As sad as I am to see summer go, there are so many parts of fall that I look forward to that it definitely eases the transition. I love watching the leaves change colors, sipping on apple cider, cozying up in sweatshirts and my family’s yearly tradition of spending a day at an apple orchard. Last year we went to Apple Jack Orchards in Delano, and while it was fun for the whole family, it was my niece and nephew who really got the biggest kick out of it, due to all the kid-friendly activities.
On any given day you can tour the orchard on a wagon pulled by a tractor, head to the animal park and get up close to goats, turkeys, and chickens, travel through the small kiddie maze or head to the play area and let kids climb on tires or slide down haystacks. On the weekends, take a ride on the cow train (my nephew’s favorite), make your way through the tractor-themed five-acre corn maze, dive into the corn pit, take a pony ride through a wooded trail, or aim, shoot, and fire apples from an apple cannon.
After you’ve worked up an appetite, pop into the Apple Pantry Café for fall foods such as cider brats, Sloppy Jack sandwiches, soups, and their famous apple pull-aparts. The bakery offers a number of other fresh and frozen treats, including apple spice donuts, apple crisp, caramel apple rolls, apple fritter bread, and a variety of pies. If the weather is nice, take your food outside to one of the picnic tables and eat while looking out onto Crow River.
With close to 30 Minnesota apple varieties, you can’t leave the orchard without getting some to bring home. Unfortunately, a frost in April wiped out the crop in the pick-your-own field, but plenty of fresh apples from other fields can still be found at the Apple Market. Choose from the current week’s varieties, pick up a pre-filled bag, or choose your favorites (I never leave without some honeycrisp). If you still want to do some hand picking, you can pick-your-own raspberries, squash, or perfect pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern. And if you get home and realize you didn’t bring back enough, or you think fresh apples would make the perfect holiday gift, this year the orchard has added online ordering.
In addition to all of the orchard’s staple activities, check out their website before you head out to learn about special weekend festivities such as the annual giant pumpkin weigh off (Sept. 29 & 30), apple cider fest (Oct. 6 & 7), vintage tractors (Oct. 13 & 14) and pick of the patch weekend (Oct. 20 & 21).
Apple Jack Orchards
Open daily, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
4875 Farmington Ave. S.E., Delano
Note: A small fee is charged for some of the activities, so check the website for pricing before you head out.