Come September, New England’s most beloved season marks the start of those autumnal traditions we all live for here in Connecticut. Apple picking is a family favorite fall activity for so many and lucky for us, Connecticut has dozens of wonderful apple picking orchards and farms and some are more toddler friendly than others. In Fairfield County, you have only a small selection to choose from, which may be why all of the orchards get busy on the weekends. We suggest heading out first thing in the morning to beat the crowds on the weekends. We've included a few of our favorites for younger children, including a few in case you're up for venturing outside of Fairfield County. And. for even more orchards, be sure to check out our Apple and Pumpkin Picking Guide.
Beardsley’s Cider Mill & Orchard—Shelton
This is our favorite favorite for apple picking with toddlers. Why? Because it's the perfect size! The apple trees for pick-your-own are dwarf varieties that only grow to a maximum of 10 to 12 feet for easy picking. They have the standard variety of apples everyone is familiar with such as Macoun, Red Delicious, and McIntosh, but also offer several rare antique varieties such as Spitzenberg, Baldwin, Golden Russet and Winesap bringing their total apple varieties to over twenty. PYO apples is only on weekends and holidays in September and October from 10 am to 5 pm. Cash or check only. Beardsley’s also offers delicious treats in their farm shop including local, raw honey from hives that are located on Shelton farms as well as freshly pressed cider and fresh baked pies.
Blue Jay Orchards—Bethel
Growing thirty varieties of apples, pick-your-own begins in mid-September. There’s a 20 minute, scenic hayride and warm apple cider donuts to fill you up. The farm stand offers apples, pies, baked goods, jams and jellies, and fresh apple cider donuts.
Silverman's Farm is a rite of passage in Fairfield County. This quaint little slice of pastoral paradise beckons visitors from all over the state during autumn. You'll discover a classic New England farm with your quintessential fall activities from apple and pumpkin picking to a toddler-friendly petting zoo which has bunnies, buffalo, llamas, sheep, goats, fallow deer, emus, long-horn cattle, and exotic birds to a hayride that runs around the orchard. A word of warning though, the weekend crowds are so enormous during the fall that they need police officers to direct traffic. It's popular for a reason, so if you and your little ones can handle the crowds, then you'll still have a great time. Insider Tip: Go during the week, pack a lunch, and enjoy one of the shaded picnic tables alongside the wooden playscapes.
It may not be in Fairfield County, but it's definitely worth the trip up to Guilford. Pick-your-own season starts in June with strawberries and goes through October with apples and pumpkins. The fields are open every day, weather permitting, and all of their picking is easy for toddlers. The Corn Maze is open on weekends, through October. The Hay Maze opens in October, next to the Farm Market and Pumpkin Patch, and is available seven days a week. The Farm Market is huge and you can get fruits and vegetables as well as baked goods, cheeses, meats, eggs, honey, and fresh cut flowers (be prepared for high prices!) Call their info line anytime for an up to the minute report on which crops are available for picking, as well as information on events, weather, and directions to the fields.
Taking the trip to this wonderful 100-year old family farm is truly a feast for the eyes: pastoral vistas, winding country roads along the rolling hills awash in color. It's worth the drive alone out to Bethlehem. Apple trees cover 50 acres of hills on both sides of the road while the farm store sells fresh, seasonal produce and all sorts of apples and homemade bakery products in addition to giant pies, cider-flavored donuts, and rich cookies. There is a fabulous wooden playscape on site as well as farm animals for the little kids to befriend. Open daily 10 am to 6 pm
Rose Orchards—North Branford
We discovered this orchard in North Branford, and I must say, it has quickly become one of our absolute favorites. Rose Orchards offers seasonal PYO apples from September through early October as well as a farm market, hay bale maze, and a creamery serving up decadent old fashioned frozen custard. In October, Rose Orchards hosts its widely popular hayrides where kiddos scream with delight as they discover "Pumpkin Head" racing around the farm on his John Deere tractor with his dog. We look forward to this hay ride more than any other every year.
Keep in mind that crop conditions change from day-to-day, so it’s always a good idea to call a location or check the website before you head out. You'll have to help your little one pick according to the rules of the farm, but you'll always find helpful, friendly farm workers willing to lend a hand and demonstrate the proper picking technique. Be prepared for a port-o-potty, since most locations don't have bathroom facilities out in the orchards. Make sure to dress in warm layers and wear comfortable shoes. And bring your appetites!
When you get home with all of those apples, I bet you'll think, "What on earth am I going to do with all of these?" Don't despair! Check our our Boston editor's post full of great simple recipes.
For full coverage of apple picking, pumpkin picking, strawberry picking, and farm fun info in the tri state area, check out our Pick Your Own Guide.
Originally posted on 9/6/2011.