At just shy of turning 2 years old, Otto Teague’s favorite activity at the pumpkin patch was attempting feats of strength.
“He loved it,” mom Amy Teague of Little Rock says. “His favorite thing was walking around the pumpkins, trying to pick them up.”
That was in 2019. Teague had taken her son, then 22 months old, to BoBrook Farms (bobrookfarms.com) in Little Rock. It was the toddler’s introduction to what has become an annual tradition for millions of American families: spending a gorgeous autumn day at a pumpkin patch.
Amy says that although he was too young for some activities, Otto thoroughly enjoyed the farm’s tunnel, animals and playing in a big pit of dried corn kernels with other children. “I found pieces of corn in my car for weeks after that,” she adds with a laugh.
“My favorite part was walking through the sunflower fields and watching the bees land on the flowers,” Amy says. “There were a ton of bees, and it always makes me happy to see that.”
Pumpkin patch country
It’s pumpkin season here in Arkansas, when pumpkin patch amusements abound for kids and adults. The season generally runs through Halloween. Most of the diversions are outdoors, making them relatively safe from the pandemic, but that means their success depends on having good weather. Ellen Dalton, owner of Pumpkin Hollow (pumpkinhollow.com) just outside Piggott in northeast Arkansas, says, “We pray for sunny days and weekends!”
Pumpkin patches are charming, happy places, and some of the most established ones in the state regularly appear on national lists of best pumpkin patches by outlets like USA Today, TripAdvisor.com and Southern Living. But there are dozens of beautiful fall pumpkin destinations in Arkansas, many more than we could include in this story. The hardest part of these excursions is often picking which patch to visit next.
Randy Motley, owner of Motley’s Pumpkin Patch (motleyspumpkinpatch.com), 10 miles from downtown Little Rock, says pumpkin enthusiasm continues to grow. Known as a Christmas tree farm the past 40 years, when Motley’s pumpkin patch opened 14 years ago, it quickly overtook the Christmas tree business. “People just love to come out for the start of fall and to get their pumpkins,” he says.
Pumpkins are native to North America. And pumpkin patch visiting is a wholly American activity, says Carolina Castellanos.
Castellanos immigrated to Arkansas from Colombia. A citizen for years, she and husband Za Shelvin raise their family in Little Rock. Last year, she took daughters Samara and Valeria, then 8 and 5, to Schaefers and Collins Pumpkin Patch (schaeferspumpkinpatch.com) in Mayflower.
Castellanos says, “Being here, I love to go to the pumpkin patches because I think it’s gorgeous with the colors and all of the flowers they have in the fall — because, see, in Colombia we don’t have seasons. When you’re here, it becomes something fun you do in October, an American tradition like Thanksgiving.”
Pick-your-own pumpkin patches bring families to the fields, but the bulk of pumpkins sold at patches come pre-picked, often set out on long, picturesque tables surrounded by mums, straw bales, scarecrows, dried corn stalks and other fall accents for sale.
Some Arkansas farms offer dozens of varieties of pumpkins and gourds grown on site; ask the staff for guidance on what varieties work best for carving, decorating or cooking. Or just pick the ones that strike your fancy. Traditional orange jack-o’-lantern pumpkins are the bestsellers, but they also come in colors like white, green or gray, in textures smooth or warty, in shapes long, round or squatty and in sizes ranging from giant, prize-winning pumpkins that weigh more than 100 pounds to mini pumpkins that can fit in a pocket.
Pumpkin patches often provide hands-on educational activities for children. At McGarrah Farms Pumpkin Patch (mcgarrahfarms.com) in Pea Ridge, owner Dennis McGarrah — known affectionately there as just “Farmer” — takes time with groups to give the kids “Pumpkin School,” telling students about the different kinds of pumpkins and how they grow and answering their questions. Lisa Schaefer, owner of Schaefers and Collins, says she’ll often give teachers a pumpkin plant to take back to the classroom.
Mazes of maize
Some pumpkin patches include corn mazes, a big attraction especially for older kids, teens and adults. In Northwest Arkansas, Ozark Corn Maze has been in Cave Springs the last five years, but this year relocated to Fayetteville to be part of Rivercrest Orchard’s (rivercrestorchard.com) “Fall on the Farm” pumpkin patch. Owner Timothea McGarrah is daughter-in-law to “Farmer” McGarrah (the McGarrahs own several farms, including Rivercrest Orchard and Corn Maze in Fayetteville and McGarrah Farms Pumpkin Patch in Pea Ridge). Timothea says, for a fun twist, her farm’s maze also includes a mystery game. “It’s a crime scene investigation maze to solve the mystery of ‘Who Took Farmer Joe?’” she explains. “You have a game card and can search for clues as you go through the maze. People have fun with it.”
