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Apple Picking Near Boston NOT Like Disney?

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I've done some preliminary research on the board and found a few posts about apple-picking in the area, but most of the good places listed were out near Stow (an hour away from where I live in Brookline). Is there anywhere closer to Boston for picking apples that doesn't make you feel like you have accidentally gone to a children's amusement park? My bf and I tried Belkin farms in Natick last year and ended up leaving when we saw the magic show and line for the hayride to get to the apples. We are just looking for a quiet orchard to pick some apples, and if the only way to get that experience is to drive an hour, so be it, but I wanted to poll the board first. Thanks!

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  1. Here is a link with all of the farms. Looks like there are lots of places in N Andover, Danvers and Boxford, - but nor sure if these places are too far away for you. Good luck

    http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/app...

    1. Barden Family Orchard in N. Scituate, Rhode Island is excellent. They have peaches and apples for Pick Your Own. We recently moved to Somerville from Providence and have been driving back for our fruit picking needs this summer as it is not all that far and we know what we are going to get.

      1. Good luck finding an orchard that isn't full of children. I've been to a few out in Stow and they are usually full of kids. Maybe you should try going out mid-week now that school is back in session. If that's not an option, get up extra early and try arriving at the orchard as they open. The hoards of mini vans seem to show up about an hour or so after opening in my experience.

        Really though, once you are picking, I don't think the crowds are too bad. It's usually the worst at the hayride (if they have one) or near the front of the orchard (bathrooms, lines for cider donuts, sheep/pigs to pet). Get there at opening, buy a bag of hot donuts, eat them while picking and get out before it's crazy.

        1. Doe Orchards in Harvard is our standby - no hayrides, clowns, goats. Just trees, including lots of my favorite: Macoun. Very easy to get to, straight shot out Rt 2, about 45' from Brookline (where I also live). Never crazed, even on weekends.

          2 Replies
          1. re: drb

            Just last night my BF and I were talking about apple picking. Like the OP we are use to the basic, no frills orchard/farm. Looks like exactly what we are looking for. Thanks for the suggestion.

            1. re: drb

              Also checkout Westward Orchard http://www.westwardorchards.com/HOME.htm and Carlson Orchard http://www.carlsonorchards.com/ in Harvard

            2. Nicewicz Family Farm in Bolton is terrific. Not only are there no kids but they let you pick anywhere you like and as many varieties as you like. If you want to try before you buy, the Nicewicz's come to the Brookline Farmers Market.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Velda Mae

                They also come to Belmont's Farmer's Market and, I think, Arlington too.

                1. re: PinchOfSalt

                  And Newton and Needham. I just mentioned Brookline because the OP lives there.

              2. Try Nashoba Valley (http://www.nashobawinery.com/orchard....). It's also a winery so it attracts more adults, and doesn't offer all the hyper-cutesy activity for children as other orchards do. It's not my favorite orchard, though they have a good enough selection and variety of apples. For me, good cider donuts are worth mingling with a couple of screaming rugrats for an hour or two, so I deal with the kids.

                6 Replies
                1. re: kobuta

                  We went there last year, by default. The fields were picked out, and they were blaring terrible music the whole time. Yes, we did go on a weekend, so proceed at your own risk...

                  1. re: galleygirl

                    I went two years ago - plenty of apples and no terrible music. The only nitpick I had was that they did not allow use of the poles so there were some great apples you just couldn't reach.

                    1. re: kobuta

                      what? no ladders either? It's not an apple orchard without those ladders that are closed at the top end.

                  2. re: kobuta

                    Nashoba is on the same road as the Nicewicz Family Farm.

                    1. re: kobuta

                      If you go to the orchard link on their site, you can send an email requesting for notification of picking of their antique and unique varieties. They'll let you know when they are ready and then you tell them when you'll pick. I'm on the list but never actually picked these. Seems it would be less crowded.

                      1. re: kobuta

                        We went there last Saturday. They had a ton of apples and no loud music. It was a very nice drive. Great place to pick apples and you get the added bonus of wine tasting. We brought our 3 week old and it wasn't too crowded at all.

                      2. Maybe a bit too far for you, but Kimball Fruit Farm on Hollis Street in Pepperell (right on the NH line) is pretty no-frills, and the orchard is generally quiet. Also, the view of the mountains to the west is very nice.

