Thursday, October 28, 2010


It’s so refreshing to see a group of New Jersey meatballs simmering in a pot of sauce where they’re being useful, and not simmering in a beach house in Seaside Heights or Miami Beach doing absolutely nothing interesting. Johnny and Megin DeCarlo are possibly one of the most real and inviting couples I have met in a long time. When they invited me into their home in East Rutherford and allowed me to interview them about their roles in Vh1’s upcoming series My Big Friggin’ Wedding I had no idea what I was in store for.
As I crossed the threshold of their home, I was not only overwhelmed by Megin’s warmth and beauty--hugs and kisses on the cheek; smiles and sincere welcomes--but by the fusion of aromas mingling in the air: tomato sauce, parsley, garlic, pork, salt, parmigiano cheese, and braciole. As I stepped into the inner-sanctum of the kitchen, Johnny was standing at the altar of his stove. The noon sun burst through the windows anointing the pot of gravy over which Johnny kept watch. (“Whenever there’s meat in the sauce it’s always called gravy,” Johnny instructed as he swirled the seasoned wooden spoon around his seasoned pot.) As he stirred the sauce, I mean gravy, all you could hear was the slow burp and bubble of the gravy thickening, the tick of the clock on the wall, and the contented murmurs of a baby in his swing. All that was missing from this scene was my Nonna in her housecoat. I swear, I felt like it was 1968 and I was back in my grandmother’s kitchen at 116 Main Street in Fort Lee. Johnny is authentic old school North Jersey Italian.
After making sure that the sauce was seasoned to perfection, Johnny and Megin sat and talked with me about planning a wedding, starting a life, and building a business all while the cameras were rolling. Megin put it perfectly when she said, “Do you have any idea what it’s like trying to carry groceries and a baby up the stairs with a camera focused on your behind?”  Johnny found the cameras a little less intimidating which is no surprise since it was his idea to audition for the show. “I saw Vh1’s listing for the show on the internet and I thought, ‘Why not?’”
Why not, indeed! Unlike other reality stars, Megin and Johnny actually have a talent that extends beyond the cameras. They have a business that they are building together “Johnny’s Meatballs.” Let me tell you, coming from a family where Nonna’s meatball recipe was taken to her grave, and my mom and aunts closely guard theirs, I know a little something about meatballs. Mom, cover your ears. Johnny’s meatballs are the best meatballs I have EVER tasted. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s a definite combination of taste and texture that makes them fantastic.  Like every serious Italian cook, Johnny won’t give up his recipe. All he’ll reveal is that his recipe is a blend of both his grandmothers’ meatball recipes. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Corrado’s Market in Clifton and Wayne is now selling them so you can taste them for yourself.
After meeting Johnny and Megin, and seeing the trailers for Vh1’s My Big Friggin’ Wedding, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they will be the break out stars of the series. It doesn’t matter though. Regardless of what notoriety the show may bring them, they’ll do well for themselves because it’s not all about the show. It’s about staying true to their dream of building a business together. The show is simply an opportunity that may help them to achieve that goal. Finally, hard-working people who make New Jersey proud!  
Vh1’s  My Big Friggin Wedding premiers Monday, November 1st at 9pm. You can watch full episodes at

To see the video of my interview with Megin and Johnny click on the link below:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Halloween 1968. Note I started the day with rabbit ears intact.
Picture taken right before beating Frankenstein with my loot bag.

