Sunday, October 2, 2011

Battle of the Chicago Area Pumpkin Farms

Before I had kids, I did not know why pumpkin farms were such a hot topic come October.  You go.  You buy a pumpkin.  End of story.

Seven years into parenting, I get it.  It's about the photos.  The rides.  The day.  The fun.  We've even forgotten to buy pumpkins after getting distracted by all the petting zoos and train rides.

As a seasoned veteran of two of the most frequented pumpkin farms on this side of Madison Street, I'd like to offer a suggestion to the newbies: 

Skip Bengtson's.  Go directly to Konow's Corn Maze.

I am not being compensated for this review.  I'm just looking out for parents not wanting to get hosed.

At one time, Bengtson's was our family's choice of pumpkin farms. This was back in the day when Joe and I were both working, and dropping $120 for an outing with the family was no big deal.  But alas, those days have disappeared along with my flat stomach and good humor.

Bengtson's charges $10.99 per kid and $11.99 per adult.  For our family, that's around $60 to just step through the gates.  You'd think you'd have free run of the place, right?  Hardly.  Now it's 2 bucks a ride and the place feels more like a traveling carnival than a pumpkin farm.  I suppose they did try to add a little "country" with the $5 pony rides, but multiply that by three and you've got milk money for the month. 

While there are other things to do besides the rides, the boys have a special knack for gravitating directly towards anything that costs money or involves a carny.  This 15 second ride, for example,  ran us $4 for Jack and Dan (cousin Grace in the middle): 

In stark contrast to the blatant commercialism and money grab of Bengtson's, there is Konow's.  Konow's will run you $9.00 a person.  One-time fee.  No further obligation required.  Done.  Now put your wallet away.

But in case you're interested, Konow's does offer reasonably priced food and pumpkins (transported effotlessly to your car via a courtesy John Deere wagon).  The fun is so much less carny and so much more folksy.  Toss the kids into the huge corn pit and you've got an hour to relax and drink your coffee. The corn maze, hay rides, and tractor-bikes are also great fun.

Kids still got energy to burn?  Throw them into the hay barn with the giant fort to climb and they'll be asleep by 7 pm. But this year I will be stashing some Benadryl in my purse as I sneezed for 45 minutes due to an apparent hay allergy.  Stupid city girl.

At Bengtson's, you're usually standing in a line waiting to hand over your money.  At Konow's, your kids are in constant motion climbing, jumping, and riding.  It's a beautiful thing.  Some pictures to prove it:

It only took us a minute to convince Joey to stop eating the corn.

Anti-photo boy actually smiled for some pictures.

Poor thing wants to be a farmer.  Not with those allergies.

35 minutes from our Chicago home and there's a farm in the background!  Who knew?
So there you have it.  Do with it what you will, but don't say I didn't warn you.  Please do me a favor either way - use the coupon codes on the links I provided.  You'll at least save yourself a few bucks no matter which of the two you look to try.  And if you've got some other recommendations, feel free to post!


  1. Sorry to everyone who is having problems posting comments - I'm told it has something to do with whatever browsers you use. Anyway - this just in from...uh...Ill call her "blondie":

    We are going to try Odyssey Fun World Pumpkin Patch this year. I got 6 tickets on Groupon for $28.00.

  2. Just changed some settings on adding comments...let's see if this works....

  3. We attended Odyssey Pumpkin Farm October 10 around noon. It is not a farm or even a pumpkin patch — just a barren area adjacent to a corn field with tents and bounce houses for "rides."

    The animals at the petting zoo looked overheated and sickly — apparently without much hydration or shelter. Our 5-year-old daughter got knocked around and kicked in the head because the activities are unsupervised by untrained teenagers who let it become a free-for-all — and that's if there happens to be an attendant. Food is more expensive than Bengston's — $3.50 for an ear of corn!

    We got there, paid an additional $3 to go through "The Beast" (probably the best thing there), headed towards the animals and bounce houses and soon realized it was time to go. We didn't even want to see the other "attractions." About $50 bucks down the drain.

    Website totally misrepresents the place with stock photos that seem real. For a more accurate idea, look at the pictures on their Facebook page which show it as it really is — more like a truck stop with tents.

  4. macericg - that is so disappointing. I am sorry you had such a rotten experience on a day expected to be really fun and enjoyable. Sucks. I'm taking notes for next year! Thanks for sharing.