By Hans Josef
As summer fades into fall, New York apples burst onto the scene. Beginning around late August and lasting through the fall, Ulster County’s apple orchards start to produce one of America’s favorite pastimes; apple picking. A time-honored tradition, apple picking has its roots in colonial America. The pilgrims arriving in Jamestown brought apple seeds with them from England. These apples-to-be were not, however, for eating. Early colonists cultivated apples to produce cider, a favorite back home. The British settlers soon turned the fermented apples into a hot commodity in their newfound colonies. A couple of hundred years later, Thomas Jefferson developed the world’s first Fuji apple. Fast forward to today, New York produces 31-million bushels of apples a year, making it the second-largest apple producer in the United States.
This yearly harvest spells good news for the thousands of New Yorkers who venture into one of the state’s many orchards, basket in hand. With millions of apples being produced a year, it comes as no surprise that New York boasts over 700 apple orchards. That many apple orchards mean that no matter where you live in New York, a day of fruit picking fun is never too far away. This is especially true for residents of New York City. Just north of the Big Apple lies Ulster county, which itself has no shortage of orchards.
Nestled about two hours from Manhattan, Ulster country has apple picking opportunities dotted all along the Hudson River. Most orchards have their first round of picking starting in late August, while some reserve their calendar until early September. If you plan to visit the orchards earlier in the season, you can expect to find sweet, tart apples like Honeycrisp and Gala. Plan your trip mid-season and you should expect to find more mild and juicy fruits, such as red and Golden Delicious. Finally, late-comers will be delighted to find Fuji, Rome and Granny Smith apples.
Aside from offering endless fun and plentiful apples, Ulster county’s orchards guarantee their customers reasonable prices. Some apple picking excursions will charge a flat entrance fee, sometimes as low as five dollars per person, while others charge by the apple. In any case, apple picking ensures a perfect fall activity at prices that will not break the bank. Alongside their affordable pricing, many orchards in Ulster county have additional activities and venues right on their premises. Ranging from a tavern offering local beers and wines to “apple slingshots” and pony rides, a trip out to Ulster county’s apple orchards is a guaranteed good time.
Lawrence Farms Orchards • 845-562-4268 • 306 Frozen Ridge Rd, Newburgh, NY 12550 • Mon-Sun, 9 am-4 pm, June-Oct. • $5 per person (children under 2 free) • lawrencefarmsorchards.org
Spend your afternoon picking apples in a picturesque orchard surrounded by green, rolling hills. Whether you want to come with your family or with a larger party, Lawrence Farms has you covered. Schedule a birthday party where kids can pick apples, have fun in the play village, or try their luck at the hay bale maze. If you are looking for a more educational experience, book a school trip to tour the farm.
If you’re getting hungry, stop by the concession stand for a hot dog or some nachos. If you have a sweet tooth, their apple cider donuts and pies are the perfect end to a day of apple picking.
Minard’s Family Farm • 845-325-0222 • 250 Hurds Road, Clintondale, NY • Weekends, 10 am-6 pm, Sep. 12th-Nov.1st / Parent’s appreciation day: Fridays, 11am-5pm • $12 per 1/2 peck (roughly 15 apples)
Minard’s Family Farms focuses on fun for the whole family. Spend the day in their beautiful orchards picking delicious apples and then relax while the kids play. Everything from pony rides to hay mazes makes sure that while the parents are relaxing the kids can have a blast. If an educational experience is what you are after, check out Minard’s Family Farm’s agritourism and learn how the farm works.
If you’re getting hungry, stop by Jada’s Burger Joint for a tasty lunch and wash it all down with a glass of fresh lemonade from Ad’s Lemonade Stand. If something sweet is what you’re after, then look no further than their ice cream stand.
Weed Orchards and Winery • 845-236-2684 • 43 Mount Zion Road, Marlboro, NY 12542 • Weekends, 9 am-5 pm • weedorchards.com/frequently-asked-questions/
Weeds Orchard and Winery have acres of lush orchards ripe for the picking. After you’ve picked your fill, enjoy their backyard dining featuring pizza, sandwiches and more. If you’re looking for something to pair with your delicious meal, try some of their homemade wine, apple cider, apple cider donuts or maybe a fresh pie.
If you are looking to book an event, Weed Orchards and Winery rent out their event room as well as their wine tasting room. However, keep in mind that they have a 35 person minimum and do not do weddings.
*Make sure to call ahead to check your chosen orchard’s COVID-19 restrictions. Expect to wear a mask and remain socially distant.