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The Great Pumpkin Hunt at SCBG: Is It Worth It?

My family was in the mood for a fall-related activity this weekend.  Instead of the usual pumpkin patch, we opted to try out The Great Pumpkin Hunt at the South Coast Botanic Garden.  Read on for our experience at the garden.

The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Beginning of scavenger hunt

My family wanted to get in the mood for fall.   We decided to head outdoors to get our fall fix despite the hot SoCal weather this weekend.  Visiting a pumpkin patch seemed like an obvious choice.  However, we have done that many times before and wanted to try something different.

I recently saw a sign for The Great Pumpkin Hunt when signing up for membership at the South Coast Botanic Garden.  I wasn’t very clear on what exactly the hunt was all about.  The mystery is part of what made it fun.

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What Is The Great Pumpkin Hunt?The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Hunt Map

The Great Pumpkin Hunt is a scavenger hunt.  Upon arrival, the garden staff provided my family with a map of for The Great Pumpkin Hunt.  The map shows all of the spots where you will find a birdhouse with clues that will get you to the Great Pumpkin Patch.The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Hunt Map

Each birdhouse is well hidden and is decorated in a unique way.  The birdhouses alone were so fun to find because we were curious what the next one would look like.The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Kids reading clue at first birdhouse.Once you find each birdhouse, you seek out the laminated card attached to the birdhouse.  On the card, you will see a picture of a specific type of bird, information about that species, along with a clue word that you write into the coded message on the map.The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Clue on the pumpkin hunt

You will have to visit each birdhouse to get all of the clue words for the coded message.  Once you find all of the birdhouses, you then have to decode the message.  The decoded message will tell you which direction you have to walk to get to The Great Pumpkin Patch.  You don’t really know what you are looking for, you just sort of have to keep your eyes open until you find it!

Would My Family Recommend The Great Pumpkin Hunt?

Both the adults and the kids had a great time.  My kids are currently 8 and 11 years old and had a great time.The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Family enjoying the sunshine and pumpkin hunt

What did we like?

The active participation involved

We were not just looking at pumpkins and flowers, we had to actively seek out the prize at the end.  The kids (and adults) loved the mystery and anticipation of it all.The Great Pumpkin Hunt at South Coast Botanic Garden- Kids running to the next clue

The kids were reading maps and guiding the group

The girls were given full control of the map.  The kids had not been to the South Coast Botanic Garden for quite a long time, so this was a true test for them.  I really loved seeing them read the map and figure out where the next birdhouse would be located.The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Kids reviewing the map

The teamwork

The girls worked together to figure out where to go and to decode the message.The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Filling out the last hunt

Hidden exercise

The South Coast Botanic Garden is a whopping 87 acres of land!  Let me tell you, The Great Pumpkin Hunt has you walk all around and through those 87 acres.  My kids were fond of it at the beginning.  However, they were complaining that they were tired by the end of the hunt.  Be prepared if you have little ones!

The Great Pumpkin Hunt at South Coast Botanic Garden-Tired kid
“My legs are tiiiiired!”

The picture opportunities involved

We were pleasantly surprised by the final reveal at the end of The Great Pumpkin Hunt.  We honestly didn’t know what to expect.  I thought it would just be a big pumpkin.  Thankfully, there were plenty of picture opportunities on the spot and the girls were loving it.

The Great Pumpkin Hunt: picture opportunity at the end of the hunt
This is a snippet of the Great Pumpkin Patch. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you 😉


There are tons of picture opportunities at the South Coast Botanic Garden.  We took full advantage of them while going through the hunt.The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Picture opportunity at the gardenThe Great Pumpkin Hunt: Wall of succulents

The kids were exposed to new things throughout the garden.

Just to name a few, there was a cotton tree, sundial, and a sculpture.
The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Cotton tree at the gardenThe Great Pumpkin Hunt: A sundial in the gardenThe Great Pumpkin Hunt: Sculpture at the South Coast Botanic Garden

Quality family time in the great outdoors

There is a lot to be said for spending time together in the sun without any other distractions.  Just ask my girls!

The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Kids dancing in the garden
Nothing to see here. Just dancing together in the middle of nowhere…without music.

The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Kids on the hunt during the great pumpkin hunt

What tips would we give?

  • Get to the garden early for the hunt.  Chances are you will beat the heat, have well-rested kids, and won’t have to worry about anybody being hungry.
  • Check the weather before heading out.   Although this is a fall activity…this is southern California.  One day it might be cold, the next day it’s hot.  Therefore, be sure to dress accordingly.
  • Pack a hat for everyone. No matter the temperature, the sun is likely to be an issue.
  • Take a water bottle! We did not anticipate the amount of walking or heat involved.  It definitely made it a little challenging to get the kids to keep walking.
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen. Overcast or not, you will want to protect your skin.
  • Pay attention where you walk.  There were various rocks and items in the ground and my husband had to warn me to pay attention and look out.  It’s not my fault!  The beautiful views can be distracting.
  • Take pictures in the Children’s Garden.  The kids will love this area of the garden.
  • Get the South Coast Botanic Garden membership. I recently purchased a Deluxe family membership via a great deal I found on Groupon.  The membership grants you access to several other gardens, including Descanso Gardens.  Members receive discounts to events held at the garden.

Quick Facts

  • Dates: Daily from September 15 through November 30th (2018)
  • Time: 9am to 5pm
  • Cost: Free with membership or general admission ticket purchase.
  • Location: The South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA 90274
  • Phone: 310-544-1948


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