If you visit Omaha in the fall, you’re likely to hear somebody mention a place called Vala’s Pumpkin Patch. It’s a kind of an autumnal amusement park in the outskirts of town (in Gretna, actually) with lots of activities for little ones. It attracts thousands of people every year and has recently been summed up with one word: expensive. In 2015, tickets on the weekend go for $15.75 each, and children over two — i.e. any children old enough to fully appreciate the experience — pay full price. This means a family of four will shell out over $70 with tax for a day of pedal bikes and jumping pillows, and that doesn’t even include a pumpkin.
So if you’re like me, and you’re set on actually visiting Vala’s (rather than exploring the many other alternate pumpkin patches in the area), you’ll want to know how to do it right and maybe save a few bucks. And don’t bother vying for certain online “specials” you see where you can get a stack of tickets at half price. They sell out in seconds and you won’t grab any. Trust me.
Instead, to here are a few things to consider.
- Don’t go on the weekend. If it’s at all possible, visit Vala’s Monday through Thursday. The tickets will each cost $6 less, and you’ll have far fewer crowds to deal with. We went on a Wednesday this year, and there weren’t any lines for any of the stores, attractions, or food vendors. If you’ve stood around a good twenty minutes waiting for your turn on the jumping pillows, it’s a big deal to get to hop right on and stay as long as you like.
- Get your tickets online. If you plan on visiting Vala’s Friday through Sunday, you’ll save $1 per ticket if you buy your tickets online. Even better, you will get to walk more or less right on in when you arrive. This is a big deal on weekends when you could be spending your first half hour standing around waiting for Granny to figure out how to sign her name with her finger on an iPad.
- Don’t take 180th street. Enjoy sitting in traffic for an hour? Then by all means turn off Highway 370 and sit idling in your car for a mile as you creep along 180th along with hundreds of other cars waiting to squeeze into Vala’s giant parking field/lot. Want a shortcut? Take 168th street. It curves right around to Schram Road and there’s virtually no waiting, even on Saturday.
- Bring your own water. After an hour or two of hiking around in the dry dust and dirt of Vala’s, you’re going to get thirsty — over and over again. You’re going to hate yourself for spending $2 on a small bottle of water when you could have just brought your own and filled up at the water fountains down by the restroom. This is the only water fountain in the park, so bring your own bottles and use it.
- Time the live shows right. Certain attractions, like the pig races and that dragon thing, happen only at specific times during the day, so if you want your kid to get picked as a “pig leader,” be sure to be at the pig races at the top of the hour (except for 3 pm or whatever). It’s also worth checking the calendar for special live shows going on during the day (or evening).
- Bring a snack. Vala’s staff doesn’t (yet) check your stroller or belongings for outside food, so bring along a bag of trail mix for you and the little ones when you get hungry. And you will.
If you haven’t visited Vala’s yet, do it soon, because it all wraps up on Halloween night and the doors stay shut until next September. Have any advice of your own to add? Put it in the comments below.