On October 31st, 1968, at the ripe old age of three, while I was going door to door around the neighborhood collecting treats, someone pulled a nasty trick on me. God as my witness, if I ever find the little bastard who did it I’ll make sure that he rues the day he was born. But I’m getting way ahead of myself.
          In 1968, the Halloween season didn’t begin in August. In fact, Halloween didn’t have its own season. There were the three weeks leading up to Halloween where stores stocked a portion of their aisles with candy corn, costumes, and a colorful assortment of cutouts to hang in your window—witches, skeletons, pumpkins, mummies, Frankenstein and vampires.
There was no Party City or Party Central. There was Feiler’s Five and Dime, County Discount, and Two Guys. I remember the mile-high collection of 12”x18” Halco costume boxes with transparent cellophane windows that allowed you to see the plastic mask that was attached to the costume inside. Picking a costume was easy back then. If you didn’t have a Halco, you were a Hobo—you grabbed your father’s old shirt, your mother’s old pillowcase, burnt a piece of cork, and covered your face in ash.  (Where have all the hobos gone?)
I clearly remember pressing my nose against the cold glass window of Mr. Feiler’s Five and Dime on Main Street in Fort Lee carefully examining each hanging costume in an effort to determine its merit. After much consideration, I decided to be a bunny rabbit. (See above photo.) Not because bunnies were cute and fluffy, but because in addition to the pink plastic face mask, there came with it a set of plastic pointed bunny ears attached to a bonnet that tied underneath my chin. Even then, it was all about the accessories for me.  
Parading around the house in the costume I soon discovered how easily those pointy ears could be turned into weapons if I bent my head and charged like a bull. Unfortunately, the two German twins who lived next door—Andy and Michael—found out the hard way. I’m pretty sure those ears drew blood after I head-butted their bellies. But I figured it was retribution for the hell my uncle said he went through when he fought Germany in WWII. Unfortunately, my mother didn’t share the enthusiasm of my subversive form of patriotism and hid the ears until Halloween. However, I did get a surreptitious pat on my shoulders from my old man.  
Halloween 1968 was a magical day. It was a Thursday, a school day, and I had to wait until my brother and the other older kids on the block got home from school before the trick-or-treating could begin. I sat waiting for Halloween to start on my stoop with Christopher Martire, the slight autumn breeze mingling in the red oak trees blurred the reds, golds, and oranges of the leaves creating an impressionistic fire that burst against the cloudless blue sky.
Rupturing the silence were the shouts of the kids getting out of school and running towards home to jump into their costumes, grab their loot bags, and go. My brother dressed as Frankenstein and his mask really freaked me out. The eye-slits of my bunny mask didn’t allow peripheral vision, so I could never see him until he was in my face without any warning. The bulging lifeless plastic eyes and protruding brass-colored bolts scared the crap out of me. I swear that costume was made by Universal Studios.
Our mothers gave us two warnings: 1) Stay together, and 2) Don’t go to the creepy guy’s house. Every neighborhood had a “creepy” guy who lived alone, didn’t seem to work, didn’t say much to adults, but got along great with kids. Those guys usually wanted you to call them “Uncle.” Unfortunately, we never heeded our mom’s warning because our “creepy” guy always had the best candy. And we never went to the door alone.
As we made our way through the neighborhood, it didn’t take long for me to start to grow lightheaded because the “ventilated” plastic mask wasn’t ventilating very well. I couldn’t inhale much air through the nostril holes, and what little air I did get was tinged with the taste of sweating plastic. Whenever any of us tried to breathe through our nose it resounded in the echo chamber of the mask making us all sound like we were on life support.
We ran from door to door filling our bags as fast as we could. Around 5:30 my brother and I stopped home to lighten our loot bags before venturing back out. As our tsunami of candy crashed to the floor my mother shrieked, “What happened to your ears?” I lifted my hands to my head. Where I should have felt sharp points, I felt nothing but air. I lowered my hand until I could feel the razor straight-edge of either ear.
I ran to the mirror. My bunny ears had been sliced in half. Horrified, I was determined to seek revenge. I questioned every kid in our gang, but no one I was with saw anything. Oh, the degradation! True, people who saw me standing at their door, loot bag wide open, head bowed in shame, ears gone, pitied me and threw in a few extra Hershey Kisses. Still, the day had lost some of its luster for me. I never caught the Elmer J. Fudd who perpetrated the crime, but I know he’s still out there lurking. Every Halloween since I have kept my eyes open; I’m always on the lookout. I know he’s still out there somewhere--he’s probably the “creepy” guy in the neighborhood who hands out cheap no-brand candy.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