                        1. Brooksby Farm in Peabody is great. They have apple picking and they have a farm/barn where you can buy apples, veggies, honey, jams, cider, etc. They also have an area with a few animals that you can feed.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: witchcity

                            Brooksby isn't an amusement park, but it is a bit kid-heavy. If you want to avoid the farm and store area, which can be overrun with kids, i believe there's a booth right by the orchard where you pay for the apples. It's pretty convenient, right behind the North Shore Mall. Avoid the donuts, which are pretty bad, especially when not hot from the fryer. Their cider is pasteurized, too, which is a mark against it in my book.

                          2. We like Cider Hill in Amesbury and that is about an hour. There are no train rides, magic shows, etc. There are many families with kids, but if you go to the further away spots, you'll be fairly alone. They also still have peaches to pick and they press their own unpasteurized cider, which is delicious. Not going on a weekend, or going early would probably work better.

                            We went Labor Day with our son who hates crowds and noise. found ourselves mostly alone after passing lots of families.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Madrid

                              I second Cider Hill. It is very much a basic orchard with a nice store to purchase donuts and cider among lots of fresh veggies.

                              1. re: StephVW

                                Agreed (they also do the Tuesday farmer's market in Saugus, btw).

                                Also, don't forget Russell Orchard on the road to Crane's Beach in Ipswich.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  Cider Hill and Russell Orchard are my favorite places, partly because both offer unpasteurized cider, great cider donuts and great farm stores, but they're both a bit kid-heavy. Russell has a petting zoo, even. However, once you get out into the orchards, you aren't overrun with families.

                                  1. re: Chris VR

                                    Just don't go to Russell while the Topsfield Fair is on. Mistake I'll only make once...

                            2. Alfalfa Farm in Topsfield opens their orchard to pick your own apples. They are not yet open for this season but you can find out when the orchards open by phoning them. The apples we got last year were the best we ever had. Not crowded there in the least. Plus the winery is just across the road should you wish to try that as well.

                              http://www.alfalfafarmwinery.com/

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Gio

                                We were at Alfalfa Farm on Saturday afternoon.... the apple picking is only conducted on the week-ends. So lovely there. No fanfare, no doughnuts, no cider... just apples. Several varieties, Cortland, MacIntosh, Macoun and many more, I just forget which. We got a mixed bag that one of the boys actually ran out to the orchard and picked for us.... 12 for $5.00. Other bag quanties are available.

                                http://www.alfalfafarmwinery.com/

                              2. Very UN Disneylike is One Stack Farm in Stow. Great cider, and you don't have to buy a bushel or a peck.

                                1. Last year, a few of us picked at Dowse in Sherborn. I believe that they have both a farmstand and a PYO orchard some distance away. The orchard was absolutely no-frills, with just one guy under a tent at the top of a hill overseeing the place. The day we went, it was very quiet.

                                  Belkin was pretty disgusting the last time I went, with an astronomical "entrance fee" (this was BEFORE paying for the apples!), trapeze lessons, etc. I've got to admit that they had some nice picking, though.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Kip McSkipster

                                    Dowse is my personal favorite. The farmstand has great variety (including the always useful "utility apples," perfect for applesauce) and is very low key. The orchard has good picking, is a pleasant setting and, as the other poster indicated, is no frills. Last year there was a guy under a tent, a picnic table and a portapotty.

                                    1. re: charlieg

                                      For nine years, I was be the girl under the tent at Dowse's. =) If you want a real old-time working family farm with the best apples and cider around, Dowse's is the place to go. I live in Vermont now and miss it terribly.

                                  2. Second Russell Orchard in Ipswich. And have lunch at the Choate Bridge Pub in town.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: mtm7654

                                      Or grab some great cheese and bread from their farm store and picnic there. They stock the wonderful Valley View New Meadows cheese that I crave.

                                    2. I've been going to Carver Hill orchard in Stowe for several years, and there's no frou frou. I get the impression that they have a cider and commercial picking business and the PYO is a sideline instead of the main attraction. My only complaint is that at least one time I was there a lot of what was available for PYO was Red Delicious, and unfortunately Red delicious aren't good even when fresh picked (IMHO).

