Growing up, my family never went to apple orchards, but now that I have my own kid, picking our own apples is probably our very favorite fall tradition, and we usually hit up one “old favorite” and a new spot as well each year.
Some of these orchards are the “no frills” type, where the focus is just on leaving with a peck full of juicy, delicious apples. Others offer bakeries, restaurants, petting zoos, train rides, corn mazes, “moon jumps,” and all sorts of other amusements. At some, you’ll only pay for the apples you pick. At others, there is an admission and/or parking charge that might vary whether you visit on a weekend or a weekday. The amusement extras almost always cost, well, extra.
So I urge you, before making the drive, to look closely at the details below and spend a few minutes on your chosen orchard’s website to make sure it offers the type of experience you want your family to have. It’s also wise to call ahead to doublecheck the hours and availability of apple varieties and ask about any policies on strollers, wagons and pets that might apply to you. Also please note that many of these orchards are cash-only, especially for their U-Pick operations. Know of an orchard that should be on this list? Share it in the comments. Otherwise, enjoy those apples! — Tara
Honey Hill Orchards: 11747 Waterman Road, Waterman. 815-264-3337
Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m through Oct. 31.
Features: A snack shop (pies and donuts, plus lunch on the weekends), farm petting zoo, straw pyramid and weekend wagon rides to the orchard, weather permitting. Pick your own apples, raspberries and pumpkins.
Pricing: Only cash or check accepted for the U-Pick orchard. This orchard says “as a service to our customers, we do not charge an admission fee and there is no charge for any of the activities.” U-Pick apples are priced at $13 per half-peck.
Jonamac Orchard: 19412 Shabbona Rd, Malta. 815-825-2158
Hours: Store open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week through Nov. 6 and then 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sunday, Nov. 9 through Nov. 23. Apple picking is available seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., subject to availability. Some of the other features are only open on weekends and certain weekdays; check the website for details.
Features: The Orchard Store and Bakery, a corn maze and barnyard activity area, an “apple train,” and a U-Pick orchard. On weekends, you can catch a wagon ride to the pumpkin patch to pick your own pumpkin. There are admission fees charged for features such as the corn maze, train and barn yard.
Pricing: The barnyard play area is free admission on weekdays (except holidays.) On weekends, admission is $6 for children (includes an activity token) and $4 for adults. Children 2 and under are free with paying adult. Combo tickets are available, too. As part of the “After School Special,” features such as the jumping pillow and petting zoo will be available for a fee on Monday through Fridays from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. U-Pick apples are priced at $13 per half-peck.
Kuipers Family Farm: 1N318 Watson Road, Maple Park. 815-827-5200 Apple info line: 815-827-5200 Ext. 1
Hours: Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday through October. November and December they are open Monday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Features: Freshly picked apples are available for sale in the Orchard Shop. Pick your own apples are only available on Saturdays and Sundays. There is also a Pumpkin Farm Activity Area that includes slides, rides, a jumping pillow, corn maze, tractor tire mountain and more.
Pricing: Admission to orchard is $10 per person and includes a hayride and 1/4 peck bag of apples. Children under 2 are admitted free but do not receive a bag. Additional peck bags are available to purchase may not be for all varieties. The Pumpkin Farm Activity Area, located across the street from the orchard, opens September 17 and admission is $10.99 Monday-Wednesday and $12.99 Thursdays and Fridays; weekday pricing includes jumping pillow. Weekends and holidays the cost is $14.99 and the jumping pillow and train will cost extra. On select weekends there are pony rides for an additional $5 fee. Check the website for details.
Knutson Country Harvest: 13550 Townhouse Road, Newark. 815-695-5905
Hours: The hours seem to vary from week to week, and the website is not up-to-date, so it is best to check the Facebook page or call to get hours.
Features: This is a family-owned and operated orchard featuring Pick-Your-Own fruits and vegetables. They also sell homemade pies, jams, pickles, relishes, and honey.
Pricing: Unclear how this orchard is priced.
Heinz Orchard: 1050 Crest Road, Green Oaks. 847-770-3449
Hours: Please check the website or call ahead for hours. It is only open on weekends.
Features: This spot describes itself as a “no-frills orchard” that specializes in “pure apple picking fun,” as it puts it on the website. No corn mazes, hayrides, food or drink. It only accepts cash.
Pricing: There is no parking fee or admission fee. However at least one person in each party must buy a bag — $10 for half-peck or $18 for a full peck.
All Seasons Orchard: 14510 IL Route 176, Woodstock. 815-338-5637
Hours: Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday in September and October and open until 6 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.
Features: A U-Pick orchard with 12 different varieties that ripen at different points during the season, a corn maze, pumpkin patch, cow train, apple cannon, country market and country kitchen, petting zoo, hay heap, pony rides, moon bouncer, corn crib dip, obstacle course, jumping pillow and sand box.
Pricing: Admission to the apple picking orchard is $10 per person ages 3 and up and includes a 1/4 peck bag and wagon ride. (There are higher prices to pick a 1/2 peck or Honey Crisps.) The barnyard admission is $10 Mondays through Fridays, and $15 on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. A combo ticket is also available and on weekends and holidays there are pony rides and apple and pumpkin cannons available for an additional fee.
Homestead Orchard: 11802 Charles Road, Woodstock. 815-338-7443
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays during apple harvest season only.