To my dearest Facebook BFF (Best Friends Forever!),
          From the moment you “friended” me on Facebook, I’ve cherished your virtual-osity. It’s amazing that we both live in the same small town, but it was Facebook that connected us and not a social function or playground outing. Unlike my “flesh and blood” friends, there was no courting period for us. From your first posting I knew that you were my social networking soul sister.
How I looked forward to your pithy status updates, your “thumb-up likes” and your YouTube attachments of diapered babies dancing to Beyonce and maudlin Rufus Wainwright music videos. You always let me know when and where you and your family were vacationing and chose me as overseer for your “Farmville.” I spent hours trolling the web to “likes” everything you “likes-ed!” (You can’t see it, but I have my thumb up.) Your cyber sidebar was your soul into which I stared and saw a glimpse of myself.
How I loved the way you filled your comments with hearts and smiley faces. Remember that night at two a.m. when you chatted how to make a smiley face sticking its tongue out? Who knew that a colon was more than just a major part of the digestive system? I’ve coloned and upper case P’d more silly faces then I can count! All thanks to your artistic keyboard tutorials. And we were both drinking Pinot Noir. Coincidence? I think not.
I so enjoyed our late night chats about the kids, the moles that peppered your husband’s back, and your mother-in-law’s obsessive need to inform everyone about your three pinky toes. How can I ever thank you for letting me lean on your “wall” the night that I thought I was pregnant?  If anyone else had commented “Peri-menopausal” I would have run them over, but when followed by your “ROFLMAO” you made me LOL until I PMP.
That’s why it saddens me to write this. I would have posted it on your “wall,” but I was cut-off after 400 characters, and acronyms cannot properly express everything that I have to say. So, here it goes. We have such a tight virtual bond that when I finally saw you in person I thought there would be tears, laughter, embraces. At the very least, “Hello, it’s so nice to finally meet you.” Instead, you gave off vibes that carried a much different message.
When I first saw the real you at the opening ceremony for soccer, I dismissed your dismissiveness. I thought that the reason you didn’t respond to my enthusiastic waves and shout-out’s of your name was because the sun was in your eyes and people were blocking your view of me. And I didn’t bring it up that night when we were chatting on Facebook because you had me crying describing how your son’s coach was coming on to you while he directed your husband to practice drills with the Kinder-Kickers. In one night you restored my confidence in our relationship, and I felt silly that I had ever doubted your fidelity.
Just when I was feeling good about us, doubt came creeping in again when you body-checked my derrière with your shopping cart in the frozen food aisle of Shop Rite. At first I was thrilled thinking that you were being playful, but when I shouted, “Hey girlfriend, “Leggo my Eggo!” as you bolted pass me, I realized that your expression was more “Get away from me you crazy stalker or I will call Security,” than “Sorry , but I don’t have time to chat. I’m late picking up the kids so I’m just tapping you with my cart to show you I care.” Still, I moved on emotionally.
However, when you gave me the finger last week at back to school night, and told me to stop following you I realized that you had no idea who I was. I was crushed that you could not identify my real person from my Facebook thumbnail photo. I mean, I recognized you even though it’s clear that your picture is dated and you’re not a real blond.
So it is with deep regret that I must “un-friend” you. I will miss your “LOL’s,” your “LMAO’s” and your “TTYL’s.”  Believe me when I tell you, it’s you, not me.  :P 

