When you think of autumn, you usually think of pumpkins, cinnamon and, of course, apples. The popular fruit that you see on grocery store shelves all year round is actually seasonal to fall. This is a likely reason why apple pie is traditionally served at Thanksgiving, as well as why they only get dipped in caramel around this time of year. It also explains why people drink apple cider during the months of October and November. Since apples are an autumn staple in American culture, what better way to honor such a tradition than visiting an apple orchard with your family or a group of friends? Some people think that apple orchards are only for the first half of fall, but they are open well into November — some even allow visitors the week or two after Thanksgiving.
While the primary goal of visiting an apple orchard is to spend time outdoors and collect fresh fruit, there is a whole experience that goes along with it. First of all, part of the appeal of apple picking is that you get varieties of apples that you cannot find in the grocery store. A little-known fact is that American supermarkets only stock five varieties of apples. If you go to an orchard, they have almost every kind of apple that can be grown in the United States. Not every orchard will have all the different kinds of apples, but you’ll have at least twice the variety as your local grocery store. The fun of apple picking lies in gathering all the rare apples that you likely never even knew existed. Ever heard of a Baldwin apple? No? That’s because you need to go to an apple orchard to get one. The same is true for Gravenstein, York and Empire apples.
Apple orchards also offer hayrides. This classic childhood activity is timeless and continues to be fun for people of any age. It also yields some surprising health benefits, a fact that is not commonly discussed. Hayrides are a great way to de-stress after a long week of work, as nothing can take your mind off everyday life in the way that spending extended periods of time in nature does. Hayrides are also a social activity, since it is more about hanging out with friends and having a good time than it is about sitting in a giant pile of hay. Plus, the hayride is often how you get to the apple trees, which makes it an essential part of the orchard experience.
If fruit picking isn’t your thing, apple orchards usually feature other activities that are fun for the entire family. Highland Orchards in West Chester, Pennsylvania, offers a farm animal exhibit that includes goats and chickens. Linvilla Orchards, also in Pennsylvania, occasionally offers pony rides. And, starting after Thanksgiving Day, they host holiday-themed events. These include visiting with Santa and picking out a Christmas tree. They also sell flowering plants and vegetable seeds for those into gardening or growing their own produce; these can be found at the gardening center. Apple orchards sell things like home decor, candles and soap, too. This is the perfect place to check out while the rest of your group is out collecting apples.
Between the fruit farm itself, the hayrides, the fresh baked goods and the fun activities, the apple orchard visit is bound to be worthwhile. Even if you are there just to get out of the house on a nice day rather than to pick apples, there’s still plenty of stuff for you to do. If you are thinking of going to an apple orchard in either one of the remaining fall weather weekends this year (or even next autumn), this is your sign to plan that visit!