Open for just one month every autumn, The Pumpkin Ranch seems more like a scene from a child’s dream than a family-run business. But that’s the way the Handsaker family planned it, hoping to create a family-friendly hub that celebrated their love of all things autumn. They began by cultivating their 9-acre cornfield into a complex maze, incorporating 12 checkpoints that make sure guests are on the right path and offer clues to the ranch’s Farm Scene Investigation mystery. Alongside the maze, the Handsakers have built up a 10-acre patch of pumpkins and gourds, where squashy specimens wait to be carved into jack-o’-lanterns or stomped into wine.
The hayrack ride transports guests to and fro on the ranch, speeding up walks so guests can spend more time reveling in the play zone’s bounce houses, climbable straw bales, and tire towers. For more exhilarating pastimes, the ranch offers tennis-ball launchers that send the bright orbs soaring at water-based targets, exhilarating zipline courses, and fire pits to warm up chilly fall afternoons. Inside the concession stand, staffers sell steamy cups of specialty ciders and hot chocolate alongside homemade baked goods, giving guests a taste of fall, and outside, vendors serve up larger bites such as grilled and smoked meat to fuel the outdoor fun.