YOU MAY NOT readily spot "The Great Pumpkin" this October, but you won't have any problem finding candidates for most sincere patch. In fact, you could go to a different area farm, orchard or nursery every day this month and not begin to visit all the places serving up fall fun along with tons of orange gourds.
Local growers give this year's crop mixed reviews. Most farmers who irrigated have pumpkins aplenty -- including a few in the 50- to 80-pound range -- while those who had to rely on rain ended up with slim pickings. Overall, you shouldn't notice a shortage, but pumpkins may be smaller and a little more expensive than in previous years.
The following places feature weekend family activities along with patches or piles of pumpkins. Most operate from this Saturday through Oct. 31.
Anne Arundel County
ANNAPOLIS GARDEN SPOT -- Value City Shopping Center, 3000 Forest Dr., intersection of Forest Drive and Solomons Island Road, Annapolis. 410/573-1885. Through Oct. 20, open 9 to 8 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 7 Sundays; Oct. 21-31, open 9 to 9 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 7 Sundays. Free admission. Kids can play on a straw and pumpkin mountain daily and visit a haunted pumpkin patch and gazebo with both funny and scary stuffed characters. Scarecrow-making takes place on weekends. The store provides straw, but visitors must bring their own clothes.
HOMESTEAD GARDENS -- 743 West Central Ave. (corner of routes 424 and 214), Davidsonville. 301/261-4550. Take Route 50 East to Exit 16, Davidsonville Road. Turn right, go three miles to stoplight and turn left on West Central Avenue. The nursery is on the right. Open 9 to 6 Monday through Thursday, 9 to 8 Fridays, 8 to 8 Saturdays and 9 to 6 Sundays during October; other hours vary seasonally. Free admission. The 16th Annual Fall Festival, held 11 to 4 on Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 24, features hayrides, $2 per person, free for ages 4 and under; and appearances by Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts performers; and concessions. Children's events include pumpkin painting, requiring a $2 pumpkin purchase; face painting, $1; and pony rides, $2. "Gardening Is for the Birds . . . and Bees" Oct. 9-11 features U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service exhibits, beekeeping demonstrations, a falconer and a visit from the Orioles' bird during festival hours. On Oct. 16-17, the llama barn open house from 11 to 4 includes llama songs, wool spinning and weaving. On Oct. 23-24, children in costume trick or treat from 11 to 4, and Glenda the Good Witch tells stories from noon to 3. Daily, visitors can navigate a straw maze and its playhouse and visit the llama barn, containing 100 llamas, including babies.
WEBER'S CIDER MILL FARM -- 2526 Proctor Lane, Baltimore. 410/668-4488, 410/665-0154 to arrange school tours. Take the Baltimore Beltway (Route 695) to Exit 30-B (Perring Parkway). Go north until the parkway ends, about one-half mile. Turn left on Waltham Woods Road and go one-quarter mile to the first stop sign. Turn right onto Proctor Lane. Open 9 to 8 daily through Oct. 30, 9 to 6 daily starting Oct. 31. Hayrides, $1 per person, take place from 10 to 6 on Saturdays and Sundays. A Boo Barn featuring Halloween displays geared toward elementary-school youngsters is open 10 to 6 weekends and 3 to 6 weekdays, admission $1 per person. (Parents may preview the attraction at no charge.) Other kids' activities include Pumpkinland, featuring painted pumpkin characters, open 9 to 6 weekends and 2 to 6 weekdays, with admission of $1 for adults, 50 cents for children ages 12 and younger; a giant hay maze, open 9 to 6 weekends, 3 to 6 weekdays, admission $2; and scarecrow workshops, all materials provided, 10 to 6 weekends and 3 to 6 weekdays (Oct. 11-29), $15 per scarecrow. A newly remodeled barn houses a shop selling Halloween and craft items.
ROHA FARMS -- 6009 Church Lane, Hydes, 10 miles northeast of Towson. 410/592-8040. Take the Baltimore Beltway east through either tunnel, heading toward Towson. Exit at Harford Road North (Exit 31), go approximately four miles and turn left on Long Green Pike. Continue about four miles, going past the four-way stop sign, to Church Lane. Turn right and go a half-mile to the farm sign and entrance on the right. Open 10 to 5 Saturdays and Sundays in October. Free admission. Visitors can take free, wheelchair-accessible hayrides to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch. A barnyard houses a variety of animals. Purchase tickets for a small fee for horse and pony rides, a straw climb, a holly maze, face painting and calf roping. Scarecrow-making, with all materials provided, costs $5 for child-size and $10 for adult-size. The farm also features a market, plant barn and food concessions.
