Apple picking is one of my favorite seasonal activities. We’ve gone as a family every fall since Levi was born, and he gets more excited about participating each year.
On Sunday, my parents and I took the boys apple picking with their cousin, Max, and my sister and brother-in-law. Unfortunately, JB couldn’t come along because he was back in Omaha for his last week as an Air Force officer. (Don’t worry! We’re going to try to go again now that he’s home.)
After researching possible orchards in New Jersey, including Alstede Farms, Terhune Orchards, and Sun High Orchards, we chose Riamede Farm in Chester. On their website they describe themselves as a “peaceful, quiet olde-time apple orchard with a pumpkin field out back,” which sounded like the perfect place to bring a three year old, 19 month old, and seven month old.
Bonus: They had delicious fresh-from-the-fryer apple cider donuts — some of the best we’ve ever had.
Four years of apple picking with kids has made me somewhat of an expert when it comes to hitting up orchards with babies and toddlers in tow. If you’re planning a family outing this fall, take advantage of the lessons I’ve learned these past few years.
Choosing an orchard
Starting mid-September, check your local newspaper (especially the weekend edition) for stories about apple season and calendar listings for upcoming events at orchards. Online, you can search for the phrase “pick your own apples,” but orchard directories like Orange Pippin and PickYourOwn.org may prove more fruitful — pun intended.
Some orchards are simply farms that allow you pick your own apples. Others are veritable carnivals with pony rides and corn mazes and petting zoos. If your kids are under three, I’d suggest choosing a smaller, quieter orchard and letting the focus be on picking apples. Chances are you’ll only be able to keep them interested in the day’s activity for an hour or so any way.
Hayrides, however, are always a good idea! Just be aware that strollers may not be allowed on all hayrides, which we were surprised to learn at Riamede Farm. I didn’t want to leave our UPPAbaby Vista unattended and didn’t have a baby carrier with me to wear Asa while we picked apples. My parents agreed to push him in the stroller and meet us in the orchard while we rode with Levi and his cousin, Max.
Finally, call ahead to find out what varieties are ripe and available for picking on the day you go. I forgot to do that on Sunday and had a moment of panic as we when we arrived that there wouldn’t be any apples left on the trees. After all, we were nearly a month into apple season! Luckily, only half of the orchard was ripe, which means we could potentially go back another weekend for additional varieties!
Not that we need any more apples! My dad was addicted to picking, and we ended up with approximately 12 lbs of fruit.
What to bring apple picking
Cash. Don’t be caught off guard by a cash-only entry fee or concession stand. Of course, you can probably find an ATM on the premises, but that’s just a pain in the ass (especially when your kids are being whiny).
Snacks and water. Depending on everybody’s mood and interest, you may be picking apples for 15 minutes or for an hour and 15 minutes. Be prepared for growling bellies and thirsty mouths, especially if the sun is shining and it’s getting close to mealtime. Bring something small from home or pick up a package of fresh apple cider donuts from the farm before heading into the orchard. Don’t let hunger win!
Hats and sunscreen. It was almost 90-degrees this past Sunday, and we were sweltering under the sun. But you can still get a sunburn when there’s a cool autumn breeze, so cover up.
Wet wipes. Your kids will be sticky messes from eating apples off the trees. Clean ’em up with wet wipes or baby wipes.
Sneakers and pants. Wear comfortable closed-toe shoes and be prepared for lots of walking! Also, dress in jeans, if possible, to prevent scratches from branches and tree limbs. Levi was inspired by his book about Little Nye and wanted to be a brave adventurer this year — which meant a lot of kneeling on the ground and climbing under trees with him.
Reusable bags. Some apple orchards make you buy pre-measured bags (a half-bushel, a peck, etc.) before you begin, while others will let you use your own and weigh the apples you pick afterwards. Bring the same reusable shopping bags you bring to the supermarket just in case you need them.
Tell me, do you have plans to go apple picking this year? Which are your favorite pick-your-own orchards where you live?