America's Top 5 Apple-Picking Farms
For many families, a trip to harvest apples at nearby farms has become a regular rite of autumn passage. As crisp fall weather arrives and apples ripen to near-bursting, many small farms open their doors to visitors, letting them pluck their own for a small cost, filling up bushels and enjoying the fruits of their labor. These days, orchards also draw in guests with decadent homemade baked goods and on-site wineries brewing hard cider, as well as petting zoos and picnic areas overlooking sprawling mountain vistas. Here, we've picked out America's top apple picking farms that the whole family can enjoy.
Head into the heart of Virginia's breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains to discover one of America's oldest orchards. Owned and operated by the Stribling family for nearly 200 years, Stribling Orchard offers visitors 30 acres of apple trees and nearly 2 dozen varieties of apples ripe for the picking. Of course, different varieties are available to pick at different times of year. Pluck away at apples including Rome, Fuji and Stayman Winesap (a favorite for apple pie- baking). The property features a number of historic buildings from the 1700s, as well as picnic areas with incredible vistas. Bring your own picnic, or pick up essentials at the orchard's Harvest House and Bakery, which offers hot apple cider, apple butter, pumpkin butter, local cheeses, preserves, homemade breads and more.
Tucked into a mountain peak just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Sky Top Orchard features some of the most scenic apple picking in the Southeast. Sky Top is home to some 60 acres and 25 varieties of apples for picking, including Gala and Mutsu, as well as other fruits such as cherries, peaches and grapes (available when in season). Still, there's more to Sky Top than mere picking. The orchard also boasts ponds, hayrides and a barnyard area with turkey, chickens, goats and sheep that the kids will love to see. There's even a bamboo forest to hike through, and a series of picnic pavilions complete with epic views of the surrounding mountains of western North Carolina.
A jaunt to the stunning Hudson River Valley in autumn requires no explanation, but if it did, apple picking with the family would top our list. Applewood Orchards offers 8 varieties of apples, including Honeycrisps and Jonagolds for picking, as well as a winery where hard apple cider is brewed. After filling your bushel with apples, check out Applewood's other entertainment, including pumpkin picking, puppet shows, hay rides, and an herb and rose garden. Insider's tip: Head to the orchard store for sustenance and indulge in a decadent, homemade apple cider donut.
With more than 100 varieties of apples on these grounds -- including both rare and those only grown here, such as Old Church and Lemonade apples -- Weston's Antique Apple Orchard offers visitors a picking bonanza. The Weston family established the orchard in 1935, though apple trees planted in the 19th century were already present on the 16-acre property. The orchard has maintained the apple culture established here in the 1930s through the preservation of many of its original buildings, such as a Dutch colonial-style barn that dates all the way back to 1901. For curious apple lovers, the orchard also offers educational classes, including a tree grafting class and fruit tree pruning lessons.
You'd be remiss not to indulge in a little pick-your-own-apple fun when visiting Washington; the state produces more than half of America's apples. Head to the locals' favorite, Johnson Orchards, which has been growing apples for over a century, and features 60 acres of land on which to pick. While apples reign supreme in Washington, the orchard also features a medley of other pickings such as Bing cherries, Rainier cherries, pluots, apricots and plums. Even if you're not a pie baker, you can still reap the benefits of a fruit-filled crust: Stop by the orchard's bakery where fresh pies can be purchased, including apple and a mouthwatering caramel apple.