SPRING MEADOW FARMS -- 15513 Hanover Pike (Route 30), five miles north of Reisterstown. 410/239-8505. Web site: www.springmeadowfarms.com. Open 9 to 7 daily. Free admission. Tractor-drawn hay rides to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch, $1 per person, run from 10 to dusk on Saturdays and Sundays throughout October. Other October weekend activities include scarecrow-making, 11 to 5, $15 for all materials or $10 if you bring your own clothes; a free straw jump; and a free farm petting zoo. Refreshments available on weekends.
BAUGHER'S FARM ORCHARD MARKET -- 1236 Baugher Rd., off Maryland Route 140 West, Westminster. 410/857-0111 (recording with directions) or 410/848-5541. Open 8 to 6 daily, 8 to 5 when daylight saving time ends. Free admission. Hayrides, $1 per person, to the pick-your-own pumpkin field take place from 10 to 5 on weekends in October. Visitors also can make scarecrows, $10, and ride ponies for a small fee during hayride hours. Other weekend kid-pleasers include a free farm-animal petting zoo, a playground near a picnic area and apple and cider samples. A food stand sells concessions on weekends, and the farm market sells specialty items like homemade ice cream and pies.
GLADE-LINK FARMS -- Route 194, New Midway. 301/898-7131 (recording with directions). 301/845-2639 for group tour information. Open 9 to 5 daily, weather permitting. Free admission. Along with a pick-your-own pumpkin patch, the farm offers scarecrow-making from 10 to 4 the first four weekends in October. It's $6 if you bring your own pants, long-sleeved shirt and pair of pantyhose; $8 if you use clothes provided by the farm.
MAYNES TREE FARM -- 3420 Buckeystown Pike, Buckeystown. 301/662-4320. Take I-270 to Exit 31-B (Route 85); the farm is four miles south of I-270, on the right. Open 10 to 6:30 weekdays, 10 to 6 Saturdays and Sundays. Free admission. October highlights, offered from 10 to 6 on Saturdays and Sundays, include free hayrides to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch; a five-acre corn maze, $1; face painting, $1; scarecrow making, $5 to $8 depending on whether you bring your own materials; and free straw jumping. Pose for photos behind cutout character boards. A storyteller spins tales from 1 to 4 on Saturdays and Sundays. Weekend concessions available.
SCENIC VIEW ORCHARDS -- 16239 Sabillasville Rd. (Route 550 North), Sabillasville. 301/271-2149. From Frederick, take Route 15 north to the third Thurmont exit. Follow Route 550 north for about five miles to the orchards, on the right. Open 10 to 6 daily. The orchards offer horse-drawn wagon rides, weather permitting, to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch, $3 per person, from noon to 5 Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 9-31.
CIDER MILL FARM LTD. -- 5012 Landing Rd., Elkridge. 410/788-9595. Web site: www.FarmMd.com. Take I-95 north to Route 100 west. At Exit 4, turn right onto Route 103 north. Go approximately 1 1/2 miles to right on Ilchester Road. Go 1.2 miles and turn right onto Landing Road. The farm is 0.2 miles on the right. Open 10 to 6 daily now through Nov. 26. Free admission. Family activities, from 10 to 6 Saturdays and Sundays until Thanksgiving, include a petting farm for $1.50 per person and hayrides for $1.25. Babies younger than 12 months are admitted free. Other weekend activities include pony rides, $2 per person; and scarecrow making, noon to 4, for $7, all materials included, or $5 if you bring your own clothes. Watch cider being made. Refreshments available for sale. Themed weekend celebrations take place from 10 to 6 through Nov. 22. Apple Days this weekend feature freshly made caramel apples and cider, Footnotes (formerly the Calico Cloggers) performing from 1 to 2 and the Thomas Sisters country-gospel singers appearing from 2 to 3. Bring your stuffed bears to Teddy Bear Farm Visit on Oct. 9-10, when highlights include a teddy bear contest and hayride at 1 and 3 and folk singing by Tony McGuffin from noon to 4. "Apples and Pumpkins" weekend Oct. 16-17 includes pop musicians Jim and Mike Carothers from noon to 2 on Saturday, and fiddler Terry O'Neill and basket weaver Susan Gribble from 1 to 3 on Sunday. Kangaroo Kids Weekend Oct. 23-24 features a professional jump-rope team from 1 to 1:45 and, on Sunday only, fiddler Drew Vervan from 2 to 4. Halloween weekend events include costume contests at 12:45 and 2:15, dancing by the Footnotes cloggers from 1 to 2 both days, and a performance by Catonsville Elementary School students from noon to 12:45 on Oct. 30. Anyone who brings a canned good donation during the last weekend receives a free hayride.
