: pickyourown.com

Summers Farm
Budget watchers and big spenders alike can enjoy a trip to this farm, which is home to the Maryland Pumpkin Festival (Oct.7-8). There’s no admission fee, and hayrides to the farm’s 15-acre pumpkin patch are free. Willing to spend a few dollars? Check out Summer’s 12-acre cornfield maze, slides, farmer golf, and pumpkin and apple cannons. Candy lovers take note: the pumpkin cannon blasts out wrapped goodies one day a weekend.

5620 Butterfly Lane, Frederick, Md.
Cost: $8.95/person weekdays, $13.95/person weekends, $7.95/senior over 60, kids 2 and under free
Open: 1 pm-7 pm, Mondays through Thursdays; 10 am-10:30 pm, Saturdays; 10 am-7 pm Sundays (through Oct. 31)
Online: summersfarm.com

Jumbo’s Pumpkin Patch
A free hayride and petting zoo are the perks of visiting Jumbo’s. You’ll also have plenty of free fun finding your perfect pumpkin in their 30-acre patch and exploring their 3,000-square foot Fall Shopping Craft Attic. Pumpkins cost $.57/pound.

6521 Holter Rd. (Middletown, Md)
Cost: free admission, extra charges for some activities or $15 to access all
Open: daily from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (through Oct. 31)
Online: jumbos.org

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Fall Festival at Cox Farms
This is a popular fall festival, although it doesn’t have a pumpkin patch. Visitors take a small pumpkin from the bins on their way out – after taking a hayride through a forest decorated with witches, skeletons and people dressed as aliens; enjoying live music; whooshing down slides; and exhausting the play areas. Kids can also try farm chores, such as milking a cow.

15621 Braddock Rd. (Centreville, Va)
Cost: : $6/person discount weekdays, $10/person regular weekdays, $15/person regular weekends. $17/person prime weekends, free under 2
Open: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (through Oct. 31)
Online: coxfarms.com

Pumpkin Village Fall Fest at Leesburg Animal Park
This 21-acre petting zoo dresses up as a playground each fall, offering hill slides, moon bounces, a kids’ maze, pony rides and hay wagon rides. Although there is no pumpkin patch here, visitors can take home a free mini pumpkin.

19270 James Monroe Highway, Leesburg, Va.
Cost: $12.95/adult, $9.95/kid 2 to 12 weekdays; $13.95/adult, $11.95/kid 2 to 12 value weekend; $14.95/adult, $12.95/kid age 2-12 prime weekend (see chart)
Open: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. (through Nov. 8)
Online: pumpkinfestleesburg.com

Fall Festival 2016 at Ticonderoga Farms
Come for the pumpkins, stay for the Goat City petting farm, hay fort and free-range chickens. For an extra fee, you can feed the animals, too. Again, no pumpkin patch to romp in, but you do get a free pumpkin to take home.

26469 Ticonderoga Road, Chantilly, Va.
Cost: $10.95/person weekdays; $16.95/person 2 and up
Open: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. (through Oct. 31)
Online: ticonderoga.com

 

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Fall Pumpkin Harvest Festival at Great Country Farms
Ever see a dinosaur eat a pumpkin? You can here when the “P-Rex” pulverizes a pumpkin while a pumpkin princess stands by. There’s also a giant jumping pillow, slides and putt-putt. Take a wagon ride to the pumpkin patch and get picturesque views of the mountains. Go back Nov. 4-7 for the Pumpkin Chunkin’ festival.

18780 Foggy Bottom Rd. (Bluemont, Va)
Cost: $10/adult, $8/child weekdays, $12/adult, $10/child weekends
Open: daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (through Oct. 31)
Online: greatcountryfarms.com

Wegmeyer Farms
At this farm’s three locations, you can pick from over 50 kinds of pumpkins without squashing your budget (pun intended). The Home Farm (38299 Hughesville Rd, Hamilton, Va.) offers u-pick field and a stone barn that dates to the 1700s. Oatlands’ (20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane, Leesburg) main features include a mansion and a historic garden, plus you can pick pumpkins off the vine. Gilberts Corner (intersection of routes 15 and 50) has a farm stand with pre-picked options.

Cost: Free
Open: see website for each location’s hours
Online: wegmeyerfarms.com/pumpkins

Fall Festival and Pumpkin Playground at Burke Nursery
Geared toward the younger crowd, this festival leaves the scary out. Kiddos can romp on playground equipment, climb a giant sand pile (sorry, parents), check out farm animals, get their faces painted. Pony rides ($5) are extra, as is the moon bounce ($2). Small carvable – or paintable or sticker-able – pumpkins line the way out. Grab one. It’s free with each paid admission.

Where: 9401 Burke Road, Burke, Va.
Cost: $10/person weekdays, $14/person weekends; children under 2 free
Open: 9 am-8 pm, Monday through Thursday; 9 am-9 pm, Friday and Saturday; 9 am-8 pm, Sunday (through Oct. 31)
Online: pumpkinplayground.com

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Shlagel Farms
Put your thinking caps on for this one. Kids and adults alike can get a better sense of the path food takes from the farm to the table while also enjoying a wagon ride, petting zoo and, of course, the pumpkins.

12850 Shlagel Road, Waldorf, Md.
Cost: $9/person 25 months and up, free under 2
Open: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekends (Oct. 1 to 30)
Online: shlagelfarms.com

Queen Anne Farm
A tractor-pulled hay wagon will give your crew a ride to a pumpkin patch, which has squashes ranging in size from two ounces to more than 200 pounds. You can also make free stops at the Children’s Maize, Pumpkin House, and Petting Corral.

18102 Central Ave. (Mitchellville, Md)
Cost: free, $4/person for the hayride
Open: daily, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Online: queenannefarm.com

Wayside Farm
During the fall, the 120-acre working farm hosts pig races, pumpkin drops and a corn maze. Night mazes – one dark and one spooky, with actors from the Loudoun County Valley Performing Arts program – will be available Oct. 20 and 21 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. To go only to the pumpkin patch, there’s no admission fee. Pumpkins – including gladiator, full moon, fairytale and Cinderella varieties – are $.50/pound.

5273 Harry Byrd Highway, Berryville, Va.
Cost: $10/person, children under 2 and military with ID free
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m., weekends and Columbus Day (through Oct. 30)
Online: waysidefarmfun.com

Got another pick-your-own patch to point us to? Tell us in the comments below.

—Sarah Vogel and Stephanie Kanowitz

Photos courtesy of hocomojo via Flickr, Cox Farms via Facebook, JWRouselll via Flickr, rolled_trousers via Flickr, UrbanPromise via Flickr