Bay Area

Finding Autumn at Sonoma’s Ratzlaff Ranch

Wednesday October 21, 2015

Whenever San Francisco’s Indian Summers leave me pining for an East Coast Autumn, I head straight for Sonoma.

Now, it’s not like Sonoma magically turns into upstate Maine or anything in the Autumn months, but you get the bucolic hills and shocks of red pierce the otherwise green landscape. It’s as Fall as it’s going to get around here, and I’ll take it.

This past weekend, we decided to introduce our curious toddler to Apple Picking and its Autumnal partner in crime, The Pumpkin Patch. (A totally legit, still-growing-on-the-vine pumpkin patch!)

Ratzlaff Ranch is several winding roads away from US 101, and the sweet, quiet air once you get there makes the drive totally worth it. This is bare bones apple picking — you get some bags near a shed and get to work. If you want a treat, there is a small cooler with various flavors of apple juice and a few loaves of Apple Bread for sale. No kettle corn stand, no corn maze, definitely no bouncy castle house.




The small, lichen-covered apple trees are perfect for pint-sized toddlers. Bean was close enough to shorter limbs to pluck apples by herself, the most thrilling agricultural life experience she’s had to date. Other times, she’d direct us to pick specific apples “way up high.” A few other families trickled in; everyone roaming through the serene apple orchard.

Picnic tables tucked under apple trees beckon you to sit and enjoy some of Ratzlaff Ranch’s award-winning Apple juice (also comes in Apple-Raspberry and Apple-Blackberry flavors). We brought a picnic for Bean, and were happy to have a chance to relax in the shade.




As a special bonus, just up the road is PaPa’s Pumpkin Patch. We wandered around the two lots of pumpkin plants, turning them over and checking for blemishes. Shears are available if you want a pumpkin still connected to the vine. Bean’s favorite part, aside from seeing real pumpkin flowers, were probably the kid-sized wheelbarrows and wagons. I love that the pumpkin patch went out of their way to make it a special outing for young families.

We headed back into the mid-October heat, trunk full of apples and pumpkins, feeling like we’d managed to find a little bit of Fall after all.





Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch

13128 Occidental Road, Sebastopol, CA

Open Monday through Saturday 8am – 5pm, Sundays 9am – 5pm


PaPa’s Pumpkin Patch

13110 Occidental Road, Sebastopol, CA

Open Daily 10am – 7pm




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