Apple-picking season in the Washington, D.C., area extends from August through the beginning of November, depending on the variety. If you want crisp apples fresh from the tree, you can pick them yourself at several apple orchards in Maryland. There don't seem to be anymore pick-your-own apples orchards in Loudon County, Virginia.
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When planning an apple-picking outing, call the orchard first to ensure that the apples have ripened and aren't picked out. If you have strong preferences among apples, check the websites for varieties offered. Some farms only plant one variety, while others offer several.
Germantown, MD 20876
Butler's is a family farm that's been operating in Germantown for 60 years. Families with kids tend to know Butler's because it's popular for school field trips. Butler's apple season is only about four weeks long, and they tend to be picked out by the end of September, so call ahead.
As an "integrated pest management farm," Butler's reduces its pesticide applications whenever warranted after a crop inspection.
From Tuesdays to Fridays through the end of September, group pick-your-own outings are available. Each group member pays $8 to pick a bag of apples and enjoys a 20-minute hay ride on a tractor-pulled wagon.
Poolesville, MD 20837
Homestead is another farm name familiar to many parents whose kids have visited its pumpkin patch. Both apples and pumpkins are ripe for the pickin' at Homestead, apples at $1.49 per pound and pumpkins at $.59 per pound.
Homestead also offers apple-picking field trips. For $6 per person, kids and their chaperones pick apples, take a wagon ride, and meet farm animals.
Woodbine, MD 21797
Larriland is for the serious apple picker. The orchard is planted with a large variety of apples. This not only means choices in apple type, but also scheduling flexibility, as the apples ripen anywhere from mid-August through the beginning of November.
Larriland hosts a fall festival beginning September 24 that will excite little ones already thinking about Halloween. There's a Boo Barn, straw maze, and hay rides.
Parkville, MD 21234
Weber's is open to apple pickers Saturdays and Sundays in apple-picking season until the trees are picked clean. Weber's plants 20 varieties of apples and is known for its fresh-pressed cider.
Fall Harvest Festival Days at Weber's run September 19 to November 6. In addition to hay rides and a straw maze, there are duck races, pedal tractors, and a hillside slide. Admission is $5 for children and $4 for adults.
Dickerson, MD 20842
If what you really want is to pick apples and not be inundated with kids, wagons, and straw mazes, try Kingsbury's Orchard. This is a family farm offering a wide variety of apple types that ripen from August through October.
Carol Bengle Gilbert writes about Maryland and the D.C. area for Yahoo! Contributor Network.