Thursday, October 14, 2010


It’s only now, one year later, that I’m able to write about it. There’s still the occasional shaking and clinging to the sheets at three a.m., and there’s an arbitrary flashback I now understand is common to people who suffer from post-traumatic-stress syndrome.
          It was Halloween 2009. Halloween fell on a Saturday. I recalled my own youthful exuberance when Halloween fell on a Saturday. So swept away was I in my own reminiscences that I actually allowed my then seven year-old son to convince me that having an open house Halloween party for the entire town was a great idea.
I handed out flyers and sent emails. I chased sales and hoarded party food—I had an obscene amount of Lays Potato Chips in my pantry and made enough chili con carne to start my own greenhouse effect. I lucked out in the decoration department—since the exterior of my house is in a state of total disrepair, all I had to do was throw some dollar store cobwebs over the hedges and I had an authentic haunted house. I tried to talk my 6’5” husband into playing Lurch, but he lacks my joie de vivre.
Unfortunately, the day began with a drizzle and when me and my friend Marian set out at noon to trick-or-treat with the kids I learned that if you stand in the drizzle long enough you get soaking wet in a slow torture kind of way. Along the trick-or-treat route, my husband, Jim, joined us.
“How long is it going to take you to notice what your husband did?” Marian queried.   
          “What are you talking about?” I asked.
          “Take a good look at him and tell me,” she replied.
          I walked up to Jim and studied his face. Something was definitely different, but…
          “He shaved his mustache,” she shouted in frustration.
I looked at him and began to internally freak out. I’ve known the man for 26 years and in all that time I’ve NEVER seen him without facial hair. For confirmation, I cautiously pulled his face closer to mine. Yes, his upper lip was as naked as a baby’s bottom. Amused, he grinned from ear to ear, again shocking me because his mustache had hidden his upper teeth and this was the first time I had ever seen them, and to tell the truth it startled me.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
I replied, “You had to do this when we’re having a huge party tonight?” Poor man, he looked like Charlie Brown without the benefit of a sheet with holes under which he could hide. But I had no time for placating because I had to get home and get the house and food ready for a party of…I have no idea how many. That’s the problem with open houses; you could get 5 people or 500.
At first, no one came, but somewhere between no one arriving and 8:30 the house became standing room only. My wrist began to ache uncorking so many bottles of wine, but it was a good pain! The kids went off by themselves allowing the adults to forget we were adults and act like this was a house party and our parents were away for the weekend. It was exciting and fun to stand around talking and laughing about things that had nothing to do with kids. We even applauded when a child came downstairs (read: Narc) to tell us that everyone was emptying their loot bags in my son’s room. “Fantastic!” I remember saying. Anything that gave us parents a chance to talk without interruption was good.
When everyone left, and the magical effects of the wine wore off, my house looked like Candy Land on an acid trip. As I climbed the staircase, my foot stuck to the Mary Janes that were cemented into the carpet. The sheets on all of the beds had to be changed because chocolate (at least I was hoping it was chocolate) was smeared all over them. Clinging to the walls were Skittles and gummies, the floors contained landmines of crushed candy corn. Someone TP’d my bedroom, and the shower curtain rod was split in two. We finished cleaning somewhere around dawn vowing never again…
So the party this year is Saturday before Halloween. Should I send out flyers, or is this good enough?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Fifth Circle of Hell--Pumpkin Picking at Alstede's Farm

"they had their faces twisted toward their haunches

and found it necessary to walk backward,
because they could not see ahead of them.
…and since he wanted so to see ahead,
he looks behind and walks a backward path.
-Dante's Inferno

Yesterday, I found the fifth circle of hell when my family and some friends decided to take a nice Fall drive and go apple picking at Alstede Farm in Chester, NJ. Admittedly, it was all my idea since I read that Alstede Farm has lots of things for the kids to do--inflatables, petting zoo, pony rides, tractor rides, and so much more! (Here's the lesson I've learned--contained within those four little words "and so much more" is a major migraine.) 

We knew that we had arrived at Alstede Farms even before we saw the signs. Our clue was the single line of traffic that did not move for over a mile. When we finally gained entrance, our caravan was directed by men in vests to wade through deep ditches of farmland mud to find our splendor in the grass parking spot. I pitied the misdirected Prius's and Civics whose silver and blue carcasses were buried lopsided and left abandoned in the La Brea tar pit of the plowed field, but we  backed our minivans away from them careful not to run over somebody's grandmother who refused to wait on the endless line for the port-a-potty and decided to find a friendly cornstalk.

As we stepped onto the muddy field and did a headcount of the kids we suddenly realized just how many people had the same idea that we had. We arrived at 3:30pm thinking we would avoid the midday rush. Boy, were we wrong. Picture Disney World in July except without the smiles and without the friendly cast members directing you and trying to make your experience more palatable. 

I suppose in an effort to create some semblance of order, Alstede Farms practices human "herding." Hell, if it works on the cattle, it should be a breeze on humans. No matter where I turned there was no open space, only swarms of people looking as confused as I was being indiscriminately herded into roped aisles. Moving with the masses, it took me 20 minutes to realize that I was on a line for caramel apples and not on the line for apple picking. We somehow managed to back our way off that line without getting mobbed by the angry people we had to walk over.

Unintentionally separated from my family and friends, I stood on a haystack and looked around seeing nothing but bodies of unfamiliar people. I suddenly turned into Billy Mumy in the "Twilight Zone" episode where he wished everyone into the cornfields. Watching all these parents trying to keep an eye on their children while suffering through the explosive tantrums as they waited on one disorganized long line after another I wanted to find the owner of Alstede Farms and tell him, "You're a bad man. A very bad man. And I'm wishing you into the cornfields!" 

