Come fall, Midwest garden centers bloom with mums, asters and ornamental kale. Farms open to the public for pumpkin picking, hayrides and corn maze navigation. It’s rare to find both combined and with a restaurant on the premises, to boot, which is what you get at Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins in Decorah, Iowa. “…with the restaurant and the garden center and the pumpkin patch, the closest would probably be Chicago, that has all what I have,” said Elisa Pinter, who co-owns Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins with her husband Shane.
Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins opened in 2011, but the business came with plenty of family experience. Shane owned a landscaping business since 1998 and Elisa began baking and decorating wedding cakes in 2008. They combined the two businesses, turning the landscaping business into a full-blown garden center, the baking business into a restaurant and bakery. They added a fall pumpkin and corn maze attraction that draws thousands of visitors every year.
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The garden center
The outside of Pinter’s is festively decorated with pumpkins, mums and corn stalks, pulling you into the fall spirit.
To be honest, I didn’t spend a lot of time in the garden section of Pinter’s. I was there for lunch and to check out the fall event. The aroma of fresh bakery goods drew me to the restaurant before I had a chance to look around.
You order at the counter, where you’re faced with cases full of fudge, cupcakes, pies and other delectable treats, enticing you to save room for dessert. Order dessert at the same time you order your lunch and you won’t have to stand in line again. And it will be too late to drum up the willpower to skip dessert.
I chose the turkey bacon melt, a panini with turkey, bacon, provolone and raspberry chipotle. The buttery, ooey-gooey sandwich with the sweet-spicy condiment was one of my favorite foods during my four-day northeast Iowa culinary tour.
Beginning mid-September through the end of October, thousands of visitors come out for Pinter’s fun fall event. Navigate through a corn maze, shoot the pumpkin cannon, play a life-size game of chess, or choose from more than a dozen other activities. Many are geared toward young visitors, like pedal go karts, farm animals and a jumping pillow. Others are fun for everyone, like pumpkin bowling, a life-size chess set and wagon rides to the pumpkin patch.
Night Time Adventures
Ready for a little more adventure? Find your way through the corn maze at night, with the only light being the lantern that you carry. To make it family friendly, it isn’t haunted, but just navigating through it at night sounds a little scary to me.
If you really want to be scared, Pinter’s also hosts the haunted Dead Shed down the street.
- Every year Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins adds about five new activities to their fall event, so you’ll be surprised each year with new things to do.
- They planted apple trees in 2014, which should begin to bear fruit by 2017.
- Elisa said they’d like to add some winter activities, although she isn’t sure what. In the meantime, they keep busy in the winter with a snow removal service and planning for the next season.
If you go
- Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins is located at 2475 State Hwy. 9 in Decroah, Iowa.
- Hours vary seasonally.
- Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with extended hours on fall weekends.
- The pumpkin patch and other fall activities are open seasonally on Saturday and Sunday.
- Pinter’s Dead Shed is open on Friday and Saturday nights during the fall event.
- Check the web site for hours, admission and food menus.
Disclosure: My visit to Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins was hosted by the Iowa Tourism Office and Pinter’s. However, any opinions expressed in this post are my own.
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