Minnesota is apple-growing country, making the fall a celebration for families as they embark on the cherished tradition of picking these yummy treasures. And despite its reputation as a major metro hub, many apple orchards and farms surround the rural regions near Minneapolis-St. Paul. The state's apple-picking season starts in mid-to-late August and lasts through October, making it the perfect back-to-school reprieve. And like all farming, apple supplies varies significantly from year to year, depending on Mother Nature. Still, each year Minnesota orchards yield several kinds, including the popular Honeycrisp apples (usually available in mid-September) and University of Minnesota's Zestar! and SweeTango varieties.
Afton Apple Orchard in Hastings produces several varieties of apples for the picking alongside other produce, like raspberries, strawberries, and pumpkins. In the fall, they also have an on-site corn maze, a petting zoo, tractor rides, and a jump pad to keep kids occupied. Don't miss the orchard's Apple Festival—held during the first three weekends of October—complete with family-friendly entertainment and fireworks.
A cheerful family-run orchard, this Delano farm offers many different varieties of apples each fall, including the University of Minnesota's SweeTango. With a petting zoo, pony rides, apple cannons, a corn pit, zip lines, face painting, and wagon rides, each weekend at the orchard is chock full of family fun. Stop by in the fall for apple picking and then round out the experience by listening to live music from local artists.
Emma Krumbee's Orchard in Belle Plaine features popular fall attractions, including a petting zoo, a maze, and an annual scarecrow festival. Hop on their tractor for a ride out to your preferred picking location. Then, enjoy the on-site restaurant for homemade soups, salads, and typical downhome diner fare. The farm market and bakery also provide orchard delicacies to take home, so don't forget your wallet.
Located about 40 minutes south of Minneapolis in Northfield, Minnesota, Fireside Orchard grows and sells Chestnut Crab, SweeTango, Honeycrisp, First Kiss, KinderKrisp, and Cortland apple varieties. This farm, which opened in 1971, is also famous for their Halloween pumpkins, rose garden, and collection of vintage tractors. Stop by their market after picking or pre-reserve your holiday pies to make sure you get in on the goods.
This Jordan orchard offers more than just apples. Like many of its regional counterparts, Minnesota Harvest also has a petting zoo, a playground, a pumpkin patch, a corn maze, horse rides, and seasonal live music. Their 25 varieties of apples keep local families coming back for the picking and their breathtaking grounds make the orchard a popular wedding destination. Make sure to call beforehand, as areas of the farm may be closed for a celebration.
Over in Minnetrista, Minnetonka Orchards is a popular destination with attractions like hayrides, a playground, an apple slingshot, and seasonal entertainment. There's a small entrance fee to visit the grounds—but only on the weekends—making a weekday visit perfect for families on a budget. The farm is closed to the public from January through late August, but they host a summer wedding fair which welcomes brides-to-be and their party planners.
Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake prides themselves on their sustainable operation. They open in June for strawberry picking. Then, come fall, apple festivities begin. Join them for pony rides, a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, and weekend entertainment. And don't forget to check out their apple press and purchase homemade cider, bakery products, and caramel apples from their bakery and farm store.
Apples, pears, and plums are Sweetland Orchard's forte. And this Webster orchard offers them all pre-picked and for purchase. Choose from the sweet Centennial Crab, the State Fair (timed perfectly for harvest during Minnesota's State Fair), and Ginger Gold apples, among other varieties. Visiting this farm makes for a peaceful day out in the country, complete with a kids play area in the barn. And don't leave without purchasing a four-pack of their famous hard tannic British cider.
Whistling Well Farm in Hastings is one of several orchards in the majestic St. Croix Valley. This farm is just south of Afton State Park where you can pick your own apples from the orchard's 5,000 trees and pick pumpkins from the patch. Their apple varieties are plentiful and their recipes come straight from the family's kitchen. Stop in to immerse yourself in all things apple, and then grab a potted mum or two from the store to freshen up your planter boxes.