Janeen Lewis, contributing writer
Fall wouldn’t be complete without that family trip to pick the perfect pumpkin. Then let the Jack-o’-lantern carving, seed roasting, and pie baking begin! But what else can you do with pumpkins? Pumpkin bowling, anyone? What about tasting pumpkin cheesecake? Kids will enjoy building character pumpkins or making a messy, oozing pumpkin. Whether hosting a fall bash or spending time with the family, here are 31 ways to celebrate America’s favorite gourd.
CARVED PUMPKIN IDEAS
Nothing says fall like a lit-up Jack-o’-lantern. Carve a traditional pumpkin, or if you want to try something new this year, here are some ideas:
1. Create a fun oozing pumpkin and watch foam erupt from its carved mouth and eyes. Check out Steve Spangler’s website to make one. (stevespangler.com/experiments/oozing-pumpkins)
2. Not sure about your design and carving skills? Try a pattern and stencil. Most grocery and department stores carry inexpensive stencil and carving kits.
3. Hammer metal cookie cutters into a hollow pumpkin and then pop out the shapes to make your own unique design.
4. Instead of a candle, put a glow stick in your carved pumpkin for an eerie, neon effect.
NO-CARVE PUMPKIN IDEAS
If you want your pumpkin to last through the season or you don’t want to deal with the mess of carving a pumpkin, there are plenty of fun no-carve options:
5. Make a nail-art pumpkin. Draw a design on your pumpkin then hammer nails into the design. Either leave the nails as is or decorate with thread and make a string-art pumpkin.
6. Create pumpkin people that represent favorite book or movie characters. For example, one big pumpkin and two small gourds on the side could be Princess Leia, or paint a pumpkin green to make Yoda. Pinterest has many examples. Are you a sports lover? Paint a baseball, basketball, volleyball, soccer ball, or softball pumpkin.
7. Trim the stem and paint on animal faces.
8. Leave the stem, then add white paint and glitter. Poof! The pumpkin becomes a unicorn.
Creative pumpkin games make any get together or party a blast. Try one of these or convert a favorite game into pumpkin play.
9. Bowl with pumpkins. Set up pins in the grass. Use small lightweight pumpkins without stems as pumpkin bowling balls. See who can knock down the most pins.
10. Play pumpkin putt-putt. Use pumpkins to make an obstacle course. With miniature golf clubs, putt around the pumpkins, or make one big pumpkin that has a wide-open mouth to putt into. Make the game even more challenging by using a tiny pumpkin as the golf ball.
11. Jump, slide, or go diagonal with pumpkins and play pumpkin checkers. Use a large checker mat or table, or use small pumpkins and use a traditional board. Use white pumpkins as checkers on one side and orange on the other.
12. Take turns playing pumpkin tic-tac-toe. Mark off a tic-tac-toe grid on the lawn, use chalk on the sidewalk, or use a mat and play tic-tac-toe with pumpkins.
For your next party or family get together, try some of these unique containers for your tablescape.
13. Serve soup in pumpkin bowls. Go with a traditional family favorite or in honor of fall, make pumpkin or squash soup. Use the top as a lid to keep the soup warm.
14. Light up the room with pumpkin candle holders. Use mini pumpkins for candlesticks and bigger pumpkins for jar candles.
15. Fill a large, hollow pumpkin with ice and use as an ice bucket.
16. Tap a hollow pumpkin with a nozzle and turn it into a drink dispenser.
DAZZLE WITH DÉCOR
Get creative inside and outside with these pumpkin decorations.
17. Make a festive vase. Scoop the insides out, fill the pumpkin with floral foam and stick faux or real flowers in the foam.
18. Dress up the fireplace mantel. Use painted pumpkins and bows or write letters on several little pumpkins to make words such as “gather” or “happy fall.”
19. Use mini pumpkins as place holders for a fall dinner. Use a toothpick or cardholder with a sharp end and stick it in the pumpkin to attach a name card.
20. Make a pumpkin topiary for inside or outside.
21. Layer pumpkins from top to bottom on porch steps.
SPRUCE UP THE GARDEN
Keep the garden alive during fall with these ideas:
22. Make an outdoor pumpkin planter. Hollow out a pumpkin and fill with soil and hardy flowers like mums or pansies.
23. Feed the birds! Fill a pumpkin with seeds and leave it in the yard.
24. Make garden compost. Cut a leftover pumpkin into small pieces, or better yet, let the kids have a blast by smashing a rotting pumpkin into tiny pieces. Pitch the pieces in the compost pile or scatter the pumpkin pieces over soil, cover with leaves and let nature take it from there.
25. Next year grow a pumpkin from this year’s seeds. Rinse seeds, spread out, and let dry for several weeks. Store them in an envelope in a dry, cool place to plant next year.
Trail mix, cocktails, and cheesecake, oh my! These ideas go beyond mere pie.
26. Roast sweet and salty pumpkin seeds by adding brown sugar and sea salt. You can also roast seeds with olive oil and your favorite herbal seasoning, or choose from cinnamon, ginger, garlic salt, seasoning salt, pepper, or grated cheese. Experiment to find your favorite flavor.
27. Create your own fall trail mix. Sprinkle roasted pumpkin seeds in granola and throw in some other favorite ingredients like raisins or nuts.
28. Bake a traditional pumpkin pie.
29. Pumpkin pie isn’t your thing? Try one of its cousins pumpkin bread, cheesecake, or cookies.
30. Make pumpkin butter, hummus, or smoothies with pumpkin flesh. allrecipes.com has many recipes for all foods pumpkin.
31. Did you know you can make pumpkin cocktails? For recipes for cocktails or non-alcoholic pumpkin drinks, check out The Spruce Eats at thespruceats.com