The pop-up pools are closed and back-to-school shopping’s done. We’re finally unpacking our sweaters and ordering our spiced pumpkin lattes. Apple picking is one of those autumn rites-of-passage we most look forward to – along with the week of apple pie and apple crisp baking that follows!
New York is the largest apple-producing region east of the Mississippi, so we are blessed with a bountiful harvest and great variety. Two new types of apples out of Cornell – SnapDragon and RubyFrost – can only be found here. Besides that, you can find some of the best Honeycrisp and Gala apples in the country, not to mention the juicy heirlooms New York State is known for — like Empire and McIntosh.
The East End apple farms offers fun by the bushel with playgrounds, hay rides, corn mazes, bounce houses, donuts, and so much more to enjoy. The season runs from September through late October, so there are still plenty of delicious treats on the trees.
Hank’s Pumpkin Town (Water Mill)
The name can be deceiving, but Hank’s Pumpkin Town holds its own – not just as one of the best apple farms in the East End, but as one of the top spots to go in the whole NYC region. There are 14 varieties to choose from, including Gala, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Daybreak Fuji, Snow Sweet, and more. Shoppers can find decorative gourds, Indian corn, mums, roasted corn, and baked goods for sale. Kids will love the wooden train, duck race, farm stand, maze park, calf milking, pig racing, tractor rides, gem mining, and face painting.
Details: 240 Montauk Highway, Watermill. 631-726-4667. Open Saturdays & Sundays, 9:30 am – 6 pm.
The Milk Pail (Water Mill)
Celebrating their 32nd year of U-Pick apples, the Milk Pail is run by John and Evelyn Halsey, along with their daughters Amy and Jennifer – the 11th and 12th generation of family farmers in a tradition dating back over 350 years. Along with the rich family-oriented background, the Milk Pail offers visitors over 20 varieties of apples, including Gala, Jonamac, Macoun, Honeycrisp, and types you won’t find anywhere else. Best of all, little hands can reach most apples on easy-to-reach dwarf trees. Shoppers can pick up fresh-cut flowers, brownies, eggs, vegetables, and unique gifts in the country store. Be sure to grab fresh apple cider for the kids and take them on the wagon-led farm tour.
Details: 50 Horsemill Lane, Watermill. 631-537-2565. Open Friday through Monday, 10 am – 5:30 pm.
Harbes Family Farm & Orchard (Riverhead)
Harbes Family Farm takes you for a ride on the “Apple Express” tractor-pulled wagon to the orchard, where there are more than 27 varieties of apples. Come late September, you’ll find Golden Delicious, Crown Empire, and SnapDragons. In early October, they’ve got firm and crisp Cameos, pie-baking Jonagolds, and orange-red Autumn Galas. Hold out until mid-October for those rare, crisp, and tart RubyFrost apples that make a perfect pairing with wine and salad. Pony rides are the biggest highlight for youngsters. This is also a great spot for older kids, who can snack on homemade caramel-dipped and candy apples or get lost in the interactive Robin Hood corn maze that takes about 35 minutes from start to finish. Nights in October feature a spooky corn maze experience. Mom and dad can take a break from the picking to sample some of the vineyard wines and ciders in the Wine Gazebo. The Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck, NY is also worth checking out if you’re looking for general fall fun, beyond apple picking. You can pick up their apples in the market and enjoy a wider range of kids’ activities, including: pig racing, a musical hayride, bounce pillows, interactive shows, animatronic chickens, a Gnome-themed hedge maze, sports games, rubber duck races, bunny farm, chick observatory, goat bridge, and petting zoo.
Details: 5698 Sound Ave, Riverhead. 631-369-1111. Open Saturdays & Sundays, 9 am – 6 pm.
Seven Ponds Orchard (Water Mill)
Bring your red Radio Flyer wagon to the orchard to choose from over 14 varieties of dwarf tree apples like Fuji, Gala, and Golden Delicious. In addition to the routine apple picking protocol, Seven Ponds brings the fun with an awesome wood pirate ship playground, swings, slides, and a wooden windmill. Hay rides and a corn maze add to the allure. If you’re in the mood for sampling, you can pick up fresh roasted corn on the cob or cider and donuts. Take home a bouquet of sunflowers and a few pumpkins if you please.
Details: 65 Seven Ponds Rd, Water Mill. 631-726-8015. Open Daily, 9 am – 6 pm.
Need a few recipe suggestions for all those apples?
Tip from the Pros: Turn the apple three times and lift it from the bottom until it snaps. This is the easiest way to pick your prize, without struggling with the branches or hurting the trees.
Contact Shine for more fall family enrichment experiences in the Hamptons and through-out the tri-state area.