LARRILAND FARM -- 2415 Woodbine Rd., south of Lisbon. 301/854-6110, recording with directions, Washington area; 410/442-2605,Baltimore area; and 410/489-7034 to schedule group hayrides. Web site: www.pickyourown.com. Open 9 to 5 Saturdays, 10 to 5 Sundays and 9 to 6 Monday through Friday through October. The farm re-opens in December with Christmas trees. Free admission. Follow signs on the property to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch, a short drive from the main entrance. Other pick-your-own crops include apples, broccoli and spinach. On October weekends, the farm/produce market offers 20-minute hayrides for $2.75 per person, free for children under 2, 10 to 4:30 Saturdays and 11 to 4:30 Sundays. Cutout storybook characters accent the looping path. Daily, kids can take unlimited walks through a straw maze for $1.50 per child (adults accompanied by children admitted free) and through a Boo Barn, featuring animated Halloween characters suitable for preschoolers, $1.25 per child, 50 cents per adult. Refreshments for sale on weekends include cider and hot apple fritters.
SHARP'S AT THE WATERFORD FARM -- 4003 Jennings Chapel Rd., Brookeville. 301/854-6275. Web site: www.sharpfarm.com. The farm is seven miles north of Olney. Take Route 97 (Georgia Avenue) to Jennings Chapel Road, the first road on the left in Howard County. Go 1.1 miles to the second farm on the right. Open 10 to 5 Saturdays and Sundays in October. Group tours and campfires take place by appointment through Nov. 15. The farm and produce stand features a 30-acre, pick-your-own pumpkin patch, free hayrides, animals to feed (purchase food on site), observation beehives, nature walks and a small farm museum.
BECRAFT'S FARM PRODUCE -- 14722 New Hampshire Ave., south of Cloverly. 301/236-4545. From the Beltway, take New Hampshire Avenue north 6.1 miles. Look for the big red building on the left, between Norwood and Bonifant roads on the southbound side. Open 10 to 5 weekdays, 11 to 6 weekends. Free admission and parking. Any child under age 12 who arrives in costume during October receives a small prize. Daily free highlights at the farm market and pick-your-own pumpkin place include children's games, scarecrow characters and a decorative farm scene for picture taking.
BUTLER'S ORCHARD -- 22200 Davis Mill Rd., Germantown. 301/972-3299 (recording with directions). Open 10 to 5:30 Tuesday through Sunday. Groups may arrange evening hayrides. The pick-your-own orchard holds its 19th annual Pumpkin Festival from 10 to 5 Saturdays and Sundays and Columbus Day (Oct. 11) in October. Admission is $5 per person, 2 and under free. Look for a new surprise activity. Attractions returning from last fall include the Twisted Pumpkin Maze, a two-acre maze constructed of six-foot-tall grasses; and an oval-shaped, pedal-tractor track for pint-size drivers. Also hayrides and jaunts in Cinderella's fiberglass, mouse-pulled Pumpkin Coach; farm-animal feeding; hayloft jumping; a straw maze; and Pumpkinland's pumpkin and gourd characters and decorations, including the Great Pumpkin. Ride ponies from 11 to 4 for $2, and purchase crafts and food, throughout the day. Bluegrass, country and pop performers appear from noon to 4. Kids can visit Pumpkinland and the maze, hayloft, tunnel and farm animals free of charge on weekdays from 3 to 5:30.
COUNTRYSIDE GARDENS -- 14400 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring. 301/384-2007. Open 9 to 6 Monday through Saturday, 9 to 5 Sundays. A free fall festival for kids takes place from 10 to 4 on Oct. 16, featuring face painting, pumpkin painting (with a fee for the pumpkin, and suggested $1 donation for the local animal shelter), scarecrow-building (suggested $5 donation for the animal shelter if you keep your creation), pin~atas, a "needle in the haystack" toy hunt, apple-bobbing, prizes, cider and doughnuts.
