Nothing epitomizes the arrival of autumn weather like an apple picking trip in the Hudson Valley. This trip is an annual ritual for many Westchester families and while many choose to venture to orchards further afield in Dutchess or Putnam counties, Westchester is home to one of the oldest apple orchards, Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm in Yorktown Heights celebrating its 102nd harvest this fall.
Whether your family loves McIntosh or Macoun apples, chances are you’ll find it here on this 180-acre farm with more than 40 varieties of apples available. It’s a perfect destination if you are looking to spend a whole day picking apples or if your little ones have a more limited attention span, a trip there can easily be done in under two hours.
Be sure to arrive early especially on weekends when the crowds tend to descend upon the farm due to its close proximity to the city. September is officially the best time to pick apples at their farm and the varieties tend to change weekly so check ahead on their website at wilke
The process for picking apples at Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm is easy and, unlike some other orchards, they do not charge a parking fee. When you arrive at the farm, staff will be on-site guiding guests where to park and to the Red Pavilion. At the Pavilion, you’ll be able to rent a picking pole for a small deposit and purchase baskets and bags. In order to enter the orchard, you will also have to pay a minimum fee, which is 1/4 bushel bag (11 pounds) of apples for every two adults and 1/2 bushel bag (22 pounds) for every three to four adults. Prices vary based on the weather and the variety of apples being picked. Depending on when you get there in the season and the height of your children, a picking pole may not be necessary. It is best to ask the staff for guidance if you aren’t sure.
Now that you’ve got your apple picking tools, hop on the hay wagon for a short ride and you’ll be driven to the picking orchards available that day. If riding in a hay wagon isn’t your child’s idea of fun, don’t fret. The picking orchards are within walking distance but bear in mind that the terrain can be uneven, especially if you are bringing a stroller. I’ve found that taking a jogging stroller is especially useful for this type of trip.
When Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm celebrated their 100th birthday in 2016, they decided to design a corn maze. It has been such a hit that they’ve once again created a maze for this season. Your kids will love getting lost (and found!) in the maze.
After you’ve picked your apples and completed the maze, chances are you’ve worked up an appetite. Make sure you visit one of three shops located on-site. The Bakery features delicious apple-cider doughnuts, fruit pies, strudel sticks, fudge and other baked goods. If you forgot to pack lunch, they also sell hot dogs and other kid-friendly favorites. The Apple Farm Market has jams, jellies, pears, plums, nectarines and peaches. If you are craving local crafts such as scarecrows or Wilkens branded apparel, check out the Country Market.
Bear in mind that the orchards can get pretty sunny and hot during September so pack plenty of sunscreen, hats and water. Wear comfortable shoes and socks to avoid any exposure to poison ivy. Don’t forget to take plenty of photos to serve as a wonderful memento of your apple picking adventures.
Stacey Pfeffer is a writer and editor based in Chappaqua.
Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm
1335 White Hill Road
Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
Days: Open daily until mid-December
Hours: Pick-Your-Own Fruit: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Markets: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Call ahead for apple varieties and in case of inclement weather
Fees: No admission, parking or hay wagon fee.
A minimum purchase required of 11 pounds of apples per two adults and 22 pounds per three to four adults. Prices vary based on weather and variety of apples