Luckily for cell phones, I was reunited with my family and friends and after stumbling around for the right line, we found the line to purchase Apple Picking tickets. Of course, as soon as we reached the front of the line we were told that the apple orchards were closed because there were no more apples left to pick, but the pumpkin patch was still open and we could purchase as many apples we liked at the country store which is open until 7. Meanwhile, the kids were aching to go on the inflatable rides and lucky for us, the line for inflatable tickets was the same as the line for pumpkin patch tickets. 

Here comes my beef--I'm all for having entertainment for the kids, and in years past we've been to other farms that have offered inflatables, but they didn't extort you in the process. Alstede Farms offered a number of different ride packages for three rides. I thought, momentarily, that I was at the state fair. Just give me a ticket for the moonbounce and get me into the pumpkin patch, that's all I wanted, but I was encouraged to consider all the packages some with the pumpkin picking included and others with just the rides. I'd rather they said "$5 unlimited rides" and make it easy and have the lines move than have all the parents (including me) scratching our heads while we were being talked into different packages to purchase. Just opting for the moonbounce and separate pumpkin picking tickets I spent $3 so my son could jump in a moonbounce for exactly two minutes. If I had paid a dollar I wouldn't have cared, but $3 for two minutes? I cared. Talk about a rip off! 

It was now 4:30--time to be herded into another line to wait for the tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. (Refer to first picture.) Parked in the fields was a Sabrett Hot Dog cart. Needless to say we paid $3.50 for a hot dog and $3.25 for drinks just to hear the kids not complain about the long line. It was the best $27 we ever spent for a moment of silence. 

Finally, after an eternity of waiting in a herd, we were corralled onto the tractor by men who, I believe, were taking bets as to who could shove the most bodies onto the bales of hay. Not only were we packed in, but the men kept saying, "Slide in, slide in. We can fit more people on!"  On the second shout of "Slide in!" a piece of hay got shoved so far up my ass that the only way it's coming out is in my autopsy.  

The pumpkin patch offered a welcome relief. It was big enough that we could lose ourselves from eachother and find some seclusion in a piece of pumpkin-ed earth. After spending an hour with the kids choosing six of the heaviest most perfect pumpkins we had the pleasure of waiting on yet another line to take the tractor back to insanity. It was 6:00 and the sun was beginning to shrink in direct proportion to my patience. By this time all rules of society had disintegrated and every parent was in complete "Animal Farm" mode. As soon as the tractor pulled to a stop, the line dissipated into mobs of people using their pumpkins and their children as weapons with which to beat their neighbors out of the way so they could get onto the tractor. There was no more compliance to the shouts of "Slide in!" Only sharp retorts of, "Leave now! Leave now! Let them eat pumpkins! Leave now!" It was mankind at its worst and I was a part of it. It was reminiscent of the last plane out of Vietnam, and I was determined to hold onto the propellors, or in this case John Deere Wheels, to escape with my family.  

Once we emerged from the fields and arrived back into civilization, we were once again herded onto an endless line where we stood waiting for our pumpkins to be weighed so we could pay. The sun had officially set. Every child was tired and cranky and not afraid to show it. When it was finally my turn to pay I discovered that my "Tractor ride" tickets must have fallen out of my pocket on the ride to or from the fields and they refused to give me the discount I was promised on the pumpkins. At that point my head fell off and the mob behind me started to vehemently react to the salesperson's insistence that I needed my tickets. Afraid of the mob, I was begrudgingly given my discount. Begrudgingly. Did I say begrudgingly? Begrudgingly. 

Alstede Farms is not in the business of making a day at the farm a pleasurable family experience. Memorable, yes. Pleasurable? No. Based on my experience, and that of my fellow travellers and the strangers I stood in all those lines with, my opinion is that they're in the business of squeezing as much money out of you as they possibly can in the most unfriendly way possible. They should take some advice from the other farms who offer similar diversions for the kids, but never lose sight that family's are there to pick apples and/or pumpkins--like Demarest Farms, Abma's Farm, and Orchards of Conklin. I think Hell is better organized than Alstede Farms in Fall. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


(Photo reprinted with the permission of Lou Azzollini)

