The first keg of Munich’s Oktoberfest beer gets tapped on Sept. 17. Five days later, the autumnal equinox arrives. Days are growing shorter. Humidity is dropping. Summer is over. (Sorry, not sorry.)
Whether you’re looking to embrace the spirit of the harvest with family and friends or just explore the tastes of fall, there’s a perfect event on the horizon.
Fall Festival at Summers Farm: Families have visited Summers Farm for fall fun for more than 26 years, but this year, be sure to take note of the farm’s new address. “It’s all the same activities, the same ownership, just a different farm four miles down the road,” explains owner Teresa Summers. The new, larger farm near Frederick is set up for wagon rides and a Dolly Parton-themed corn maze, as well as other kid-friendly activities like zip lines, slides and tug of war. The pumpkin patch and fall festival kick off Sept. 17 and run through Halloween, with fireworks displays on Friday and Saturday nights starting Sept. 30. Open daily from Sept. 17 to Oct. 31. 7503 Hollow Road, Middletown, Md. summersfarm.com. $12.50-$17.50 online, $15.50-$20.50 at the gate; free for children 2 and younger.
Bluemont Fair: If you want your city-slicker kid to get the chance to ride a pony and compete in a sack race while getting a dose of fresh mountain air, make the drive out to the Bluemont Fair. This Loudoun County village in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains throws a fall festival with all sorts of wholesome activities and demonstrations, including model train collections, quilt shows, pickle and pie competitions, bake sales, antique markets and blacksmith demos. Sept. 17-18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 33846 Snickersville Tpk., Bluemont, Va. bluemontfair.org. $10; free for children 9 and younger.
Bowles Farms Corn Maze and Pumpkin Farm: This is the 22nd year that Tina and Tommy Bowles have created a corn maze at their Southern Maryland farm, and the weather has been perfect for a towering maze. “This year, we’ve had some nice significant rain, and the corn is probably 9 to 10 foot tall,” Tina Bowles says. “We’re certainly going to lose a lot of people in the corn maze.” Luckily, the farm’s “corn cops” will be on hand to rescue anyone who gets hopelessly lost in the 15-acre, sunflower-themed maze. There’s an easier kiddie version, in addition to attractions like a farm-inspired playground, wagon rides, pick-your-own pumpkins and the Farmer’s Daughter cupcake shop. You can purchase tickets at the door, no advance tickets needed. Open Saturday and Sunday from Sept. 24 to Oct. 30. 22880 Budds Creek Rd., Clements, Md. bowlesfarms.com. $15; free for children 3 and younger.
Reston Farm Garden Market Fall Festival: Thanks to an extra car, this year’s Reston Farm Garden Market Express Train will fit even more children and parents as it snakes around the property in Reston, traveling past the Fall Festival’s pumpkin displays and moon bounce houses. “The train goes around the farm market, and it plays funny little kid music. I know all the songs; I hear them in my sleep,” jokes Bonita Weinstein, who owns the market with her husband, Lowell. After kids play at the festival and visit a petting zoo with pigs, goats, chickens and a rooster named Colonel, they can pick out a pumpkin to take home — don’t worry about a hard sell, parents, as it’s included in each child’s ticket. Leave time to visit the market, which will be stocked with chrysanthemums and pansies, and decadent pantry items from bacon to apple cider doughnuts. Open Saturday and Sunday from Sept. 24 to Oct. 30, plus Oct. 10. 10800 Baron Cameron Ave., Reston, Va. restonfarm.com. $28 per child and $7 per parent; free for children 24 months and younger.
Pumpkin Festival at Butler’s Orchard: Butler’s Orchard’s 42nd annual Pumpkin Festival is already chockablock with spots for kids to run free — such as a straw-filled hayloft and a 70-foot-long jumping pad — and this year will see three new attractions in addition to the popular mazes, pumpkin cannons and hayrides. Cute little goats will scamper up the 16-foot-tall Goat Mountain, and the very first tractor purchased for the farm will be set out for a tractor pull. “Get your friends together and try to pull this tractor to the finish line,” Butler’s Orchard general manager Tyler Butler says about this new activity spotlighting his grandfather’s old John Deere M tractor. Meanwhile, construction-obsessed kids will love hopping on mini-diggers and actually digging a hole using hydraulic levers with these little machines shipped from Sweden. On the way out, drive to the pumpkin patch to pick your own pumpkins for 75 cents per pound. Open Wednesday through Sunday from Sept. 24 to Oct. 30, plus Oct. 10. Butler’s Orchard, 22222 Davis Mill Rd., Germantown, Md. butlersorchard.com. $10-$15 online, $12-$17 at the gate; free for children younger than 2. Advance reservations are recommended, particularly on weekends.
