Pick Your Own Apple (and Orchard)
Get into the autumn spirit with a visit to an apple orchard
Photo courtesy leuongchopan/Fotolia
Besides being the land of 10,000 lakes, Minnesota also has 10,000 apples with 111 apple orchards registered in the Minnesota Grown directory right now. Here are some of the most popular spots to visit as well as a few a little more off the beaten track.
Aamodt's Apple Orchard
This year marks the 70th year of Aamodt's Apple Farm, and they're offering up the classic orchard activities. Pick your own apples, give your child a ride on the Honeycrisp Express kiddie rain, say hello to the goats, and take a tour of the orchard on a tractor-pulled wagon. When you're hungry, just stop inside the Apple Barn & Bakery or go for Chris' Apple Brat. Besides apples, consider taking a gander at the wine provided by St. Croix Vineyards or go on a hot air balloon ride from Aamodt's Balloons.
6428 Manning Ave., Stillwater, 651-439-3127, aamodtsapplefarm.com
Afton Apple Orchard
While the idea of a multi-week Apple Festival that stretches almost the entirety of apple picking season sounds almost redundant, we let it slide at Afton—especially when we remember the 200-plus acre orchard also grows strawberries, raspberries, and pumpkins, too. The Apple Festival runs weekends from Sept. 29 through Oct. 14 (the orchard is open through Halloween), and the orchard spices things up with cider pressing demonstrations and entertainment. Go on a hayride, pet some farm animals, let your little one play on the giant playground, get lost in the 15-acre corn maze (if you walk the whole thing, it's over six miles), and more. On your way out, you can pick a mini pumpkin or the largest jack-o-lantern out there to decorate at home. 14421 S 90th St., Hastings, 651-436-8385, aftonapple.com
Apple Jack Orchards
When Apple Jack Orchards began in 1983, they started with 250 trees. Now, they have 10,000 across 29 different Minnesota apple types, and they have even reached national notoriety—it was named one of the 10 best apple orchards in the nation by Huffington Post in 2015. Explore the farm with pick-your-own apples, a corn pit, corn maze, farm animals, jumping pillow, apple cannons, and if you're the right size, the kiddie zip lines. While normally access to the corn pit, jumping pillow, corn maze, and pick-your-own-field costs $12, you can get in for less than half during $5 Fridays through Oct. 19. 4875 37th St. SE, Delano, 763-972-6673, applejackorchards.com
If you have the evening free, mark your calendar for the sixth annual star gazing party with WCCO's Mike Lynch on Sept. 29, but if you don't, swing by the place that won the 2018 WCCO's viewers choice for best apple orchard in the state. Wednesday through Friday has draws like apple sales, a 7-acre pumpkin patch, a petting zoo, nature trail, hay mountain, and all new tire tower for the kids, but weekends amp it up with hayrides, corn maze, pony rides, and a kiddie train on top of it. This year's apples include Zestar!, SweeTango, Honeycrisp, and Haralson through September, but August still holds less-heard-of brands like Keepsake, Sweet 16, Connell Red/Fireside, and Snow Sweet. 2755 Rose Ave., Watertown, 612-817-6229, lucelineorchard.com
Pleasant Valley Orchard
Shafer might be a little bit of a farther drive for some people, but it's worth the picturesque landscape you get and, of course, the apples. The apple orchard is open daily with a nature trail and a hay pile play area, but make sure to come on the weekends if you want to pick your own apples. Also on the weekends are hayrides, a pumpkin patch, apple brats, and music. Even as the apple season hits its back half, Pleasant Valley keeps up the festivities with an Oct. 7 Brat Feed and Old-Fashioned Pie Social, 12 Days of Halloween, and a November Barn Sale. 17325 Pleasant Valley Road, Shafer, 651-257-9159, pleasantvalleyorchard.com