It's the real rite of autumn for any kid (and many a grown-up, too): You really know fall is here when you go out into the fields to pick your pumpkin. And it can't be just any pumpkin. There's always going to be one pumpkin that speaks your language, who winks at you alluringly from behind a vine, a pumpkin that is perfect in shape and, more important, personality. Where will you run into yours?
Cottonwood Farm 75th Street and Arapahoe Road, Boulder 720-890-4766
Cottonwood hosts a fall festival showcasing its pick-your-own organically grown pumpkins, daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., beginning this Saturday and continuing through Halloween. The farm has all the usual harvest must-haves, including corn and straw bale mazes, animals and tractors; of special note is Cottonwood's 1906 Case steam tractor, a true relic of farming's past that's indicative of Cottonwood Farm's emphasis on farm history. Admission is free; for $3, you can take a wagon ride.
Hill's Harvest 3225 E. 124th Avenue, Thornton 303-451-5637
Hill's Harvest is a classic u-pick farm, with pumpkins ripening to perfection in late September. You can pick yours in the field, or be lazy and choose from a pre-picked selection; fall decorations, including gourds, Indian corn, straw bales and corn stalks are also available. You can also find pie pumpkins and advice on how to prepare them for use in a favorite recipe. Visit daily from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m., through October 31; admission is free.
Mazzotti Farms 2628 WCR 49, Hudson 303-536-4089
Here's some agritainment for you, with a capital A: Not just a pumpkin patch, Mazzotti Farms features an unscary kids' corn maze, a petting zoo, a tipi, caramel apples, a giant slide, scarecrow-making and other seasonal goodies to go along with your pumpkin-picking. Visit on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Oct. 2 through 31; admission is $10 and includes one pumpkin per paid ticket. And it'll put you back another $15 if you want to build a scarecrow to take home. Plan to make a day of it.
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Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Ranch 9059 Ute Highway, Longmont 303-684-0087
The Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Ranch has it all: pony rides, petting zoo, mazes, obstacle course, see-inside bee hive, do-it-yourself cider press, food vendors. You can even pose under the Magical Pumpkin Tree. And, oh yeah, you can pick a certified organic pumpkin, too. Rocky Mountain is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for limited, self-guided activities at $7 per child; every Saturday and Sunday in October is reserved for the all-inclusive October Pumpkin Festival, with all the activities ongoing from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Osborn Farm Pumpkin Patch 1230 S. Boise Avenue, Loveland 970-669-4407
Osborn Farm is small, neat and to the point: You go, you park your car, you grab a wheelbarrow, and you get a pumpkin. It's also a pretty farm and an old one with deep roots. Osborn kicks off its pumpkin-picking season the first weekend of October with a Market Days celebration featuring live music, craft vendors hayrides and more (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 2 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. October 3) and the pumpkin patch remains open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, through Halloween. Admission is always free.