Syracuse Area Pumpkin Patches

Halloween means big business for America's retailers. The National Retail Federation's annual survey projects Halloween spending to top a record $8.4 billion in 2016. And that's not just on candy. Costumes are big, sure, but so are agribusinesses related to the Oct. 31 fright night.

Central New York boasts a healthy share of pumpkin patches that convert to family fun centers for the month of October. Each features different attractions to keep a family busy before its members pick that special gourd. You can find a list here. Below is a sampling of pumpkin patches that dot the Central New York countryside.

Since October weather can be fickle, be sure to pack your sweater or jacket before you venture forth.

Iron Kettle Farm
Started in 1969, this family-owned farm outside Ithaca stands out for its creative bent. You'll walk through several pumpkin displays that imitate childhood favorites. That is, the owners carve, paint and otherwise dress up gourds and pumpkins to look like such characters as Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Ariel and her father King Triton, Beauty and the Beast, Three Blind Mice—you get the picture.

If you have a pre-schooler in tow, it's fun to challenge him or her to identify the pumpkins-as-characters. After that, the farm offers plenty of autumn-themed diversions for all ages, each with a separate fee. Be sure to visit the shop that sells a variety of seasonal items: soap, clothes, artwork, ceramics, baked goods (even gluten-free), and decorative gourds and pumpkins.

You could easily spend a day here and, if that is a weekday, all the better: This place gets pretty busy on weekends. Iron Kettle Farm is open daily through Oct. 31, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (607) 659-7707.

Critz Farms
This popular spot holds an autumn celebration weekdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and weekends, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., through Oct. 25. For a fee, paid only on weekends, your family can enjoy all the ongoing activities, events and entertainment including a corn maze, wagon rides (weekends only), U-pick pumpkins (pay by the pound), a hay bale climbing tower and corral playground.

Weekend admission is $7.50 per person, with a $30 per car maximum. Kids under 2 are free and seniors pay $5. Discount family passes are available here. There is no admission fee on weekdays, although attractions do carry a fee and some are not open then. It's best to consult the website or call for details. (315) 662-3355.

Katie's Pumpkin Patch
If you want a stripped-down version of fall and to just give the kids a ride out to the country (outer Baldwinsville) so they can pick their own pumpkin, this is the place. The no-frills Katie's sells U-pick pumpkins for $3 each (be careful; it can get muddy out there) and offers for free the corn maze with any purchase. Sunday-only hayrides are available for $1 per person.

Katie's is open Sundays 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and weekdays 10 a.m.-7 p.m. until darkness falls before 7. Then it's open until 6 p.m. (Note: Closed Saturdays) (315) 638-0876.

Tim's Pumpkin Patch
Located in southwest Onondaga County, near Otisco Lake, Tim's has been delighting families for 30 years. The scenic spot features a corn maze ($3 per person, $10 per family, free under age 2), a hay fort, a grain bin barn for kids to immerse themselves and a fossil dig in shale farmed in their nearby quarry.

Tim's most popular feature is the animal barn, with ducks, chickens, peacocks, a miniature horse, lambs, goats, rabbits, kittens pigs and a calf or two. Afterwards, take a gander at the spectacular fall foliage on a tractor-pulled wagon ride for $2 person, free under age 2.

Homemade cookies, donuts, bread, muffins and pumpkin whoopie pies (yum) are available, as are homemade fudge, pumpkin funnel cakes and apple fritters. Adults can check out Tim's Farm Brewery featuring locally produced craft beer and hard cider, some using Tim's farm-grown hops. The beer tasting barn is open weekends, and weekday tastings are available in the bakery.

Then there are the pumpkins, gloriously orange (and white) pumpkins, grown on 70 acres of the farm. If you pick your own, they will cost from $2-$4. If you choose to pick one already picked, they are $5 each. Tim's also grows and sells specialty pumpkins, such as white gourds, for $3-$15. Whatever you choose, you'll be sure to find a Jack-O'-Lantern worthy pumpkin.

Tim's Pumpkin Patch is open daily through Oct. 31, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (315) 673-9209.

While Molly English-Bowers tends to be grumpy about the end of summer, she can concede that visiting a pumpkin patch makes autumn a bit more tolerable.