An Apple Orchard by Day Keeps the Family at Play

September in Michigan can only mean one thing (well, two, if you consider this ‘Indian Summer’ season upon us this week): It’s the start of apple orchard season! 

Is there any better time to be a Michigander than right now? Cue the crispy fall leaves, boots, sweaters, and a bag (or two) of warm apple-cider donuts. My hubby knows that these donuts are the exception to my “lets-teach-the-kids-willpower-and-moderation” rule. (And I may already have eaten my fair share at Erwin’s Orchard and Cider Mill this past weekend. YOLO.)  

We’ve been to a few apple orchards over the years; it comes with the territory of living here. Some we loved and some..we just liked. And different orchards have different “vibes”, right Michiganders?! 

Some have a low-key ‘lets-just-pick-some-apples’ vibe, while others have a ‘I-scream,-you-scream,-we-all-scream-for-Halloween’ type of vibe. And sometimes you just want to skip the apples and pumpkins, and grab some cider and donuts at the Cider Mill as a quick afternoon family activity. 

To help with the weekend family planning, I present a review and roundup of some of my family’s favorite orchards and cider mills around Southeast Michigan. Each orchard/cider mill provides a link to their website for easy access. Happy Fall Michiganders!  

P.s. As a disclaimer, each orchard and cider mill listed below has great donuts and cider, and are listed in random order.

  • Erwin’s Orchard and Cider MillSouth Lyon, MI: The quintessential orchard; the kind of place I think of when I think of an apple orchard. You can take a hayride to pick apples and pumpkins, pet some baby farm animals, ride a horse, and the kids can ride through a tricycle path or go through a mini hay maze. This easy laid-back orchard is good for a couple hours well spent. It’s not too large so it’s not overwhelmingly exhausting to navigate, especially with small kids. This is actually the first Apple Orchard we ever took our eldest daughter Jenna to when she was 7 months old. We took her again this past weekend for probably the fourth or fifth time there. Clearly we love it as we keep coming back!
Jenna visiting Erwin’s when she was 7 months old and again this past week at the age of 6.
  • Plymouth Orchards and Cider MillPlymouth, MI: The really cool thing about this orchard is the fact that since 2013 they’ve been on a mission to be an organic orchard and farm. So this means that all the fruit you pick, cider you drink, and donuts you eat are all made with organic ingredients. That makes me feel good as a mom, and must make a lot of teachers feel good as well, as it is a popular field trip orchard of choice for many schools. I’ve been on two field trips here with my own daughters, and can attest to the fact that this is a very kid-friendly orchard. My kids love the hayride and hay “hill”, as well as the farm area where they can pet the animals. I like the fact that they are organic as well as the large play area for the kids!
Playing atop the hay “hill” at Plymouth Orchards.
  • Wiard’s Apple Orchard and Country Fair-Ypsilanti, MI: Believe it or not, this orchard has been open since 1837! No wonder a trip here is so much fun; they’ve been doing this a while and know what’s up. A trip to this orchard is an all-day fun event. Because you can count on doing all the typical apple-orchard-y things such as picking apples, hayrides, and pumpkins at the pumpkin patch (plus donuts and cider too, duh). But by paying for the extra $18.87 “country fair” ticket fee you can do a ton of other fall-related activities, visit tons of play-areas, and rides. Included with your ticket purchase is about 20 of those different types of activities, so many that when we visit we haven’t even done them all yet (and we’ve been a few times!). The Country Fair is only open on the weekends in September and October. Wiard’s is also a great date-night (or place to take older kids) place in the Fall as they have tons of haunted Halloween activities as well. My hubby and I have been saying we want to take a haunted hayride here for years as a group date-night with our friends. Any of my close friends reading this will be laughing as each year we say “this is the year we’re going to make it happen!” Well friends, this is the year we’re finally going to make it happen.
Riding the “tractor” trail at the Country Fair at Wiard’s.
  • Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill/Blake’s Big Apple-(Two different orchards by the same company called Blake’s-Both in Armada, MI: Blake’s has a very special place in my heart as this was always my family’s top orchard choice when I was growing up, and for good reason. There’s so much to do here. Similar to Wiards in that they offer tons of fall activities and rides on the weekends, called their “funland”, it’s a place to come on a fall weekend when you know you want to do more than just pick apples with the family. I personally have some great memories here with my own family, and have taken my own kids a few times. I always tell my hubby that we have to wait until October to come here (or end of September at least) as this place feels very “Halloween-town” (only a Millenial parent is going to understand that reference). They have tons of halloween activities and really put you in the spirit. And thus not surprisingly, they have tons of haunted halloween activities to do as well in the evenings. This orchard is definitely worth checking out. But please, if you hate it, put it to me gently, as hearing this might hurt my heart full of nostalgic memories. And my mother’s as well.
Horse riding at Blake’s.
  • Parmenter’s Cider Mill-Northville, MI: This is a cute little cider mill good for a couple hours of outdoor fall family fun. The outdoor play area, while large, I feel is geared more towards younger kids and toddlers, which is great if you have kids of that age. Mine easily played for over an hour and I still had to pry them away. I also liked that, as it’s a smaller cider mill there’s less open space for me to worry about; I can pretty much see them wherever I am. Older kids and teens might not think this the most fun place they’ve ever been, but it is a really nice and cozy place to bring a blanket and hang out on the grass with some cider and donuts.
Can you spot Jenna at Parmenter’s?
  • Franklin Cider Mill-Bloomfield Hills, MI: This cider mill is one of our favorites as it truly gives you all the fall feels. Starting from the historic mill itself that was completed in 1832, to the making of the cider which can be viewed on site, to the outdoor vendors (my kids love the face painting station), to the surrounding colorful fall foliage. What I love is taking my kids to see the actual mill and allowing them to view how cider is made (very cool!); plus the donuts and cider are great. It is important to note, and more information can be found on their website (link above) that their cider is unpasteurized in keeping with it’s originality, so any who may have an issue with this should be vigilant.
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