Saturday, October 17, 2015

Fall Fun: Road Trip to the Pickin' Patch in Dunnellon, FL

If you think there is no place in the state of Florida where you can bring your child to cut a pumpkin off a vine, guess again. The Pickin' Patch in Dunnellon offers exactly that as well as lots of other fall fun for little ones.

The drive to Dunnellon is about an hour and a half from South Orlando but completely worth it. We always combine it with a trip to see the waterfalls at beautiful Rainbow Springs State Park, which is only about 15 minutes away.
The Pickin' Patch is open select Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in October. Fridays it does not open until 3 pm but Saturday and Sunday hours are much longer. Check the Pickin' Patches' website or Facebook page for current hours before making the trip. Admission is $3/person ages 4 and up, kids under 4 are free. Everything but your pumpkins is included in that price.
The main attraction at the Pickin' Patch is the pumpkin patch. This is no small pumpkin patch. They grow both regular and specialty pumpkins and the patches stretch as far as your eye can see.

The employees recommended we go on the hay ride first, which goes around the perimeter of the field, to get an idea of where all the biggest clusters of pumpkins are. My daughter, however, had her heart set on finding the perfect pumpkin right away so she hopped in one of the free wagons they provide and off we headed to the pumpkin patch.

The Pickin' patch is stroller friendly, however, I would think it would be a little hard to push a stroller through the patch. There are plenty of wagons available (with or without hay in them) so I recommend leaving the stroller behind and using one of them if you can. Make sure you also grab a pair of pumpkin cutters/shears before you head out to the patch so you can cut your perfect pumpkin off the vine and check out the price list as you exit the tent.
My daughter traipsed through the patch and examined many before she found the perfect pumpkin. We walked past pumpkins in many different stages of growth, which was perfect for teaching a four year old a little bit about the life cycle of a pumpkin and how they grow.
She had her heart set on finding the biggest pumpkin she could and she eventually found one that she felt fit the bill. She was able to cut it off the vine herself this year (with VERY close supervision from us) but it was so big she couldn't even lift it up and put it into the wagon! That was okay with us because the pumpkins here are very reasonably priced and it will be perfect for carving a jack o' lantern.

After she selected the perfect pumpkin my daughter headed straight for the hay slides. There are two slides reserved for children only. My daughter climbed up the hay bales and slid down the two slides into the hay over and over. These slides seemed to be a hit with children of all ages!

The Pickin' Patch also has a small slide that is just for kids four and under. My daughter went down in but very much preferred the big slides. I'm sure if she was younger she would've loved the small slide as well though. It was new this year and when she was younger she was a bit wary of the large hay slides.

Next to the small slide is a small hay maze. My daughter had fun finding her way through. The hay maze is small and short enough that it is perfect for little ones to get lost in. My daughter found her way out quickly but wanted to go back in a second time to explore all of the pathways and dead ends.
After she had gone through the maze a few times we headed over to the hay ride. The hay ride is covered, which was nice on a sunny day. It goes around the perimeter of the pumpkin patch so you can look at all of the pumpkins growing and scope out which areas you might want to head to when you are ready to cut your own. Our entire family enjoyed the hay ride. There is a shaded area and a few seats if you need to wait a bit for the tractor to return.
Near the hay ride there is also a corn maze. This was another thing our whole family enjoyed doing togehter. There are no maps so you just have to follow the paths and make good guesses to find your way out. We found a car full of scarecrows blocking one dead end of the corn maze and had a good laugh about it. It took my daughter about five minutes to find the way out. Once she did she headed back to the hay slides for several more trips down them.

In addition to the regular pumpkin patch the Pickin' Patch also has a pumpkin patch with ornamental pumpkins (we saw lots of big white ones!), a small sunflower garden where you can cut your own sunflowers, and a gourd patch where you can cut your own gourds. The gourd patch has a little gourd tunnel in front of it. You can't cut any gourds growing in the tunnel but it is worth a walk through to see all the gourds growing down from the roof.
Throughout the area there are lots of spits set up for taking photos. My daughter unfortunately wasn't in a photo taking mood at this point but lots of families were utilizing them.

We let my daughter play on the slides for a while before calling it a day and heading into the tent to pay for our pumpkin. Inside the tent there are lots and lots of fun fall photo spots set up. Professional photography is not allowed but we were able to get plenty of nice shots of our family on our own.
There is also a stand in the tent that sells drinks for $1 if you get thirsty. I didn't see any food for sale so plan accordingly. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from in the town of Dunnellon.

We had a great time at the Pickin' Patch and have made it an annual tradition. I am so glad we found a true pumpkin patch where my daughter can have the experience of finding the perfect pumpkin and cutting it off the vine even though we live in the state of Florida!

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