October 19, 2011

You wouldn't necessarily expect to find a 30-acre farm right in the middle of the suburbs of Orange County; and yet, there lays Tanaka Farms in Irvine, CA. Just a short drive from Orange County's most popular airport, John Wayne Airport, Tanaka Farms offers a family-friendly farm experience, and something extra special for the fall season.

Tanaka Farms is an authentic working farm that was started three generations ago by an immigrant from Hiroshima, Japan, and is still family owned and operated. Farm tours are offered throughout the year so that kids and adults can get a glimpse in to the workings of a real farm. There are several tours and events happening seasonally such as the Strawberry Tours in Mid-March to the end of June, Watermelon Tours from July to August, and Christmas Trees available for purchase each December.

The most exciting time of the year at Tanaka Farms, however, might just be each October where they host a '€œU-Pick Pumpkin Patch.'€ Guests are invited to pick their own pumpkins right from the vine from Tanaka Farms' huge selection.

In addition to pumpkin picking, there is a petting zoo, wagon ride, corn maze, and games and arts and crafts on the weekends. Parking and admission are free, which makes for a fun, budget-friendly afternoon. The one-acre corn maze is also free of charge; just be prepared to spend some time working your way through it (or take the safe route, like myself, and only walk the circular perimeter which will spit you right back out at the starting point!).

The wagon ride is a must-do when visiting the Tanaka Farms' pumpkin patch. A tractor will pull you in one of two large wagons around the 30-acre farm. You'll make a pit stop at the petting zoo ($3 per person, kids 2 and under free) where you can pet over 30 sheep, goats, and alpacas. At the same stop, you can pick your own vegetables ($2.99/lb) from a 2-acre selection or organic and conventionally grown produce.

When you hop back on the wagon, you'll tour the pumpkin patches and fields, then stop for a minute at the cannon. Here a Tanaka Farms worker will show you just how a far a pumpkin can go when shot from a cannon (it's pretty amazing, if I do say so myself). The wagon ride is $5 person (ages 2 & under free).

Before you leave, you might want to visit the pile of pumpkins for a photo op, and grab a snowcone at the snack shack. There's something for every age at the farm; toddlers will enjoy running free in the pumpkin patch and petting the animals, and older children will love getting lost in the corn maze and choosing their very own pumpkin.

The U-Pick Pumpkin Patch is open daily from October 1-31, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. If you're looking for a different SoCal experience and want an afternoon to get away from the busyness of Orange County, stop by Tanaka Farms this fall.

Tanaka Farms is located at 5380 3/4 University Dr. Irvine, CA 92612.