When the wind begins to blow and the leaves fall from their branches, our kids know it is the perfect time to visit an apple orchard. There are many apple orchards in the Midwest, but one of our favorites was always Apple Holler in Wisconsin. Our kids spent many hours scouring trees for the perfect apples to bring home. This post has where to pick your own apples, apple orchard tips, and recipes to put those apples to good use once the picking is done.
Best Apple Orchards in the Midwest
If you don’t live near one of the countless apple orchards of the Midwest, visit PickYourOwn.org, where you can find “apple picking near me”. This site offers the locations of pick-your-own farms all over the country and is a great resource any time of year.
Best Places to Go Apple Picking Near Chicago
If you’re looking for other U pick apple orchards near Chicago, we would recommend: County Line Orchard (Hobart, Indiana), Kuipers Family Farm (Maple Park, IL), All Seasons Orchard (Woodstock, IL), and Royal Oak Farm Orchard (Harvard, IL). Our all time favorite is Apple Holler in Sturtevant, Wisconsin.
Tips Before You Go Apple Picking and What to Bring for Apple Picking
1. Call ahead to see what time the apple orchard is open, what types of apples they are picking, and what it will cost (in other words, have a plan). Apple picking season usually runs from August through October.
2. Clear out space in your refrigerator so you have a place to store the apples you bring home.
3. What to wear to go apple picking: First of all, check the weather and dress accordingly. The best time to go to an apple orchard is when it is cool and dry.
Wear comfortable shoes (rain boots if it has recently rained), a jacket or long sleeve shirt, and long pants. The long pants help protect from insects and prevent scrapes and scratches if your kids like to climb trees.
If the ground is muddy, you may want to bring a change of clothes, towels, and dry shoes for later.
4. Wear sunscreen and bring sunglasses and hats.
5. There may be bees and other insects. If you are allergic to bees, be prepared. If you are not allergic, bring hydrocortisone cream from home just in case.
6. Bring hand wipes. Hands will get sticky from sampling all those apples!
7. Be sure to pack water to drink, especially on a hot day. Sometimes the apple orchards are located far away from the main property, so don’t get dehydrated.
8. This may seem obvious, but have everyone use the restroom before heading out. This includes changing diapers for little ones. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the orchard with a bathroom emergency!
9. Have a meeting place in case anyone becomes separated from the group. It is fairly easy to get lost since most orchards are huge, and it’s impossible to see over and through the trees.
10. Go early in the morning before the crowds arrive. Apple picking at its best!
Pick Your Own Apples at Apple Holler
Apple Holler is a fairly large operation as far as orchards go. Situated on over 70 acres, the property not only grows apple trees, but also produces pears, peaches, and pumpkins. There is a general store for buying all things apple related, from apple butter to apple pie scented candles. If you are so inclined, you can grab a bite to eat at their restaurant or indulge in one of their delicious baked café treats and wash it down with a glass of what else? Apple cider.
Admission to the orchard requires purchasing a bag or a basket. Once you have paid, guests travel out to the orchard via a tractor pulled train (or you can walk). If you have a small cargo wagon (highly recommend with young ones as apples are heavy and little legs get tired) or stroller, they will help load it in the train for you. The ride is a short ten minute tour through the orchard, giving you a quick overview of the property.
After a short ride, apple hunters are deposited near the trees that are ripe for picking. Our family likes to spread out and search on our own to find our favorite apples to pick (Zestar, Golden Supreme, and everyone’s favorite, Honeycrisp). Remind kids to slowly pull the fruit from the branch if it is ready (not sharply pull because that’s bad for the tree) and tell other kids down below to watch for falling objects if they’re standing below.
Inevitably, the bag will get quite heavy which is why it is important to have someone (or something) to carry the bounty. At Apple Holler you can choose to return on the train to the entrance or walk ten minutes along a dirt path. We prefer to walk and my husband and myself take turns with the heavy lifting.
What to Do After You Visit an Apple Orchard
After picking apples, many places offer games and activities to extend your visit. At Apple Holler the kids will inevitably want to explore the Farm Park and Barn Yard. The Farm Park has multiple play structures, a small corn maze, pedal carts, a dry corn box (think sandbox filled with corn kernels), and gemstone mining (my kids’ favorite). Some of the animals you will find are bunnies, chickens, and goats. They also offer guided pony rides. Tickets are necessary for certain activities, but climbing on the play structures and exploring the maze is included in admission.
Apple Recipes We Love
Once we’re home I often wonder what to do with all of the apples. First, we sort through the bag for any bruised apples. You know the saying “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch?” It’s actually true. A bad apple gives off ethylene which will spoil the other apples around it. So remove those and eat them first.
Be sure to store the apples in a cold dry place (I use the refrigerator) and don’t wash them until right before you are ready to use them because it can promote bacterial growth and speed up spoilage. (I learned so many facts writing this article)!
Usually I make an apple pie and have the kids take apples to school for their snack for the next three weeks. However, if you’re looking for additional recipes, don’t miss our favorite apple orchard recipes (there are 55 of them)!
*Want to see other fall posts? Don’t miss Fun Family Fall Activities in Chicago and Illinois and 7 Pairs of Travel Shoes You Need to Have This Fall.