The addition of Pumpkin Spice Lattes on menus across the city may be the sign of a season change for some, but for many parents it’s the annual opening of the apple orchards that screams, “Fall is here!” These u-pick farms have rows and rows of apple trees (especially during the months of September and October), plus other fun things to get into like train rides, corn mazes and cider fests. JAZZed, yet? Pun intended.
This fam-favorite hosts “U-Pick Apple Adventures” now through the end of October. The exploration begins with a free wagon ride into the orchards where you and your crew are given as many picking bags as you can carry. This orchard gets high marks in the convenience category—credit card payments for the apples are accepted in the orchard and all of the trees are dwarf trees with fruit that is reachable for the toddler set from the ground. P.S. Grab a few of their amazing apple cider donuts for the drive home.
1495 Appleton Rd. (Elkton, Md)
If apple cider is your jam, this is where you’ll want to lay your basket. The cider mill at this farm is the oldest in continuous use in Maryland, which means they know what they’re doing. The fresh pressed cider is available everyday through December.
2526 Proctor Lane (Parkville, Md)
Photo: Charles Dawley via Flickr
Catocin Mountain Orchard
You’ll likely smell this charming orchard before you see it. That’s because in addition to offering a host of apple varieties (including cortland, empire and cameo), Catocin whips up fresh apple cider, pies, and jam in it’s on site kitchen and bakery. Hello! Sounds like a winner for “best teacher in the world” holiday gifts.
15036 N. Franklinville Rd. (Thurmont, Md)
Counting chemicals? This nearly-organic farm sprays its apples with pesticides only as a last resort. Instead, they use other tactics like crop rotation and water management to keep buggy-boos at bay. Other than their eco-conscious efforts, Larriland also offers more than 15 different types of u-pick apples, a barn store with already-plucked fruits and veggies (and kettle corn) and pre- or post-picking hayrides.
2415 Woodbine Rd. (Woodbine, Md)
Sure, this farm boasts a whopping 325 acres of apples. But, what really impresses the kid set is the cow train (it’s exactly what it sounds like—a cow-shaped train); old time-y wagon rides; and Kiddie Land, an irresistible playground complete with a large wooden ship, tractor and wagon. Apples? What apples?
3035 Cedar Creek Grade (Winchester, Va)
Don’t know your Ginger Golds from your Granny Smiths? Can’t tell what’s ripe or not? No problem! This is a teaching farm, so just ask and you shall receive. Their website also lists a ton of apple-based recipes (the Apple Crisp is a must-try!). Side note: You can leave the flimsy grocery store bags at home—Homestead hooks you up with heavy duty totes to collect your crop.
15604 Sugarland Rd. (Poolesville, Md)
Great Country Farms
This is a ginormous farm, and the only way to get from one end to the other is by wagon, which is one reason Great Country charges admission ($8-$12). But, they graciously soften the blow by offering a free Farm Flight Tasting of three wines at Bluemont Vineyard across the street with each adult admission. The farm is also outfitted with mazes and dog parks, for the too-small non-pickers and four-legged friends in your group. Don’t miss: Cider Festival on Sept. 14-15, featuring tastings, pressing demos, and live music.
18780 Foggy Bottom Rd. (Bluemont, Va)
Carter Mountain Orchard
This scenic farm is a couple of hours away from D.C., but it’s worth the drive. Expect pumpkins, hayrides, a winery, and apples…lots and lots of apples. Still on the fence? he apple cider donuts alone are worth the trip.
1435 Carters Mountain Trail (Charlottesville, Va 22901)
Where does your family go apple picking around D.C.? Tell us in the comments below.