GAITHERSBURG GARDEN SPOT -- 410 N. Frederick Ave. (Route 355), next to the Golden Bull Restaurant. 301/330-2684. Through Oct. 20, open 9 to 8 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 7 Sundays; Oct. 21-31, open 9 to 9 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 7 Sunday. Highlights include a free haunted pumpkin patch and pumpkin and straw mountain. A 300-foot Haunted Straw Maze features both funny and scary characters and special effects, $1 admission, free for children 3 and under. Specialty items for sale include cider and baked goods.
GAZEBO GARDEN CENTER AND NURSERY -- 13101 Clopper Rd., Germantown. 301/972-1010. Through Oct. 20, open 9 to 8 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 7 Sundays; Oct. 21-31, open 9 to 9 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 7 Sunday. See Gaithersburg Garden Spot listing for a complete description.
HOMESTEAD FARM -- 15600 Sugarland Rd., Poolesville. 301/977-3761 (recording with directions). Open 9 to 6 daily. Credit cards aren't accepted. Hayrides to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch, offered continuously from 10 to 5 on Saturdays and Sundays in October, cost $1.50 per person. Visitors also can see farm animals. Early in October, you also can pick apples.
MIDDLEBROOK GARDEN SPOT -- 19235 N. Frederick Ave. (Route 355), next to Mobil gas station, Germantown. 301/391-6690. Through Oct. 20, open 9 to 7 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 6 Sundays; Oct. 21-31, open 9 to 9 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 7 Sundays. Free admission to the pumpkin and straw mountains.
NORMANS' FARM MARKET OF OLNEY -- 15800 Georgia Ave., Olney. 301/260-8781. Open 10 to 6 daily during October; other hours vary seasonally. Free daily highlights during October include a moon bounce, straw maze and apple cider. Weekend activities include hourly hayrides for a small fee and free face painting. A costume contest at 4 on Oct. 30 features two age divisions, 8 and under and 9 to 14. All participants receive door prizes.
PHILLIPS FARM -- 13710 Schaeffer Rd., Germantown. 301/540-2364. Open 3 to dark weekdays, 10 to dark weekends throughout October. In December, open for Christmas trees. Visitors to the farm and produce market can take free hayrides (except on Oct. 9) to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch. A two-acre corn maze costs $1 per person, free for children under 5 accompanied by adults. Kids also can climb haystacks and feed farm animals. (The farm's fall harvest decorations do not include Halloween ghosts and goblins.) Special activities to kick off the pumpkin season this Saturday include live bluegrass music from 1 to 4, afternoon pony rides, $2, and food concessions. Take pony rides, approximately 11 to 4, on most Saturdays and the last two weekends. A Halloween costume contest for ages 12 and under takes places at 1 on Oct. 31. The farm's new barn includes Germantown historic exhibits and sells produce, including red, white and slate-colored pumpkins. The farm hosts the Germantown Community Oktoberfest, which kicks off on Oct. 8 with an evening Balloon Glow featuring illuminated hot-air balloons. The festival takes place from 10 to 4 on Oct. 9, with free admission but small fees for activities, including hayrides.
ROCK HILL ORCHARD -- 28600 Ridge Rd., Mount Airy. 301/831-7427. Open9 to 6 daily through Nov. 1. Weekend visitors can take free hayrides from noon to 4 on Saturdays and 1 to 4 on Sundays to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch and to the apple orchard. Pumpkin characters decorate the hayride path.
ROCKVILLE FLOWER AND GARDEN SPOT -- Mid-Pike Shopping Center, behind Toys "R" Us, 11800 Rockville Pike, Rockville. 301/984-3565. Through Oct. 20, open 9 to 7 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 6 Sundays; Oct. 21-31, open 9 to 9 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 7 Sundays. Free activities include pumpkin and straw mountains and a haunted pumpkin patch with funny and scary stuffed characters. Take photos with live characters and wooden cutout characters. Bring your own old clothes for scarecrow-making contests, noon to 1 on Saturdays. A 600-foot Haunted Straw Maze includes sound and light special effects. Admission is $1.90, free for children 3 and under, and includes a cup of cider.