Pumpkin Hollow, which Dalton says opened the first Arkansas corn maze in 1999, has an unusual double-holiday-themed maze this year, shaped as a Christmas tree inside a pumpkin. The 29-year-old farm is selling its own trees for the first time this Christmas during an upcoming “Christmas in the Hollow” season. It’s also known for its “Horror in the Hollow Fright Nights,” after-dark haunted attractions on weekends leading up to Halloween. And like some others in the state, its corn maze is open after dark for a much spookier experience by flashlight.
At Garner Homestead Family Farm (garnerhomesteadfamilyfarm.com) in Lonsdale, which has been in the family at least 12 generations, the emphasis is on using the natural beauty of the property to stimulate children’s innate creativity. So, instead of a formal corn maze, they’ve built a “cornfield full of trails.” Owner Susan Jones says kids love exploring it.
Fields of fall flowers and must-have pics
Among the most striking sights at many of the farms are are tall sunflowers glowing in the fall sunlight. Cotton fields and multicolored zinnia fields are becoming popular photo spots at patches, too. Peebles Farm Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze (peeblesfarm.com) in Augusta is one that has all three. Owner Katie Peebles says her farm’s 10 acres of sunflowers are second in popularity only to the pumpkins. While Peebles’ flowers are staggered to bloom throughout the season, at many they only bloom the first two weeks. Owners often advise visitors to come early for the flowers (also, the closer to Halloween the farms get, the busier and more picked-over the farms will be).
Owner Lonni Davis says the sunflowers at Old Milo Tree Farms and Pumpkin Patch (oldmilotreefarms.com) outside Hamburg have visitors pulling out their cameras … and engagement rings. “People love the sunflower pictures. We’ve had some wedding proposals, and lots of engagement pictures and senior pictures taken in the sunflower patch. They’re really pretty.”
The fall-infused photo ops are endless. Knowing how much people love to capture the experience, pumpkin patch owners create many charming, picture-perfect spots. A vintage John Deere tractor covered in zinnias, pumpkins and mums. Towers of pumpkins. Climbable haystacks. Friendly scarecrows. Jones says Garner Homestead Family Farm added more photo op spots peppered up its hill this year to give people a rest stop between the pumpkin field and the farm’s petting zoo and other amenities.
Games and things on which to play
Pumpkin patches offer an unusually wide and creative variety of things on which children (and sometimes adults) can play. Some have zip lines or ropes courses, pedal tractors or big slides, but the homegrown games are often the most novel for kids.
At Old Milo, 15-foot lengths of ridged culverts are suspended to create battering-ram-like “Caterpillar Swings” that up to six people can ride at once. Pumpkin- or apple-blasters that shoot the fruits at a distant target via compressed air are a big hit at places like Peebles Farm and Rivercrest Orchard.
Davis says that the barrel train at Old Milo Tree Farm and Pumpkin Patch is popular with young kids, partly because of its driver. “Junior [Rauls] has been with us 10 years, driving the train since the very beginning,” she says. “He’s going to turn 88 during the pumpkin season this year! Everybody loves Junior.”
Visiting the animals is for many kids the best part of the day. Pony rides are timeless draws for young children. At Old Milo, kids can ride full-size quarter horses in a round pen, then visit their horse barn. Petting zoos are found at most pumpkin patches, with opportunities to feed the critters.
But at Motley’s Pumpkin Patch, as well as BoBrook Farms, the most celebrated farm animals are the pigs. Racing across their pen to reach the prize — a cookie — the small pigs are cheered on several times a day by the spectators. Motley says. “We have people that call the farm and ask, ‘When’s the next race?’”
Eat your fill
All these activities work up an appetite. Some pumpkin patches offer basic concessions and encourage families to bring their own food to picnic on the scenic premises. Others go all out selling grilled burgers, hot dogs, brats and barbecue. Fair foods like snow cones, funnel cakes, nachos and kettle corn sell well. Castellanos says her girls begged to go back just for more of the delicious homemade corn dogs renowned at Schaefers and Collins Pumpkin Patch. On busy weekends Motley’s Pumpkin Patch will sell more than 200 pounds of fudge in 20 varieties. (The pumpkin pie fudge is a “must try,” Motley says.)
Pumpkin Hollow makes hundreds of the farm’s famous pumpkin pies and pumpkin rolls during the season. “They’re made from our own pumpkins grown here,” Dalton says. “It’s never canned. And it makes an incredible difference in the flavor.”
