About this series: With COVID-19 restrictions having eased over the last few months, Wheels wants to inspire you to get ready to explore — but only when it is safe to do so. This series of daytrips and longer drives highlight great experiences you can have in the province and across Canada, ands show you why this country is “Ours to Discover.”
Don’t let the idea of cold weather squash your intentions to get out there and discover great pumpkin patches and corn mazes within a quick drive of Toronto in the days before Halloween. Taking the kids out on a ride to enjoy the fall colours also means you can experience some of the terrific farm options found around the region. Just make sure to check the websites for each of these farms and experiences before visiting; online bookings might be required. Throw on your rubber boots, pull on a fall jacket, grab the kids and pack them into your car to enjoy one of the best seasons in southern Ontario. You’re sure to fall for the many events waiting to be discovered. Here are five to experience.
Pingles Farm Market
Located in Clarington, a community just north of Hwy. 401 and a few minutes east of Oshawa, Pingles Farm Market is well known for fall fun, especially with its “Alice in Wonderland” inspired 6.5-acre corn maze. Take a wagon ride out to the pumpkin patch, enjoy its farm themed Playland, or bring your dog for its special Hallowoof Festival (taking place Oct. 30), which includes costume contests and performing dog shows. Food and drink stations are located around the property, and you can also shop its market for farm-fresh goods, including its pies and cakes of the month. Buy your tickets to its Pingles Harvest Festival – there are weekday and weekend activities – in advance as they anticipate a sell-out (1805 Taunton Rd. in Clarington, pinglesfarmmarket.com).
Downey’s Farm Market
An eight-acre corn maze, complete with challenges, is a highlight at Downey’s, which is in Inglewood, northwest of Toronto. Along with the maze, there are wagon rides, tricycles, puppet shows and duck races. Its Combine Slide – set up next to the large farm machine – is safe and fun for kids, as is its tubular Goat Mountain Slide. You can expect live entertainment as you stroll around the grounds looking for the perfect pumpkin. You’ll want to purchase your Pumpkinfest Play Area tickets online in advance and different rates apply for weekdays and weekends. For the grown-ups, Downey’s also has a winery featuring iced fruit wines, dessert wines and a selection of award-winning reds and whites (13682 Heart Lake Rd. in Inglewood, downeysfarm.com).
Hanes is all about #MazeLife. One maze isn’t enough at this Dundas business, it has three: the requisite corn maze, a sunflower maze (seasonal) and a mini maze for younger kids. Its corn maze is the largest and is described as a human-sized puzzle spread across 20 acres, and featuring 12-foot-tall cornstalk walls. The maze includes checkpoints, allowing visitors to solve the puzzle, spin the wheel and maybe even win a prize. Feel a little stressed about Halloween coming up? You’ll want to spend some time at its Pumpkin & Corn Blasters, where ears of corn and mini pumpkins are fired at objects, including a rundown RV. Before you leave, be sure to pick up some of the locally-made jams, honeys, fruit pies and other baked goods from the Tiny Shop Bakery (1001 Highway No. 5 West in Dundas, thehanescornmaze.com).
Pick your own pumpkins and then tackle the corn maze at this York Region favourite. The farm market in Markham is jam packed with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget to pick up a famous pumpkin pie to enjoy while you carve your carefully selected gourd into a jack o-lantern. Reservations are required for Saturdays. Can’t get out there before the end of October? Reesor’s also has a year-round store on Main Street in Stouffville, which features prepared meals, soups, salads, bread, pies, muffins and more. Their deli, pantry and produce sections feature specialty foods made and grown in Ontario (10825 Ninth Line in Markham, reesors.ca).
A singing chicken show? That’s just the start of the activities at the Fun Farm Yard programming at Springridge Farm in Milton. Tube slides, farm animals and tractor-drawn wagon rides await for the kids, along with comfy Adirondack chairs for parents to enjoy. The views of the escarpment will enchant as you make your way around the farm to the many attractions. The Springridge Barn Shop features everything from home decor and books to gifts and jewelry. There are also homemade baked goods. Check out its Front Porch Servery for a delicious meal of home-style sandwiches, salads, soups and chilis (7256 Bell School Line in Milton, springridgefarm.com).
For the drive
As you head out to one of the farms, listen to “The Halloween Tree” by Ray Bradbury. Appropriate for ages eight to 12, this audiobook tells the tale of eight friends searching for their pal Pipkin, who might be in a haunted mansion, on Halloween. The story is a great mood setter for your pumpkin pickers and is available from Kobo audio books.
COVID-19 need to know
Most restaurants, stores and attractions are open with reduced capacity. Note that the government-mandated proof of vaccination rule is in effect. Check provincial guidelines before you head out on your road trip (ontario.ca).