Features: The pick your own orchard features 23 varieties that ripen at different points during the season. In the store you can buy honey from the orchard’s own bee hives and dried flowers. Pricing: Apple pricing is by the 1 peck bag : $18.00 for a 12 lb. bag, or $1.50 per lb. Large groups over 4 adults will need an additional peck bag. Cash or check only. There is free parking and admission to the orchard.
More Than Delicious Orchard: 9905 Thompson Road, Woodstock. 815-338-2309
Hours: Open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Days and hours can change due to weather or current status of the crop.
Features: U-Pick apples and sometimes pears, featuring 80 varieties of apples and pears. Only cash or checks accepted. This small orchard in the past has warned of limited apples and large crowds. Updates posted on the Facebook page and website.
Pricing: A peck of apples for $20. Windfalls are half-price.
Prairie Sky Orchard: 4914 North Union, Union. 815-923-4834
Hours: Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Features: U-Pick apples from several varieties, often Asian pears, plus pies-to-go on weekends, apple cider donuts and a coffee kiosk.
Pricing: Free admission and free parking. Pre-picked apples are priced per pound; for U-pick, there are requirements for pecks picked depending on the size of your group. One peck of apples is $17.
Royal Oak Farm Orchard: 15908 Hebron Rd, Harvard. 815-648-4141.
Hours: Through Oct. 31, it is open 9:30 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. From Nov. 1 through Nov. 19, open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed on Sundays.
Features: A U-Pick orchard, apple barn, country store, country kitchen restaurant, bakery and entertainment area featuring a petting zoo. The orchard also grows late summer and fall raspberries, pumpkins, gourds and squash.
Pricing: Each person going into the orchard must buy a bag — adults are $12/person for a half-peck of apples, children are $6/person for a 1/4 peck of apples. Children under 5 are free but did not get a bag. Entertainment tokens that cost $3 each are required for the activities such as the trackless train, carousel and orchard tour.
Woodstock Country Orchard: 17015 Garden Valley Road, Woodstock. 815-923-4359.
Hours: Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday.
Features: U-Pick apples, prepicked apples, raspberries and local honey, too. This looks to be a “no-frills” orchard where the emphasis is on the apples. They have fresh donuts on weekends but warn that they run out early.
Pricing: Free parking and admission. Cash or check only, not credit cards. Both pre-picked and U-pick apples are $8/half-peck, or $10 for premium apples per half-peck.
Apples on Oak: The intersection of W. Oak Avenue and Gougar Road, Lockport. 815-726-0386.
Hours: This orchard says it has already closed for the 2016 season due to “lackluster fruit.” It was closed for the 2014 season due to the harsh winter
Garden Patch Farms: 14158 W. 159th Street, Homer Glen. 708-301-7720
Hours: Daily through October 31 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It appears from the Facebook page that apple picking is offered daily; the Fall Festival activities are weekends only.
Features: There are over 60 varieties of applies and pears as well as various jams and sauces, cider, and honey. Weekend activities include a bounce house, petting zoo, pony rides, hayrack rides, straw maze, hay mountain and cider donuts.
Pricing: Admission for the orchard and to weekend fall Festival activities are $8 per person (check or credit card) or $7 per person if paying by cash, with extra charges for some activities. You’ll pay by the pound for apples picked in the orchard.
Website: pickthefarm.com and Facebook page
Valley Orchard: 811 E. State St., Cherry Valley. 815-332-9696
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through mid-November.
Features: A U-Pick Orchard on 35 acres that offers 24 varieties of apples, raspberries (both summer and fall), blueberries and blackberries. There is also a store and a bakery on the grounds where you can purchase apple cider donuts, cider, apple pie, fudge, taffy apples and apple cinnamon bread. Pricing: Unclear if there is an admission charge for the orchard.
Curran’s Orchard: 6385 Kilburn Ave., Rockford. 815-963-78478
Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Features: U-pick apples and pre-bagged fruit is available this year. Also raspberries and pumpkins; apple donuts; cider, apple pie; honey; maple syrup; craft items; hay wagon rides; farm animal corral; straw bale mini-maze; climbing bales; apple launcher and more. It advertises that it grows its apples with 1/4 of the typical amount of chemicals sprayed at apple orchards.
Pricing: No additional charge to visit the orchard, but they do request one bag purchased for every three people. (Half-peck is $17.82.)
Website: curransorchard.com/ and more updated info on the Facebook page.
Edwards Apple Orchard West, 8218 Cemetery Road in Winnebago. 815-963-2261
Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Features: Apples, doughnuts, farm animal viewing, pony rides, wagon rides, gift shop, free children’s play area.
Pricing: For U-pick, the required minimum is a half-bushel pack of apples (about 50 medium apples) for $40, with no more than five people per picking bag.
Website: edwardsorchardwest.com and Facebook page
Edwards Apple Orchard, 7061 Centerville Road, Poplar Grove. 815-765-2234
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily in September and October, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily in November.
Features: Apples, raspberries, pumpkins, horse-drawn hayrides, hay maze, petting zoo, gift shop, pony rides.
Pricing: For U-Pick, the price is $40 per basket, plus a $3 basket deposit.
Website: Looks like this spot only has a Facebook page where you can download the annual newsletter it mails out to regular visitors. That newsletter includes info on the picking schedule and more.