PLEASE NOTE: This post is about the 2013 event. It is possible that it may contain some outdated information. While this post should still give you a great idea of the overall experience, please be sure to check the Pumpkintown USA website for details about things like dates, hours and pricing.
It’s October, and you know what that means…it’s almost time for the holiday that’s equally beloved by both kids and grownups alike: Halloween! I mean, a whole day where it’s not only encouraged, but practically required to act like a kid again. Squish your hands in pumpkin innards. Decorate your house with whimsical witches and plastic arachnids. Dress in something crazy. Spook your neighbors (all in good fun, of course 🙂 ). Eat tons of candy like the calorie count is non-existent. How can you not love that? So to kick off the spooky season, I’ve got a super fun, totally non-scary Halloween treat that’s perfect for the little ones: a road trip to Pumpkintown USA in East Hampton, Connecticut.
I’d heard about Pumpkintown from a few of my friends, but East Hampton, CT is one of those towns that I’m not that familiar with, and I always assumed it was pretty far away from the Hartford area. Turns out I was completely wrong about that! Pumpkintown is located just down the road from our friends at Jessica’s Garden in Marlborough, CT (a place I go frequently). So it was a quick, 20-minute drive for me from my town of Glastonbury.
Now for the drama. I’d been planning to go to Pumpkintown for their opening weekend (9/21/13) for months, but the rainy start to the weekend made me worry about things being wet and muddy, so we decided to postpone until the next weekend. Well, wouldn’t you know it? Hubby got called out of town for work a few days before and wouldn’t be able to make it back in time for our rescheduled outing. Lucky for me, I have some wonderful friends who were willing to take on the challenge of accompanying me on my first solo blog outing with the two kiddos (thanks again, guys!) and didn’t mind chasing after Boo while I ran around snapping pictures.
We arrived around 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, which is just when things are getting going. There are so many signs and so much pumpkin-themed paraphernalia right on the roadside that it’s impossible to miss this place. When in doubt, look for this giant inflatable pumpkin that’s across the street.
I was able to follow the signs, enter next to the pumpkin patch, and find a parking spot around the back of the building right next to the Pumpkintown entrance. There is additional parking down the hill from this upper lot (follow the sign).
And even more additional parking on the other side of the street (which is also where you’ll find “The Ride”, but more on that later). Never fear. There is a crossing guard there to help you cross the busy Route 66.
Since we arrived a little bit before my friend and her family, Boo and I checked out the little nearby store stocked with fresh produce, homemade goods, fall decor, and Halloween-themed merchandise. (Note: There is also a larger garden and hardware store next door, but for some reason I didn’t ever snap a picture of it. Sorry!)
It’s a good thing I was on my own at this point and distracted by trying to keep track of Boo. Otherwise, I think I would have loaded up the car with purchases!
Next, we headed outside to check out the pumpkin patch.
There are a couple of things I just want to point out. First of all, that street out there (Route 66) is a VERY busy street, with cars whooshing by super fast. Second of all, that white fencing you see there at the far end of the pumpkin patch is a lot smaller than it looks. So although it is great to have that little border there to help corral the little ones, it’s not enough of a barrier to substitute for substantial parental supervision.
Here we go again with Boo trying to lift his weight in pumpkin.
My little pumpkin in the pumpkin patch 🙂
Speaking of pumpkin weight, these pumpkins are all sold at a fixed price that’s marked on the top of the pumpkin. That’s a little different from most of the places we’ve been to where you pay by the pound (it always seems a little stressful to me to let Boo pick out some pumpkins and then find out later at the cashier that we’re spending an obscene amount on gourds). At least here you know upfront how much you’re spending.
We decided to wait for our friends over near the entrance to the main event.
As you can see, there are picnic tables set up. There’s a snack bar here serving nachos, hot dogs, and other assorted sweet and savory treats.
Later, we had considered getting out some food we’d brought for the kiddos so they could eat lunch, but now as I write this post I noticed the sign in that picture above that said “Please no food brought in” and I’m wondering if they would have put up much fuss about us giving our three-year-olds some snacks. I’m guessing they would be understanding that little kids can be super picky and parents need to be able to feed them packed snacks from home. But to be safe, I wouldn’t plan on bringing a full picnic lunch to eat here.
It wasn’t long before we met up with my friend and her family, and we were ready to take a tour of Pumpkintown.
We bought our tickets ($4/each; under 2 FREE; credit cards accepted)–hang on to those because they are good for one free try at the slingshot game–got our hands stamped (one of the highlights of the day for Boo– he was so sad when it finally washed away sometime the next day), and headed on in.
Here I am ready to go with the little guy:
Hehe. Just kidding 🙂 For real now:
Basically, Pumpkintown is a fully enclosed area roughly the size of a football field (don’t quote me on that; I am not a sports person) that includes a town filled with cute little buildings to explore, charming pumpkin characters to “meet”, a pint-sized hay bale maze, and some other play areas for the kiddos including a bounce house and a space filled with these really fun, giant inflatable tubes that Boo adored (seriously, it’s a wonder we were able to get him to go see anything else). I don’t want to give too much away because half the fun is getting to discover all the pumpkin people for yourself, but here are a few snaps to pique your interest:
This one was particularly popular with our kiddos because inside there was some sort of obstacle course that the kids could climb through and then slide down a little pole on the other side. (Confession time: my friend and I pretty much stood there chatting while her husband ran back and forth around the building as the kids scrambled through and hoisted them on that pole at least a dozen or more times; poor thing. In our defense though, we were both wearing our babies, so it wasn’t like we could help much. Wink, wink :))
Those fun tubes I mentioned:
The pumpkin bounce house. There’s also a little coloring area over here in case there’s a line for bouncing. And of course, kids need to take their shoes off, so be prepared for that.
