I’ve spent my entire life in Los Angeles and I think it’s safe to say that apple picking isn’t a common fall activity for most families. After all, the best spot to do so around here is in Oak Glen – roughly a two-hour drive away.
That said, we’ve been twice since having kids. The first time was two years ago when we ventured to Los Rios Rancho in Oak Glen. Then last week we checked apple picking off our fall fun list with a visit to Riley’s Farm (different orchard, same town).
Now that we’re relative apple picking experts – at least by L.A. standards – I thought I’d share a few things that have helped make our adventures a success.
1. Do your homework.
Crops vary from one season to the next – even from one farm to the next – so always call ahead to find out what’s available for picking on the day you plan to visit. (You can find a list of pick-your-own farms here.) Even then, be prepared for last-minute changes.
2. Avoid crowds if you can.
Is there an optimal time or day to visit? Our first apple picking experience was on a weekend at the height of the season. The ambiance was lovely, but the crowds not so much. The lines for weekend-only activities like hay rides and cider pressing weren’t worth the wait, especially with a toddler en tow. Even the orchards were swarming with pickers.
3. Know the terrain.
The bumpy orchard grounds are not stroller friendly, so plan on a baby carrier, sling or backpack for smaller kids.
4. Discuss the picking rules before you start.
You pick, you buy, so make sure your kids know how to tell the good apples from the bad. Remember: Avoid apples with wormholes!
5. Give little kids a boost.
Two years ago The Little Explorer could only pick from dad’s arms. This year he could reach many of the apples on the lower branches, but still needed some help for those higher up. And both kids needed a boost to get in the trees, too.
6. Go early and bring a picnic lunch.
I can almost guarantee that the kids will want to taste the fruit the moment it’s picked. We enjoyed spending a little time picking, then having a picnic lunch as a reward for the effort (complete with fresh apples!).
7. Do some exploring while you’re there.
No matter when you visit, most apple orchards also provide activities in addition to picking. Combine your visit with a hike, a hayride, cider pressing, a living history demonstration or the like.
8. Indulge in some fresh apple-y goodness.
Apple picking is our time to celebrate apples. We never leave the orchard without a small “treat.” This year, it was fresh apple cider for all.
9. Continue the apple fun back home.
Last year we baked an apple pie with our bounty; this year we had fun polishing our apples and then sharing them with friends.
Your turn! What’s your advice for apple picking with kids?