Prince George's County
CHERRY HILL FARM & ORCHARD -- 12309 Gallahan Rd., Fort Washington, 10 minutes from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. 301/292-1928 (recording with directions) or 301/292-4642. Web site: www.cherryhill.com. Open 9 to dusk daily during October. A $5.50-per-person Fall Harvest Festival on weekends starting Oct. 9 includes a hayride to the pumpkin patch, a pumpkin to carve, an apple and visits to the Fun Barn, a petting zoo, tunnels, slides, a straw pool, nature trail and maze. More than 400 scarecrows include popular characters. The Fun Barn features aliens, along with its traditional crooked room, animated figures and non-frightening Halloween scenes suitable for young children. Halloween " '50s Rock & Roll weekends" include '50s dance instruction, magicians, clowns and pumpkin carvers. Call for an entertainment schedule. Children and adults who dress in '50s attire on Oct. 31 get $1 off admission. Scarecrow-making is available for $5, materials provided, on Oct. 16, 17, 23 and 24. Refreshments will be sold at the farm market. Admission for weekday pumpkin Halloween tours for individuals or families is $4 per person Oct. 6-15, $4.50 Oct. 18-29. The orchard also has pick-your-own apples.
DARROW BERRY FARM -- Bell Station Road, Glenn Dale, five miles west of Bowie. 301/390-6191 or 301/390-6611 (recordings with directions), and 301/390-6206. Open 10 to 6 Saturdays and Sundays in October starting Oct. 9. Free parking and admission. Children's activities include an Enchanted Village decorated with more than 100 scarecrows depicting popular and storybook characters, admission 50 cents; hayrides to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch, $1; and a display of farm animals. Make a scarecrow, $5 including all materials, and visit with a clown from noon to 4. Pony rides and face painting, available all day, cost $1 apiece. Every weekend features "Heritage Days" activities, including apple-butter boiling, butter making, cider pressing, cow milking, spinning and soap making.
ROBIN HILL FARM NURSERY -- 15800 Croom Rd., Brandywine. 301/579-6844 (recording with directions after-hours) or 301/888-1849 from the District and Northern Virginia. Open 9 to 5 daily Oct. 9-31. Free admission. Visitors to this working tree farm can take free hayrides after noon on Saturdays and Sundays, select pumpkins from a pick-your-own field and look at farm animals. Local charitable organizations sell refreshments on weekends.
BURKE NURSERY AND GARDEN CENTER -- 9401 Burke Rd., Burke. 703/323-1188. Open 9 to 9 daily. The nursery's fifth annual Fall Festival and Pumpkin Playground are open Oct. 1-31. Admission is $7 per person on weekends, $5 on weekdays, and includes a softball-sized pumpkin. Children age 2 and under are admitted free. Features included in the admission cost and available daily include the new House of No Return Slide, one hayride per person, Miners' Mountain Slide, Western town, farm animals, Pumpkin Fort, a tunnel slide, several mechanical rides, an authentic Indian teepee, a playground merry-go-round, phone tubes and "Money Mountain," a mound of sand hiding coins and small toys. Call for a schedule of weekend entertainment, which includes Steve "Standing Bear" Lowery performing Native American singing, dancing and storytelling, as well as a clown magician, a Cherokee storyteller and dancer, Jeff the Balloon Guy and musical groups. Weekend activities available for additional charges include $1.50 Wobble Wagon rides, $1.50 face painting, 50-cent balloon animals, $1 moon bouncing and extra hayrides, $1.50 per person. A food tent sells refreshments.
CAMPBELL AND FERRARA NURSERIES INC. -- 6651 Little River Turnpike, Alexandria. 703/354-6724. Web site: www.campbellferrara.com. Open 9 to 6 Monday through Saturday, 9 to 5 Sundays. Annandale United Methodist Church's Youth Fellowship holds a haunted house from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Oct. 22, 23, 29 and 30. Six rooms contain such frightening scenes as "the mad doctor" performing an "operation." Admission by requested donation is $3. Call the church at 703/256-8330 for more details. Year-round, the nursury offers a playground and kids' club with free monthly prizes for registered children.
