Local Betty Field Trip: Apple Picking in Eastern MA

Betty has several lifestyle fantasies- you know them all:  the tidy, verdant organic farm in Vermont, or the cozy, piney beach house in Maine.  Did we mention the charming, sunlight dappled apple orchard with a vintage cider press?  That's #3.  

Every year we try to recreate the experience by trekking to a new apple orchard. 

All are lovely (or at least lovely-ish), but do they fit our dream?  We think we'll leave the fantasies to Martha Stewart magazine and recent Meryl Streep movies.   What we're more likely to find is a full-on Apple-palooza... 

Like Belkin Family Lookout Farm in South Natick. This place is 180 acres of faux-farmy-fun that includes a farm maze, train rides, hay pyramids, caterpillar amusement rides, hay rides, face painting, a playground, a Moon bounce, a petting zoo, pony rides and on weekends the traditional orchard camel ride.  Did we mention you pay to get in? Ugh. 

We have sensory overload just thinking about it, it but a lot of people get giddy over Lookout. It’s the place to go when you know that picking is not going to entertain your young kids for more than…say...a few short minutes. It’s a cavalcade of fall germs festivities- with a very nice orchard attached.

For a less "orchard-with-a-bouncy-house" time, head to Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury. Why drive an hour+ to pick apples? Fresh apple cider doughnuts. 'Nuff said.  We're not even doughnut fans- and we could've taken down a half-dozen.  Line up and get them right out of the fryer {ignore the deep fat frying part}  you will not be sorry.

Cider Hill does some fun filled events {check their updates page on their website}, a tractor ride, and chicken coop for feeding Foghorn Leghorn his cracked corn but it's great for older kids, even teenagers.  It's a beautiful {hilly} orchard with 62 varieties of apples {pears and peaches too}.  Their farm store is filled with produce, fresh pressed cider and all manner of gourmet necessities.  You can find enough picnic fare in the store to make a nice lunch, and sit outside at shaded tables while your kids line up to wait for those doughnuts...

Closer to home, try CN Smith Farm. It is a small, neat, not-too-cheesy orchard that is all about the apple.  Really about the apple, they're quite cranky about 'taste testing' in the orchard, and actually have apple cops to spot nibblers.  But if you can look beyond that, you'll find flat terrain that makes it easy for little ones to drag around a basket, pick, and meander without risk of getting lost in a larger orchard.  A tidy farm store features all the apple varieties {great Macouns} vegetables, local honey and preserves.  You can pick your pumpkin off the vine in the field as well- a one stop shop for all things fall, right near here in East Bridgewater.

Or try Honey Pot Hill in Stow. You'll find hayrides, the orchard, pumpkins, a farmstand, and the mandatory cute farm animals milling about, and they also throw in a hedge maze. In any case, Honey Pot Hill is quieter than Lookout, and their cider doughnuts and caramel apples are a draw too.  Be forewarned, if your little one does't care for lifesized plush figures wandering around {we found out our four year old was petrified of them at a fateful visit to Disneyland} then beware of weekends when the fuzzy {and surely germy} "Honeybear" greets kids. 

We'll continue to look for our Hollywood fantasy- but in the meantime, we're happy to munch on the doughnuts and wander a corn maze or two... sans camel.

Betty Tip:  Always go to the orchard website, or call ahead to make sure they are open. Don’t take your dog {they’re not allowed on the property} and be prepared to bring home way more apples than you know what to do with. Apple picking is a rite of fall- we’ll see you in the fields...in flannel and boots.