Heavenly Harvest — Experiencing Central Oregon’s Amazing Autumn

By Kim Cooper Findling

Fall is such a great time in Central Oregon. The days remain long and sunny but the pace is calmer and less frenzied than summer. Kids are back in school but still itching for fun come the weekend. It’s a lovely transition time to explore the outdoors. Autumn weekends are made for leisurely family outings spent contemplating the changing season while experiencing the time of harvest. Here are a handful of ways to enjoy the beautiful outdoors during these mild days.

Pumpkin Patches

October just isn’t complete without a trip to the pumpkin patch. Central Oregon has several options for places to have some fun while picking that perfect pumpkin. Several of the best patches are in Terrebonne, where pumpkin picking happens under high blue skies with incredible views of Smith Rock State Park.

At the Smith Rock Ranch, the highlight is a massive corn maze.  Get just lost enough to have a great time inside the endless sea of tall stalks (don’t forget to grab a map!). The Ranch also offers a pumpkin cannon, wagon rides, a zoo train and pony rides. There is food for sale, and of course, hundreds of pumpkins to choose from. Let each family member choose their own orange globe to carry home.

DD Ranch, also in Terrebonne, hosts its own pumpkin patch fun. The festivities on this working ranch are complete with hay rides, a play area with a rope swing and slide, and a petting zoo. Take home some grass-fed beef from this ranch, too.  ddranch.net

Fall Fest

Bend Fall Festival is so many things: music, food and wine, activities, community and more. A great place within the Fest for families is the Family Harvest Area, which is overflowing
with Halloween and harvest-inspired activities. Family-focused businesses will be hosting a wide variety of exciting activities for kids.

The Harvest Market is another terrific place to visit. The market is teeming with produce and products grown and handcrafted in our region, including sweet corn, apples, pears, heirloom tomatoes, flower bouquets, gourmet salts, wine, ciders, knobby gourds and—of course—plenty of pumpkins. Local farmers will be sharing their goods on site—meet some of the folks who grow food in the arid high desert region and take home some of their homegrown products. bendfallfestival.com

Farmers Market

Every Wednesday through mid-October, downtown Bend fills with a myriad of delights for the senses. From 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., booths line Brooks Street for the Bend Farmer’s Market. Here you’ll find everything from blueberries to kombucha, goat cheese to gelato, honey to grass-fed beef. Stroll around with the kids, take in the sights and choose some delicious foods to consume on site or take home to enjoy later.

Photo by Peter Marbach

Day Trip

Crescent Moon Ranch, located in Terrebonne, is a working alpaca ranch and a great destination for families who want a chance to see these amazing animals up close. Alpacas are grown for their fleece and for breeding on this high desert ranch. Guests are invited to view and even pet the alpacas, known for being wise and gentle creatures. The Alpaca Boutique, on-site, sells many goods made from alpaca fleece, from yarn to stuffed animals to slippers. Crescent Moon makes for a fun quick stop on your way to or from the Terrebonne pumpkin patches.
crescentmoonranch.com

Road Trip

Some of Oregon’s most abundant orchards are on the Hood River Fruit Loop, located about 2.5 hours north of Bend. This region, adjacent to the Columbia River Gorge and the city of Hood River, is known for apples and pears as well as berries, lavender, wine and more. The Fruit Loop is a 35-mile loop featuring dozens of farms and orchards. Many destinations on the circuit offer incredible views of Mt. Hood or the Columbia River—all offer amazing local products to enjoy. The Fruit Loop is a great day trip from Bend through one of the most scenic places in the state, and you won’t come home without plenty of delicious treats.

Date Night

Harvest season isn’t just about the kids. Get a sitter and make a date night out of Rainshadow Organics farm-to-table dinners. Called the Longtable Dinners, this working farm creates a three-course meal four times each summer and fall and serves guests on the farm grounds at—you guessed it—a long table. The meal is created from beautiful organic produce, grains, and meats, all from the farm. This year, fall dates for the Longtable Dinners are September 18 and October 7. Reserve your spot soon.

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