WASHINGTON — If apple picking is on your fall to-do list, now is the time to check it off.
“Don’t wait until you are pumpkin-patching because you’ll probably find a lot of rotten apples at that point,” said Guiomar Ochoa, a parenting and travel writer for Red Tricycle.
In the D.C. area, the season for many popular varieties runs from late August to mid-October. And at nearby farms and orchards, apple season comes with an excuse to cook festive foods and host lively activities for kids — and adults — of all ages.
“It’s just a nice way to get your family out in the country. A lot of these farms are not that far from the D.C. area, so even if you live in the city, you’re only going out about an hour or so, if that,” Ochoa added.
Whether you’re planning a quick outing or a long day in the orchard, Ochoa shares some of her best picks on where to find fruit and fun this fall.
Great Country Farms
18780 Foggy Bottom Rd., Bluemont, Virginia Nestled among the rolling hills of Bluemont, Virginia, is Great Country Farms — a 400-acre family-run operation that takes apple season very seriously.
“Apple picking is like a competitive sport at Great Country Farms,” Ochoa said.
Weekend admission to the orchard is $10/child and $12/adult (you can save a few bucks by going during the week), and pick-your-own apples are $1.99 a pound.
Wagon rides take visitors to and from the fields, and the farm’s famous cider doughnuts are available Tuesday through Sunday.
Ochoa said Great Country Farms also has apple cider pressing, apple wine tasting and areas for picnicking and playing — “so you really get a big bang for your buck.” (Thinkstock)
Carter Mountain Orchard
1435 Carters Mountain Trail, Charlottesville, Virginia If you’re up for a longer drive, or even a weekend getaway, Ochoa recommends Carter Mountain Orchard in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Visitors can pick their own apples or buy already-picked fruit. There’s fresh-pressed cider, homemade apple doughnuts, apple pies and apple caramel cookies.
“You might find some pumpkins already. They have hayrides, there’s a winery and lots and lots of apples,” Ochoa added. (AP/Heather Ainsworth)
Mackintosh Fruit Farm
1608 Russell Rd., Berryville, Virginia Looking to save a few bucks? There’s no admission fee at Mackintosh Fruit Farm — visitors just pay for the apples they pick.
“They really want the experience to be affordable for everybody,” Ochoa said.
There’s no need to pack a picnic (although visitors can bring their own food and snacks): A lunch counter at the farm serves everything from pulled pork sandwiches to zucchini crust pizza.
“If you have a sweet tooth, which many people do, they sell caramel apples, apple cider floats, apple caramel sundaes, baked apples, and they also have pies and doughnuts that are already made,” Ochoa added.
There’s even a way to work off all those goodies: On Oct. 6, Mackintosh Fruit Farm will host an Apple Butter Day 10K run, followed by a post-race party with food, music and awards. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/J. Scott Applewhite)
ASSOCIATED PRESS/J. Scott Applewhite
3035 Cedar Creek Grade, Winchester, Virginia With 325 acres of trees, Ochoa said Marker-Miller is the place to go if apples are “your thing.”
Don’t worry, the kids can tag along, too. There’s a cow train, wagon rides and a playground filled with wooden climbing structures.
“Because realistically, they’re going to pick apples for 10 minutes and then be done with it,” Ochoa said. (AP/Steven Senne)
1495 Appleton Rd., Elkton, Maryland If you’re taking toddlers on an apple-picking adventure, Milburn Orchards makes the experience a little easier on your arms (and nerves). The Elkton, Maryland, farm has dwarf trees, meaning there’s no need for ladders since the fruit is reachable from the ground.
“This is perfect for toddlers. They’ve got the little trees they can pick the apples, they feel like they’re really part of the experience,” Ochoa said.
Now through the end of October, Milburn is hosting its fall festival on the weekends. Activities include hayrides, a corn maze, an obstacle bounce, a farmyard playground and more. (AP/Steven Senne)
Rock Hill Orchard
28600 Ridge Rd., Mt. Airy, Maryland Rock Hill Orchard gives ice cream lovers an excuse to go apple picking. Yes, there are apples — “everything from blondees to macouns,” Ochoa said — but there is also an on-site creamery that makes delicious ice cream.
There are also cut-your-own herbs and pick-your-own vegetables. (AP/Eric Risberg)
Catoctin Mountain Orchard
15036 N Franklinville Rd., Thurmont, Maryland “You can actually smell the apples as you’re driving into the orchard,” Ochoa said about the wide variety available at Catoctin Mountain.
However, the highlight at this Maryland orchard is its bakery. There, visitors will find homemade pies, cakes, cookies, breads, jams and more.
“They just make it easy for you if you’re not the culinary expert to say, ‘Yeah! I went apple picking and I got this great pie!’” Ochoa said. (AP/Matthew Mead)
2415 Woodbine Rd., Woodbine, Maryland Larriland Farm grows more than 15 different types of pick-your-own apples, plus there’s a barn store that sells fresh fruits and vegetables.
“What I love about this farm is that it’s nearly organic. They don’t spray any pesticides on their apples unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Ochoa said. “For our eco-friendly fans, this is where you’ll want to go.” (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
AP/J. Scott Applewhite
15604 Sugarland Rd., Poolesville, Maryland Just past Potomac, Maryland, is Homestead Farm, which is home to apple orchards, a petting zoo and a fresh fruit and vegetable stand. Ochoa said this is a great option for those who don’t have a ton of time, since it’s just about 30 minutes outside the city. (AP/Jim Cole)