For our next installment of our Twin Cities Apple Orchard Guide, Gianna and I team up to review a few fresh picks from the West Metro. I’ll be sharing my family’s trips to Apple Jack Orchards and Fall Harvest Orchard near Delano, and Gianna will tell you about Minnetonka Orchards of Minnetrista.
Apple Jack Orchards in Delano, Minnesota, could be one of those day-long fall destinations. There’s just that much going on there. And perhaps that’s what you’re looking for – an orchard packed with activities to appeal to every age in your family. Or, if slipping away from the hubbub and wandering among the apple trees sounds more up your alley, we’ve had that experience there, too.
One note of caution: it was easier to empty our wallet at this orchard than at any of the others we’ve visited over the past few years. Much of this has to do with the size of our family: four riders on the kiddie cow train, four little sets of legs wanting to bounce skyward on the jumping pillow, four launches of the apple cannon. This was all before the four little harvesters were set loose in the apple orchard and the raspberry patch. We made sure to take stock of the available activities and set limits ahead of time.
Take heart; Apple Jack has a nice little play area with slides and hay bales, a barnyard of animals and a small maze – all free, plus there is no admission charged to enter the orchard. You could skip the a la carte activities and easily make an afternoon of hunting for that perfect peck of Honeycrisp. (I should also mention that it’s do-able to walk to the orchard portion of the farm instead buying a ride on the tractor wagon. Free carts were available for toting small children and loads of apples!). Live music is scheduled each weekend through the fall; find the complete lineup here.
Location: 4875 37th Street SE, Delano, MN 55328
Hours: Daily fall hours are 10 am – 6 pm. As always, call (763-972-6673) or check the website for the latest information.
Picking: PYO apples are available on fall weekends only and availability depends on what’s currently ripe. Always check the website or call ahead before coming to pick! A bag is purchased ahead of time (about $12 per half peck, I believe). Fall raspberries are also ripening, always call for conditions – 763-972-6673.
Prices: Admission to the orchard to enjoy the live music, kids play area and petting farm is free. Activities that charge a fee are as follows: wagon rides to the orchard ($2 per person, ages 4 & under ride free), corn box play ($2), jumping pillow ($4), apple cannon & slingshot ($2), pony rides ($4), corn maze ($6) and an extensive menu of apple treats and lunch items available in the barn.
Special Events: Annual “Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off” on Saturday, September 27. Prizes to the heftiest specimens and a bag of apples to all who enter the contest (call 763-972-6673 to enter by Sept. 25). Corn Fest will be held Oct. 5-6.
Our family was delighted to learn that though the patriarch of Fall Harvest Orchard passed away last year, the farm was purchased by a family eager to keep the orchard in business! It’s such a warm, welcoming place and never has it given off the commercialized vibe you often feel at the larger orchards. There is no admission charge at the gate and nearly all the down-on-the-farm activities are free — which, frankly, had us willing to spend more filling our buckets in the orchard.
Aside from scouting those Zestars, our kids love the animal encounters best. As Fall Harvest is a working farm, there are coops, pens and fields filled with animals to get up close to. Feed the goats and cows, handle the baby kids, check for chicken eggs — and see if you can spy an elusive peacock!
As if the kids needed any more than all that fresh air to wear them out, Fall Harvest has those alluring corn pits and stacks of tractor tires to play in, a field for tetherball and disc golf, and wagon rides into the orchard for $1.50 per person.
Fall Harvest Orchard will no doubt be greatly missed by the families who made visiting a fall tradition.
Location: 345 County Rd. 30 SE, Montrose, MN 55363
Hours: Open daily 10am – 6pm through October 31, 2014.
Picking: Pick-Your-Own apples are available in limited quantities. Call ahead (763-972-3894) or check here to see what’s ripe and ready. Apples are a great price at $1.50 per pound.
Family owned and operated, beginning as Apple Farm in 1976, Minnetonka Orchards, near Minnetrista, has grown into a beautiful orchard destination. I have visited two times with many years in between and each time, I was happily surprised at what awaited.
- The orchard is open every day from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.
- It is free on weekdays and has a $7 entrance fee on the weekends.
- The entrance fee includes all activities while on the weekdays, you have to pay for a hay ride–$2.
- Also, on weekends, children get free face painting and a free Apple Express Ride. That’s when the grill is open and the orchard does not allow outside food to be brought in.
- Hopping in the Barn for apple-y treats, gifts, toys, and other fun stuff was great. Even though we had a pile of young children with us, the Barn’s arrangement was suitable for curious little hands.They had baked goods–we tried the apple doughnuts–yum. The day-old doughnuts were wonderful and $2 for half a dozen which I thought was a very reasonable price. The fresh doughnuts were $3 for a half dozen. That’s the best price I have seen.
At Minnetonka Orchards, there are lots of different things to climb on: wagons, swings, pumpkins (even though you aren’t supposed to). As we walked past the first orchard, everyone had to give the tire swing a try and run through the orchards for a moment. Minnetonka Orchards has pre-picked and U-pick apples.
As we continued to wander down the path, we came to the center of all Apple Orchard life:
The Playground, the petting zoo–Owen’s Barnyard–the Hay mountain, giant sandbox and the corn crib slide. All around this fun area, there were outdoor classrooms set up for school groups or mom groups. While we were there, a preschool or a kindergarten class was learning all about apple trees. And we passed a display on how the orchard was watered.
What I thought:
- It was clean and fun.
- I loved that it was surrounded by farmland and beautiful fall colors
- The apple cider was delicious: something you need to taste before you leave.
- I don’t remember the price of a peck of u-pick apples, but I remember thinking that it was comparable to what I have been seeing.
- The corn crib slide was hilariously fast and fun to watch!
- There are walking trails throughout the orchard and it’s a beautiful self paced tour.
- Their apple donuts are famous. You should check them out! I personally loved them.
I want to go back to Minnetonka Orchards as soon as I can. This was a wonderful orchard. Relaxing during the week and full of energy during the weekend.
Location: 6530 County Rd. 26, Minnetrista, MN 55364
Hours: Open daily 10am – 7pm
Picking: Call ahead (763-479-6530) so see what varieties are available for pick-your-own.
Prices: Admission is free on weekdays. Weekend admission costs $7/pp (ages 3 & under are free) and includes all the activities.