Visiting Apple Holler Orchard in Wisconsin is one of our family’s favorite fall traditions. For the last ten years, we have made the 45 minute drive to Sturtevant, Wisconsin, to fill our baskets to the brim, hike through the orchards, and enjoy a beautiful fall day as a family. Apple Holler is even in the running for the USA Today Readers’ Choice List for 10 Best Apple Orchards in the United States! The secret is out – Apple Holler is a family favorite for fall apple picking!
I grew up in Arizona, so I never knew the fall tradition of apple picking. One of the very first trips we made as a family after our move to Chicago ten years ago was a visit to Apple Holler. Our oldest was learning about apples in preschool and we thought it would be a wonderful way for him to have a hands-on experience outside of the classroom. Our boys were three and one at the time and they could not have been happier with the endless rows of trees, free food (in the form of low hanging apples), and the carnival-like atmosphere of the play area. We have gone back every year since then, amazed our boys insist on a return trip, but thrilled we have taught them about the importance of tradition. We recently returned for this year’s trip and thought we would share our insight and favorite tips for a visit to Apple Holler.
Apple Holler has been drawing visitors to their combination orchard farm and farm park for over 20 years. The orchard has over 30,000 trees and the farm park is an activity area full of activities for the kids when they’re done picking their bounty. Upon arrival, visitors need to purchase a bag for picking apples. There are many different sizes of bags, and depending on the age of your children you may want to start small, as the bags can quickly get heavy. Once you purchase your bags you’re ready to head out to the orchard, but be sure to save your receipt. You’ll need it for entry and exit.
Once through the entrance, visitors are loaded onto a tractor train that drives into an area of the orchard where the apples are ripe and ready to be picked. It wasn’t always like this, but the orchard has undergone a few seasons of alternating drought, heavy rain, and hail damage, so they have to narrow down the areas of the orchard available for picking. Certain varieties are available during certain weeks. You just need to check the pickin’ calendar before you go. Apple season typically lasts from August to late October.
Once you arrive at the designated picking spot, an Apple Holler employee will tell you where to find the ripe apples and send you on your way. Don’t be dismayed if it seems crowded when you arrive. Once everyone goes out to the orchard and spreads out, there are plenty of places for quiet family moments and photo opportunities. If you have trouble finding apples, there are large bins scattered throughout the property with “pre-picked” apples for you to add to your bag.
After all the bags are filled and your arms are getting tired, you can either hop back on the tractor train or walk to the exit. We like to put our bounty in our car, grab a snack, then head to the play area for the rest of our trip to Apple Holler.
Among our favorite snacks after a morning of picking are apple cider donuts and fresh apple cider. They make for a nice sweet treat before heading out to explore the orchard or enjoy the activities. There is also a full service restaurant on the property, featuring an apple themed brunch and country style lunch with all the fixings on the weekend. There are also a bakery and ice cream shop. Let’s just say your family will not go hungry during their visit.
Play in the Farm Park
Children of all ages will love the farm park. They can feed the goats, run through a corn maze, ride a pony, mine for gems, climb a play structure, or be buried in a giant pit of corn kernels. Think they would like these things? There are plenty of other fun things too! We have seen our children grow from the stationary train climbing structure to the go karts to bowling. Kids will beg you to stay for hours, and you probably will because it is simply family fun!
1) When you arrive at the orchard, don’t be surprised by all of the cars. There is free parking along the road or a pay parking lot right in front. Don’t take the first space you see or you may end up walking farther than necessary. Drive past the entrance before deciding on your final spot, because people are always coming and going.
2) You are allowed to sample the apples while you are picking, so bring some hand wipes. Apples are juicy and sticky and your hands will be too if you can’t clean them.
3) Bring cash to purchase tickets. Some food items and games in the farm park require tickets. There are several booths outside that accept cash for tickets, but if you want to pay with a credit card you usually will have to wait in a long line. Save time and bring cash.
4) If you have to bring a stroller make sure it’s a rugged one or bring a wagon. If your kids can’t walk a long distance you will want a way to transport them once your bag is full of apples. The ground is uneven and little legs get tired after all that eating and exploring. Take a stroller if you think you will need it.
5) If you are going after a recent rain, wear appropriate clothing because it will be muddy. Don’t wear tennis shoes; opt for rain boots if you have them. Don’t wear new clothes. Bring something that can get dirty, because it will not be clean after a day at the orchard.
Our children look forward to our visit each and every year. They would miss birthday parties for a day at Apple Holler. They have learned the importance of making priorities and following traditions, and from this experience we have all learned there are times when family time comes first.