There's nothing more exhilarating than scaling grassy hills in the Hudson Valley to prod and shake crisp, crimson morsels from their leafy branches and haul them home in burlap bags. Apple picking is a fall right of passage here in New York City's northern suburbs and the greater Hudson Valley, and we're lucky to have several pick-your-own orchards and specialty shops for bringing in a bushel or two, scoring cinnamon sugar-covered sweets and savoring life at a slightly slower than usual pace. Here are some highlights of where to hit this season:
High on a hilltop in the rolling back country between Somers and Mahopac, Stuart's is a throwback to an earlier time in northern Westchester country. The family-owned farm was founded in 1828, and the mere aura of the place speaks to its authenticity. Vintage machinery for processing applesauce fills the main shed, neighboring by a bright red water tank that once replenished thirsty steam engines on the neighboring "Old Put" railroad line—now the neighboring North County bike trail. Visitors are instantly greeted by the mouthwatering aromas wafting from the bake shop, which often commands lines snaking several yards outside its screen door. Being farther from transit, Stuart's commands a considerably less-frenzied local crowd with enough room, and apples, to go around. Grab a bag of cider doughnuts and hit the hill for harvests and hayrides and leaf peeping.
Stuart's Fruit Farm — 62 Granite Springs Road, Granite Springs, NY — stuartsfarm.com
Salinger's isn't a pick-your own venue, and it doesn't need to be. With eighteen apple varietals grown on its grounds, a stop at the roadside farm market, famous for its pies and fresh-pressed cider, is an autumn ritual. The farm also grows pears, peaches, cherries and plums, and cultivates raw honey.
Salinger's Orchard — 230 Guinea Road, Brewster, NY — salingersorchard.com
GREIG FARM | Red Hook
At this northern Dutchess County farm, pick-your own adventures are hardly limited to apples alone. Greig opens a diversity of crops to the public to self-harvest, from more than six apple varietals (McIntosh, Jonagold, Empire, Ginger Gold, Macoun and Red Delicious compose the current menu) to blackberries. It's also well known for its popular Saturday farmer's market, showcasing local produce, dairy, meat, fish, flowers and more from Hudson Valley growers. The big red barns and greenhouses add authentic ambiance. Did we mention the pygmy goats?
Greig Farm — 223 Pitcher Lane, Red Hook, NY — griegfarm.com
When a Manhattan fashion editor and her photographer husband purchased this historic 32 acre Ulster County orchard in 2002, it had seen better days. Today, the organic orchard is an autumn destination unlike any other. A general store spotlights an assortment of organic fruits and produce, jams and spreads, along with curated linens and wood kitchen wares crafted by local makers. But perhaps the most unique highlight is Chicco, the skilled beanie-clad pizzaiolo behind cozy West Village ristorante Piadina, who on weekends serves up prolific thin-crust creations from an authentic wood-fired oven in the heart of the orchard. These divine creations are Westwind originals with ingredients sourced from the grounds. The signature sweet orchard pizza pairs honeycrisps, berries and ricotta with Chicco's secret family dough recipe. Other offerings have included kale and egg, or ramps with asparagus, scapes and ricotta. Chic reclaimed wood barns add to the sophisticated #instaworthy ambiance.
Westwind Orchard — 215 Lower Whitfield Road, Accord, NY — westwindorchard.com
The longstanding stalwart on the Hardscrabble apple belt, the pick-your-own destination draws a flood of visitors each fall from well beyond Westchester—don't be surprised seeing NYC taxicabs turning off 684! With hayrides, a corn maze and more, it's a favorite for families seeking no frills, old-fashioned fun. (And if you're wondering about the name, it's owned by the Outhouse family).
Outhouse Orchards — 139 Hardscrabble Road, North Salem, NY — outhouseorchardsny.com