There are two things my son asks me at least once a week: how many days until his birthday, and how many days until we can go to the Pumpkin Festival again. I have to admit, it’s one of my favorite family outings, too.
Starting in early fall, the castle at Ludwigsburg (not far from Stuttgart), puts up a huge exhibition of pumpkin carvings and sculptures made of hundreds of pumpkins, hay bales and wood. Each year there’s a theme (2014’s was “Pumpkin Royale” and 2015’s is “Pumpkins Taking Flight”), and the displays play to that theme. This is a really great opportunity for kids to run around, eat some great food, and engage in a little fall fun. The restaurant and the festival eatery feature some inventive pumpkin-themed food, and even pumpkin sparkling wine (Sekt). It sounds pretty unusual, but I found it tasty and refreshing. I also tried the pumpkin stir-fry and my husband loved his Spaghetti Kurbinese (a play on Spaghetti Bolognese). There are pumpkin Maultaschen, and also other non-pumpkin items like fries for the less adventurous. Right next to the outdoor seating area, there is a great little playground for the kids to explore, and nearby there is a large tent with pumpkin-themed items and handicrafts for sale. Stands throughout the grounds sell pumpkins and spice combinations to take your cooking way beyond pumpkin pie. Some offer free samples, demonstrating a much wider range of flavors than I had expected.
The grounds of the castle are beautifully maintained, and this is actually a great destination for families even when the festival is not taking place. Parking is generally easy to find and not terribly expensive. Look for the sign that says Blühendes Barock. There’s also access by S-Bahn (Ludwigsburg stop). It’s about a 10 minute walk from the station. Even if you drive, it’s a bit of a hike across the castle grounds to the back of the garden where the festival is held (including some steep hills on the way out). Stroller access is no problem, but comfortable shoes are a must.
If you have kids, the Märchengarten (Fairytale Garden) is a major draw. During the festival, the entrance fee includes this section of the park. Little displays and dioramas depict scenes from classic German fairytales. Some have animatronic figures, and some have recorded voices telling parts of the story. Even if your kids know zero German, it’s still fun to run around and look at the different figures and peek into the little windows. My favorite two parts are the tiny petting zoo with goats and the boat ride. The line can be rather long, but it goes much faster than you would expect. (It’s also a chance to teach kids about waiting your turn. This is where my son learned to say, “I’m a big boy. I wait patiently in line.”) Up to four people can pile into the little boat and be taken through a gentle ride in shallow channels, which gives you a chance to see the park from a different angle. There’s room to leave your stroller behind, but as I always suggest, you might want to consider locking it with a bike cable. Deeper in the Fairytale Garden there’s also a miniature train that kids can ride.
Stock up on new varieties of pumpkins on the way out (so you don’t have to carry them around with you). This festival is a great chance to take some exciting family pictures, so don’t forget your camera!
Tips For Your Trip:
In 2015 the festival runs from September 4 – November 8 in Blühenden Barock, Schloss Ludwigsburg and this year’s theme is “Pumpkins Taking Flight.” The exhibition is open from 0900-2030. The vendors and restaurants in the park have slightly shorter hours (see the website below). The park is not lit at night so plan a daytime visit.
To the gardens only:
Children (4-15): €4.20
Family 1 (1 adult and 2 children): €16.00
Family 2 (2 adults and 2 children): €23.00
To the gardens and the Schloss:
Children (4-15): €9.00
Dogs on a leash are allowed.
Want to go back to Ludwigsburg during a different time of year? Check out the Ludwigsburg Christmas Market! It’s amazing!
Note about the pictures: Lucy, the author of the article, supplied the first and third picture and both of the small pictures. Thank you to Amy Sprenkle for the other pictures. Each year the festival has a different theme. The theme from the year pictured was “Switzerland.” Hence the Swiss flag and many cows!