Getting your fill of pumpkins, spooks and turkeys

By Ainslee Kellogg Mac Naughton

If fall could mean inviting a gentle, bling-loving turkey to sit in your lap instead of another trip to the same pumpkin patch, wouldn’t you want to try it? Not only does Boulder County have loads of fall activities perfect for wearing out kids, it even has Tom—a friendly turkey at Sunflower Farm who’s obsessed with diamond rings. Check out these fall family activities, which promise to be a blast for the kids and entertaining (we hope) for grown-ups too.

For more ideas, see the Halloween section in our Local Events listings.

Farms & Orchards

Sunflower Farm

Pony rides, a tree fort, a sand pit, a zip line, picnic spots and lots of friendly animals make Sunflower Farm a fall destination for families, but the real attraction is the chance to pet Tom the turkey. Turkeys are very social animals, and all the animals around the farm are friendly, so you don’t have to worry (too much) about the kids’ losing a finger. Watch out, though, ladies—Tom loves diamond rings and will follow women who wear them around the farm. “My kids constantly ask if we can go to Sunflower Farm, so sometimes I have to lie and tell them it’s closed,” says Lafayette mother of three Nicky Bayer.

$7 per person. 11150 Prospect Road, Longmont, 303-774-8001; www. sunflowerfarminfo.com.

Ya Ya Farm & Orchard

Wear the kids out with a trip to Ya Ya Farm & Orchard to pick your own heirloom apples. After filling your bags with apples, distract the kids with carrots to feed the orchard’s donkeys or horses while you grab fresh cider donuts and some fresh-pressed apple cider. Tour the farm via hayride, or just pop in to buy pre-picked apples and apple treats from the food stand. Plus, if you can’t get enough of their brethren at Sunflower Farm, turkeys roam at Ya Ya too. Hayrides cost $2 per person. Reservations required to pick apples.

$12 per bag of apples, picked yourself. 6914 Ute Highway (Colorado Route 66), Longmont, 303- 485-5585; www.yayafarmandorchard.com.

Cottonwood Farms

Your kids will drag you out to get pumpkins anyway, so you might as well make it fun. Cottonwood Farms has a pumpkin patch to pick through, but the pumpkins will be an afterthought with all the activities the farm offers. It’s open daily from Sept. 20 through Halloween, but on weekends you can also marvel over the old steam engine and catch a ride on the farm wagon pulled by a tractor. Pick up some organic squash from the farm stand for dinner while your kids play in the straw-bale maze. Admission is free. Hayrides cost $3 per person, except for children under 3, who ride free.

Southwest corner of 75th Street and Arapahoe Road, 720-890-4766; www.cottonwoodfarms.com.

Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Ranch

The Pumpkin Carnival kicks off with pumpkin picking as just one of the many kid-friendly activities during weekends in October. Take a ride on a pony, mini airplane or carousel car, check out the petting zoo (we aren’t sure if they have turkeys, but it’s always worth a look), or get lost in the hay maze or cornstalk tunnel. Get the sugar from the cotton candy, caramel apples and snow cones out of the little ones’ systems with a turn on the inflatable obstacle course, bouncy house and fire-truck slide. Each activity requires between one to five tickets, and tickets cost $1 each. Some activities are available Monday through Friday, when entry costs $7 per child over 3.On weekends, you pay by the activity.

9057 Ute Highway (Colorado Route 66), Longmont, 303- 684-0087; www.rockymtnpumpkinranch.com.

Miller Farms

For an educational experience, as well as a fun one, bring the kids to Miller Farms, where they can “be a farmer for a day.” Take a tractor ride out to the fields to pick up to five bags of fresh vegetables per person, or buy them pre-picked if the kids are worn out from the giant jumping balloon, petting zoo and corn maze. The fall harvest festival lasts through mid-November. Cost of admission covers produce (unless you pick more than five bags) and activities at the festival. $20 per adult and $15 per child aged 4-12. Children under 3 get in free. Group rates are available for families and school groups. On weekends, the playground and corn maze cost $3 per person.

13912 CR 19, Platteville, 970-785-6133; www. millerfarms.net.

Halloween Activities

Trick-or-Treating

Trick-or-treating seems like wholesome, innocent fun, but unfortunately, even though the razor-blades-in-candy conspiracy is actually a myth, dangers like costumes catching fire and hit-and-run car accidents are very real. These safe, manageable alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating let you worry a little less and enjoy Halloween a little more.

