By Sarah Johnson
The leaves are turning colors. The air is turning crisp. And you are turning onto Georgia 400 North, or at least you should be, to pick your perfect pumpkin and partake in fall family festivities in North Georgia. Atlanta is only an hour away from so many unique pumpkin farms that offer breathtaking views of the mountains and a refreshing change of pace from city life. Here are few top spots where you and your family can explore these patches of happiness. Best of all, there are no admission charges so it’s free fun! Make sure to pack a picnic lunch and, of course, the camera for the multitude of photo opps you are sure to encounter.
1. Kinsey Family Farm
Farm animals, pumpkins, hayrides and picnics. Need I say more? Upon driving into the picturesque, family-owned farm located in North Forsyth County, you will see friendly, adorable farm animals on both sides of the road, eager to be petted and fed some grass or a cup of animal food that can be purchased for $1 inside the fall harvest shop/barn. Walk a little farther into the property and step inside the giant, charmingly decorated barn, filled with pumpkins ranging in size from the 1-pound “Jack-Be-Little” to the 100-pound “Prize Winner” and everything in between. Grab some edible pumpkins perfect for making holiday pies and some fresh apples, local honey, jams, jellies or even edible squash. We purchased a fresh loaf of apple bread and a bag of boiled peanuts before we left with our very happy 1 year old and a trunk full of pumpkins.
There are plenty of wooden wagons outside the barn to transport your orange autumn vegetables and your tots. Inside the barn, buy your hayride tickets ($3) and food to feed the catfish ($1) in the pond that the tractor will visit during the open-air, straw-filled excursion. The catfish are huge, and you will see plenty swimming and jumping below you. The ducks share in the chomping action, too. Along with the visit to the pond, during the leisurely ride around the property, you will see hundreds of Christmas trees being grown. Kinsey Family Farm is where we come every year to search for and cut down our tree so it was special to see our perfect tree in the making.
There are several picnic tables providing beautiful views of the property if you choose to stay for lunch. The farm is open every day until Halloween: Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
2. Uncle Shuck’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze
Just off 400 in Dawsonville is a 12-acre field of tall corn known as Uncle Shuck's Maze. The maze comprises roughly 4 miles of twisting-turning trails – and dead-ends! This year’s challenging maze creates the image of an old man sitting in a rocking chair. My husband, sister and I had a blast trying to navigate our way through the maze when we went a couple years ago. We are going back this month with my seven nephews, and we are planning a competition to see who can find all the checkpoints and make it out of the maze the quickest. An average journey will take as little as 30 minutes to complete one maze, or as long as two hours to complete both mazes.
The corn maze is $10, or purchase the cob combo for a hayride and the corn maze for only $13. There is a $1 off coupon on their website that you can print off or you can order your tickets in advance through the website.
After an aMAZE-ing time in the maze, meander through the pumpkin patch, relax on a hayride along the Etowah River and through the corn, and check out the towering goat walk as nimble goats climb up and down the steep boardwalks to towers high above your head. (They also come down for goat feed, which is available for only 50 cents.)
Come hungry and choose from hamburgers, chicken, hot dogs, bratwurst, popcorn, funnel cakes, caramel apples, chocolate covered frozen bananas, boiled peanuts, fresh baked goodies and candies.
I’ve never tried the haunted maze offered in the evenings, but it sounds like a fun - and spooky - adventure. Cap off the evening with an evening hayride complete with a bonfire and marshmallows.
Uncle Shuck’s Corn Maze is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m,. Friday 4 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
3. Burt’s Farm
About 18 miles northwest of Uncle Shuck’s and also in Dawsonville, is Burt’s Farm. It’s been a fall tradition for some families since 1987, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that we stumbled upon the orange sea of pumpkins during a drive up to Amicalola Falls. (Enjoy a hike beneath the fall foliage or at least stop by to visit the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast.) Our eyes were drawn to the massive amounts of people making their way to the popular autumn accessories. Burt’s quickly became an annual tradition for my family. We went last year with our 3-month-old son and had fun propping him up on the giant pumpkins (they range in size from 1 to 150 pounds) and I know when we go back in a couple weeks, it will be hard to keep him from jumping all over the pumpkins! Just being there will get you in the fall spirit. Along with pumpkins, winter squash, gourds and fall decorations surround every inch of the farm. Hop on the John Deere tractor for a hayride ($5 for adults, $4 for kids 12 and younger and free for babies 12 months and younger) through the winding trail and, of course, make your visit complete by visiting the “barn” store for fresh baked pumpkin pie, candied popcorn and, new this season, funnel cakes and deep fried pumpkin rolls (cooked in a jelly pan and loaded with cream cheese)! Burt’s also sells pumpkin shampoo, conditioner, body wash and facial cleaner, all loaded with vitamins A, C and E along with beta-carotene. Pumpkin products absorb well and soften your skin!
The cost of activities range from $1 (three shots with the corn cannon) to $16 (corn maze, haunted maze and hayride). Hayrides are offered every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Burt’s Farm is open through Oct. 30 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sarah Johnson, APR, is a guest blogger for Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB). She is a communications consultant whose prior roles included working as an internal communications strategist for WellStar Health System and a public relations specialist for ACVB. She resides in Cumming with her husband and their year-old son.