COX FARMS -- 15621 Braddock Rd., corner of Pleasant Valley and Braddock roads, midway between routes 29 and 50, about five miles west of Centreville. 703/830-4121. Web site: www.coxfarms.com. Open 10 to 6 (or dark) daily. The entry fee for Fall Festival activities, set on about 50 acres of the 117-acre farm throughout October, is $7.50 on weekends and Columbus Day, with no entry fee for children under 2. On Saturday and Sunday, half of the entry proceeds benefit Western Fairfax Christian Ministries, an interdenominational organization that provides food and clothing for the needy. New features this year include hands-on cow-milking demonstrations and a Fairyland mountain with two slides and a castle and a nearby swing designed for 3- to 5-year-olds. Additional highlights include unlimited hayrides, a small pumpkin for each visitor (except children under 2, for whom pumpkins cost $2 each), apples, cider, popcorn, soap-bubble-blowing, fun tunnels, hay bales for climbing, four mountain slides, face painting, two swings, foam pits, tube rolling, Billy Goat Village, farm animals and wooden cutouts of favorite celebrities and children's characters. Children must be 44 inches or taller for the large rope swing and Miner's Mountain Slide. Musicians perform from 11 to 5 Saturdays and Sundays. Pony rides, $3, and lunch also are available on weekends. Admission of $4 on weekdays Oct. 1-8, $5 from Oct. 11-29, includes a hayride, small pumpkin, cider and apples to drink and eat on-site, a show with Farmer Jack in the morning or folk singer John Evans in the afternoon, the play area and farm animals. After 1 on weekdays following Columbus Day, visitors can pay $2 and skip the hayride and pumpkin, or $4 and skip the pumpkin. Groups of 10 or more should call for reservations. Cox Farms' roadside produce market at 2599 Chain Bridge Rd., Vienna, 703/281-0165, has a tunnel and pumpkin mountain, along with an ark play area for young children. It's open 9 to 6:30 Monday through Saturday, 9 to 6 Sundays. Folk singers perform, free of charge, from 1 to 4 some Saturdays and Sundays during mid-October.
HEATHER HILL GARDENS -- 8111 Ox Rd. (Route 123), Fairfax Station, a half-mile south of Lee Chapel Road. 703/690-6060. Open 9:30 to 6:30 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 6:30 Sundays. Free admission. Children can visit and pet assorted farm animals; play in a pumpkin fort with slide and maze and select a prize from a treasure chest. Pony rides, $2 per person, take place from 10 to 2 Saturdays and Sundays Oct. 9-24. Free mini-hayrides transport visitors through the pumpkin field from 3 to 5 Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 9-24. Beginning Oct. 16, the garden center displays about 75 lighted jack-o'-lanterns starting at 6:30 each night.
NALLS PRODUCE -- 7310 Beulah St., Franconia. 703/971-4068. Open 9 to 8 Monday through Saturday, 9 to 6 Sundays. Starting Oct. 9, children can venture into a corn maze and crawl through a tunnel under a climbable pumpkin pile. Visitors also can look at an educational display of fall crops. All activities are free.
POTOMAC VEGETABLE FARMS -- 9627 Leesburg Pike (Route 7), Vienna, four miles west of Tysons Corner. 703/759-2119 during business hours. Open 9 to 6 daily. Visitors can watch cider pressing from 1 to 4 Saturdays during October. The working farm also includes animals. Choose pumpkins from piles next to the farm stand.
NORMANS' FARM MARKET OF RESTON -- 10800 Baron Cameron Ave., off Route 7 west, Reston. 703/759-7080. Open 9 to 8 daily during October; hours change seasonally. On weekends, 10 to 6, during October, Normans' Wild Pumpkin Fest features pony rides for a small fee; a moon bounce, $2; face painting, $1; and hayrides, $3. Free weekend activities, also 10 to 6, include "Needle in the Haystack" at noon, 2 and 4, when the first child to find a plastic needle in a pile of hay wins a pumpkin; storytelling on the hour; a pie-eating contest; giant soap bubble blowing, a straw maze; a tarp maze; a pumpkin weight guessing contest; pumpkin carving; and possibly turtle and frog races. A costume contest at 4 on Oct. 30 features divisions for ages 8 and under and 9 to 14, with door prizes for all contestants. Kids can play in the moon bounce and mazes on weekdays, too. Select pumpkins from a large pile. Concessions available. The market also offers free samples of three kinds of apple cider. Visitors can tour Witch Mountain, an interactive haunted house filled with surprises and live characters, beginning at dusk Fridays through Sundays from Oct. 8-31. Admission is $6 for children and $8 for adults, with half the proceeds benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. It's recommended for ages 6 and up, and adults must accompany all children under age 13.
STRIBLING ORCHARD -- On Route 688 South in Markham. 540/364-3040. Web site: www.virginiaorchard.com. Take I-66 west to Markham Exit 18. Go south on Route 688 for a quarter-mile to the orchard on the left. Open 8 to 6 daily until Thanksgiving. Hayrides at this pick-your-own apple and pumpkin orchard take place from 11 to 3 every weekend, with $3 admission, free for children younger than age 5. Pony rides, generally available from 11 to 3, also cost $3 per person. Visitors also can pick apples and pet and feed apples to pigs (including some 20 piglets), goats, a calf, ponies, chickens and ducks.
