The sun is setting on the western horizon backlighting Mt. Diablo with an orange hue.
You’ve just made your way through the 10-acre corn maze and you and your date fired off a bucket of locally grown ammo — apples and small pumpkin gourds — in the pumpkin blasters.
You’re headed toward the ornate carousel to take a spin.
Next it’ll be off to the pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin before stopping by the general store to buy a blueberry cobbler to enjoy with a hot apple cider to guard against the slight evening chill.
It’s the most magical time to venture out to the Dell’Osso Family Farm Pumpkin Maze. It’s tough to beat Monday through Thursday evenings. There are no lines meaning a 5 p.m. arrival allows you to get in three hours of low-tech old-fashioned fun that on Fridays or the weekends would take easily double the time to enjoy.
You’ll find families out at that time too although some play hooky from work and school to take advantage of the sparse weekday crowds.
“It (the farm) has become a popular date night for people who live nearby,” noted Susan Dell’Osso.
The weekends and Fridays are when the farm pulls in large crowds from the Bay Area.
The prices on weekdays reflect the lower demand.
Admission is $16.95 Monday through Thursday and $24.95 Friday through Sunday. Children 2 and under are free. Parking is free.
Most of the attractions are included with admission. The maze opens at noon Mondays through Fridays and at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The last admission is 7 p.m. nightly while attractions start closing at 8 p.m.
There are more than two dozen attractions. Without a doubt the fanciful carousel that is new to the farm this year has been a big bit.
It has 35 animals carved and painted to ride such as a cat, ostrich, zebra, giraffe, lion and a panda bear. The 36th “ride” is a sleigh style seat. Crews spent over a month doing restorative hand painting of carousel details and rehabbing every mechanical apparatus of the carousel that came disassembled in a cargo container. The carousel that first delighted riders at Coney Island went to another locale before making its way to Lathrop.
It is one of several new attractions awaiting visitors at the farm that is open daily now through Oct. 31. While the carousel is one of the few attractions that are an additional cost on top of the admission, the other two newbies aren’t. They include an 18-hole miniature golf course as well as a “lower” rope course designed for kids.
A number of things that were on hiatus last year due to restrictions when 180,000 people visited the farm that are now back include the pig races, the interactive pirate show, and the gigantic rollers fashioned from super-sized PC-style pipe.
The rollers are arguably where people seem to have the most fun judging by the laughter as they try to cross a grassy area while trying to channel a hamster.
Other attractions include a haunted house, a train, the Dell’Osso Speedway featuring pedal cars and others.
The Country Store offers fresh baked pies, caramel apples with various options such as plain M&Ms, brownies, cookies, and more. The store offers a long list of treats from fresh made apple doughnuts that many like the taste so much they buy a dozen to take home before they leave the farm to 35 types of wild animal jerky including alligator.
Beer and wine sales are back on “the island” as is homemade pizza. There is daily and nightly live musical entertainment. In between performers there is karaoke.
The farm also has nearly 20 craft vendors as well as various food options.
Roughly 2 million people have visited the farm since the annual month-long October attraction opened in 1996.
It is one of the largest — if not the largest — agri-tourism concern in California that is not a traditional county fair.
Dell’Osso Family Farm is located in Lathrop. It is accessed via the Manthey Road exit on Interstate 5 between the 120 Bypass and Interstate 205.
For more information, go to pumpkinmaze.com.