Nothing says spring better than picking and eating locally grown berries, still warm from the sun. After a wonderfully wet winter, the berries are back in town and we know 6 fabulous farms where your kids can do the picking (and sampling!).

photo: Allie via flickr

McGrath Family Farm
Strawberries are healthiest when they’re organic, and McGrath Family Farms is a certified organic farm where strawberries are planted and grown sans pesticides. You can pick your own strawberries in the gardens, and on the way out you can treat your family to a beautiful bouquet of flowers that are grown on the farm to maximize pollination.

Note: This year the berries haven’t been too bountiful, so they won’t be opening the fields until May. Call before you make the drive, 805-983-0333,to make sure they have berries for you to pick. How many ripe berries there are depends on the weather, and how many pickers beat you to the punch.  The fields are closed when it rains.

When: Daily from 10 a.m.–5 p.m., March 23-June
Cost: $10/person will get you into the farm to walk the fields, meet the barnyard animals and pick a peck.  Strawberries are $3/pound once picked

1012 West Ventura Blvd.

strawberry pick CRDTphoto: Julie Magro via flickr

Tanaka Farms
Tanaka Farms offers a full-blown strawberry tour. Take a guided wagon ride around the farm, stopping along the way to taste various fruits and veggies while learning how they grow. The tour ends with picking and eating your own strawberries, and filling up a one pound basket to take home (included with the tour price).

Tips: No sandals, flip-flops or heels allowed. Don’t forget the sunscreen & water, and don’t miss the chocolate dipped strawberries available at the produce stand.

When: March-mid-June. Weekend tours leave every half hour from 9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., and last about an hour. (Weekday tour general u-pick tours are also available at 1 & 3:30 p.m., where you take a free wagon ride around the farm and just pay for anything you pick.) Reservations are not necessary unless you’re coming with a large group.
Cost: $18 per person (kids under 2 are free) for the tour and pound of berries, if you just want to pick, it’s $5/pound behind the market. Call to make sure they have enough berries in this patch to pick.

5380 University Drive
949-653-2100 ext. 204

 photo: Underwood Family Farms via Facebook

Underwood Family Farms
Underwood Family Farms is a whole lot more than just a farm, and chances are you know it from a school visit to the pumpkin patch in the fall. But they’ve got a giant Strawberry patch, too. First stop, visit the Animal Center with a whole bunch of farm animals: donkeys, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, cows, pigs, horses, emus, alpacas, and more. There’s also a haystack to climb, pony rides, and educational exhibits. On weekends, admission includes a tractor-drawn wagon ride around the farm to the PYO (pick your own) fields, and admission to their 30 minute Animal Show. Once you’ve fed the animals and played (and picnicked), it’s time to hit the berry fields. On weekdays, borrow a wagon (handy for pulling tiring tots, as well as the berries) and head to the fields to pick your fill.

Tips: Visit the Animal Center before your berry picking—you don’t want to tote those berries all over with you, and you don’t want to let them get over-ripe in a hot car. Once you’re done picking you want to just put tuckered out kiddos in the car and head home. Underwood Farms also has a smaller strawberry patch at the Somis location, where for several weeks of overlap you can also pick blueberries!

When: Daily from 9 a.m.–6 p.m., March-August (The fields in Somis close at 4 p.m.)
Cost: $3 on weekdays, $6 on weekends, plus $1.99 per pound of strawberries. Unless you happen to come during the Easter Spring Festival, and then you must pay holiday admission prices of $6-$10. Admission to the Somis location is always free, just pay for what you pick.

There are two u-pick Underwood fields, in Moorpark and Somis.

photo: Visit Finger Lakes via flickr

Murray Family Farms
There’s lots to do at this family market that has picking in the 4 strawberry fields as well as a kiddo play area and petting zoo every day and music, slides and rides on the weekends. No need to pack a picnic, since the market boasts loads of fresh fruits and veggies, jams and nuts, fudge, pies and tri tip. There’s also an amazing sample bar, so kids can try all the fresh produce before picking or buying.

Tips: Keep an eye out for Family Farm parties, Garden Fest, Mac & Cheese Fest, Cherry Fest and cherry picking (yay!) in the late spring and citrus picking in the winter.

When: Daily from 8 a.m.–8 p.m., April-June
Cost: $6.99 on weekdays and after 3 p.m. on weekends, $8.99 on weekends (kids under 4 are free) which includes a wagon ride, plus the cost of berries (price depends on how many berries you pick—the more you pick, the cheaper per basket).

6700 General Beale Rd.

Strawberry Picking (Eating)photo: Jared and Corin via flickr

Plan a Berry Picking Weekend
These two spots are also wonderful for berry picking, but they’re a little bit more of a drive from Los Angeles. Time for a road trip! Take the kids for a weekend adventure with strawberry picking as your main or side event. Both are in gorgeous locations, with plenty to do.

Riley’s Farm
You may recognize the name as our very favorite place to apple pick.  But in the spring and summer, when apples are but a dream, you can also go strawberry picking.

Play and stay in: Palm Springs, just another 25 minutes down the 10 Freeway
When: Call for picking availability, usually May-August.

12261 S. Oak Glen Rd.
Oak Glen

strawberry girl CRDTphoto: Abby Batchelder via flickr

Carlsbad Strawberry Company
We say Carlsbad, you say: LEGOLAND!  Spend the weekend playing and splashing at LEGOLAND, and then stop off at the Strawberry Company for a u-pick adventure on the way home.

Play and stay at: LEGOLAND.  (Duh.)  Or hit the beach, it’s pretty beautiful around here, too.

When: These 80+ acres of berries are available March-July, call to see if they have u-pick available before you go. The fields are open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.  If you’re going with a group of 15 or more (preschool, scout troop or just a big gang of friends!) you can schedule a tour.

Cannon Road & Paseo del Norte

strawberry pick FLICKRphoto: El Padawan via flickr

Berry Good
Now that you’ve got the berries, here’s some quick links for what to do with them:

Let us know in the comment section below what your insider tips are for visiting a u-pick strawberry farm. And what do you do with those luscious berries?

—Meghan Rose