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Around this time of year, many families begin planning trips to pumpkin patches to celebrate the spirit of the season. But there’s another type of produce that has become synonymous with fall that deserves celebration too. Apple orchards offer families a great way to cherish nostalgic traditions while supporting their local farmers too. Crisp and juicy apples are the perfect complement to fall weather, not to mention apple cider and apple pie!
Many of the apple-growing orchards in America don’t offer opportunities to pick your own apples, which makes the ones that do extra special. These orchards tend to be small family-owned operations that make a significant part of their income from agrotourism and local supporters who value home-grown, healthy food. Some apple orchards have gone organic to help environmentally conscious consumers to enjoy this favorite fruit without fear of pesticides and chemicals. Meanwhile, others grow specialty apples that you can’t find in your average supermarket.
From coast to coast and everywhere in between, here are some of the top apple picking orchards to visit this fall.
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Based in the Hood River Valley, this orchard has been growing produce since 1911 and offering visitors a wide selection with lovely views of Mount Hood ever since. It has the largest U-pick orchard in the valley, and the fruit stand is open seven days a week. Many varieties of apples and pears are grown on these 207 acres, and fall events feature fruit desserts, Fiesta Days, and hard cider tastings. When you visit the fruit stand, bring your own bags or containers to help keep the orchard’s prices low.
Sky Top Orchard is located in the mountains of western North Carolina and famous for its U-pick orchards. It is in a beautiful setting with orchard ponds, a barnyard with animals, tractor-pulled rides, a bamboo forest, and fruit trees on a mountain top. In addition to apples, this orchard offers pumpkins, apple cider, and delicious apple cider doughnuts too. If you want to beat the crowds, plan to visit the orchard on a Monday. It’s open to the public from August to December. The U-pick season runs from August to late October. There is no admission fee to visit and parking is free. Popular attractions nearby are the Biltmore Estate, Chimney Rock, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Johnson Orchards has U-pick opportunities, but they sometimes end early in the season. You can find honey crisp, gala, and other varieties in the warehouse, as well as a great selection of pears. Cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, and plums are available in the summer. This is a historic orchard that was established over 100 years ago in the lovely Yakima Valley. There’s also a bakeshop here that makes fresh baked goods every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Located in East Central Illinois, Curtis Orchard’s history dates back to 1873, and it started growing apples in the summer of 1980. The orchard updates its website every 24 hours to let visitors know what apples are ready for picking. Additional varieties of apples can be purchased in the store. This is also a pumpkin patch, so you can get in your two fall fun activities in one place! Other onsite activities include a goat petting zoo, munchkin land, slingshot gallery, horse-drawn wagon rides, pony rides, a corn maze, giant slide, and an obstacle course.
This orchard used to be called Applewood Orchards but changed its name to Apple Dave’s Orchards to honor its founder, who passed away in 2014. There are lots of things to see and do at Apple Dave’s Orchards, including apple picking, wagon rides, puppet shows, a walking trail, face painting, and fresh apple doughnuts. There are no fees for admission, parking, or entertainment here; you only pay for the picking bags for the apples you want to take home. Different apples are available for picking in September and October.
This orchard is located in the Oak Glen agricultural community and it’s the largest apple farm operating in Southern California. It has been in business since 1906 and become famous for seasonal fruit picking, slow-cooked meats, fresh baked goods, and country dances. There are several hundred heirloom fruit trees and over 10,000 apple trees with 32 varieties. The ranch has a number of festive fall activities including apple cider pressing and wagon and hay rides. Other fun events throughout the year include Frontier Tours, where you learn about 19th century farm life, Movies on the Green, Draft Horse Driving Class, and more. Pumpkins are also grown on the farm for picking in October and November.
This is a 450-acre orchard in historic New England that hosts many weddings and events all throughout the year. In the fall, you can come pick your own fruit and enjoy the seasonal offerings at the farm stand, including apple pies and apple cider. Make a whole weekend out of this orchard visit by staying at the rustic lodge or the restored 1860’s farmhouse. Alyson’s Orchard makes an excellent weekend getaway from Boston, Hartford, and Manchester. In addition to apples, this orchard grows blueberries and raspberries, which you can pick in the summer, as well as peaches, plums, and pears. There are more than 50 varieties including many heirloom apples.
Founded in 1982, this orchard grows 10 varieties of apples on more than 3,000 trees. Visit Deardorff Orchards in the fall through October 31 on Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm. You can pick your own apples or stop by the apple barn to purchase apple bags. Apple varieties you can pick include McIntosh, Zestar, Haralson, and Honeycrisp, and they’re available in the apple barn cooler. There’s no admission fee, and the orchard is dog-friendly too. The Parley Lake Winery is also here and offers music on weekends. It grows five varieties of cold-weather grapes, and the winery is located in an 1888 rustic barn. Other activities are red wagon rides and a haystack for kids and friendly farm animals.
Six generations of Striblings have been farming the land here, and the orchard specializes in apples, peaches, pumpkins, and apple cider. This is a great place to come enjoy the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it’s open from late July through early November, Tuesdays through Sundays, from 9 am to 5 pm. There are about 30 acres of apple trees here, and you can find a list of what apple varieties are available to pick and prices on the orchard’s website. To learn more about the farm’s operations, consider booking a tour.
Now in its fourth generation, Mercier Orchards is a family-owned and operated apple orchard that dates back to 1943. It’s well known for its U-pick events, bakery, deli, market store, and farm winery. The ciders here are fully produced right here. To pick your own apples, you’ll hop on a tractor ride to get to the orchard. Apple varieties grown here include Ambrosia, Arkansas Black, Beni Shogun, Blondee, Braeburn, Cameo, and more. The orchard is also a popular place in Georgia for weddings.
Unlike many of the other orchards listed here, Brightonwood Orchard is not a U-pick orchard, but it does have over 200 apple varieties and allows visitors to roam throughout the orchards and nearby wooded trail. This orchard makes an excellent weekend excursion from Chicago or Milwaukee. It’s open in the fall through mid-late November and also offers delicious Wisconsin cheese, honey, jams, jellies, and caramel apples. There’s a treehouse for kids to play in, and the AeppelTreow Winery & Distillery produces small-batch cider and spirits.