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In the fall, apples are serious business in New England. Visiting a cider mill and apple picking are popular and fun family activities that aren’t to be missed whether you live in the region or are just visiting. Massachusetts has some of the best apple orchards in the country, but what are the best orchards for family-friendly apple picking in MA?
With so many apple farms to choose from it can be hard to know which one is the best choice for apple picking with kids, so we’ve done the work for you.
These are our favorite local orchards that are perfect for families looking to pick their own apples as well as the best months for apple picking.
The Best Apple Picking in MA for Families
Tougas Family Farm (Northborough)
Tougas Family Farm grows over thirty varieties of apples that are available for picking. Apple picking season is typically between mid-August through the end of October.
Tougas Family Farm is a great place to visit with the kids. In addition to picking your own apples and other fruit, they have a fun playground, lots of goats, amazing ice cream and cider donuts as well as other baked goods.
Berlin Orchards (Berlin)
Berlin Orchards is a family farm that grows apples, cider, and pumpkins.
Enjoy a hayride from the farm store out to the orchard, where you can find a large variety of apples available for picking, including Ginger Gold, Northern Spy, Cortland, Fuji, and many more.
You can also enjoy a fresh cider slushy or a hot cup of apple cider at the farm stand, visit the animals, and the kids can play in the playhouses located behind the farm store.
Red Apple Farm (Phillipston)
Red Apple Farm is a quintessential New England farm with large trees, stone walls, and over 30 varieties of apples available for picking.
The whole family will love spending the day at Red Apple Farm. There is so much to do, such as hayrides, visiting the farm animals, and walking trails.
Don’t forget to stop in the country store for amazing apple cider donuts, fresh cider, cider slushies, a wide variety of homemade fudge, jams, baked goods, and more.
Stowe Farm (Millbury)
Stowe Farm has been a family-run farm for generations, growing apples and pumpkins and selling their homegrown vegetables and Christmas trees.
In addition to picking apples, in the Kid’s Corral, kids will enjoy visiting the barnyard animals, riding the cow train, going on a hayride, climbing on a monster truck, mini-golf, playing at the playground, and more.
If you love horses, you are in luck at Stowe farm. You will be able to watch them grazing in the field during your visit to the farm.
Honey Pot Hill Orchards (Stow)
Honey Pot Hill Orchards is fun for the whole family. Kids will enjoy the mazes, hayrides, and farm animals.
For the kids, purchase a Junior Farm Fun Pack, and they will get a caramel apple, a cider donut, a cider guzzler, entrance to the small hedge maze, and a half peck picking bag, all for just $20.
Lookout Farm (South Natick)
For something different, visit Lookout Farm this fall, where you can take a train out to the orchard to pick your own apples.
There is also a children’s play area and a farm stand where you can purchase a delicious lunch to complete the day.
Parlee Farms (Tyngsboro)
Parlee Farm is a great place to visit with the kids, especially if you love animals. In addition to apple picking, kids can visit Annie’s Animal Barns, take a hayride through the orchard, go through a hay maze, and ride on kid-sized tractors.
Russell Orchards (Ipswich)
For a fun day trip, visit Russell Orchards and pick your own apples, pears, and pumpkins.
In addition to picking their own fruit, kids can enjoy lunch or a sweet treat in the picnic area, a hayride, and visiting the barnyard animals.
Hilltop Orchards (Richmond)
You will find Hilltop Orchards nestled in the beautiful hills of the Berkshires. They offer fruit picking, fresh cider, and a farm store with lots of delicious baked goods, jams, fresh maple syrup, and cider donuts.
While you’re there, take a walk on their walking trails for some beautiful Berkshire scenery.
Shelburne Farm (Stow)
Shelburne Farm is fun to visit any time of the year with kids. They will love the John Deere combine, tractor, gator playgrounds, and farm animals.
They also have an orchard story walk which is a lot of fun.