Munchkin Masquerade

Trick-or-treating at businesses on Pearl Street Mall; Oct. 31, 3-6 p.m.

Trick-or-Treat Street

Trick-or-treating at businesses in downtown Longmont following a Halloween parade; Oct. 25, parade starts at 10 a.m.; www.ci.longmont.co.us.

Trunk or Treat

Trick-or-treating from decorated trunks of cars at Erie Community Center; Oct. 25, 2:30-6 p.m.; www.erieco.gov.

Louisville Monster Dash

If you love to run and want to teach your kids the joys of running, the fifth annual Louisville Monster Dash is for you (if only for the cute photo ops). Parents can run a 5 or 10k, and costumed kids will love being just like Mom or Dad, running either the Monster Mini-Mile or the Spooky Sprint, a 100-yard race. Not only do all kids get a finisher ribbon, they also can compete in a costume contest, carve pumpkins, do arts and crafts, show off their pets in a pet-costume contest, and compete in a pumpkin-pie-eating contest. The event takes place Oct. 25 from 1-6 p.m., and the race starts at 3 p.m. Kids’ races start at 4:30 p.m. Register online. Downtown Louisville, 303-926-1017; www.monsterdashrun.com.

Kappa Kappa Gamma Halloween House

Trick-or-treating on the Hill in Boulder might be next to impossible the night of Halloween with the costumed college students running around, but University of Colorado sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma offers a safe alternative for kids under 10. Costumed kids can trick-or-treat, get their faces painted, dance to Halloween music, play games and more in a non-scary environment. The Halloween House takes place Sunday, Oct. 19, from noon to 4 p.m. The event benefits BoulderReads!, a literacy program through the Boulder Public Library. $5 per child; bring a children’s book in good condition to receive $1 off admission. Kappa Kappa Gamma house, 1134 University Ave.; www.associations.kappakappagamma.org/boulder.

Haunted Houses & Hayrides

Terror in the Corn

Terror in the Corn begins as a family-friendly hayride—until villains with chainsaws corner the tractor. Navigate the ghost town with monsters and spooks hiding around every corner, sure to provide a thrill-filled night. But be careful—this activity is best left to kids in fifth grade and up. When Erie parent Nicole Karsted’s third-grader was invited to a birthday party at Terror in the Corn, the spooky activity quickly went from fun to disastrous. “All the kids were crying, all huddled together, and I had to tell the actors, ‘Scared kids here!’” Karsted says. “One of the actors took his mask off to show the kids, but the mom hosting the party was mortified.” $20 per person, all ages. Anderson Farms, 6728 County Road, Erie, 303-828-5210; www.andersonfarms.com.

Boulder High School Haunted House

For brave elementary-school kids who can’t handle Terror in the Corn but still want to participate in a Halloween tradition, head to Boulder High School’s annual haunted house. It’s open Oct. 17-18, 24-25 and 30-31 from 7-11 p.m. Although the main hours are directed at teenagers and up, the haunted house has special less-scary daytime hours for younger kids, not yet set at press time. The haunted house raises money for the high school’s theater department. $5 per child, $8 per adult. Boulder High School, 1604 Arapahoe Ave., 720-561-2200.

Science Activities

Bug-a-Boo

At first glance, Bug-a-Boo might seem like just another safe alternative to trick-or-treating, but look again. With cockroach races every half hour and a costume parade led by Pete the Mantis, this activity isn’t your typical Halloween event. Costumed kids can hold Rosie the tarantula, get their faces painted or learn about bugs through educational games. The event runs Oct. 18-19 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. both days. Admission costs $9.50 per adult and $6.50 per child aged 2-12. Children under 2 get in free. Butterfly Pavilion, 6252 West 104th Ave., Westminster, 303-469-5441; www.butterflies.org.

Boo at the Zoo

Trick-or-treating and a visit to the zoo? Boo at the Zoo is a double whammy of kids’ favorite activities. Visit more than 25 trick-or-treat stations on Friday evening or Saturday, and don’t miss the animal demonstrations that focus on creepy critters like reptiles and vampire bats. Events take place Friday, Oct. 24, from 6:30-9:30 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 25, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Activities included in the price of admission. $15 per adult and $10 per child aged 3-11. Children under 3 get in free. Denver Zoo, 2300 Steele St., Denver, 720-337-1400; www.denverzoo.org. 

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Freelance writer Ainslee Kellogg Mac Naughton is a 2014 CU graduate and former Brock Media staffer.