Michael Brooks tries to lift his perfect pumpkin at Cox Farms. (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

This is the first in a series of Halloween blog posts. The next post, about ghost walks, will run Oct. 15.

Choosing a pumpkin that will be the centerpiece of your Halloween festivities for the coming weeks is a decision not to be taken lightly. It certainly isn’t a decision to be made while shopping for groceries.

To pick the newest (albeit temporary) member of your family, you must go to its home and ride in a tractor-drawn wagon full of hay to a muddy field of vines. You must choose between the tall and skinny, short and stout, bumpy and smooth to find the ideal canvas for your orange Mona Lisa.

With the gravity of this decision in mind, the Weekend section and Going Out Guide have compiled a list of area pumpkin patches that enable sophisticated gourd connoisseurs to make a day of their journey. Hay rides? Corn mazes? Petting zoos? Check, check check.

Of course, a jack o’ lantern is more than just a pretty spooky face. Respect the inside as well as the outside by using the orange innards in one of the Food section’s pumpkin recipes.

And come the first weekend in November, when the squirrels have nibbled away at its last remaining Jack O’ Lantern tooth, give your pumpkin a hero’s farewell by launching it from a cannon.