VIRGINIA FARM MARKET -- 1881 N. Frederick Pike (Route 522 North), a half-mile north of the Route 37 bypass on the north side of Winchester. 540/665-8000. Open 8 to 7:30 weekdays, 7 to 8:30 weekends. Free admission. The farm market displays its pumpkins in Pumpkinland, decorated with painted pumpkin-head characters and scarecrows and antique farm equipment. Kids can navigate a corn-stalk maze, jump in a straw pile, visit a house constructed of pumpkins and wood boards, play on a 30-foot stationary wooden train and pose behind decorated cutout boards and next to a spider and turkey created out of hay bales.
MARKER-MILLER ORCHARDS -- 3035 Cedar Creek Grade, Winchester. 540/662-1391 or 540/662-4013. Take I-81 to Exit 310, Route 37 north two miles to the Opequon Exit. Turn left on Route 622 and go two miles to Opequon. Go left across the bridge and travel 1 1/4 miles to the orchards on the left. The orchards, which include pick-your-own pumpkins, are open 9 to 6 weekdays and 9 to 4 Saturdays through mid-November. The annual free Marker-Miller Orchards Apple Harvest Festival takes place from 9 to 5 Oct. 9 and 10 to 5 Oct. 10. Highlights include apple butter-making, antique tractors, food concessions, country music by River's Edge from 2 to 4 on Oct. 9 and '50s and '60s music by Whipp-Mills Musical Medleys from 2 to 4 on Oct. 10.
RICHARD'S FRUIT MARKET -- 6410 Middle Rd., Middletown. 540/869-1455. Take I-66 west to I-81 north to Exit 307 (Stephens City). Turn left and travel about three miles to the T-intersection. Turn left and go one mile to the market, on the right. Open 8:30 to 6 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 6 Sundays until Nov. 28. The annual free Orchard Festival at this 46-year-old pick-your-own apple orchard takes place all day on Oct. 16-17, with live bluegrass music from 2 to 4, antiques and crafts, free hayrides, food, children's games, pony rides (for a small fee) and a petting zoo featuring two miniature goats. Choose pumpkins from piles at the market, which also sells fresh-baked pies and hand-dipped ice cream.
FARM COLOR TOUR OF THE LOUDOUN VALLEYS -- Plenty of kid-pleasing attractions highlight this annual free, self-guided driving tour of 19 farms, vineyards and historic sites, some of which are seldom open to the public. The event takes place from 10 to 4 Oct. 16-17. Children especially enjoy taking hayrides, walking through mazes, strolling through a butterfly garden, looking at llamas and buffalo, and feeding and petting farm animals. Some locations offer pumpkin picking, and most tour stops sell food and produce. Obtain a brochure with directions to all the farms, as well as information about local country stores, by calling the Loudoun Tourism Council at 800/752-6118 or 703/777-0400, visiting the Web site at www.visitloudoun.org or stopping by the Loudoun Tourism Council Visitor Center at Market Station, 108D South St., Leesburg.
GREAT COUNTRY FARMS -- 18780 Foggy Bottom Rd., near Bluemont. 540/554-2073. Web site: www.greatcountryfarms.com. Follow Route 7 for 15 miles west of Leesburg to left at Bluemont exit onto Clayton Hall Road (Route 760). Go left on Snickersville Turnpike (Route 734) and go one-half mile to right on Foggy Bottom Road to the farm, a half-mile on the left. Open 10 to 5 daily through October. Admission to this family farm at the base of the Blue Ridge is $2.50 per person or $10 per car and includes unlimited 45-minute hayrides, a slide, a petting zoo, a willow maze and hay maze and catch-and-release pond fishing. Pick your own pumpkins from a 12-acre patch. Some fall pick-your-own vegetables may be available. Admission during the Farm Color Tour weekend (see previous listing) is free, but hayrides then cost $1, as does admission to the petting zoo and play area. Pony rides, on weekends and by appointment, are $2. Food concessions on weekends include barbecue meals.
SUNSHINE FARMS OF LEESBURG -- 19270 James Monroe Hwy. (Route 15 South), about 1 1/2 miles outside Leesburg. 703/779-2332. Open 9 to 6 daily during October. Admission is $9.50 on Saturdays, Sundays and Columbus Day, $6 on weekdays, and includes a patch pumpkin. Admission, not including a pumpkin, is free for children under 2. Pet and feed farm and exotic animals from Reston Animal Park, which is permanently relocating to the farm's property this fall. Daily admission also includes unlimited hayrides that pass cutout characters, apple and cider samples, two hay forts with tunnels, four giant hill slides, a real school bus and tractor for climbing, a corn maze and a straw maze. Weekends also feature live entertainment from noon to 4, popcorn, giant soap bubbles, mini-tractor rides, face and pumpkin painting and a paintball target-shooting area for ages 10 and up. Pony rides, a moon bounce and concessions on weekends cost additional fees.
