Where to pick your own apples and much more

  • Pick up to 14 varieties of apples at All Seasons Orchard in Woodstock.

    Pick up to 14 varieties of apples at All Seasons Orchard in Woodstock. Courtesy of Eun Ju Choi

 
 
Updated 8/29/2022 6:07 PM

Two years ago the biggest obstacle for suburban orchard operations was the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, drought had its way with apple yields. In 2022, operators across the board anticipate a much-improved crop and experience for visitors.

"They look beautiful this year," said SueEllen Arndt of Prairie Sky Orchard in Union, which features 15 varieties including Honeycrisp.

 

"We have a great crop this year due to the favorable weather conditions we had in the winter," said Esther Hong of All Seasons Orchard in Woodstock.

Last year, growers contended with three frosts during bloom time, which significantly lowered crop yield.

A mild spring and July rain made for heavy blooms, and great pollination from colonies of honey bees promise a good 2022 season, said Sarah Bell of Royal Oak Farm in Harvard.

Fall means apple picking, and there are many orchards in the suburbs that offer a variety of apples and other fun activities.
Fall means apple picking, and there are many orchards in the suburbs that offer a variety of apples and other fun activities. - Daily Herald File photo

At Heinz Orchard in Green Oaks, the last you-pick in Lake County, Anthony DeMoon said the wet, cool spring was a challenge. Some fruit was hurt by the subsequent drought and heat, but damage was minor and he expects a good apple crop and -- while supplies last -- honey from his bee hives.

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July rain soothed the nerves of the proprietors of Kuipers Farm in Maple Park, which offers 40 varieties, and the outlook was "really good," Joe Kuipers said.

For you-pick and other experiences, it's best to check websites for availability and pricing. Visit pickyourown.org to find a pick-your-own farm near you. Here are some options:

All Seasons Orchard

14510 Route 176, Woodstock, (815) 338-5637, allseasonsorchard.com

Open daily through Oct. 30. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends and Labor Day and Columbus Day.

Features an apple orchard, pumpkin patch and corn maze, with 14 apple varieties among the 15,000 apple and pear trees. Honeycrisp is the most popular, with picking beginning in mid-September. All Seasons has one of the largest Honeycrisp picking apple orchards in northern Illinois. Wagons will take visitors to one or both orchards. Dozens of activities include pumpkin picking, a 10-acre corn maze, magic shows, bakery, cider mill, farm market store and gift shop, and Country Kitchen. Visit the website or Facebook page for information on apple availability.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Amaze 'N Apples, said to be the only apple tree maze in the country, is ready for guests at Royal Oak Farm Orchard in Harvard.
Amaze 'N Apples, said to be the only apple tree maze in the country, is ready for guests at Royal Oak Farm Orchard in Harvard. - Courtesy of Sarah Bell
Royal Oak Farm Orchard

15908 Hebron Road, Harvard, (815) 648-4141, royaloak.farm

Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday through October.

Celebrating its 25th year, the 160-acre farm features four different orchards, 20,000 apple trees and 30 varieties of apples with new varieties planted each spring. Pumpkins, giant pumpkins, gourds and winter squash are also available. Amaze 'N Apples, billed as the country's first apple tree maze, offers 1.5 miles of trails. A 300-foot-long pollination garden and cover crops that are attractive and beneficial to birds, butterflies and other pollinators add to the picking experience. A restaurant, harvest barn, gift shop, bakery, playground and petting zoo, 19th-century replica train, carousel and orchard tour rides are among the attractions. Fees apply to the maze and rides. Expect special anniversary activities. Check the website or Facebook for updates on hours. Online ordering is available.

Kuipers Family Farm

1N318 Watson Road, Maple Park, (815) 827-5200, kuipersfamilyfarm.com

Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 30. Also open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 3-23. Weekday admission and online tickets are $10.99. Weekend tickets at the gate are $12.99.

Forty variety of apples are sold individually, by the half-peck or peck (about 10 pounds). Prices vary by supply and variety. Admission includes a quarter-peck bag of apples.

The 230-acre farm and store opened Aug. 27 with apple picking and the Sunflower Festival. Activities include a barnyard challenge low ropes course and animal exhibits. New this year is an apple cannon.

The Kuipers family say they try to offer as close to a true farm experience as possible without having to get dirty.

"Our purpose is to connect people to agriculture and each other," said Joe Kuipers, general manager.

Kid-friendly activities include a train ride and more than 20 farm-themed activities at the Pumpkin Farm, which is open Sept. 17 through Oct. 30.

Specialty foods, unique gifts, fresh-baked pies, caramel apples, kettle corn, fudge, apple cider pressed on site and apple cider doughnuts are available at the Orchard Shop.

Each autumn, families gather at Kuipers farm to enjoy the apple harvest.
Each autumn, families gather at Kuipers farm to enjoy the apple harvest. - Courtesy of Kuipers Family Farm
Heinz Orchard

1050 Crest Road (corner of Atkinson and Crest), Green Oaks, (847) 770-3449, heinzorchard.com

The no-frills favorite for nearly 70 years expects to open in mid-September. Hours and dates will be posted on the website.

Offerings include McIntosh, Jonathan, Empire, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious varieties and raw, natural honey.

Prices will remain the same as the past 10 years: One peck (10-12 pounds) of apples is $20; a half peck (5-6 pounds) is $10; and one pound of honey is $8.

Owner Anthony Moon says picking sticks will be sanitized. Picnics will be allowed, but restrooms will not be available.

No admission or parking fees, but at least one person in a car must buy a bag to fill.

Prairie Sky Orchard

4914 N. Union Road, Union, (815) 923-4834, prairieskyorchard.com

The orchard and farm store open Sept. 3. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Prairie Sky offers 15 varieties of you-pick and pre-picked apples. Plus, plenty of fresh-picked apples, including Honeycrisp, will be available in the farm store, which includes specialty foods, gifts and decorations, jams, salsas, butters and several varieties of unbaked pies.

Hot dogs, apple slices with caramel, pulled pork and other goodies are available at the Koffee Kiosk.

Check the website for availability. Free parking and admission. No animals allowed.

Apples are ready for picking at many local orchards.
Apples are ready for picking at many local orchards. - Daily Herald File
Other orchards to check out

Goebbert's Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard, 42W813 Reinking Road, Pingree Grove, (847) 464-5952, goebbertspumpkinpatch.com. Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Known for its fall festival featuring 15 attractions of family-friendly activities for all ages. General admission fee includes almost all farm activities. Free parking. Open rain or shine. Apple picking not offered as its own activity, but guests can pay for apple bags and pick apples in addition to their Fall Festival admission.

Valley Orchard, 811 E. State St., Cherry Valley, (815) 332-9696, thevalleyorchard.com. About 5,000 apple trees grow at this 35-acre family-owned orchard. Choice of you-pick or pre-picked apples in the store. Free admission and parking.

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