I have learned through the years that there is a fundamental truth to being human—we are creatures of memory and compassion. We feel longing, and regret. My own memories are so meticulously situated inside of me as to be nothing more than a gigantic flip book of visual stories I find myself re-visiting more and more as I age. Perhaps because the past is that one protected place where possibility never dies, relationships remain intact, and there lives the fantasy of the ‘do-over.”       
          Like my parents and grandparents before me, I grew up in Fort Lee. A Fort Lee that looks nothing like it did when I was younger, and it saddens me that so many of the landmarks of my youth have been razed and replaced by oversized duplexes, townhouse developments, strip malls, and apartment buildings that appear like scars on the horizon of my memory. I learned how to walk on the streets of a Fort Lee that still had dirt roads, farmhouses, saloons in houses where children were welcomed after school to buy soda, a local five and dime, a local department store, and acres and acres of pristine woods that lured us with wind-whispered sighs of awaiting adventures.
Then it happened. Subtly at first. The houses that lined the side roads of Main Street came down one by one, leveling the land and silencing the voices that once made those streets so vibrant. Hudson Street, Hoyt Avenue, Central Road. I remember walking those empty streets thinking how they looked hauntingly desolate like the pictures I had seen of war-torn cities in far-away countries on the evening news.
Like an infectious disease, barren lots spread north, south, east and west silencing neighborhoods and erasing history. Trees were indiscriminately felled and skyscrapers grew out from the earth casting shadows upon the capes that petulantly stood anchored beside them, refusing to move out of the way. Variances were given and zoning laws revised with seemingly little regard to preserving the character of the neighborhood until, finally, very few people remembered that there was even a character to preserve.
One by one, the houses of my friends came down; houses that were as familiar to me as my own. Houses whose histories could be traced back a hundred years or more--gone. The Coyte house, the Abbott house, the Barrymore house, the Ortlip house, the Castle on the hill, each replaced by a townhouse development, a bank, oversized duplexes, and skyscrapers. As the ‘70’s turned into the ‘80’s, and the ‘80’s turned into the ‘90’s, my small hometown was all but unrecognizable.
My life moved on, but some­where in the mix of days that have followed the memories of my hometown, and the time that I spent there with my friends, have creviced themselves into a signifi­cant place in my own history. That’s why when I heard that the Ford House, one of the oldest residences in Fort Lee that sits on a large tract of land, was being bought by a local violin shop, Main Violin Shop, to be used and preserved, I was very interested in the outcome. It went before the zoning board this week seeking to have a variance change from residential to commercial. Here’s the glitch—if the commercial variance was approved the house would be preserved. If it wasn’t approved and remained residential then any developer could potentially come in, knock it down, and replace it with a townhouse development or duplexes.
I sat in the audience listening intently to the concerns of all involved.  Lou Azzollini, Vice President of the Fort Lee Historical Society, spoke so movingly when he said, “The neighborhood (as it appears now) grew up around this house. This house is the neighborhood.” The board voted unanimously to grant the variance, thereby preserving the house and all the memories it holds, not only for the Ford family, but for all of us for whom that house represents all that Fort Lee used to be.
          It may seem like a small victory in a battle long lost, but I commend the board for their unanimous decision to preserve the Ford House. Landmarks are important because they define the stories that we tell, and those stories are what bridge the distance between the truth about ourselves and the legends we hold close. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Well, Fall is officially here and it's time to find the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! So grab the kids (and the Advil) and get ready to roam the pumpkin patches to find the perfect pumpkin. Here are some of my favorite places in New Jersey. If you have one that's not on the list please share it with us.


Abma's Farm: 700 Lawlins Rd. Wyckoff, NJ  
Located right here in Bergen County, Abma's Farm offers hayrides on the weekends and a petting zoo. It also has a great country store where you can buy fresh grown produce, fresh eggs, fresh baked cakes, pies, and cookies, and specialty items. If you're looking for a fun place to take the family for lunch or dinner, try The Barn located at 359 Sicomac Ave, Wyckoff. Great casual place for burgers, with a kids' menu and a fully stocked bar. 

Demarest Farms: 244 Wierimus Road, Hillsdale, NJ
Another great farm located right here in Bergen County, Demarest Farms has been my family's go-to place for apples, pumpkins, summer barbecues. Owned and operated by the same family since 1886, Demarest Farms is a staple for the local community. The pumpkin patch is only a hayride away and will take you through all of the orchards. Don't forget your camera. After picking your pumpkins, take the kids back to the market where they can roam the corn maze, and marvel at all of the Halloween decorations. It's a great day out!