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: cpingenot

                                        I agree with you that "Red Delicious" is false advertising, but I delved into some apple books some years back, where they claimed that the best ones are streaked and a lighter red. People automatically think the redder the better (true for most red produce) so they choose the darkest ones, which are more likely to be mealy and bitter/bland. I put this to the test and most of the time, the lighter ones WERE juicy, crisp, and tasty.

                                      2. I went to Phil's Apples in Harvard, MA last year and enjoyed the experience. It is definitely not a circus. They press their own apple cider right there. Ah, unpasteurized apple cider! Drink it fast, or freeze it. So good.

                                        http://www.philsapples.com/

                                        1. it's not quite apple picking but sour crab apples are readily available this time of year at cambodian markets. sprinkle with a little salt, chili powder, or fish sauce and they make a nice snack

                                          1. Hi all, wanted to report back on how the apple picking went. We ended up going to Russell Orchards in Ipswich and had an awesome time. The apple selection was great (cortland, gala, empire, mcintosh, honeycrisp, gingergold, macoun...there are others I'm forgetting) and the hayride out to the orchards was not hokey at all. The hot apple cider donuts were FANTASTIC (although less fantastic once cold) and the store had a nice selection of apple butter, fruit wines, etc. Once we were out in the orchards it was pretty quiet and we didn't feel awkward going without kiddos in tow. Additionally, everybody who worked at the orchard was extremely friendly. All in all, I would definitely go to Russell Orchards again, thanks so much for everybody's input and suggestions!

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: BlueTrain84

                                              Edible Boston has a recipe for cider donut bread pudding inspired by those Russell donuts in the recent edition. Sounds so good, and a good way to use them when they aren't perfectly fresh.

                                              1. re: BlueTrain84

                                                Does anyone know how late Russell Orchards continues to makes the cider donuts on Saturdays? I'd like to be able to get fresh, hot ones, but is that only in the morning, or all day? When would it be least crowded?

                                                1. re: bella_sarda

                                                  I've gotten their cider doughnuts hot in the mid-afternoon on Saturdays. That shouldn't be a problem.

                                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                    Excellent, thank you!

                                              2. We were at Connors Farm in Danvers yesterday and it was a pretty mellow scene. Definitely not as crazy as some of the places in the Nashoba Valley area.

                                                1. My bf and I have been planning to pick apples and these suggestions are all a real help! Do any of you happen to know of any orchards that sell caramel or candy apples, too? They can be disney-like.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: kimonocomics

                                                    Any orchard with a farm store usually has the prepackaged ones. I'm not sure if any of them make them fresh. Cider Hill might.

                                                    1. re: Chris VR

                                                      I'm pretty sure I've seen fresh-made candy or caramel apples at Honeypot Hill in years past.

                                                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                        Yes, I go to Honeypot almost every year and they definitely have fresh-made candy apples.

                                                        1. re: hiddenboston

                                                          But Honey Pot is a zoo, of course. I like the place, but you need to carefully select the time you go....

                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                            Definitely. Early morning is ok, but late in the day is probably better.

                                                      2. re: Chris VR

                                                        Cider Hill makes them fresh. Hand dipped in caramel.

                                                      3. re: kimonocomics

                                                        They do the caramel/candy apples at Nashoba Valley Winery during the Oktoberfest. Its a pretty good time, can get disney like but thats what the beer tent is for :)

                                                      4. This website has a really extensive list of farms and a google map. http://www.applepickingboston.com

                                                        1. Nagog Hill Orchards at 74 Nagog HIll Rd. in Littleton has great apples, nothing Disney-esque, and is certainly a top contender for closest to Boston. Peaches, plums, raspberries and some organic vegetables also grown on site. Just off rt 2A/119; hang a left at the reservoir and follow the shoreline on your left approx. 1.5 miles, take left at stop sign and right into parking lot. Be sure to visit http://www.kitchen-outfitters.com/ on your way out the Great Road. Help support our local kitchen store!

                                                          1. Yes, you SHOULD definitely drive about an hour, northwest, to go to the orchards! It's totally worth it. The same orchards that supply all of the restaurants and local stores also have U-pick sections, so they aren't going to mess with kiddy zoos and demos. There will be seasonal workers, lift trucks, and semi's rolling in during the week, not petting zoos... They seem to be mostly located around the Rt.2-2A-495 corridor. Harvard, Ayer, Littleton, and Bolton, there's a concentration of orchards, peach and apple orchards, so have at it!
                                                            I recommend Carlson Orchards because you can also get sparkling cider and it's a very attractive working orchard, and their trees are GORGEOUS, and heavy, and perfectly laden with fruit.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: conchens

                                                              Has anyone been out to Old Frog Pond Farm in Harvard? It's listed as organic, but wonder about the atmosphere.

