Summer is winding down, kids are back to school and soon there will be a crisp chill in the air as fall approaches. However, one exciting thing always happens at this time of year – apple orchards around the Chicago area are open! Some of the best apples are in season and who can’t resist a ripe, crisp, sweet tasting apple? There are plenty of pick-your-own apple orchards in Chicago so you don’t have to drive far no matter where you are located.
Some of the best locations offer multiple fall activities that are fun for the whole family such as petting zoos, corn mazes, wagon rides and pumpkin picking. But if low key is what you prefer, then there are ones that offer just apple picking along with other produce to pick. Most of these serve apple cider donuts which are simply delicious.
Here are five of Chicago’s best apple orchards:
Royal Oak Farm Orchard: This fabulous orchard is located in Harvard and is open until November 19. With over 16,000 apple trees and 30 varieties of apples, you are certain to get some favorites. Be sure to pick your own Halloween pumpkin, too. Check out the new varieties that they plant every spring as well. One attraction Royal Oak Farm Orchard offers that can’t be found anywhere else is the Amaze ‘N Apples tree maze. Venture through 1.5 miles of trails that are filled with nine varieties of apples. The entertainment area consists of rides on the train, orchard tour rides, carousel and hay rides. Purchased tokens are required; otherwise parking, admissions and the entertainment are free. Before you leave, make sure to visit the bakery and bring home fresh baked apple cider donuts.
All Seasons Apple Orchard: Open from September 3 through October 30, this one-of-a-kind orchard located in Woodstock offers a unique and fun experience for the whole family. Upon entering the orchard, you will be transported by hayride to the apple orchard, which is filled with over 10,000 apple trees. On holidays and weekends, there are barnyard activities which include a petting zoo, corn maze, mini zip line, pumpkin checkers, pig races and many more. There are fees for apple picking and the barnyard activities, with an additional charge, with the purchase of a barnyard ticket, for apple and pumpkin cannons and pony rides. If corn mazes interest you, it is included in the barnyard ticket fee. The maze is over three miles and includes a lookout bridge. There are two paths; a more challenging one and a shorter one for children. Your last stop at the orchard should be the bakery. Buy fresh baked apple cider donuts and apple cider, along with other farmers’ market provisions.
Heinz Orchard, LLC: If you are looking for an apple picking-only experience, then Heinz Orchard is perfect. Located in Green Oaks, right outside of Libertyville and just 37 miles from downtown Chicago, you won’t regret the trip. They have a variety of apples to choose from such as Red Delicious, McIntosh, which are great for making apple pies, Jonathan and Golden Delicious. Pickers have the option of filling up a 12 pound bag or a half a bag which equals about six pounds of apples. There is no parking or admission fee; however, one person in the party must purchase a bag. This is a small, family-run orchard and you don’t need to travel far from home to get the unique experience of apple picking.
Jonamac Orchard: If you don’t mind driving a little ways out of the city, this orchard is about an hour and 45 minutes away located in Malta. With over 8,000 apples trees, you can fill the bag with a variety of apples, and don’t forget to pick your own pumpkin. Jonamac Orchard is fun for the whole family with activities such as a petting zoo, pony rides and a 10-acre corn maze. Come on the weekends and you can enjoy watching the apple launcher and apple cannon, as well as a special apple train for kids to ride. In the bakery, you will find many goodies to bring home. Who can resist apple donuts, fresh baked breads, pies, apple wines and apple pizzas? I know I can’t! Look on the Jonamac Orchard website for hours of operation and fees since their hours vary depending on the holiday and what apples are in season.
Edward’s Orchard West: Located in Winnebago, this two hour drive from the Chicago area is well worth the time. This farmer’s market and apple orchard is fun for the whole family. There are 18 varieties of apples to choose from and after September 23, you can pick your own pumpkin. Children of all ages can enjoy the petting zoo and play area. Come inside the renovated 100-year-old barn and choose from perfect gift items. As you leave, purchase some homemade apple cider donuts, apple cider and caramel apples. Open from late August to the weekend after Thanksgiving, Edward’s Orchard West is a must visit.
Whether you are looking for a fun weekend activity to enjoy with the family, or are considering moving to one of the surrounding neighborhoods, there is no better way to get a feel for the area then visiting one of these top five Chicago apple orchards.
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