It’s hard to say goodbye to summer, but autumn offers all sorts of fun experiences, too.
In that spirit, we have a guide to northern Illinois orchards where you can buy fresh apples, and often pumpkins, pears and raspberries, too. Unfortunately, the warm, early spring we had -- followed by hard freezes in April -- decimated the apple crop at many orchards. In fact, I deleted three orchards that were in this guide in 2011 because they aren't even opening this year. A number of others listed below aren't offering U-pick at all this year, but will have apples to buy in their stores or from bins spread among the trees.
This info is as complete as I could gather from orchard websites, but please, please make sure to call before you go to double-check the orchard is open, that it has apples to sell and if your heart is set on picking your own fruit, to make sure that's an option that day. You'll also want to check any policies on strollers, wagons and pets that might apply to you. Also, note that many of these orchards are cash-only, especially for their U-pick operations.
Some of these orchards are the “no frills” type, where the focus is just on leaving with a peck full of juicy, delicious apples. Others offer bakeries, restaurants, petting zoos, train rides, corn mazes, “moon jumps,” and all sorts of other amusements. At some, you’ll only pay for the fruit and products you buy. At others, there is an admission and/or parking charge that might vary whether you visit on a weekend or a weekday. The amusement extras almost always cost, well, extra.
Let's hope for better weather for these orchards and their owners in 2013!
* Honey Hill Orchards: 11747 Waterman Road, Waterman. 815-264-3337.
- Hours: Starting Aug. 28, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through Oct. 31. U-Pick will be limited to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in 2012 due to a shortage of apples.
- Features: A snack shop (pies and donuts! plus lunch on the weekends), farm petting zoo, straw pyramid and weekend wagon rides to the orchard, weather permitting. Only cash or check accepted for the U-Pick orchard.
- Website: http://www.honeyhillorchards.com/
* Jonamac Orchard: 19412 Shabbona Rd, Malta. 815-825-2158
- Hours: Store open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week through Oct. 31 and then 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sunday, Nov. 21. Apple picking is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, when the apples are available and in season. Some of the other features are only open on weekends and certain weekdays; check the website for details.
- Features: The Orchard Store and Bakery, a corn maze and barn yard activity area, an “apple train,” and a U-Pick orchard. Starting Sept. 8, you can catch a wagon ride to the pumpkin patch on weekends to pick your own pumpkin. There are admission fees charged for features such as the corn maze, train and barn yard.
- Website: http://www.jonamacorchard.com/
* Kuipers Family Farm: 1N318 Watson Road, Maple Park. 815-827-5200. Apple info line: 815-827-5200 Ext. 1.
- Hours: Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 am. to 6 p.m. on Sunday through October.
- Features: Freshly picked apples are available for sale in the Orchard Shop. Pick your own apples are only available on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission to orchard is $10 per person and includes a hayrides and 1/4 peck bag of apples. Because of the limited amount of apples, Kuipers urges you to arrive early in the weekend if you want to pick your own. Kuipers also offers a corn maze, pumpkin farm, tractor tire mountain, train, pony rides and jumping pillow. Note there is an extra charge for rides, games and admission to the pumpkin farm. Check the website for details.
- Website: http://www.kuipersfamilyfarm.com/index.html
* Heinz Orchard: 1050 Crest Road, Green Oaks. 847-770-3449
- Hours: Fridays through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Features: This orchard specializes in “pure apple picking fun,” as it puts it on the website. No corn mazes, hayrides, food or drink. It only accepts cash. There is no parking fee or admission fee. It is unclear from the website whether U-pick will be offered in 2012.
- Website: http://www.heinzorchard.com/
* All Seasons Orchard: 14510 IL Route 176, Woodstock. 815-338-5637.
- Hours: Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day in September and October and open until 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Features: An orchard with 12 different varieties that ripen at different points during the season, a corn maze, pumpkin patch, cow train, apple cannon, country market and country kitchen, petting zoo, hay heap, pony rides, moon bouncer, corn crib dip, obstacle course, jumping pillow and sand box, On weekdays, admission is $7 per person for ages 3 and up. On weekends and holidays, admission is $10 per person ages 3 and up. Many of the activities are included in the price of admission. Admission to the apple orchard is $10 and includes a wagon ride and 1/4 peck of pre-picked apples from harvest bins. Note that there will be no U-pick for 2012.
- Website: http://www.allseasonsorchard.com/new/orchard.php
* Homestead Orchard: 11802 Charles Road, Woodstock. 815-338-7443.
- Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.
- Features: The orchard features 23 varieties that ripen at different points during the season. In the store you can buy honey from the orchard’s own bee hives and dried flowers. There is no parking fee or admission fee. Only cash or check are accepted. Note that in 2012, the orchad will be limiting the amount of Gala apples to 1/4 bushel per family for sake of fairness.
- Website: http://www.homesteadorchard.net/
* Prairie Sky Orchard: 4914 North Union, Union. 815-923-4834.
- Hours: Due to the weather problems in the spring, open only weekends in 2012, hours are not immediately clear.
- Features: Pick your own pumpkins, fall raspberries and gourmet foods, including apple cider donuts and pies on weekends. In 2012, it will NOT feature U-pick apples because of the weather, but will offer a limited supply of pre-picked apples in the barn. Free admission and free parking.
- Website: http://www.prairieskyorchard.com/
* Royal Oak Farm Orchard: 15908 Hebron Rd, Harvard. 815-648-4141.
- Hours: 9:30 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays through Oct. 31. From Nov. 1 through Nov. 15, open 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed on Sundays.
- Features: A U-Pick orchard, apple barn, country store, country kitchen restaurant, bakery and entertainment area featuring a petting zoo. The orchard also grows late summer and fall raspberries, pumpkins, gourds and squash. The orchard has no admission fee on weekdays and offers free parking. On Saturdays and holidays from Labor Day through October, admission is $3 per vehicle. They say they will have "limited" U-pick apples for 2012.
- Website: http://www.royaloakfarmorchard.com/index.htm
* Valley Orchard: 811 E. State St., Cherry Valley. 815-332-9696.
- Hours: Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m. a.m. to 4 p.m. through mid-November.
- Features: A U-Pick Orchard on 35 acres that offers 24 varieties of apples, raspberries (both summer and fall), blueberries and blackberries. There is also a store and a bakery on the grounds where you can purchase apple cider donuts, cider, apple pie, fudge, taffy apples and apple cinnamon bread.
- Website: http://thevalleyorchard.com/
* Curran's Orchard: 6385 Kilburn Ave., Rockford. 815-963-78478.
- Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the first weekend in December.
- Features: Pick your own raspberries and pumpkins; apple donuts; cider, apple pie; honey; maple syrup; craft items; hay wagon rides; farm animal corral; straw bale mini-maze; climbing bales; apple launcher and more. There will be no U-pick apples in 2012.
- Website: http://www.curransorchard.com/
* Edwards Apple Orchard West, 8218 Cemetery Road in Winnebago. 815-963-2261.
- Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Features: Apples, doughnuts, farm animal viewing, pony rides, gift shop. This orchard will NOT have U-pick apples in 2012.
- Website: http://www.edwardsorchardwest.com
* Edwards Apple Orchard, 7061 Centerville Road, Poplar Grove. 815-765-2234.
- Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during September through November.
- Features: Apples, raspberries, pumpkins, horse-drawn hayrides, hay maze, petting zoo, gift shop, pony rides.
- Website: I can't find a website for this orchard, so this info was gathered from the site pickyourown.org and the Rockford Register Star. It's unclear if this orchard will have U-pick apples in 2012.