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Fruit picking thrills in Illinois and beyond

As a girl I took a vacation in Maine and I still remember the thrill of picking strawberries and popping them into a bucket or, better yet, straight into my mouth. My fruit-picking has taken me to Wisconsin, too, for raspberry picking that filled buckets to the brim. There is something joyful about picking fruit off the vine, and I’m planning to carry on the tradition with my toddler this summer.

Here’s a little tip from someone who’s been there, picked that: Don’t head out to a farm without connecting with an actual person to confirm that whatever you want to pick is available that day! I’ve headed down a few dirt roads only to be disappointed. So save yourself some frustration (especially if your car ride involves kiddos) and call ahead.

If the thought of packing up a picnic basket, ditching the busy city and enjoying some good ol’ fashioned berry-picking fun appeals to you, it’s time to pack up your crew and head out! Fresh air and tasty berries await.

Real simple strawberries in Illinois

The open landscape and rustic approach of Olive Berry Acres fits my ideal berry picking scenario, so I reached out to owners Nik and Michelle Weber to get more details. Located just 70 miles from downtown Chicago near Mazon, the drive won’t make you go road trip bonkers. And when you arrive, your family can even have a picnic on the lawn.

The farm offers pick-your-own strawberries around the first week of June, but conditions can change quickly, so connect with the Webers to confirm that U-pick strawberries will be available. You can call or even text them.

Michelle recommends arriving as soon as the farm opens (the early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the amazing-looking strawberries). She also suggests bringing water and wearing sunscreen. And bring along rainboots or mud shoes, since the fields can be messy.

Your kiddos can pick some veggies here, too, as the Webers are expecting green beans to be available for U-pick alongside the strawberries.

Blueberry bliss in Indiana

There is something so comforting about biting into homemade blueberry muffins. Get the goods to make them at Stateline Blueberries in Michigan City, Ind. This 35-acre blueberry haven offers nine varieties throughout the growing season. That could make a whole lot of muffins!

This family-run business has been planting blueberries since 1942, so they know their stuff. The picking season spans roughly from the last week of June to mid-August. But they agree that you should always call ahead. Once you find the right time, your family can happily roam around and snatch up berries from wherever you please.

Raspberry party in Michigan

Raspberries top my list of fave foods, so The Extraordinary Berry pretty much had me at hello with its photos of golden and red varieties. Blackberries are a bonus, too! This berry bliss is just a couple hours away from Chicago in Benton Harbor, Mich. They open for berry business on June 23 and the website offers quite an irresistible invitation to visitors: “Walk the berry fields, taste the different varieties, enjoy the beautiful outdoors, pick the perfect berry, bring a picnic lunch, spend the afternoon with us.” Sounds idyllic to me!

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