Our Apple Picking Picks!!!!
Apple picking season is short and sweet ... and almost over! But if you are hoping to pick some apples before you pick a pumpkin, there are so many amazing options in the Bay Area. You are sure to find the perfect experience for you and your family.
This past weekend our family headed to Watsonville, CA, about an hour and a half south of San Francisco. Since the round trip would be 3 hours, we wanted to make the drive count and we went to three orchards. Each one was unique in its own way and we were so glad we tried a few flavors of apple picking. Here's what we thought of each...
Live Earth Farm
We started at Live Earth Farm, accidentally arriving before opening. But they were so kind, setting us up without making us wait. The first row was pretty well picked, but following their instructions to the next aisle, we found plenty to pick. We also picked strawberries, and the seasonal organic farm stand was open. Best of all, we had the place to ourselves for the 30 minutes we were in the field, with just a handful of families starting to arrive as we left - I took full advantage of this for family photos! Most of the people we observed seemed to be neighbors picking up their weekly produce. The staff was extremely knowledgeable and great with kids, and seemed genuinely happy we were there.
The only additional entertainment was small hay bale play fort and a small wooden train set, but that was enough for our kids, who loved both. As an additional bonus, the views were beautiful and parking was easy. A very durable stroller—that doesn't mind some mud—may be okay, but otherwise the farm not very stroller friendly.
We absolutely loved this place and we plan to return next year.
Our second stop was the much-raved-about Gizdich Ranch. When we drove in we were greeted by a very helpful parking lot attendant who gave us a great suggestion: park by the barns and explore the farm before heading to apple picking, as spots fill up quickly. We were lucky to find a spot right away and we set off to explore. First we went to the lovely little Antique shop - where I held my breath the entire time for fear my kids would break something. The owner of the ranch was behind the register and she was so kind to us as we shuffled three small children through the room of antique treasures. From there we headed over to the shop and the bakery. Gizdich is known for its pies but I am gluten free so we decided not to wait in line for them. We tried a few of the samples of apple juice then headed to the picnic area where my kids played on an old red tractor before we headed over to the apple fields. While awesome, this area was crowded. Skipping the barns and going directly to the apple picking may be a better choice for a group with so many small kids.
On to the picking! The fields were beautiful and the fruit appeared to be plentiful. We saw a few people with strollers but honestly it was very crowded.
Gizdich was fun and lively and has a lot going on. It is well organized and they are clearly prepared to manage the crowds that come through, so if you are looking for a bustling and energetic apple picking experience this place is great. Also, if you are wanting to skip the crowds I might suggest trying a weekday— they are one of the few places open 7 days a week!
Clearview Organic Orchards
Clearview Organic Orchards was a fabulous place to finish out our trip, and the perfect middle ground between the peaceful Live Earth Farm and bustling Gizdich. The yard by the main building has the most fun vintage toys I have ever seen - there was a merry-go-round make of wheels with pedals that the kids had to pedal for them to go around! It was so cute! They also had a rocker and a few other old school toys set up among the tables - the kids had a blast playing and running around before we headed out to gather up our last batch of apples.
We were directed to one side of the orchard, the other side was not yet ripe. The views at Clearview were fantastic as we walked down the fairly steep hill to get to our apple trees. If the kids hadn’t been so worn out from going to three places, I think it would have been the best place for photos. The crowds were solid but not overwhelming, and the landscape was beautiful. If you are looking for a place that is a little more manicured and set up to entertain than your average working farm this is the place.
No Need to Choose...Go to All Three!
All three of these places were really close together and it was a lot of fun to see the different experience that each place offered. One fun thing about going to multiple places to pick apples is that each place has different varieties, so you bring home a wide array of apples. We stayed at each for less than an hour, but probably could have stayed at any of them for longer if we weren’t on a schedule. I personally don’t think it makes sense to plan for a full day at any of these places. Going to all three really made the drive worth it.
Each place provided us with all the tools we needed to pick and carry our apples, but if you have your own bags for transporting them home it never hurts to bring your own. Gizdich and Clearview both had enough food available for purchase to enjoy a full picnic, and both have a policy against outside food.
Live Earth Farm: Community Supported Agriculture
Open Sat and Sun 10-3
1275 Green Valley Rd
Apple U-Pick we paid $1.19 per pound but it varies based on varietal and there are discounts for larger bundles
55 Peckham Rd
Open 9-5 7 days a week
Apple U-Pick $1.65 a pound
Open Sat and Sun 10-4
646 Trabing Rd
Apple U-Pick $2.10 a pound
Sarah Montoya is a San Francisco mother of three and a postpartum doula. She loves to explore SF and the Bay Area with her little ones. You can follow her adventures, get more family travel tips, and read her thoughts on motherhood at @sarahromontoya
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