Going Apple Picking? For Two Of New York's Best Orchards, Now's The Time - Forbes

Masker Orchard in Warwick, NY, has 200 acres of apple trees and around ten varieties of apples to pick from. A popular apple-picking spot, the orchard can get insanely crowded at times. Photo: John Giuffo

If you’ve somehow managed to miss every third photo in your Facebook news feed, it’s that time of year to hoist young children into trees to pick an unreasonable amount of apples to bring home and bake into things.

Depending on where you are in the country peak apple season will of course vary, but here in New York state, where the orchards have a national reputation, it’s peak harvesting time. Indeed, some varieties are past peak harvest time, as I discovered on a visit to Masker Orchards on this past Saturday, when we found most of the Jonagold section of the orchard picked clean.

New York grows great apples, and there are too many quality orchards that are variations on the pick-your-own, country store, hayride, petting zoo, apple orchard destination theme to make any definitive lists, but with some research you can narrow down a list of options according to your preferences. Are you looking for a large farm with hundreds of seasonal employees and dozens of options for things to do with the kids? Or are you looking for a quieter orchard, one where you can plop down a blanket, bring a picnic, and eat the apples straight from the trees? Or both?

I’ve chosen two of the dozen or so apple picking farms I’ve visited. Both are popular, and for good reason, but the first, Masker Orchards in Warwick, NY, is by far the busier of the two. Located 45 miles northwest of the George Washington Bridge, the drive can take anywhere from just over an hour to almost three, depending on traffic and the day you visit.

At more than 200 acres, Masker’s is big enough to accommodate an almost constant influx of cars, and they keep coming well into the afternoon, so if you want to see what all the commotion is about, make a point of arriving at the 9 am opening time. You’ll have a lot of competition, even that early. Families pile the kids into their SUVs and minivans, and many have favorite picnic spots that they’ve used for years. There are huge lunchtime barbecues, tables, even collapsible canopies. It’s a very festive atmosphere, and the farm is well-equipped to handle the volume of visitors, even though lines in front of the concession stand and for the pony rides can get long. Make sure you check their ripening schedule before heading out for the day so you’ll know which areas of the orchard to look for when you arrive. Parking and admission are free, and the farm welcomes you to eat their apples straight off the trees – you’re only charged for each bag of apples you drive off with ($26 buys you about 20 lbs. of apples).

And while there’s something undeniably fun in the energy from the hundreds of families Masker’s attracts on a weekend day, it also makes for long lines to the bathroom, an increased likelihood of screaming babies within earshot, most frustratingly, a slow crawl through the orchard’s lanes, which are almost constantly clogged with children and others.


Wright's Farm in Gardiner, NY, is a bit further from New York City, but with more than 450 acres, its a bit easier to lose yourself in the trees. Photo: Wright's Farm.

or something a little more laid back, Wright’s Farm in Gardiner, NY, puts the focus on the apples and the country store. As with Masker’s, you’re allowed to drive your car right into the orchard, park, picnic, and barbecue. Located 70 miles northwest of the George Washington Bridge (about an hour and a half’s drive on a good day), and approximately 453 acres big, Wright’s Farm is more than twice the size of Masker’s, allowing visitors to feel at times as if they have a corner of the orchard all to themselves. Parking is free, and admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids 4-9. Bags are provided with the admission price, and the adult size holds about 20 apples. Check the calendar here for peak ripening times.

Wright’s also has a fantastic country store stocked with a small variety of the other fruits and veggies they grow, and a selection of farm-made jams and jellies. We brought home a jar each of japapeƱo peach and nectarine last year, and both were delicious. And be careful – they’ll get you at the checkout with their varieties of homemade fudge, also. In their defense, it’s hard to say no to pumpkin fudge. Goes down amazingly well with their own fresh-squeezed cider.

Others have compiled lists of their favorite New York apple orchards, and they each have different things to recommend them. As long as you’re open to the idea that the trip may take an hour or two longer than planned because of the traffic, any of them would be a great way to spend a day picking apples, picnicking, and planning all the different things you’d like to make (but probably won’t) from the day’s apple bounty: turnovers, pies, tarts, roasted apples, caramel apples – no matter what you decide to cook with your apples, your kitchen is pretty much guaranteed to smell awesome the following day.

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