Pumpkins, patches of all sizes and shapes
Just as pumpkins come in all colors, shapes and sizes -- the patches they grow in are diverse, too. U-pickers can visit several dozen farms -- small fields with classic orange pumpkins, multi-acre properties growing unusual heirloom gourds or full-fledged "agri-tainment" destinations with hayrides, corn mazes and other kiddie fun to round out the afternoon.
Here are a few places to make your pick -- many more are listed in our full guide to pumpkin picking at exploreLI.com/halloween.
IF YOU WANT AN UNUSUAL SELECTION
Fairview Farm in Bridgehampton (69 Horsemill Lane, 631-537-6154) grows 40 varieties of pumpkins, gourds and edible squashes on 10 acres. Spice up your yard display with large Blue Hubbards, vibrant Turk's Turbans, knobby peanut pumpkins or deeply grooved and pale Cinderella pumpkins going for 69 cents a pound. "We like to add texture and colors that make displays more interesting," says co-owner Harry Ludlow.
Some new offerings are the curvaceous snake gourd and the squat, grooved Queensland Blue.
ALSO TRY Helen's Pumpkin Farm/ McKay's Family Farm in Aquebogue (Union Avenue and Route 105, 631-779- 2893, helensflowerfarm.com) also has a serious selection of not just plain orange offerings -- you can find warty Lunch Lady pumpkins, tiny gourds and other treats for 59 to 79 cents a pound.
FOR GIANT PUMPKINS
Some like them massive -- as in topping out at more than 100 pounds. Hank's Pumpkintown in Water Mill (240 Montauk Hwy., 631-726-4667, hankspumpkintown.com) grows Prizewinners, a variety that can hit triple digits, should you want a monster pumpkin for the front stoop or backyard -- they sell for 65 cents a pound.
ALSO TRY Rottkamp's Fox Hollow Farm in Baiting Hollow (2287 Sound Ave., 631-727-1786) grows another variety of supersize pumpkin -- the aptly named Big Mac, 55 cents a pound) as part of its 4 acres of U-pick fields.
ROOM TO ROAM
Sometimes, size does matter. If you like the idea of wandering through acre after acre of pumpkins to find just the right one, consider Stakey's Pumpkin Farm in Aquebogue (270 West Lane, 631-722- 3467, stakeyspumpkinfarm.com), which has 26 acres of pumpkins, gourds and squashes (59 cents a pound). Pick up a wheelbarrow and browse -- or take a perfunctory wagon ride around the perimeter first to plot your approach.
ALSO TRY Krupski's Farm in Peconic (38030 Main Rd./Route 25, 631-734-6847, tinyurl.com/8hef8u9) has 15 acres of U-pick fields with two dozen conventional and heirloom varieties going for 59 cents a pound.
SPEND THE DAY
All-in-one destinations are particularly good for families. Before or after picking, the crew can play games, take a hayride or explore a maze.
Fink's Country Farm in Wading River (6242 Middle Country Rd., 631-886-2272, finksfarm.com) offers a fixed-price $13 deal (free younger than 3) that includes unlimited runs through its 7-acre corn maze, hayrides, bounce house and other play stations, plus quirky entertainment such as pig races.
IF YOU DON'T WANT TO DRIVE TO THE EAST END
While traveling to the North or South Fork can be a lot of fun, sometimes you don't have an entire day to gather pumpkins. Among the mid-Suffolk options: Borella's Farm Stand in St. James (485 Edgewood Ave., 631-862-7330, borellasfarmstand.com), with its 8-acre patch and a $10 flat fee that covers a small corn maze, hayride and inflatables.
Brightwaters Farms in Bay Shore (1624 Manatuck Blvd., 631-665-5411, brightwatersfarms.com) charges everyone more than 1 year old a $5 admission fee for its weekend fall festivals. You'll get unlimited hayrides, face-painting and access to a farm-themed playground -- other activities are priced a la carte, from pumpkin picking (69 cents a pound) to feeding animals ($2).