                                                            2. I was at Honeypot in Stow late on Saturday, thinking it would be a little quieter at that time of day. Wrong! The place was so insane that it made Disney World seem like a Benedictine abbey. It did clear out quickly after they closed, though, so we were able to pick apples in relative peace (they let us stay on the orchard after closing time).

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: hiddenboston

                                                                I was there this past Sat too! I vowed that I would never go on a weekend, but found myself so close that I had to give it a shot. i figured that by 4:30 things would have calmed down. Boy was I wrong. I ended up standing in line for donuts. I couldn't resist their smell....they are the best! I swear never ever again on a weekend. I asked one of the cashiers taking donut orders what time they closed and she said they close when the lines are gone. They must have been open 24hrs/day this past weekend. The lines were still going strong when we left at 5:30ish. I'll be back just before Thanksgiving for a few more pies. Hopefully, they'll have their pear cider again for the holidays.

                                                              2. Not nearby at all, but I'll throw into the mix:
                                                                http://gouldhillfarm.com/index.html
                                                                Off rte 89 in Contcoocook, NH, about an hour north of Lowell, Gould Hill Orchard has a vast array of common and heirloom apples. The orchard is hilly enough that it's not easily-managed by little kids, but there is a well-stocked orchard store, and in the same building, The Little Nature Museum, which enables visitors to see close up, and handle, many interesting natural New England artifacts. The Chestnut Crabapples and Pomme Gris are luscious little apples that are particular kid favorites and there's usually a bushel of them which kids are free to sample.

                                                                1. Lookout Farms in South Natick is VERY Disney - there was a mile-long line of strollers to take the train to the top of the orchard to pick last year when I went on Columbus Day. So it's one to avoid. It is overpriced. However, the 2 reasons I've gone more than once is the proximity and the quality. Very good selection of fruit - apples, pears (Asian and others), amazing peaches, plums, plus all the walks are covered in grape-vine trellises.

                                                                  I highly recommend Autumn Hills Orchard in Groton. I think they are a commercial orchard so if you happen to find it they will let you pick some. There is no store to get donuts or cider or pies or mums, just a sack of apples and however many acres of some of the most beautiful hills I've ever seen. You can see up to New hampshire from the top of the orchard. I've only been once since it's kinda far but bug my husband to go every year. Hopefully this year he'll cave.

                                                                  1. Went to Cider Hill Farm last Saturday. It was lovely and busy but not too too crowded (except for that insane Cider Doughnut line, which wasn't a line we would have braved). While we could *see* many many apples on the trees, there were no apple poles and tree climbing is prohibited, and all the apples at reasonable picking levels were gone baby gone. While they appear to try hard to map out the apple varieties, the rows, not the trees, are labelled so it gets rather confusing very quickly if you are trying to locate a specific variety and wander a bit. Apples are available in the shop, already picked, for the same price--$1.75/lb. We skipped on buying cider if only because it was outrageously priced, which was too bad because we wanted to ferment some. It is a lovely place, but I doubt we'll go back--I want to pick the apples I see, not just admire them.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Bumblebutton

                                                                      Here's a hint on cider. You only need to get one container of unpasteurized cider. You let it sit for a few weeks to ferment (you can tell when it bulges; I shake it up every couple of days until then).

                                                                      Then you can use that fermented cider as a mother to add to pasteurized supermarket ciders that have no perservatives (that's a key qualification; if they have perservatives added, they cannot be resurrected by adding fermented cider). Not all supermarkets carry such ciders, but my Shaw's often does and some other places do.

                                                                      1. re: Bumblebutton

                                                                        their orchard across the street had TONS of apples at picking level.

                                                                      2. Somewhere in between near and far is Old Frog Pond Farm, tucked under 495 in Harvard and worlds away from anywhere. Small, organic, with to-die-for raspberries and small, tasty heirloom apples. I've never picked where there were so many birds and butterflies. Also art installations along the trail around the pond. "Just leave me here," a little boy I passed was saying,"This place is perfect."