TARARA -- 13648 Tarara Lane, off Route 15, eight miles north of Leesburg. Follow signs. 703/771-7100; call 703/478-8161 (metro) from the District and suburban Maryland. Web site: www.tarara.com. Open 11 to 5 daily. The winery holds its Pumpkin Patch Days from 11 to 5 Oct. 23-24. Highlights include pick-your-own pumpkins, hayrides and mulled wine. The grounds include hiking trails, picnic tables and a small playground.
DOUBLE "B" FARMS -- Route 20, Rhoadesville, 20 miles west of Fredericksburg. 540/854-4277. Take I-95 south to Route 3 west (Fredericksburg exit) to Route 20 (Constitution Highway). Turn left and go nine miles to the farm on the left. Open 9 to 6 daily. Activities offered through Oct. 31 include free hayrides to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch, 10 to 5 Saturdays and noon to 5 Sundays; a petting barn with domestic farm animals; and Playland, featuring straw forts, a haunted school bus and balance beams. On weekends, Butterfly the clown tells stories and paints faces from 10 to 5.
Prince William County
OLD MINE RANCH -- 17504 Mine Rd., Dumfries. 703/441-1382. Take I-95 south to Manassas/Dumfries Exit 152, Route 234. Turn right, go one block to left on Route 627 (Van Buren Street). Go right at stop sign and look for ranch on the left. Open 10 to 8 daily during October, 10 to 5 weekends and by appointment on weekdays the rest of the year. Admission is $5, free for children under 2. New activities at this rustic 40-acre pony ranch include a moon bounce and the 60-foot-long, inflatable Balloon Typhoon Slide, which ends in a ball crawl. Haunted hayrides include such scenes as a headless rider on a live black horse and a mock slaughterhouse with both live and rubber chickens. Other highlights include a petting farm with animal food included, a roping game, a hay maze and tunnel, a Wild West-themed playhouse, a guided river hike, a pumpkin to paint and a cookie to decorate. Pony and horse rides for children and adults, offered daily, are $2 each. The ranch sells concessions and offers a picnic area.
MUSKRAT HAVEN FARM -- On Route 211, four miles west of Amissville, 15 miles west of Warrenton. 540/937-5191. Open 9 to 6 daily until the end of October. The nine-acre apple orchard also features pick-your-own pumpkins. The farm offers haunted hayrides, recommended for ages 6 and older, from dusk until 10 the last two weekends in October, $5 per person.
BELVEDERE PLANTATION -- Route 17, seven miles southeast of Fredericksburg. 540/371-8494 or in Virginia, toll-free 800/641-1212 (recordings with directions). Call 540/373-4478 to make group reservations for pumpkin patch tours, hayrides and bonfires. Web site: www.belvedereplantation.com. The market is open through Oct. 31, 9 to 1 Monday through Thursday, 9 to 7 Fridays, 10 to 6 Saturdays and 10 to 5:30 Sundays. Starting this Saturday, the Great Pumpkin Patch is open 4 to 7 Fridays, 10 to 6 Saturdays, 10 to 5:30 Sundays and 10 to 5 Columbus Day. The 245-year-old, 1,000-acre farm features numerous fall activities. A five-acre, Conestoga wagon-shaped Amazing Maize Maze(C) features more than two miles of paths, overseen by a "Maze Master" who helps people find their way. Hours are 3 to 5:30 Fridays and 10 to 5:30 Saturdays and Sundays all month, and nightly from 7 to 9 Oct. 24-31. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for children ages 4 to 12. Groups can arrange for special navigation programs and discounted admission. Pumpkin patch admission is $5 for children ages 3 to 16, and $2.50 for adults. Visitors under 3 and over 65 are admitted free. Highlights include hayrides to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch, a fun barn with swinging ropes and hay, farm animals, concession stands and a zip-line ride. Additional weekend activities include free face painting on Saturdays and Sundays, pony rides for $3 apiece and a pumpkin-shaped moon bounce for $2. The plantation also features "living history" presentations from open to close on weekends in October (some free, some for a small fee).