Depiero's Farm: 300 West Grand Ave, Montvale, NJ
Depiero's Farm is also located in Bergen County and it's farm consists of over 250 acres that span into New Paltz, NY. Depiero's really goes out of their way to make pumpkin picking a special event for the kids. Not only do they offer hayrides to the pumpkin patch, but they have inflatables that the kids can play on when they've chosen their pumpkin. There's also an amazing farm market that offers fresh fruit and produce, flowers and plants, fresh bakery, specialty items, and so much more! Afterwards take the family to Nanuet Pizza for the best thin-crust pizza over the Rockland County border!

Secor Farms: 168 Airmont Ave, Mahwah, NJ
Another farm with a long-standing history in Bergen County, Secor Farms offers hayrides into the pumpkin patch where the kids can choose their perfect pumpkin. There is a hay maze and an animal farm. Also, Secor Farms has a great selection of fall flowers to choose from.


Fairfield Farms: 177 Big Piece Road, Fairfield, NJ
Not far from Bergen County is Fairfield Farms. Fairfield offers hayrides into the pumpkin patch as well as a corn/hay maze, an obstacle course, and other outdoor fall family games. Fairfield also offers a light menu of hot dogs, hamburgers, cider and more! They also have an extensive selection of fall flowers, corn stalks, and hay that you can purchase to decorate your yard for fall.  


Alstede Farms: 84 Rt. 513, Chester, NJ
Enjoy family hayrides, pumpkin picking, a corn maze and lots of family fun at Alstede farms. Alstede goes all out to make pumpkin picking a great family experience. They offer pony rides, moon bounce, corn kingdom and a wagon train ride. It's a great day out!

Riamede Farm: 122 Oakdale Road, Chester
Bring your own cutting shears if you're going to pick your pumpkin at Riamede Farms. Give the kids an experience they'll never forget! Let the hayride take you into the patch, but get ready to cut your own! The market offers fresh baked donuts and cider.

Stony Hill Farm: 15 North Road 8, Route 24, Chester
Stony Hill Farms grows gigantic pumpkins in their pumpkin patch. Take a hayride to the patch and pick the perfect jack o' lantern! After you're done picking, there are a variety of mazes for the kids to explore--a corn maze, rope maze, tile maze and more! There's a garden center and a fresh farm market to enjoy some fresh baked goods. 

Parks Farms: 525 State Route 24, Chester, NJ
Take a ride out into the pumpkin patch and get to work picking your pumpkins! Parks Farms is a great farm that offers a variety of fresh grown produce. 

Brookhollow Farms: 301 Rockaway Valley Road, Boonton Township, NJ
Not only does Brookhollow Farms have a great pumpkin patch, but it is also home to many Alpacas and an amazing barnyard where children are invited to pet and visit the animals. Small children will enjoy driving their own toy tractors, pretending to be excavators with toy front loaders in the sandbox or taking an old-fashioned wagon ride pulled by a vintage blue tractor. The petting farm includes goats, sheep, cows, donkeys, mini-horses, llamas, alpacas, pigs, ducks and chickens. To continue with the farm theme, Brookhollow offers hands-on lessons about each animal. The great train mountain where kids can watch a G scale train wind through a miniature village is yet another attraction not to be missed. 

Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill: 104 State Park Road, Chester, NJ
Located in beautiful Chester Township, right in the midst of beautiful Hackleberry State Park, Hacklebarney Farm is a popular destination for all ages. There is a beautiful pumpkin patch where the kids can wander the rows in search of the great pumpkin. The farm offers wood pressed apple cider and homemade baked goods made daily in their bakery located on the farm. There's corn mazes for the kids to play in and cider making demonstrations. 

Hillview Farms: 223 Meyersville Road, Gillette, NJ
If you're looking to take a nice trip with the family, hop in the car and go to Hillview Farms. It's a great place to see the leaves changing color. Hillview offers hayrides into the pumpkin patch and there's also a great market where you can purchase fresh produce and baked goods. 

Hamilton Farms: 130 Old Denville Road, Boonton Township, NJ
Hamilton Farms has Hayrides, Farm Animals, and the Best of the Season Farm Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. Mouth Watering Pies and Apple Cider Donuts! Jump on the hay wagon and venture out to the pumpkin patch to choose your pumpkin! Then be sure to let your family enjoy the Halloween displays and hay maze that await you upon your return. Stop in and visit with Wilbur, Cupcake and the gang in our Petting Zoo. Hardy Garden Mums, fresh fall produce available.

