Apple Orchards are a Great Fall Activity
Visiting an apple orchard and picking your own apples is a Minnesota tradition, and it’s a fun fall activity for adults and kids alike. Recently, we visited the Afton Apple Orchard, located about ten minutes north of downtown Hastings. Here you’ll find an expansive apple orchard, beautiful sunflower fields, a large playground for kids, and farm animals to feed and pet.
For help locating an apple orchard near you, visit MinnesotaGrown.com. You’ll also be able to search for local farmers’ markets, CSAs, seasonal recipes, and upcoming local events.
Our trip to the Afton Apple Orchard was sponsored by Minnesota Grown. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
1. Picking Apples
The apple orchard is huge with a wide variety of apples to choose from. There are three great early varieties that are available four weeks before most other popular varieties, and they are First Kiss, Zestar!, and SweeTango. You can find them at most apple orchards, farmers’ markets, and stores. These varieties offer high-quality tastes that surpass the traditional early cold climate varieties.
- First Kiss: The newest University of Minnesota early season variety is a Honeycrisp cross available up to four weeks before Honeycrisp ripens. It’s an incredibly crisp, lightly tart, and aromatic apple with an excellent storage life of up to five months.
- Zestar!: This apple offers its delicate crispness, juicy texture, and zesty flavor with a hint of brown sugar. Developed by the University and introduced in 1999, this apple has a crisp texture and a storage life of up to two months in the refrigerator.
- SweeTango: A Honeycrisp-Zestar! cross, this apple is known for its sweet and tart flavor. Also developed by the University and first available in 2009, SweeTango apples have explosive flavor, crisp texture, and juiciness in every bite.
2. Picking Berries and Other Fruits
In addition to apples, there are many other fruits to pick and bring home. Raspberries were in season when we visited in early September. At the Afton Apple Orchard, you may also find cherries, blueberries, peaches, and pumpkins depending on when you go.
3. The Flower Field
I think the flower field was my favorite part about the Afton Apple Orchard. It is incredibly expansive with seven acres of sunflowers and zinnias, seemingly as far as the eye can see. The sunflowers are massive and some are larger than my head! The zinnias are bright and colorful, bursting with yellows, oranges, pinks, and reds. For an extra fee, you can cut the flowers to build your own bouquet to bring home. As you walk around the flowers you will see so many butterflies and bumblebees buzzing around. It is really awesome!
4. Feed Farm Animals
There’s a small area fenced off for farm animals, including llamas, goats, and donkeys. You can reach through the fence to pet them or purchase food so you can feed them. They all seemed so calm and friendly.
5. Huge Playgrounds for Kids
One of the main reasons the Afton Apple Orchard is so popular with families is because of the play area for children. There is a massive pile of tires to run on, a huge swing set, and a jumbo blow-up jump pad. A ton of kids were running around and having a blast when we visited.
6. Enjoy a Hayride
If you’re looking for a relaxing way to see the property, hop on the hayrides that are continuously looping around the apple orchard. It’s a nice way to get acquainted with the apple orchard when you first arrive, or just a fun activity for when you’re feet get tired.
7. The On-Site Store
The on-site store sells all kinds of jams, syrups, crackers, and snacks made from apples, berries, and other seasonal produce. You’ll also find a mini-market where you can order lunch. We had a few brats, chips, and a delicious apple cider donut! Adjacent to the store is a large covered barn with picnic tables where you can go to enjoy your meal.
Plan Your Trip to the Apple Orchard
The Afton Apple Orchard is a great place to visit with friends, kids, or for a date. It is a popular spot and for that reason, I suggest you go during weekdays or first thing in the morning before it gets busy and the sun gets hot!