I've got a lot of blog posts to catch up on, but this isn't one I thought I would have. We recently planned our apple-picking adventure for the same place we went last year, Stribling Orchard, which we loved, but after coming across a multi-car accident right at the turn off to the orchard, we ended up backtracking and heading to the other option for orchards at the I-66 exit for Markham.
Hartland Orchard is a bit more of a "fall festival" type orchard, one that has an admission fee and lots of activities. We didn't pay the $10 admission, but if we had wanted to make this an all day trip it covers a corn maze, hay ride, bounce pillow, and giant slide. You don't need to pay admission to pick-your-own pumpkin, which is available at the at the nice price of $0.50/lb. I was delighted to happen upon the pumpkin field, as the boys have never actually cut a pumpkin off the vine before.
After we got directions to the actual apple orchard (on up the road), we arrived at the front of the long line, where the greeter checked in with us while in our cars, giving us bags and the key for the tree varieties (though the key didn't always seem to match up with the paint colors on the trees).
We enjoyed our time with the boys, and their grandparents, and selected several different varieties. Our key listed golden delicious, red delicious, mutsu, jonagold, grimes golden, greening, fuji, braeburn, stayman, york, and grannysmith (though we didn't find all those in our spot in the orchard). We forgot to pick up an apple basket at the entrance, but luckily, most of the trees were pretty short so we could reach the fruit without one. We did have to give the boys some boosts though.
We had a bit of a picnic snack for the meal (though sadly, with no cider since we didn't see a spot to buy any coming in) and then loaded back up. You actually pay, by the bag, as you exit, in the comfort of your own car. The half bushel bags were $12 (though she only charged us $10 since it wasn't filled to overflowing).
I of course had to make my famous (or infamous for diets) apple pie with crumb topping. I'm planning to freeze a few bags worth for more pies this season, and then make a few batches of crock-pot applesauce.
And we concluded that though Stribling is probably our favorite since when we went it was a little more low-key and not as crowded, Hartland is definitely a good alternative (with cheaper apples). Just be ready for the crowds.