“We tell everyone it truly takes a year to grow an apple,” said Joe Fahey, the owner and orchardist at Peck & Bushel Organic Fruit Company in Colgate, Wisconsin, just north of Milwaukee. While apple picking typically runs from August through October, Fahey says it takes the entire winter to prune his 30,000 apple trees, and when spring comes, the trees need tending.
But fall is for harvesting — and Peck & Bushel is one of the largest certified organic apple orchards in the Midwest. Fahey, who has a background in nuclear medical technology, had long dabbled in backyard orcharding before founding the farm in 2010.
The organic apples he grew tasted better from any other apples he’d tried, and that success propelled him to think bigger. Part of his desire to grow apples organically was the challenge: Everyone told him you couldn’t grow organically in the region. “I also just believed in trying to do things a little healthier,” he said. (Scroll down for a list of 10 best places to go apple picking, including Peck & Bushel.)
On the list of 10 great regional destinations for apple picking below, you’ll find places where U-pick apples are the star attraction. Beyond getting to pick apples, several of them, including Apple Holler in southeast Wisconsin and All Seasons in Woodstock, offer petting zoos where visitors can feed the farm’s chickens and baby goats, as well as other attractions.
Dave Flannery, who owns Apple Holler with his wife, Vicki, said the main draw for people he meets is getting out in the fresh air and reconnecting with nature. “Probably more important than anything else is just being able to roam through the orchards,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest thing about the whole experience — it’s just the pleasure and experience of being outdoors.”
10 great apple picking destinations near Chicago
Founded in 1977, this orchard grows nearly 30 varieties of apples; their website keeps you up to date with which types are ready for picking and also offers pointers on each apple’s best uses. The farm also organizes family-friendly activities like a corn maze, pony rides and pumpkin picking on select days in the fall. 3902 S. Duncan Road, Champaign, Ill.; through Oct. 31, Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Edwards Orchard sits about two hours northwest of Chicago and grows two dozen apple varieties for picking, ensuring there’s always something in season. The Edwards family prides itself on sustainable farming methods, such as restoring prairie and wetland on the orchard to preserve bee habitat. Don’t leave without stopping in the cafe for hot apple cider doughnuts. 7061 Centerville Road, Poplar Grove, Ill.; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, weather permitting
Dozens of apple varieties, as well as pumpkins, are available for picking at this orchard located less than two hours west of the city; U-Pick produce is cash only. Visitors can also purchase farm-harvested raw honey and caramel apples on-site. This year, the orchard hosts a Pumpkin Harvest Weekend Oct. 13-15.11783 Waterman Road, Waterman, Ill.; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily
This orchard and pumpkin farm has one of the largest Honeycrisp apple orchards in northern Illinois, but check before you go to see what’s available that day. Asian pears are also available for picking. For families, this year the orchard has expanded its “fun farm” to include a ropes course and pig races, in addition to such attractions as a corn maze and a bee observation station. 14510 IL Route 176, Woodstock, Ill.; weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Through Oct. 29.
Not too far from the Indiana border you’ll find County Line, which offers U-Pick apples, pumpkins and sunflowers, while in season, throughout the fall. An all-access pass includes a corn maze, tractor rides and, for the smallest kids, a soybean maze. 200 S. County Line Road, Hobart, Ind.; open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
About two hours northwest of Chicago, Peck & Bushel offers U-Pick on weekends until mid-October or whenever they sell out of fruit. While you’re there, stop by their barn for organic home-pressed cider, homemade apple cider donuts and more. 5454 County Road Q, Colgate, Wis.; open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Apple Holler grows more than 40 varieties of apple, from the tart McIntosh to the aromatic Macoun; pears are also available. September and October are their busiest months, so they recommend coming early, and trying some of their hard apple cider — only available on the farm. 5006 South Sylvania Ave., Sturtevant, Wis.; orchard and farm park daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Now in its second century of operation — by the same family — Overhiser Orchards grows more than 40,000 fruit trees, including more than 20 varieties of apples, as well as cherries, peaches, plums and pears. You can U-Pick apples through Oct. 31. On the third Saturday of October, the farm hosts a “Great Pumpkin search” with hot apple cider, pumpkin picking and wagon rides. 6405 109th Ave., South Haven, Mich.; open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 31.
Ride a wagon out to the orchard for picking at Spicer Orchards, featuring about a dozen varieties of apples. The family also presses its own hard cider and makes its own wine; flight boards are available year-round.10411 Clyde Road, Fenton, Mich.; open daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Oneida tribe started this orchard in 1994; today, they offer more than 30 varieties of apples, retailing this year for $1.25 to $1.75 per pound, depending on the variety. Free range eggs from local Indigenous farmers, and apple butter and jams processed at the Oneida Cannery, are available at their store. 3976 West Mason St., Oneida, Wisc.; Thursdays: 12 to 5:30 p.m., Friday - Sunday: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
This story, which originally published in 2022, was updated for 2023 by Cassie Walker Burke.