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Get into the autumn spirit in Half Moon Bay, the self-proclaimed “World Pumpkin Capital.” The expansive pumpkin patches you’ll see while approaching this coastal San Mateo County town from nearly any direction gives that claim some weight—not to mention the fact that it hosts the annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival.

As the highlight of the fall season in Half Moon Bay, the free-admission “Celebration of the Great Gourd” draws tens of thousands of visitors during October with a myriad of pumpkin-themed activities. The goings-on usually start with what is perhaps the festival’s signature event: the Safeway World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off, where farmers, family teams, and other various green-thumbed growers bring in their heavyweight pumpkins—some tipping in at over 1,000 pounds—to be lifted via crane to the scales. The winning gourd-grower typically takes home prize money pegged to his product: $7 per pound.

With all those pumpkins lying around, pumpkin carvers have their work cut out for them. Watch as they create incredible one-of-a-kind works of art that, come nighttime, are lit brilliantly. Then, check out the live music, comedy performances, and contests such as a “Smashing Pumpkins: Battle of the Bands.” The festival’s recurring events also include a costume competition, a pie-eating contest, and an old-timey Great Pumpkin Parade, led by the weekend’s mascot, the jovial and rotund “Gourdy.”

Pumpkin-flavored goodies were being gobbled up here long before “pumpkin spice” became a thing. Sample the bounty of pumpkin pies, soups, and regional beers like Mavericks Pumpkin Harvest Ale from local brewers Half Moon Brewing Company, regional Central Coast wines, and other delectable treats.

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