As much as Fall gets me excited for cooler weather and a change of pace, Southern CA seems to never get the memo on the "cooler" part. Being that it is October and Harvest fun is all around us, I want to share some suggestions to help you avoid: crowds, hot temps, and overpaying, when you venture out to enjoy some family fun for Fall.
The following are my favorite Pumpkin Patches in proximity to CCSJC.
#1 South Coast Farms;
32701 Alipaz St
San Juan Capistrano
This place rocks in all categories: quaint, well-shaded, photo ops a-plenty, free to enter, unique experiences, close proximity. Plus, as a bonus, you can shop for local organic produce at the farm stand while your kiddos browse for their fave gourd.
This patch is perfect for ages 0-8. They have a beading station for free necklace or bracelet making, bamboo teepees and cardboard box mazes, rustic-charming washboard practice station, a tractor to sit on and some years they offer face painting as well.
#2 Irvine Park:
1 Irvine Park Rd, Orange
OK so this one may be a 25 minute trek from most of us in San Juan Capistrano or San Clemente, but the size and the range of activities makes this #2 on my favorites list. If you have never been to Irvine Regional park, there is a Zoo (entrance is only $3) a railroad ($5) Pony Rides ($5) Paddle Boats (Cheap but I don't know the exact) Bike rentals and tons of picnic areas and playgrounds completely SHADE COVERED. This place is heavenly. Their Fall Celebration hosts many activities and photo ops for kids ages 0-12. There is no entry fee only a $5 parking charge on weekends ($3 during the week) Food and Beverages are available to purchase and there are so many fun little areas to let your family explore. There are bounce houses and hay mazes and gold panning and tractor rides. The face painting was pricey at $10 but it was legit from what we saw. Our little family went and only did the free things other than a $5 pony ride, we brought our own snacks and water and had a great time for $10 total including parking.
#3 Zoo Mars
31791 Los Rios St, San Juan Capistrano
Zoo Mars is one of my daughter's favorite places. She adores animals and loves to pretend to be afraid of the goats while they eat her shirt. If you have never been, Zoo Mars is in the Los Rios District (walking distance from CCSJC) You can also walk to many restaurants and cute shops as well as the mission from here This district itself is the oldest continually occupied neighborhood in CA with buildings dating back to 1794. But enough about the cool vibe of the area, Zoo Mars is pretty special in it's own rite. The petting zoo and kid haven is well kept, cleanly, and full of rustic charm. The only reason I cringe a tiny bit are the prices. Zoo Mars costs $10 for adult admission and $8 for child admission (age 12mo+) That is steep in my opinion. You can purchase discount packs or pounce on the annual pass when it arrives again on Groupon (usually in November). But even at full fare, a once in a while trip here is great. The kids can feed guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens, piggies, goats, donkeys, horses, llamas, emu, alpaca, and sometimes a zebra on loan from Cambria. The corn box and mineral panning are big hits as well as the pony and train rides for a few extra dollars. You will want to bring a few extra bucks even if you have an annual pass for feed and little rides. There is a playground and a picnic area, so I strongly suggest bringing lunch. The pumpkins that they have are beautiful and all cleaned and shined for you. They have many fairytale and giant pumpkins as well as white and mini. You can also buy large corn-stalks here to adorn your entryways if you are in to that sort of thing ;-)