There are few things more deliciously fall than biting into a
juicy apple just plucked from a tree. Fortunately there are plenty
of orchards where you can discover the simple pleasure of picking
apples for yourself.
But before you load up the car, there are a few things to
Many orchards add entertainment on weekends to create a family
environment, which tends to bring crowds. If you're looking for a
quieter farm experience, weekdays are your best bet.
"Different farms offer different things," says Carey Garwood of
Garwood Farms. "They should think about what interests them."
Orchards tend to be open rain-or-shine (except if there's
lightning), so dress appropriately-high heels aren't a good idea on
uneven ground. If your kids can't do much walking, bring a
wagon-especially helpful for bringing back your haul.
Remember, this is nature, so be prepared. Wear sunscreen and bug
spray. If you or your child has a bee allergy, bring along an
"Bees are part of it," says Nancy Tipton of Tree-mendous Farm.
"Without the bees, we have no fruit."
Pesticides are also part of it, but most orchards say their
fruit is safe to be eaten from the tree. If that concerns you, call
and ask about the spray protocol.
Check whether you should bring your own containers for the
fruit. And know how you want to use the apples-sauce? pies? school
lunches?-so you easily can choose between the many varieties. Many
orchards offer taste-tests so you can discover which variety you
and your kids prefer.
"The advantage to u-pick is they can pick exactly what they want
and know what they're getting," Tipton says.
You'll also want to look into what the cost covers. Some
orchards charge an admission or parking fee on top of the u-pick
prices; others charge for the wagon ride to the field or containers
for your fruit.
On the car ride there, discuss appropriate behavior with your
kids: no climbing trees, throwing apples or discarding apples after
a single bite. Garwood says the more you prepare your kids for what
they'll see, the more engaged (and better behaved) they'll be.
Consider bringing along a picnic lunch (if that's allowed) and
making a day of it. When you get home, look up some recipes for
your apples or do a blindfolded taste-test between the
Above all, keep this perspective from Royal Oak Orchard Farm's
Sarah Bell in mind: "It's just a fun time to spend with the
family," she says. "We try to provide a nice relaxing atmosphere
here, a getaway from city and busy suburban life…It's definitely a
tradition for families."
Once you chomp into that first juicy apple, it just might be a
tradition your family enjoys for years to come.
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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