Patchy memories of the best kind
Teague says although they skipped last year because of the pandemic, she’s looking forward to taking Otto back to the pumpkin patch now that he’s a little older and can enjoy more parts and maybe form lasting memories. “I think he’ll especially love the hayride now,” she says.
Schaefer says, “What I love most are the kids’ reactions to being able to be a kid and not have to worry about anything.”
Motley says, “Customers with kids of their own tell me they came here as a child. … People tell me specific things they remember about the farm from so many years back. I tell parents, ‘Take a lot of pictures when you’re out here, guys, because these kids will not forget their trip to the pumpkin patch, I promise.’”
And asked to name her favorite memory over the past 29 years at Pumpkin Hollow, Dalton protests, “Oh, that’s too hard!” before settling on her answer.
“A jillion smiles.”
Featured Pumpkin patches
13810 Combee Lane, Roland
Located in Roland, just past Pinnacle Mountain State Park.
Dates of season:
BoBrook is a working family farm and winery offering a pick-your-own pumpkin patch, mazes, hayrides, pig races, farm animals, a sunflower field, a hay pyramid, an extra-large corn pit, slides and a snack bar.
Monday-Thursday: 9 am.-2 p.m.
Friday-Sunday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Children under 2 get free admission.
General admission: $7 per person
Pumpkins are sold separately.
1376 Arkansas 128, Lonsdale
20 miles west of Benton and 13 miles east of Hot Springs, at the corner of Arkansas 128 and Bassett Trail in Lonsdale.
Dates of season:
Sept. 28-Nov. 6
This working farm is one of the rare family farms that has remained in the family since the 1800s with the original homestead still standing. Activities include playing in Mill Creek and panning for “fool’s gold” (painted rocks); taking a hayride and visiting the pumpkin patch, barnyard petting zoo, the cornfield with trails, playground, nature trail and picnic area. There is usually a trained animal show, but that is canceled for 2021.
Tuesday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Wednesday: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Friday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
$6 per person for 3 years old and up.
Pumpkins are extra and priced according to size.
14816 Miser Road, Pea Ridge
From the four-way stop in Pea Ridge, go east on Lee Town Road. Turn left onto Miser Road, and follow the signs.
Dates of pumpkin patch season:
Sept. 25-Oct. 31, except Tuesdays
McGarrah Farms has been in business for 26 years and is one of the longest-running pumpkin patches in the state. Admission is all-inclusive for the farm’s family-fun activities including the hayride, mule train ride, corn maze, ziplines, jumping pads, playground, ball toss area, corn cribs, hay pyramid, hay tunnels, mini-donkeys and sunflower field. Concessions and goods from clothing, leather and jewelry vendors are available for purchase. Bonfires are available after dark for private parties.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sunday: noon-6 p.m.
Monday: 1-6 p.m.
Wednesday: 1-6 p.m.
Thursday: 1-6 p.m.
Friday: 1-6 p.m.
Admission is $10 per person. Children 2 years and under are free.
Pumpkins are sold separately and range from $1 to $75.
13724 Sandy Ann Drive, Little Rock
Dates of pumpkin patch season:
Sept. 25-Oct. 31
Motley’s is known for its popular pig races and its more than 20 varieties of homemade fudge. Activities include pick-your-own pumpkin patch, tractor-drawn wagon rides around the farm and barnyard animals to meet and feed. Play areas include giant jump pillows, climbable hay structures, swings, twisty slides and a three-level pirate ship. Concessions available at Good Eats Cafe and the Outdoor Burger Grill. After dark, bonfires, corn maze by flashlight and s’mores are available for private booking.
Thursdays and Fridays 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Under age 3 and over 60 are free admission.
Regular admission is $9.95
“Do It All”admission: $13.95 and includes unlimited jump pillow access and cow train rides.
Old Milo Tree Farm and Pumpkin Patch
604 Ashley Road 485, Hamburg
Facebook: Old Milo Tree Farm & Pumpkin Patch
The farm is 10 miles west of Hamburg, 15 miles north of Crossett and 30 miles south of Monticello.
Dates of season:
Sept. 26-Oct. 31, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays
Old Milo offers a corn maze, hay maze and hay pile, hayride, small animal barn, horse and cattle barn, picnic area, farm animal barrel train, giant caterpillar swings, corn box, goat walk, climbing ropes and swings, pumpkin games, cowboy roping dummies and concessions.
Fridays and Saturdays: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sundays: 1-5 p.m.
$15 admission includes: Pumpkin, farm, one horse ride, and unlimited zipline rides.
