Last Sunday my family and I spent the day doing a bit of apple picking at Masker Orchards in Warwick, NY. It was everyone’s first time and we all had so much fun.
Curiously, I’ve been dying to go apple picking for years, even though I’m usually not a huge fan of apples. I don’t have anything against them but I just don’t find them that appealing. But that’s probably because I’ve been eating store-bought apples. If you’ve ever picked a ripe apple off a tree and bitten into it, you know that none of that packaged, frozen stuff from the store could ever compare. Our whole group literally turned into giggling, squealing toddlers who had seemingly never had food before.
For a while, I wasn’t sure we’d pull off the trip. First of all, I realized as I was planning the details that the apple season was actually pretty short. It actually goes from September to mid-October, so a lot of varieties had already passed peak ripening time.
Next, finding an orchard was so overwhelming. Google “apple picking in New York” and you’ll find no shortage of lists singing the praises of New York’s orchards. But even so, I searched long and hard before deciding on Masker Orchards. For every place, reviewers had something negative to say. Either it was too expensive or crowded, or in the case of Masker, someone found poison ivy under the trees.
In the end, I finally just went with my gut and settled on Masker, which turned out to be perfect. (Not a sign of poison ivy anywhere!)
There’s no fee to enter or park at Masker Orchards, and they encourage visitors to eat freely as you pick. (I can’t say the same for some others who charge $5 – 10 per person just for the privilege of picking.) Did I mention you can drive your car directly into the orchard? You can even bring your own food and have a picnic or barbecue. At the end, you pay $28.95 for each bag of apples that you carry out.
To beat the crowds that everyone warned about, we planned to get there around 10 am, but it was raining all morning in the city and looked pretty dreary when we woke up. We ended up pushing our arrival time back to noon, but I’m so glad we didn’t cancel because halfway into our drive through New Jersey, it was suddenly perfectly sunny. At some point, we realized the roads were bone dry, and the beautiful fall foliage was gleaming in the sun.
Maybe we just got lucky, but the orchard never felt crowded. While the cars kept rolling in throughout the day, the endless rows of trees made it easy to maintain some personal space. Most of the time, we were the only family in any given row. Of course, there was a bit of a line at the food stands, but even there we got through pretty quickly. We definitely couldn’t leave without indulging in hefty slices of apple pie à la mode, apple cider donuts and some freshly brewed cider, which they sell at $3.75/ jug.
Timing your trip
I feel like we actually went at a great time in the season, though you’ll want to take a look at the ripening schedule at whatever orchard you choose to visit if you have like a specific variety of apples. When we went, mostly Red Delicious and Empires were available, while Cortlands and Jonagolds were pretty much gone.
Had we gone in September though, it would have probably been too warm to feel festive. The weather last weekend was perfect: a bit chilly (as you’ll see from my puffer vest doubled up under my bomber jacket in the photo of me awkwardly squatting), but so refreshing. Every breath was like a cleanse for my lungs. When you live in the city, you sometimes don’t realize how deprived you are of fresh air and just nature in general. The brisk, fall breeze and amazing views of trees changing colors created the perfect backdrop for our day out.
Of course, I immediately started imagining farm life. Or at least a quiet life in the hills with plenty of backyard space to grow my own food garden. At the end of the day, though, I’ll always love the hustle and bustle of the city.
Have you ever been apple picking? Share your stories with me in the comments.
P.S. More fall bucket list ideas.