Along with the crisp air of September and October, the urge to pick Honeycrisps will be in the air. And Red and Golden Delicious, Ginger Gold, Mutsus and many other varieties of apples that hang ready for picking. This fall tradition is played out at nearly a dozen orchards across the North and South forks of Long Island.
But after the bags and carts are filled, there's no reason to head home so quickly. Farmers are really juicing up the experience for visitors this season by providing a number of other apple- and farm-related activities, from playtime for the kids to hard-cider tastings for the grown-ups.
"We found out about the cider tasting by Googling apple picking," says Kim Konanur, 46, of Northport, who was enjoying a glass of hard cider at one of Woodside's picnic tables along with companion Tom Baumgratz, 45, also of Northport. "It is nice to be able to pick apples and then do the tasting all in one spot." They also took home some regular cider and apple cider doughnuts.
Bob Gammon, co-owner of Woodside, which has another orchard in Jamesport, understands his customers' urge to pack in a full day of activities.
"Anything people can do outdoors just drives the process," Gammon says of offering tastings and picking seven days a week. Later on, the orchard will let visitors sample apple ginger, spiced pumpkin and pear cider. "It is a nice way to extend the season," he says.
Joe Brites, 27, and Kelly Johnson, 25, both of Lindenhurst, also were trying Woodside's hard cider. "We had the day off work and decided to take a drive," Brites says. "We just drove past and saw the sign."
Adds Johnson: "You don't know what you're going to find. You just drive and stop."
WHERE THE TOYS ARE
Kids won't be too eager to go home if they visit Water Mill's Seven Ponds Orchard (631-726-8015), thanks to Tim Kraszewski, who spends the offseason making life-size wooden toys for the playground and maze park at the orchard.
Selections include a tractor, a truck and a windmill to climb on, crawl through and slide down, and a corn maze to wander through.
"This is the place where we come for local produce," says stay-at-home mom Keisha Dixon, 41, of Water Mill and TriBeCa, who was there with her husband, Troy Dixon, 42, and children Slater, 5, and Flynn, 3.
"They have the playground. We pick berries and other produce," Dixon says. "We also get a chance to educate them about farm-to-table eating."
But it shouldn't just be all work and no play, says Kraszewski. "You want to give them something to do rather than just turn around and drive two hours home. The playground has just evolved over the years."
A sweet way to wrap up a trip to the orchard is by sampling apple-infused treats. The Milk Pail -- at milk-pail.com -- entices visitors with muffins, caramel and candy apples, pies and doughnuts. It also is one of a handful of Long Island orchards that still presses its own cider.
Says Milk Pail staffer Marie Dolce: "Most of the people who come here to pick leave with a sweet treat. Our doughnuts are really popular. They're just sweet enough to go with our apple cider."
"This is where we take our grandkids," says Sandy Gross, 68, of Water Mill, who was picking up cider and doughnuts to take to a birthday party. "We'll be back to get something sweet for the Jewish New Year."
FOR MORE: POUR THE CORE HARD CIDER FESTIVAL
WHEN | WHERE 1-5 p.m. Oct. 4, Peconic Bay Winery, 31320 Main Rd., Cutchogue
INFO $40 advance, $65 day of; 631-940-7290, pourthecore.com
If you like your apples in liquid form, head to the third annual Pour the Core Hard Cider Festival. More than 75 locally and internationally produced ciders from 40 makers will be available, including Long Island cider makers Lieb Cellars, Wolffer Estate Vineyard and Woodside Orchards.
The day, which is for ages 21 and older only, will include live music, food vendors and cider-related seminars.