Best Apple Orchard (2015)


It's apple pickin' season, and USA TODAY 10Best enlisted the help of our readers to help find the best apple orchards from coast to coast. After four weeks of voting, the results are in!

  • Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards

    Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards
    LaFayette, N.Y.

    This family-owned orchard has been growing apples since onion farmer George Skiff and dairy farmer Andrew Beak joined forces in 1911 to plant apples on a hillside along Rte. 20. The rest, as they say, is history.  Today, Gala, McIntosh, Ginger Gold and Paula Red are just a few of the varieties offered from late August through late October. Live music events, Cider Fests, Orchard Runs and a Kids' Magic Show add entertainment to the apple picking.
    Photo courtesy of Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards

  • Mercier Orchards

    Mercier Orchards
    Blue Ridge, Ga.

    Started in 1943 by Bill and Adele Mercier, Mercier Orchards has been a family farm ever since. Showcasing 38 varieties of apples, the You-Pick Apple Event is the most popular event of the season, which runs from early August to late October. A bakery/deli, farm market and winery offer more to do and taste, while other events like cooking and baking classes, tours and tractor pulls are staged at various times throughout the year.
    Photo courtesy of Mercier Orchards

  • King Orchards

    King Orchards
    Kewadin, Mich.

    Beginning in early September, family-owned King Orchards kicks off a two month apple picking season. Heritage apples such as Cortland and McIntosh; gourmet favorites such as Ginger Gold, Honey Crisp and Mutsu and American standbys including Golden Delicious and Empire lead the list. In business since 1980, this family-run orchard also sells a variety of jams, jellies, pies, muffins and pastries in two farm stores. The second annual Saucin' Saturday Craft Fair is slated for Nov. 21, 2015.
    Photo courtesy of King Orchards

  • Sky Top Orchard

    Sky Top Orchard
    Flat Rock, N.C.

    What started as a curiosity in the late 1960s has blossomed into a thriving family business. Today Sky Top Orchards is a popular pick-your-own apple farm offering more than 22 varieties. Cortland, Gala, McIntosh, Asian Pear and Honey Crisp are just a few of the selections. Scenic mountain views, a duck pond and small barnyard provide a colorful backdrop to the experience. Other family-friendly features include hay rides, tractor pulls, a large playground and farm store.
    Photo courtesy of Sky Top Orchard

  • Kiyokawa Family Orchards

    Kiyokawa Family Orchards
    Parkdale, Ore.

    Kiyokawa Family Orchards has been operating since 1911 growing more than 80 varieties of apples, including Benoni, Braeburn, Cortland Fuji and Winter Banana. Award-winning pies, turnovers, honey, jams and fresh cider draw customers from throughout this scenic Oregon valley. Autumn beckons with a host of events: Desserts Galore! - Sept. 19 & 20, 2015; Honeycrisp Harvest - Oct. 3 & 4, 2015; Fiesta Days! - Oct. 17 & 18, 2015 and Heirloom Apple and Asian Pear Tasting - Oct. 24 & 25, 2015.
    Photo courtesy of Kiyokawa Family Orchards

  • Apple Holler

    Apple Holler
    Sturtevant, Wis.

    There's always lots to do at Apple Holler, and one of the most popular activities takes place from August to October with a crisp selection of pick-your-own apples. Among the favorites are Fuji, McIntosh, Sansa, Cortland, Empire and Red Delicious. A small barnyard houses goats, rabbits and horses, as well as ducks and chickens, while the Country Store offers freshly baked goods and unique gifts.  Autumn brings activities like hayrides, scarecrow and pumpkin festivals, gemstone mining and more.
    Photo courtesy of Apple Holler

  • Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard

    Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard
    Hendersonville, N.C.

    More than 20 apple varieties can be picked at Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard, a family-run farm since J.H. Stepp moved there in 1967. Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious and Honeycrisp are just a few of the varieties on offer from early August to late October. Fall activities include a corn maze and Apple Cannon - a game allowing visitors to shoot apples and pumpkins at "fun targets." The Country Store is the place for apple products: cider, butter, salsa and donuts.
    Photo courtesy of Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard

  • Gould Hill Farm

    Gould Hill Farm
    Contoocook, N.H.

    Family-owned since 1735, Gould Hill Farm offers a wide selection of pick-your-own apple varieties. Cortland, Empire, Golden Russet, Baldwin and Macoun are just a few of the favorites. Inside the 1810 Post and Beam Barn visitors can purchase cookies, cider donuts, muffins, pies and ice cream. Special gifts such as Polymer clay jewelry, silk scarves and specialty food items are also available. Weddings and special events can be booked in the Barn as well.
    Photo courtesy of Gould Hill Farm

  • Stribling Orchard

    Stribling Orchard
    Markham, Va.

    For six generations, the family-owned Stribling Orchard has been producing a bountiful apple crop. Thirty acres of trees turn out varieties such as Red Delicious, Gala, McIntosh, Ginger Gold, Rambo and Lodi, starting in early July through October. The on-site Harvest House and Bakery sells fresh breads, pies and cakes along with salsas, jams and jellies. The Bakery opens, starting on Labor Day and is open weekends only. Tours give insight into farm life and apple production from farm to kitchen.
    Photo courtesy of Meaghan O'Malley / Flickr

  • Alyson's Orchard

    Alyson's Orchard
    Walpole, N.H.

    With more than 50 acres bearing over 50 varieties of apples, as well as peaches, blueberries and other fruits, Alyson's Orchard offers a fun pick-your-own experience. Heirloom apples such as Red Astrachan, Dolgo Crab and Wolf River join longtime favorites like Gala, Fuji and Red Delicious. The annual Pulled Pork Competition, Chili Cook-Off, Apple Festival and Apple Pie Competition and a Wedding Show are all big draws between late August and early November.
    Photo courtesy of Fran Imhoff

Winning orchard Beak & Skiff scores points with New York families who come to pick their own Gala, McIntosh, Ginger Gold and Paula Red varieties (among others) from August through October.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Apple Orchard are as follows:

  1. Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards - LaFayette, N.Y.
  2. Mercier Orchards - Blue Ridge, Ga.
  3. King Orchards - Kewadin, Mich.
  4. Sky Top Orchard - Flat Rock, N.C.
  5. Kiyokawa Family Orchards - Parkdale, Ore.
  6. Apple Holler - Sturtevant, Wis.
  7. Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard - Hendersonville, N.C.
  8. Gould Hill Farm - Contoocook, N.H.
  9. Stribling Orchard - Markham, Va.
  10. Alyson's Orchard - Walpole, N.H.

Other nominees for Best Apple Orchard included Aamodt's Apple Farm in Stillwater, Minn.; Apple Dave's Orchards in Warwick, N.Y.; Bear Swamp Orchard in Ashfield, Mass.; Bishop's Orchards inGuilford, Conn.; Boyd Orchards in Versailles, Ky.; Deardorff Orchards in Waconia, Minn.; Dwight Miller Orchards in Dummerston, Vt.; Linvilla Orchards in Media, Penn. and Willowbrook Apple Farm in Oak Glen, Calif.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners.


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