Take a weekend drive through the open farmland and hillsides of North Carolina. Not far from Charlotte metro, enjoy meadows speckled with wildflowers and roadside stands brimming with apples. Explore lush fields of apple trees — the picking season kicked off Labor Day — and pack a picnic lunch for a budget-friendly fall weekend. Don’t forget homemade, hot apple pie or apple cider donuts for dessert.
187 Garren Road
Hendersonville, NC 28792
(828) 685-8033 or (828) 243-7235
Justus Orchard is a fourth-generation family farm, and one of the first “you pick” locations around these parts. Enjoy a fun day on a working farm, and see what it’s all about. Pick gala, golden and early fuji, and don’t miss out on mountain cabbage. It’s grown in cooler weather and rich soil to become the sweetest, most flavorable eatings. Home-grown produce includes anything in season. Let the kids loose on an orchard play area with a few alpacas and goats to keep the attention of the young ones. Sit the family down at one of the picnic tables surrounding the pond, and lunch on Justus’ delicious barbecue.
1261 Oakridge Farm Highway
Mooresville, NC. 28115
Carrigan Farms goes well beyond the apple experience. Come prepared to pick red and golden delicious apples, or munch upon pre-picked varieties. Take a hayride to the orchard while sipping fresh apple cider. As dusk approaches, stick around for the tractor-drawn fall night hayride. For $10 per person, the country charm of a ride will wind around Carrigan Farms. Make sure the little ones are comfortable being in the dark. School groups learn there’s more to a farm than a red barn and fields here. Hands-on learning includes the pollination process with glass beehives, photosynthesis, plant life and a coloring book to reinforce concepts. As indian summer days turn into chilly fall nights, make another trip for its infamous Haunted Trail.
Apple Hill Orchard Cider Mill
2075 Pleasant Hill Ave
Morganton, NC. 28655
This fifth-generation orchard began by peddling apples from a wagon around 1900. Enjoy jonagold, red delicious and golden delicious varieties in September. Red Rome and cameo will be available in early October. Each week, the Cider Mill presses several 600-gallon batches. The natural goodness from the apples is used in slushies, hot spiced cider, donuts, cakes, fried pies and tarts. The aromas and tastes of fall abound in its Country Store. A popular attraction, the Saturday Wagon Tour, starts at 10:30 a.m. and runs every 45 minutes. A tractor-drawn wagon will tour the hill tops, farm pond and shaded woods areas of the orchard. Educational tours are available. Don’t forget to take home a gallon of fresh North Carolina apple cider.
3465 Chimney Rock Road
Hendersonville, NC. 28792
At 84, Grandma Lyda is still in charge of this place. Enjoy an impressive variety of apples and homegrown produce here. In season for September, there’s honey crisp, macintosh, golden delicious and red delicious. By October, pick from Arkansas black, cameo, stayman winesap and granny smith. A giant apple bug named “Juicy” is one of the main attraction for kids, so bring a camera. Luther the duck and goats Macintosh and Applejack are part of the Barnyard Tour. Chow chow, apple butter, fried pies, apple fritters and flavored ciders sit on the shelves of the fruit stand. Heavenly Hog Barbeque offers a plate of hotdogs, slaw and baked beans. As the fall wanes on and the leaves change, enjoy a colorful and spectacular drive from Charlotte.
Related: Best Spots For A Picnic In Charlotte
2951 Chimney Rock Road
Hendersonville, NC. 28792
Look for the big barn with a red roof and a silo topped with a tractor. Visitors may pick up to 20 varieties of apples here. In mid-September, enjoy cortland, mutsu and sun crisp. By September’s end, look for cameo, stayman and red Rome. Walk inside the country store on this 70-acre farm, and find apple pies, caramel apples, fresh cider, local honey, canned goods, and fall decorations and crafts. This place offers ample photo backdrops to capture this memory with the kids. A fall festival-like spot, it offers a cow ride for the youngest visitors and a barnyard full of animals. Pick up apple gifts made right here in the North Carolina mountains, and make another trip when the pumpkin harvest ripens.
Related: Best Places For Hay Rides
Catherine Lash engagingly connects with people. She has learned that interested listening and thoughtful questioning are the means through which collaboration creates a story. She grew up traveling the world and learning military life in an Air Force family of seven. She currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and three kids. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.