Fall Pumpkin Harvest Festival at Great Country Farms: Little piglets race for Oreos and a “P-Rex” dinosaur chomps down on pumpkins during the Fall Pumpkin Harvest Festival at Great Country Farms in Bluemont. This popular family attraction offers a corn maze and a 12-acre play area with a new, extra-long “mega slide,” as well as cider press demos and wagon rides to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch. On the weekends, adults will appreciate live music (the Jimmy Buffett-style Tropical Attitudes Band kicks things off at the festival on Oct. 1) and a pop-up for Henway Hard Cider at the farm’s on-site “Roosteraunt.” Open daily from Oct. 1-31. 34345 Snickersville Tpk., Bluemont, Va. greatcountryfarms.com. $10-$16. Free for children 2 and younger. Advance reservations are recommended, particularly on weekends.
Fall Family Fun at Miller Farms: Miller Farms has been owned by the Miller family since 1873, and it’s billed as the largest vegetable grower in Prince George’s County, with more than 200 acres dedicated to production. County residents know Miller Farms’ Clinton market as a go-to place for a variety of goods — produce and meat, sure, but also a full-service bakery, soft-serve ice cream, a nursery full of mums and, in early summer, pick-your-own strawberries. Come fall, the farm opens its fields and barn to the community on Saturdays and Sundays for Fall Family Fun, with hayride tours of the fields, a corn maze, jumping pads and slides, games, and meet-and-greets with farm animals. Piles of pumpkins encourage browsing, and the day isn’t complete without a taste of the bakery’s apple cider doughnuts, available glazed or covered in cinnamon sugar. Open Saturday and Sunday from Oct. 1-30. 10140 Piscataway Rd. Clinton, Md. millerfarmsclinton.com. $14.95 online, $16.25 at the gate; free for children younger than 2. Advance reservations recommended.
Pumpkin Patch at Queen Anne Farm: Queen Anne Farm doesn’t have the jumping pads, pig races, or other bells and whistles found at other farm festivals, but that’s what makes it such a charmer. During the summer and early fall, the main attraction is the roadside stand, not far from the Anne Arundel County line, where the tables are stocked with sweet corn, tomatoes, okra and eggplant. But in the fall, it takes on the appearance of a one-stop seasonal shop: bundles of Indian corn speckled with jewel-tone purples, lemon yellows and deep auburn. Decorative gourds with twisting swan’s necks. Nubby pumpkins in creamy white or vermilion. But in a field just behind the shop, there are even more pumpkins — traditional orange pumpkins in a field, surrounding a child-size, pumpkin-shaped playhouse. Pull a wagon out to the pumpkin patch to find the perfect canvas for a jack-o’-lantern, or take a tractor-pulled hayride out to explore. There’s plenty of room to run, plus photo backdrops including animals made of straw, but the lack of amenities makes Queen Anne a better choice for families with smaller kids, or an outing for grown-ups looking for supplies to make a centerpiece or decorate their front yards. Open daily from Oct. 1-31. 18102 Central Ave., Mitchellville, Md. queenannefarm.com. $10 per car for pumpkin patch admission.
Loudoun Farm Tour: Loudoun County is a multifaceted place. On one hand, it has the highest median household income in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau, and it’s the fastest-growing county in Northern Virginia. Loudoun is also home to more than 1,200 farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent Census of Agriculture. The twice-annual Loudoun Farm Tour shows off dozens of local farms, allowing visitors of all ages to meet pigs and alpacas; tour fields and greenhouses; go on a hayride; or just pick up some fresh beef, veggies, honey or artisan cheese to bring home. Oct. 15-16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A downloadable map will be available on loudounfarms.org. Admission to most farms is free; there may be additional fees for some activities or tours.