How Many Apples are Grown in Massachusetts?
In the six-state region of New England (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island), between 147 million and 168 million pounds of apples are produced each year.
With approximately 3100 acres of apple orchards, Massachusetts has the most space devoted to picking apples in New England. With that much apple acreage, it’s no wonder apple picking is a popular activity every fall in Massachusetts.
What’s the Best Time to Go Apple Picking in Massachusetts?
Apples ripen at different times in the fall, so the best time to pick apples depends on your favorite kind of apple.
The first apple crops usually ripen in Massachusetts in mid to late August, with most others ripening in September through October.
If you have a specific variety of apples that you would like to pick, keep an eye on their harvest times at your favorite orchard.
By going apple picking during your ideal variety harvest period, you can pick a wider selection of apples and have more fun creating delicious baked goods while the season lasts.
How Long Does Apple Picking Take?
There isn’t a set time for how long it takes to go apple picking. You can pick your own apples for as long or as short a time as you want, but it’s good to plan on at least two hours.
Some farms may require reservations to pick apples, so it is best to check their website before heading out.
What Types of Apples Should I Look for?
There are over 200 varieties of apples that grow in New England. Some are more popular than others, but each variety has a unique flavor and texture that make some varieties better for eating, baking, and cooking.
For example, your favorite kind of apple to eat may not be a good choice for baking a pie or making applesauce. There are lists online that will advise on the best apples for baking and cooking.
How Many Pounds of Apples Should I Aim to Pick?
While it’s tempting to fill your bag with as much fruit as possible, know what you’re trying to make before filling it up.
While apples do have a longer shelf life than most other fruits, there can be too much of a good thing if you pick more than you can use.
What is the Best Apple for Baking?
There are a variety of apples that are considered best for baking. While this may vary from region to region, you will generally want to look for an apple with tartness and sweetness when picking the right apples for baking.
Many apple orchards sell apples that are considered best for baking. Some of the best baking apples are Granny Smith, Gala, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Royal Gala, and Honeycrisp.
Mixing more than one variety of apples for a balance of sweet and tart is often a good choice when baking pies, apple crisps, and baked apples.
What are the Best Apples for Pies?
If you’re an apple connoisseur or at least someone who enjoys cooking with apples, then certain varieties have the best qualities for your recipes. With that in mind, here are some of the best apples for making pies.
- Golden Delicious: This is one of the most popular apple varieties eaten fresh and also a delicious variety for baking.
- Granny Smith: This tart green apple is perfect when used in baked goods or to add flavor to your favorite pie filling recipe. Granny Smith apples are perfect for pie filling when adding them with a sweeter variety.
- Macoun: Macs are small apples with a rich, sweet, and tart flavor when used in baked goods or pies. They also make delicious applesauce.
- Northern Spy: Although this apple is best for baking, it has a great flavor when eaten fresh. The Northern Spy has an unusual “musk” type of aromatic flavor that’s perfect for recipes where you want your applesauce or pies to have a unique taste.
- Cortland: These are large apples with sweet, aromatic, subacid, and juicy flesh. The Cortland apple is perfect for baking but also makes delicious iced juice.
- Stayman Winesap: This variety of apples has a unique flavor that’s sweet with hints of tartness.
- Baldwin: This aromatic variety is perfect for baking because it makes a sweet and fluffy filling with a delicious flavor similar to a Fuji apple.
- Dessert Spies: Not only do these apples have an interesting name, but the taste they create when baked is unlike any other. The Dessert Spy taste is very similar to the McIntosh variety.
With so many apple orchards in Massachusetts, will always have a great time no matter which orchard you choose. We hope that this list of our favorite family-friendly orchards gave you some great ideas on where to go to have fun apple picking with kids.
To find even more orchards to go apple picking in Massachusetts, orchard maps, and advice on how to pick your apples, check out PickYourOwn.org. This website has a directory of hundreds of New England farms for you to visit.