After a stifling August, there are few joys greater than leaving the sweaty city for some cool autumn air at nearby farms. Nothing says “fall” quite like apple doughnuts, apple pie, apple cake, apple crisps, apple cider, adult-only apple cider — so what better way to prepare for this season’s delicacies than by picking your own fruit from local family-owned orchards?
These pick-your-own spots in Maryland and Virginia are worth the drive, and not just for the views of rolling hills and scenic foliage. Many offer other attractions once you’re finished harvesting apples; just make sure to call ahead or check websites, as bad weather could cause them to close for the day.
Nestled halfway between Baltimore and Frederick in Lisbon, Md., the 425-acre Larriland Farm greets guests with an expansive multicolored flower patch and classic red barn pitched next to a sparkling pond. Open Tuesday to Sunday, it offers a range of fruits and vegetables (check the “today’s harvest” tab on the website to see available pickings). Purchase a container (there are three sizes) before entering each field, and fill it with as much produce as it can hold. Expect tractor-drawn wagon rides and a twisty straw maze beginning in late September; a goat petting zoo is already open for the littles. The barn toward the entrance serves as a market, selling fresh produce and products from other local farms. And those flowers you saw on the way in? You can pick some to take home, too.
While three apple varieties are currently available for picking, about 20 total varieties will ripen later in the season. Third-generation farm manager Emily Moore says she prioritizes taste over appearance, especially since the apples best suited to the region may not always be picture perfect. “A lot of people expect the same kind of thing they’re getting in the grocery store, which are grown for color and size instead of strong flavors,” Moore said. Apples such as Larriland’s Gold Rush variety might be bumpy on the outside, but they can stay fresh about six months after picking. “It’s a really great apple,” Moore said. “But it’s an ugly apple for sure.”
Open Tuesday through Sunday. 2415 Woodbine Rd., Woodbine, Md. 301-854-6110; pickyourown.com. No entry fee; pay per container size at pick-your-own field.
Rock Hill Orchard
Spotted with over 2,000 apple trees, this farm has grown pick-your-own apples for over 40 years. Reservations are required for guests 3 and older, and every person entering the orchard must purchase a container. Rock Hill’s market offers freshly baked pies alongside apple products, and combo tickets will get you entry to a corn maze (starting Sept. 24), a wagon ride and petting cows — the stars of the orchard’s “cow to cone” ice cream shop, Woodbourne Creamery. Seasonal flavors rotate year round, but the creamery is currently serving apple cinnamon and pumpkin ice cream (perfect for when the PSL just doesn’t cut it.) For some more explosive action, check out the “cannonball sized,” air-powered pumpkin cannon and see if you can hit the target.
Market open Wednesday through Sunday; pick-your-own fields open Saturday and Sunday. 28600 Ridge Rd., Mount Airy, Md. 301-831-7427; rockhillorchard.com. $9 for a quarter peck; $15 for a quarter peck and corn maze admission; $21 for a half peck and corn maze admission.
Catoctin Mountain Orchard
With apples like Crunch-a-Bunch and Ludacrisp, it’s no surprise Catoctin Mountain Orchard is aiming to expand its variety selection — it has 15 available throughout the season and is working with a team of small farmers to cross-pollinate existing apples for new flavors. The farm in Thurmont, Md., charges a $3 entrance fee per person, which includes a wagon ride to and from the field. There is an ATM on-site for cash-only purchases and a playground for kids.
Co-owner Robert Black said freshly picked apples stay fresh best in the refrigerator. “One of the secrets to keeping them for a long time is to put them in a clean plastic bag,” he said. “It retains the moisture in the apple because refrigerators will dehydrate anything.”
Open daily. 15036 N. Franklinville Rd., Thurmont, Md. 301-271-2737; catoctinmountainorchard.com. $3 entry fee per person; free for children 3 and younger.
Mackintosh Fruit Farm
Located in the aptly named town of Berryville, Va., Mackintosh Fruit Farm has over 30 acres of orchards just for its apples, ready to pick for $2.99 per pound. An apiary on the farm provides honey, harvested several times a year, which visitors can purchase in the market. Stop by the eatery, open all day, for hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken sandwiches and an array of desserts, spotlighting produce grown on the farm and products from other local farmers. Make sure to save room for an afternoon at the cidery; sip craft brews and hard ciders, or enjoy a local wine with a charcuterie board.
Open Thursday through Sunday. 1608 Russell Rd., Berryville, Va. 540-955-6225; mackintoshfruitfarm.com. $2 entry fee per person; free for children 5 and younger.
Great Country Farms
Located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this farm is perfect for families looking for an all-day autumn excursion. Start with a wagon ride to the apple orchards and pick the ripest crop ($2.99 per pound) before exploring the 12-acre play area, complete with a pumpkin-themed jumping pillow and “cow pie” putt-putt. Other attractions include a catch-and-release fishing pond, winding mazes, and a petting zoo featuring potbellied pigs Big Mama and Elmer. If you work up an appetite from all the recreation, a bakery in the market provides pastries and coffee. For something a little stronger, the farm also offers guests a discount at its nearby vineyard and brewery. Visit on a weekday for smaller crowds.
Open daily. 34355 Snickersville Tpk., Bluemont, Va. 540-554-2073; greatcountryfarms.com. $10-$16; free for children 2 and younger.