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Travels in the Heartland: Exploring Nebraska and Iowa pumpkin patches

Posted at 3:14 PM, Oct 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-21 16:16:36-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It's that time of the year when we seek out the greatest symbol of the fall season, the Jack-o-lantern.

Searching high and wide for the perfect orange pumpkin, Midwesterners look for the exact size and shape we want — no — require for the gourd that will become this year's front porch ornament.

Do you opt for a scary Jack-o-lantern? Maybe a cute one? What about a special design? Wouldn't a Jack-o-lantern featuring Linus from "Peanuts" be the best? Whatever your preference, the area is ripe with pumpkin patches where you can scour fields looking for your Great Pumpkin.

Jack-o-lantern World

Mahoney State Park
Unicorn display Jack-o-lantern World at Mahoney State Park.

New to the Omaha area,Jack-o-lantern World at Mahoney State Park near Ashland features about 4,000 designed pumpkins, ranging from traditional Jack-o-lanterns to a unicorn and dragons.

Among the more than 15 exhibits are profiles of famous Nebraskans such as Warren Buffett and President Gerald Ford, as well as a "Fall in love with Nebraska" display. Each is made from pumpkins.

A giant US flag made from pumpkins lies on an open field along the three-quarter-mile trail. Each pumpkin in the flag had its own design, such as military service logos, Martin Luther King Jr. quotes and a Pony Express rider.

Mahoney State Park
American flag featuring pumpkins at Mahoney State Park.

Another exhibit features historical and pop culture icons, such as Jackie Robinson, Oprah and Selena. Open nightly through Oct. 31, plan to spend at least an hour walking through the displays. We spent about two hours soaking in the fun. Tickets can be obtained online.

Vala's Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard

Vala's Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard
Vala's Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard

The area's largest pumpkin patch, Vala's Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard is a magical place where each fall, families, couples and friends gather to hop aboard a tractor-driven wagon ride to several acres of pumpkin fields in search of their favorite gourd.

Open daily through Oct. 31, Vala's is more than a pumpkin field, though. Since the early days of the family selling pumpkins and a few treats out of a barn, Vala's Pumpkin Patch grows each year, with attractions such as the Egg Scramble joining others, such as a haunted house and ghoulish miniature golf course.

Vala's Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard.
Hayride at Vala's Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard.

A fan favorite, pigs with comedic names race around a small oval, and A giant green dragon scarfs down pumpkins in between an interview with an emcee. Don't forget the slingshot, where you shoot fruit into a cornfield.

Gretna Dragon
Gretna Dragon gets ready to devour pumpkins at Vala's Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard.

Don't forget to navigate your way through Vala's corn maze. New to Vala's this year, the Cider Mill offers everything apple and is s fun place to relax and do a little shopping. Of course, no visit to Vala's is complete without taking home some pumpkin- or apple-related treats, such as pies.

The pumpkin patch sells about 50,000 caramel apples each season.

Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch

Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch
Harvesting pumpkins at Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch in Blair.

Located a country mile north of Omaha near Blair, Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch ranks as one of the best in eastern Nebraska. Jeff Bledsoe's love for pumpkins started early when he planted them in his family's backyard at their LaVista home.

After buying land near Blair, he planted pumpkins, opening Skinny Bones in 2008. Climb aboard for a hayride to the pumpkin patch, where you can choose the pumpkin of your dreams. While at Skinny Bones, explore the 10-acre specially-designed corn maze.

If you're adventurous, grab a flashlight and head to the maze Friday night for a tour through the corn maze.

Ghouls, goblins and other scary things await you for a haunted corn maze experience each Saturday night. Skinny Bones offers a variety of attractions, such as the new Pumpkin Plunge, where you speed down a 150-feet long slide on an inner tube. Hang on to your cap!

If you prefer slower activities check out Skinny Bones' corn pool, jump pillows, pedal rides or tour the House of Mystery. Of course, the pumpkin patch offers a variety of snacks and foods at M's Bakery Exit Barn. Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch is open daily until Oct. 31.

Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch

Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch
Pumpkin decoration at Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch.

Before heading to the pumpkin patch at Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch, tour the haunted ghost town on a hayride, with ghouls and other creatures roaming the Old West town.

With games, attractions and more, Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch make for a fun-filled afternoon or evening visit. For more than three decades, the Bellevue farm near 48th Street has offered pumpkins that people can select as they walk through a pumpkin patch.

Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch
Enchanted Forest at Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch.

Open daily through Oct. 31, visitors can also check out the Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch's pirate ship before heading to food stands for a snack or dinner.

Pioneer Trail Orchard and Pumpkin Patch

Before heading to the pumpkin field, explore the attractions at Pioneer Trail Orchard and Pumpkin Patch in Council Bluffs. The family-friendly pumpkin farm features a small corn maze, a haunted house and a playground.

Open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the pumpkin patch offers an adult-themed haunted farm at 7 p.m. while at the farm, rent a bonfire for a relaxing fall experience.

Ultimately, you're here for the pumpkins, so grab a seat and enjoy a hayride to the pumpkin patch, where you can scout the field until you find the pumpkin of the season.

Harvest Moon Pumpkin Patch

Harvest Moon Pumpkin Patch
Harvest Moon Pumpkin Patch in Oakland, Nebraska.

For a true farm experience, head to Burt County's Harvest Moon Pumpkin Patch. Located north of Oakland, Nebraska, Harvest Moon's attractions can fill an entire afternoon. The family started selling pumpkins in 2007 as a roadside stand.

After being encouraged by others, Harvest Moon was launched, with family-friendly activities and attractions. From pedal cart rides and a corn pit to games, Harvest Moon offers an old-fashioned pumpkin patch experience.

While there, check out the farm animals, including alpacas. Harvest Moon doesn't have a pumpkin field, so its pumpkins are located throughout the farm and can be purchased. The pumpkin patch is closed Monday.

Wenninghoff Farm

Wenninghoff Farm
Pumpkin stand at Wenninghoff Farm.

Returning to its roots as a farm, Wenninghoff Farm features a scaled-down pumpkin patch this year. No wagon rides or games; instead, visitors can walk through the field, selecting this year's Jack-o-lantern, or they can buy a freshly-harvested one at Wenninghoff’s farmers market.

While at the farm in northwest Omaha, head to the indoor farmers market, which, along with the pumpkin patch, is open until Oct. 31.

As you venture out for your pumpkin, hot cider, and maybe a slice of pumpkin or apple pie, you may also want to consider some of these patches, along with the ones highlighted. Either way, may your search for 2022's Great Pumpkin be successful.

TO SEE MORE: Travels in the Heartland

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