Middle Valley Farms: Pleasant Valley Road, Mendham, NJ
Middle Valley Farms gives hay rides to their "pick-your-own pumpkin" patch and a challenging, five-acre corn maze. But if you are not up to these adventures, relax on a hay bale with a cup of cider and a hand-dipped candy apple, breathe in the clean fresh air and enjoy the rolling countryside while the vibrant hues of autumn surround you.

Ort Farms: 25 Bartley Road, Long Valley, NJ
In addition to picking your own pumpkins, Ort Farms offers corn maze, train rides, Clysdale horses rides, a petting zoo, and so much more. They also offer cornstalks, hay, and flowers for purchase so you can decorate your own yard for the holidays!

Sun High Orchards: 19 Cranfield Ave, Randolph, NJ
The whole family will enjoy visiting the friendly animals. Their alpaca "Jersey Gold"  and mini donkey "Jessica"  are always looking to make new friends.  In the market, you can play a game of checkers or Candyland in front of their reconsturcted historic bee hive oven and fireplace. The pumpkin patch opens the last weekend in September with continuous hayrides on the weekends. There's a market that offers fresh produce, freshly baked bakery goods, and so much more!


Doyles Farm: 771 Mill Lane, Hillsbourgh, NJ
Pumpkin patch-pick in the field, pumpkin patch- already gathered from the field, corn maze, corn cannon, tractor-pulled hay rides, prepicked produce, snacks and refreshment stand, restrooms, picnic area, face painting, pony rides, farm animals, and so much more!

Norz Hill Farm: 116 South Branch Road, Hillsborough, NJ
Take a ride into the pumpkin patch to pick your own pumpkin and when you're done you can take a wagon tour of the farm where your guide will explain farm practices to the children and you'll get to see all of the farm animals. Some of the animals you will find are calves, miniature donkeys (yep, they have donkey like Dominick the donkey!), horses, llamas, sheep, chickens, goats, bunnies, a zonkey and even a water buffalo.


Burjan's Pumpkin Festival: 524 Old York Road, Flemington, NJ
The scenic 20 minute hayride takes you around the farm and past all of the poultry that they raise and into the pumpkin patch. After you've picked your pumpkin, there's lots to do for the kids--inflatables, an incredible corn maze, snacks, and so much more. A beautiful day trip that is definitely worth the ride. 

Grochowicz Farms2401 Route 31 South, Glen Gardner, NJ
Grochowicz offers Fall Family Fun. In addition to their pumpkin patch, fun hayrides where you get to see the farm's cows grazing, junior corn maze, huge hay maze, visit the farm animals, ball pit, corn pit, and more children's activities.

Schaefer Farms: 1051 Flemington/Whitehouse Road, (County Rte 523) Flemington, NJ
Bring your family on a scenic hayride to our 40+ acres of home grown pumpkins, free with the purchase of a pumpkin. Visit the friendly farm animals and tour the educational barn. Bounce in Daisybelle the cow, lose yourself in the corn maze and enjoy good food. Fun for the whole family. The farm stand is filled with fall harvest. You will find Country Treasures and fall decorations. Buy Schaefer's own Indian corn, gourds, kale, corn stalks and a wide variety of colorful mums take home some local apple cider and fresh baked pies. 


Pochuck Valley Farms962 McAfee Glenwood Rd, Glenwood, NJ
Great family destination for pumpkin picking! Great hayrides into the pumpkin patch and a great country store where you can buy fresh produce and baked goods. Great family day out!

Heaven Hill Farm: 451 Route 94, Vernon, NJ
Heaven Hill Farms offers their Fall Pumpkinland Festival--picture it as a country-style carnival that the whole family can enjoy! The hayride will take you to the pumpkin patch that is bursting with pumpkins. This is a GREAT family day out!

Lentini Farm:  251 Rt 94, Newton, NJ
Take a hayride to pick your own pumpkin and then get lost in the corn maze! There are farm animals, pumpkin painting, picnic area, food and so much more!

Sussex County Strawberry Farm: Highway 206, Andover, NJ
Yes, you can pick your own pumpkin at the Strawberry farm! After pumpkin picking the kids can enjoy pony rides. There's also hayrides, horse-drawn carriage rides, fresh produce and cider, and so much more!