In the back left corner, you’ll find the hay bale maze. It’s actually a little bit challenging if you’re only 3 feet tall and can’t see the bird’s eye view 🙂
In the front left corner you’ll find the slingshot game. Now, if you’ve saved your entrance tickets like I told you to, you can have a free try for each ticket. After that, it’s $1 for three balls.
It’s probably too advanced for kids Boo’s age to do on their own, but with the help of a parent (no extra charge for that!), it was pretty fun to watch those balls fly out over the pond there. And hey, you have those free tickets anyway.
Pumpkintown is also filled with great photo opportunities, from your standard cut-outs…
To fun props like this big tractor…
Don’t worry, there’s no climbing required. There are stairs 🙂
There’s even (free!) face painting…
As you can see, there is a lot to do in here for just $4/person! It seems like a pretty good bargain to me. And if you go during the week, it’s only $1/person! (Except Columbus Day, when you’ll pay the weekend price.) UPDATE: Based on a reader comment, it sounds like a few of the Pumpkintown activities may not be open during the week; please see comments section below for details.
But wait, there’s more…
So after we had our fill of Pumpkintown (well, let’s be honest, we adults had our fill; the kids could have stayed for hours and hours), we headed across the street (don’t forget to wait for the crossing guard!) and up the hill (it’s a little bit of a trek) to find “The Ride.”
You purchase your tickets right up there on the hill. It’s $6/person (credit cards accepted; under 2 FREE).
Then just wait in the line near the wood fence for the next tractor-pulled wagon to arrive. The ride runs continuously on the weekends and every hour on the hour on weekdays.
Here comes the wagon!
It took a little convincing to get Boo to sit on the hay and not the floor of the wagon 🙂
The ride is about a mile long and takes about 15 minutes. As you cruise through the woods you’ll pass various pumpkin characters and their dwellings.
Unfortunately for me, the little guy, who until now was snoozing happily in the BabyBjorn, decided to wake up and scream. And scream. And scream. And here I was, trapped on a wagon ride. Without my diaper bag (which I’d left in the car thinking I wouldn’t need it). Oh goodie. I eventually managed to calm him down, but in the meantime I missed out on taking pictures during most of the ride. So pretty much all these photos were taken by my friend’s husband. First he chases my kid around in the hot sun for an hour, then he saves my post with hay ride photos. Bless him 🙂
This is just a small sampling of the scenes you’ll see. I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you!
As we exited the wagon, Boo was handed a great big sticker (have I told you how much he loves stickers these days?). He was so proud.
If you’re looking for a fun, festive, non-scary way to celebrate the Halloween season, well then, it’s time for a road trip to Pumpkintown USA. Enjoy your visit!
Hours & Admission:
UPDATE September 2015: The 2015 Pumpkintown USA event will take place from September 19th through Halloween. This post is about the 2013 event. It is possible that it may contain some out-dated information. While this post should still give you a great idea of the overall experience, please be sure to check the Pumpkintown USA website for details about things like hours and pricing.
Tips & Things to Bring:
- I used a wearable baby carrier for my little guy because I wanted to be able to run around after Boo without being encumbered by a stroller. But you could definitely use a stroller inside the Pumpkintown area. You won’t be able to take it on the hay ride though. We did see some strollers hanging out up near the ride waiting for their owners to return, but there is no secure place to leave them.
- I would recommend getting there as close to 10:00 a.m. as possible because it got very busy, very quickly (at least on a weekend day). I was able to find a parking spot right near the main venue without any problem at 10:15. By 11:00, it looked like most people arriving would be parking down the hill or across the street.
- Credit cards (Visa/Mastercard/Discover) accepted at the ticket booth for Pumpkintown, the ticket booth for “The Ride”, and at the snack bar. Cash accepted too, of course. No checks.
- Food available at the snack bar. They ask that you not bring in any outside food, but I imagine they’d be okay with it if you needed to bring some small snacks for your toddler or picky-eating preschooler. This is a family-friendly event, after all.
- Sheepishly, I admit that I failed to sufficiently scout the restroom situation on this one (I was so preoccupied trying to keep track of the kiddos on my first outing sans hubby). I did see porta-potties, and only porta-potties, near Pumpkintown and up near the hay ride, but I don’t know if there is any kind of real restroom located in either of the stores. If you know (and aren’t too embarrassed to talk about public restrooms on a blog–you know we aren’t!) please tell us. UPDATE: We’ve had a reader come to our rescue! See comments section below for info about the “real” restroom. Thanks, Patty! 🙂
- Be aware that this event is located right near a very busy street and there are areas that are not completely fenced in. Be prepared to tail your little ones pretty closely.
Meet Our Sponsors!
- The Independent Day School – Located on a rural campus in Middlefield, CT is a private pre-school, elementary and middle school, serving families from over 20 communities.
- Jessica’s Garden – This Marlborough destination is a gardening center and family-friendly eatery rolled into one. A great place to take the kids, relax and enjoy the beautiful grounds, and check out their ice cream and lobster shack.
- Kathryn Deane Photography – Kathryn is a natural light photographer specializing in maternity, newborn, child, family, and senior portrait photography.
- Moms in Training (MIT) – The newest branch of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. MIT is a Fairfield-based, flexible 8-week fitness program for moms who want to get fit, meet other local moms and help cure cancer!
- Stella and Dot Stylist, Tisa Rabun-Marshall can help you get your wardrobe set for fall or begin your Holiday gift shopping with the latest in boutique-style jewelry and accessories.
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