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Nothing ushers in the fall season quite like apple picking. For many Americans, picking a bushel of apples, sipping cider, and savoring a variety of homemade pies and pumpkin spice pastries is the best way to welcome autumn.
The first American apple orchard was planted in Boston, Massachusetts in 1623 from seedlings brought over by European colonists. Nowadays, “U-Pick” harvesting at apple orchards has become popular nationwide. An afternoon at an apple orchard picking fresh fruit, going on hayrides, navigating corn mazes, and visiting with farm animals has become an annual tradition. Here are eight of the best orchards for apple picking in the U.S. so you can capture that quintessential fall photo.
Honey Pot Hill Orchards, Stow, Massachusetts
This orchard might not come as a surprise since Massachusetts is where apple picking originated. Honey Pot Hill Orchards is located 30 miles northwest of Boston and attracts many New England apple hunters. Pickers can harvest their own blueberries, pears, and 14 different kinds of apples starting as early as late August until as late as December. Three impressive mazes carved from arborvitae hedges are a fun challenge for younger visitors, and the whole family can enjoy a hayride and a visit with the farm’s goats, chickens, rabbits, and sheep.
Willow Brook Apple Farm, Oak Glen, California
This family-run operation is a two-hour jaunt from Los Angeles and offers city-dwellers an escape to the relaxing countryside. Willow Brook Apple Farm offers seven apple varieties, but their staple is the Stayman winesap, a tart, wine-flavored variety harvested from the original orchard planted in 1910. The historic orchard typically starts with U-Pick apple harvesting in October on weekends. Visitors can also press their own cider, sample caramel apples and craft wine, and meet the farm’s adorable, furry friends.
Applecrest Farm, Hampton Falls, New Hampshire
In the 1920s, it was the Wagner family’s idea to bring tourists from Boston to their apple orchards in New Hampshire on what was dubbed the “Apple Train.” The idea took off and pioneered the trend across the country. Still owned and operated by the Wagner family, Applecrest Farm claims to be the oldest continuously operating orchard in the nation. Applecrest offers a bountiful selection of fruit, vegetables, and homemade treats, all sold straight out of the farm’s historic, 200-year-old barn.
Bellewood Farms and Distillery, Lynden, Washington
Washington state produces more than half of America’s apples, so it’s safe to say the orchards here are top-notch. Family-run Bellewood Farms is one of the largest orchards in the state with 25,000 trees spread across 31 acres. Each month of their picking season (August through October) produces different offerings for U-Pick apples. After picking, kids can enjoy a run through the corn maze and refuel at the outdoor concession stand serving fresh donuts, cider, and apple pie. Don’t forget to stock up on take-home goodies from Bellewood’s famous farm store including wine and hard cider made in their onsite distillery!
Shelburne Orchards, Shelburne, Vermont
There’s something for everyone at Shelburne Orchards, a picturesque, 60-acre orchard on the shores of Lake Champlain. Pick your own apples seven days a week from September through October. Some of the most popular varieties include the famed McIntosh and Paula red. Satisfy your sweet tooth with apple cider donuts and visit the onsite distillery to sample Shelburne’s original Dead Bird brandy.
All Seasons Orchard, Woodstock, Illinois
Apple picking at All Seasons is truly a family affair. U-Pick harvesting includes a free wagon ride out to the apple and pear trees. As one of the largest honeycrisp apple orchards in Illinois, All Seasons’ specialty is the juicy variety. After snagging a bushel, pickers can make their way back to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch to gather edible and decorative gourds for fall. Make a day of it with a visit to the barnyard, complete with a petting zoo, three miles of corn mazes, playgrounds, and plenty of fun weekend activities like duck races and pumpkin bowling. Save time to browse the fall harvest-inspired offerings at the onsite store. You won’t leave empty handed.
Carter Mountain Orchards, Charlottesville, Virginia
Perched atop a forested hill overlooking Charlottesville to the west and the rolling foothills of the Piedmont region to the east, this family-run operation is much more than an orchard. Here, you can pick your own apples by the bag and stock up on a variety of ready-picked nectarines, peaches, berries, tomatoes, and asparagus. The Country Store and Bakery has all the treats you’d expect (and then some), from warm apple cider donuts and cider slushies to apple butter, jams, and jellies. And for the adults, a swing by the Bold Rock Tap Room for tastings; a pint is a must for hard cider enthusiasts.
Apple Annie’s Orchard, Willcox, Arizona
Offering pick your own fruit and vegetables, Apple Annie’s is a one-stop shop for all your grocery needs. Fill up on U-Pick apples, peaches, and pears and then head to the garden and pick your own squash, cucumber, eggplant, green chiles, okra, and much more. Ready-picked watermelon, cantaloupe, and corn also await in the fully-stocked market. Make sure to grab dessert from the country store — Annie’s homemade apple pie was voted the best by Lonely Planet.