Artfully arranged heaps of pumpkins, with dried corn stalks and hay bales as extra bait, are just too irresistible for the kids and I to pass up. So inevitably, almost everywhere we go this time of year, we come home with another pumpkin or two in tow.
There’s the “pumpkin patch” on the church lawn, locally grown pumpkins at various roadside produce stands (like the family–run Duckett’s Produce in Haywood County) or pumpkins at the farmers market.
To justify our pumpkin-buying sprees, we craft grand plans for an entire ensemble of carved pumpkins but never bring more than three or four to fruition by the big night. Not wanting to waste them, I then pledge to roast the seeds for snacks and render my own pumpkin puree for muffins. But that too falls by the wayside until my husband eventually totes the rotting pumpkin remnants off our porch and to the compost heap.
One place we absolutely won’t pass up a pumpkin souvenir, however, is from our annual corn maze outing.
Several corn mazes have cropped up in the mountains, and they make a great family tradition every fall. These aren’t just a romp through a corn field but are major agritourism operations with hayrides, concession stands and special festival days.
Teens are particularly talented at psyching themselves up to be freaked out by the “haunted” maze that takes over the corn fields at the Cold Mountain and Darnell Farms corn mazes come dusk. Younger kids, in fact, may want to avoid the mazes after the witching hour when the spooks start to roam the stalks.
Here’s a round-up of corn mazes in our neck of the woods:
• Darnell Farms Corn Maze, Bryson City. A corn maze, hayrides and working family farm in a picturesque setting along the Tuckasegee River. The corn maze becomes haunted on weekend nights. A produce stand on site sells farm goods of all sorts, including apples, jam and fall decorations like gourds and dried corn. Open daily, with hayrides Fri.-Sat. $5 for ages 4 and up; 3 and younger free. 828.488.3167. Find them on Facebook.
• Cold Mountain Corn Maze, Bethel (outside Canton). Hayrides, concessions, bonfire and “pint-sized” maze for toddlers. Corn maze becomes haunted after dark. Open 4 to 9 p.m. Wed.-Fri. and 1 to 9 p.m. Sat.-Sun. $8 for ages 4 and older; 3 and younger free. Find them on Facebook.
• Deals Farm, Franklin. A hayride takes you around the farm to the entrance of the corn maze. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fri.-Sat. To visit on Mon.-Thurs. or from 6 to 9 p.m. on weekend nights, call ahead to make an appointment. $5 for ages 6 and older, free 5 and younger. 828.524.5151. www.dealfarms.com.
• Eiliada Corn Maze, Asheville. The biggest corn maze in WNC, it has four miles of maze trails winding through a 12-acre maze. There are two storybook trails where younger kids can follow along with a story as they go through the maze. Other activities include corn cannons with pumpkin men targets, hayrides, a giant sandbox filled with corn kernels and spider-web climbing net.
It’s run by a nonprofit that helps abused, displaced, neglected or disadvantaged children in the region.
$9 for ages 12 and older; $6 for ages 4-11. Open from 4-8 p.m. on Fridays, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturdays, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sundays. www.eliada.org/get-involved/eliadas-annual-corn-maze.