This might be bit of a controversial statement for all of the pumpkin spice latte-obsessed drinkers out there, but pumpkin is not the fruit of fall, apple is. They just taste better—I mean, have you ever tried to take a bite out of a pumpkin? I could be slightly biased, though, as I grew up in Minnesota, the unofficial apple capital of the world. This means that at Starbucks I order a caramel apple spice, and in the fall, I make at least one visit to a local apple orchard.
If you’re looking for one that’ll satisfy both kids and adults’ tastes, you’ll find it in Waconia, about 30 miles outside of Minneapolis, at Deardorff Orchards and Parley Lake Winery. The orchard spans across 120 acres, while the vineyard sits in tandem on another five. The orchard grows 12 varieties of apples—Zestar!, SweeTango, Red Baron, McIntosh, Sweet 16, Honeycrisp, Cortland, and Haralson in September, and Honeygold, Regent, Connell’s Red Fireside and Fireside in October—with tractor-pulled wagon rides that will take you out to pick ‘em. There are also wagons for kids—or the option to walk—if you’d prefer to venture out on your own. After you’ve gotten your bundle, you can visit farm animals, play in a haystack, eat in the picnic area, or shop for more apples, pumpkins, handmade items, kitchenware, books, and local honey, jams, and jellies in the barn.
The wagon ride will actually take you through the vineyard, too, so you can see the more than 3,000 vines the grapes are grown on, but you’ll want to venture into the tasting room to try the final product. Five varieties of grapes are grown here—Marquette, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, La Crescent, and St. Pepin—producing seven different blends. And it’s a bargain to try them—take your pick of four for $5, and then keep the tasting glass.
Kids get cider, adults get wine, and everyone gets to enjoy a fall day outside. Can you think of anything that sounds much better?
Deardorff Orchards and Parley Lake Winery
8282 Parley Lake Road, Waconia
Orchard hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. through Nov. 2. Wagon rides Friday-Sunday.
Winery hours: Friday-Sunday noon-6 p.m.