$10 admission includes: Pumpkin, farm and one zipline ride.
$5 admission includes: Farm only.
$3 per horse ride.
Peebles Farm and Corn Maze
100 Woodruff County Road 249, Augusta
Facebook: Peebles Farm and Corn Maze
Farm is halfway between Augusta and McCrory on U.S. 64, on the north side of the road, across from the Greenway Equipment John Deere store.
Dates of pumpkin patch season:
Sept. 22-Oct. 31
Peebles offers a U-Pick pumpkin patch and U-Pick cotton field, a 20-acre corn maze, a paintball arcade, pumpkin blasters, a barnyard petting zoo, pony rides, duck races, horse-drawn wagon rides, tractor-pulled wagon rides, sunflower and zinnia fields, a trike course, a playground and concessions.
Thursday and Friday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m
Saturday: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sunday: noon-7 p.m.
$13 admission includes corn maze; access to pumpkin patch; cotton, sunflower and zinnia fields; play area; Busy Bee Line; gerbil wheel races; basketball wagon; duck races; trike course, picnic area; and at night, bonfires.
$15 admission includes everything above plus wagon ride and train ride.
Horse and wagon rides: $3
Paintball arcade: $5 for 50 shots, $10 for 100 shots
Pumpkin blaster: 5 shots for $5
Take-home sunflowers and zinnias: $2 dollars a bloom or 20 for $20.
671 County Road 336, Piggott
Directions: From Piggott, take U.S. 62 east 7 miles to Arkansas 341. Follow signs for three miles.
Dates of season:
Sept. 18-Oct. 31
The oldest continually operated pumpkin patch in the state, Pumpkin Hollow offers 80 acres of family fun by day, and a separate area of Horror in the Hollow haunted attractions by night. Farm includes pick-your-own pumpkin patch, a corn maze, hayrides, pony rides, a mini-golf course, Kids Barn with slides and games, petting zoo, duck races, pedal tractors, barrel train ride, double zipline, corn crib, big slides, Friendly Forest playground, climbable haystacks, tire mountain, trike track, gourd trellis and concessions including homemade fresh pumpkin pie and pumpkin rolls. Weiner roasts and corn maze after dark available for private groups with reservations.
Monday through Saturday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sunday: 1-6 p.m.
Children 1 and under are free.
Standard package: $12 (includes corn maze, Kid’s Barn, duck races, pedal tractors, pond slides, tire mountain, corn bin, Friendly Forest, haystacks, playground area, gourd trellis and petting zoo)
Kid’s armband (Saturdays and Sundays only): $17 (Standard package plus one pony ride and one train ride)
Zipline: $10 per ride
Putt-putt: $7 for 9 holes or $10 for 18
Rivercrest Orchard and Ozark Corn Maze
2991 S. Dead Horse Mountain Road, Fayetteville
From Arkansas 16 turn south on Stonebridge. Farm is 2 miles down on the right.
Dates of pumpkin patch season:
Sept. 18-Oct. 31
It’s Fall on the Farm at Rivercrest Orchards, which this year is the new home of the Ozark Corn Maze (formerly in Cave City). Activities include the corn maze (with crime scene investigation game), hayride, combine play set, corn cribs, low ropes course, fall ball zone, apple blasters, barn chute slide, barrel train ride, trackless train ride and jumbo jumper pillows.
Thursday and Friday: noon-9 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
$9.95 includes hayride, combine play set, corn cribs, ropes course, ball zone and corn maze.
$14.95 includes apple blaster (5 apples), barn chute slide, barrel train ride, trackless train, fall ball zone, jumbo jumper pillows, low ropes course, combine play set, ball zone, corn maze and corn cribs.
Barn Chute Slide: $3.00 (1 slide)
Apple Cannon: $3.00 (5 apples)
Jumbo Jumper Pillows: $3.00 (unlimited)
Barrel Train: $2.00 (1 ride)
Trackless Train: $3.00 (1 ride)
Pumpkins: $0.50/lb (not included in admission price)
Schaefers and Collins Pumpkin Patch
864 Lollie Road, Mayflower
501-470-3127 or 501-470-0014
Farm is 10 miles south of Conway off Arkansas 89. Detailed directions on website.
Dates of season:
Sept. 25-Oct. 31
Schaefers and Collins Pumpkin Patch offers a U-Pick pumpkin patch, hayrides, hay tunnels and climbable hay bales, pony rides (weekends only), barrel train rides, a corn pit, swings, slides, an extra-large sandbox, pumpkin learning center and concessions.
$7 admission includes pumpkin patch and hayride.
$2 admission for hayride only.