text by Darcy Sullivan and Emma Zang Schwartz 

It’s mid-October and the desert temps finally have begun to cool down. The night air is crisp, pumpkins are everywhere and in everything and seasonal activities, festivals and events are happening all around the Valley. To usher in the fall, here are some ways to get into an autumn mindset. 

Above: Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek offers plenty of kid-friendly activities.


What would October be without the perfect pumpkin? Whether you are planning to carve a scary jack-o-lantern, decorate your home, bake a pie or roast some pumpkin seeds, skip the supermarket and head straight to a pumpkin patch. Local farms offer a large variety of pumpkins and gourds, along with the freshest vegetables of the season. Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek celebrates the arrival of fall with a Pumpkin and Chili Party every Thursday through Sunday in October. There are plenty of kid-friendly activities including a petting zoo, carousel rides, a rock climbing wall, performances by stunt dogs, a forest zip line, hayrides, miniature golf, pig races and roasting marshmallows over a crackling bonfire. www.schnepffarms.com

Above: A car trip will take to spots in Arizona where you can admire autumn foliageSedona.


If sipping a pumpkin spiced latte at Starbucks doesn’t provide the fall-fix you’re craving, hit the road. A car trip can take you to spots in Arizona where you can admire picturesque autumnal landscapes. Nothing says fall more than leaves turning into a sea of intense reds and golden yellows. Pack a picnic and your hiking boots for a day trip or, better yet, treat yourself to an overnight stay. The aspens and oaks in the White Mountain areas of Greer, Show Low and Pinetop turn in mid-October. Flagstaff aspens put on their colorful show in late-October. Near Sedona, Oak Creek’s assortment of box elders, ash, willows, fruit trees, oaks and maples turn scarlet in late-October. In early-November, take the Catalina Highway to Mount Lemmon near Tucson. The maple tree leaves turn a rich, rust-colored red while the ferns and scrubs turn copper and tan.

Above: Select an arrangement of garden roses, dahlias and viburnum berries at Camelback Flowershop.


Why not bring the autumn indoors? Changing out some simple decorations is an easy way to make it feel like fall. Throw pillows and table linen in autumnal hues such as rust, brown, gold and orange will set the stage. Candles can fill the room with the seasonal scents of pumpkin, apples and cinnamon. Filling a bowl with pinecones, crisp red and green apples or gourds will make a statement. And, when assembling fresh flowers, select seasonal stems, leaves and berries. The choices are many; red and maroon dahlias, antique hydrangeas, vivid orange and magenta chrysanthemums, golden-yellow bittersweet and rose hips, maple leaves, autumn-toned roses, yarrow, asters, cosmos, viburnum berries and nonflowering seed pods. Visit Camelback Flowershop to select the best of the season’s bounty. https://camelbackflowershop.com/

Above: Enjoy live musical performances at Mesa Art Center’s Día de Muertos Festival.


The Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) is celebrated by people of Mexican heritage. To help support the deceased’s spiritual journey, family and friends gather to pray for loved ones who have passed away. Holiday traditions include building private altars (ofrendas) and leaving favorite foods, flowers and possessions at the gravesite. In Phoenix, experience an authentic Día de Muertos celebration at Steele Indian School Park on October 28, by decorating a sugar skull, creating a mask and grabbing a bite at a food booth. On October 27-28 at the Mesa Arts Center, the Día de Muertos Festival will showcase a community altar, live music, performances, foods and a colorful mercado featuring a wide assortment of jewelry and crafts. www.mesaartscenter.com

Above: Corn Maze and Pumpkin Days at Tolmachoff Farms remains open through November 4.


Corn mazes are much like a life-size puzzle. Working your way through the twists and turns of the tall stalks is a fun way to spend time with family and friends. Tolmachoff Farms welcomes the season this year with a haunted-theme maze, challenging all who dare to enter. For the wee ones, there’s a mini maze. Corn Maze and Pumpkin Days will remain open through November 4. Additional features include a hay pyramid, pedal cart track, jumping pillow and farm-themed activities like grinding corn to feed the chickens. www.tolmachoff-farms.com