Chicago may be a concrete jungle, but travel outside the city limits and farmland as well as orchards abound, just see this list and this list too. And with the fall weather, apples abound too. Get the best of the best when it comes to the delicious fruit — whether you prefer red apples or green — and go pick your own. While some of the orchards recommended below only offer apple picking, and enjoying nature, of course, others feature some other family fun entertainment as well. Most of the orchards invite patrons out to pick apples starting in late August and going until early or mid November. Be sure to call ahead if you want to make sure your favorite apple variety is there.
Edwards Apple Orchard
7061 Centerville Road
Poplar Grove, IL 61065
When apple season rolls around on August 22, head west to Edwards Apple Orchard, which has not one, but two locations. Both locations will let you fill up a barrel of apples, depending on what’s freshest, but that’s not all you can do. At the popular Poplar Grove farm and orchard, find your way through a corn maze, take your kids on a pony ride and stock up on some of the best and freshest food items, like apple cider. While the Winnebago location is smaller, it still has some wonderful attractions, like a petting zoo. It also tends to be much less crowded. No matter which location you choose, don’t leave without grabbing some of the infamous apple doughnuts.
Royal Oak Farm Orchard
15909 Hebron Road
Harvard, IL 60033
Along with more than 20 apple varieties, patrons of the orchard can also pick a number of other items, like raspberries and pumpkins, depending on the day and season. Pre-picked items, including other fruits and vegetables, are available as well. With more than 120 acres, not only are there plenty of apples to choose from, but lots of fun activities too. Spend some time on the expansive property, going on hay rides (Friday and Saturday nights), taking the train and riding a carousel.
1050 Crest Road
Green Oaks, IL 60048
Get out of the city and into nature at this family-run orchard located 37 miles from the city. Out here, it’s strictly about apple picking. While Heinz Orchard only carries a limited variety of apples, no matter which variety you pick — from red delicious to empire — you’ll be in a for a tasty treat. To sweeten the deal, there’s both free admission and parking; you only pay for what you pick.
811 E. State St.
Cherry Valley, IL 61016
With 5,000 apple trees and more than 28 apple varieites, where does one even start? By following a map that labels which trees grow which kind of apple varieties, of course. You can either pick the apples yourself, or purchase a pre-picked set of apples. That’s not all either. When you take a drive out here, you’ll also want to stock up on Valley Orchard’s array of products, including cider, doughnuts, pies and more.
Pine Apple Acres
41W651 Powers Road
Huntley, IL 60142
While one of the lesser-known apple orchards in the Chicagoland area — and one of the shortest seasons (typically in September only) — Pine Apple offers top-quality apples. The entrance fee to pick is a reasonable $5, and then you can load up a half bushel basket with the freshest apples you can find, all for $2 per pound. Come back later in the season too when the farm sells its Christmas trees too, hence the name “Pine Apple.”
Related: Best Darn Apple Cider Around Chicago
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she’s scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.