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Get Your Apple-Picking On This Fall At These 5 Great Orchards

By Staff in Food on Sep 30, 2015 4:12PM

Photo via Shutterstock.

By Blair Chavis

Ahhh…fall. Chicagoans can finally bid “adieu" to sticky, 90-degree, summer weather and usher in perfectly temperate 60- and 70-degree days filled with crunchy leaves, pumpkin lattes and glorious, crispy apples, prime for the picking. To truly bask in fall colors and flavors, a trip to the country could be worth the drive—not to mention, imagine all that fresh air, city dwellers.

Orchards are reporting a good crop this year. Many orchards opened in mid-to-late August or Labor Day weekend, and they will continue to offer picking activities roughly through the end of October. Apple selection dwindles, however, throughout October, so it is best to hurry to the orchards soon for the best pick.

Sandwiched in the center of the Midwest, Chicago is surrounded by plentiful apple orchard options in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. Whether you have children or want to reconnect with your inner child, some apple orchards are just an hour or so away. Here are some of our favorite choices for apple orchard visits this fall.

A sign at Apple Holler.

Apple Holler

A 70-acre orchard filled with 30,000 apple trees and more than 30 varieties of apples, along with pears, peaches, pumpkins and sugar snap peas, Apple Holler features a restaurant, country store and bakery, pumpkin patches, hayrides, pig roasts, gemstone mining, apple and corn mazes and a see-it-to-believe-it Golden Goat Bridge, which towers overhead at barn level. (You might spot a goat crossing the bridge over your head!) Not to mention, Apple Holler has expansive camping grounds that give you the feeling of walking through the woods, surrounded by sprawling orchards and adorable signs pointing you toward apple varieties. Woodland creatures in the form of signs nailed to trees help guide your path. Halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee, Apple Holler also is close to the infamous Mar’s Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wis. and the Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlets in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. You could easily make a day out of this short road trip.

With the help of Apple Holler’s electronic apple calendar, you can track apple variety availability. For instance, Honeycrisps might become more scarce as we enter in October, but one can still easily still pick Red Delicious, Jonathan, Jonagold apples and more. The orchard recommends calling in advance for picking availability before visiting.

Apple Holler is located at 5006 S. Sylvania Ave., Sturtevant, Wis. 53177.

County Line Orchard

County Line Orchard

County Line Orchard spans 40 acres of “u-pick apples,” including Fuji, Red Delicious, Jonagolds, Rome, Granny Smith and many more, along with offering pumpkins, various squash and gourds, Indiana corn, hay bales, and flowers. You can forget apples for a moment: The orchard also serves up 10,000 hot, fresh, apple- and pumpkin-spiced donuts each day during the fall season—and visitors can watch the bakery at work. Sweets lovers also can bask in the orchard’s varied homemade fudge selection and homemade pies, including Indiana’s prized state sugar cream pie. This Indiana orchard destination is bursting with educational opportunities for children. Not only does the orchard have the standard tractor-drawn trailer ride and a petting zoo, but visitors can also check out Chickville to watch baby chicks hatch, go to Bee Yurts to observe bee hives, and even watch staff members make apple cider. The orchard additionally features elaborate corn mazes: This year’s designs celebrate the Chicago Blackhawks.

County Line Orchard is located at 200 S. County Line Road, Hobart, Ind. 46342.

All Seasons Orchard

All Seasons Orchard, a 10,000 tree orchard based in Woodstock, Ill., is one of the few orchards that allows Honeycrisp picking. Just an hour from Chicago, this orchard comes complete with a u-pick area, pumpkin patch, a 10-acre corn maze and more. After picking some apples, take aim at All Seasons’ shooting gallery, where you can try your hand at apple shooters and pumpkin cannons. Sweets lovers will go wild for the orchard’s dessert bar, offering taffy apples and made-to-order desserts. All Seasons also has barnyard activities with a petting zoo and goat bridge. Visitors can have more interactive fun racing each other on the pedal kart track, trying out the orchard’s mini zip line park, and giant swings, tube slide and tractor tire. On the weekends, don’t miss the orchard’s pig races and magic show.

All Seasons Orchard is located at 14510 IL Route 176, Woodstock, Ill. 60098.

The Fun House at Didier Farms.

Didier Farms

Located near Chicago in Lake County, Ill., Didier Farms isn’t really an apple orchard, but offers all of the fall bells and whistles of a full-scale orchard, minus the apple trees. Didier features a greenhouse, a farmstand and "Pumpkinfest." For those seeking a quick, fall excursion and tasty treats, Didier has some easy, weekend fun. During Didier’s Pumpkinfest (this weekend), the expansive venue offers hayrides, pony rides, camel rides, kiddie rides, a crafting area, an animal land, pumpkin patch and fall food store—filled with apples, produce, apple cider donuts and more. Visitors can additionally go gem mining, ride the old-fashioned carousel and indulge in Wisconsin ice cream, milkshakes and malts, root beer floats and Green River Floats.

Didier Farms is located at 16678 W. Aptakisic Road, Lincolnshire, Ill. 60069.

Royal Oaks Farm Orchard

Royal Oaks Farm Orchard is two hours northwest of Chicago, near Woodstock, Ill., featuring a 120-acre setting with more than 16,000 apple trees and more than 30 varieties of apples, along with pumpkins, gourds and winter squash. Don’t miss Amaze ’N Apples, an apple tree maze, which Royal Oaks proclaims is America’s first all-apple tree maze. Royal Oaks has classic orchard experiences with a bakery brimming with apple cider donuts, as well as hayrides. Foodies are bound to drool over the orchard’s Country Kitchen Restaurant’s caramelized Apple Cinnamon French Toast. Royal Oaks’ Apple Barn also serves a fun spin on apple cider with their apple cider slushees. Royal Oaks offers a handy electronic guide for monthly picking varieties, uses and flavors.

Royal Oaks Farm Orchard is located at 15908 Hebron Road, Harvard, Ill. 60033.

Do your homework before picking: The U.S. Apple Association has some helpful information on apple varieties and their flavors, along with recipes and how to best store fresh apples.