Most locals will insist that summer is the city's best season, but we'd argue for fall in Chicago. As the temperature drops and the leaves change colors, everything starts to slow down. One of the best ways to experience the season is by seeking out apple picking near Chicago, where you can fill your car with fruit and get some fresh air while you're at it. All of the orchards on this list double as easy day trips from Chicago, a nice compromise if you can't jet off to a warmer climate this season. Plus, you can plan a repeat trip for some of the best pumpkin patches Chicago has to offer. Hit the road in search of the best apple picking near Chicago this fall.
The best apple picking near Chicago
From Chicago: 60 miles northwest
Open daily, this orchard specializes in apples (15 varieties) and Asian pears. Expect to walk away with at least one peck, a 10-pound bag of apples, the minimum for a group of one to four. Before you pick, stop by the farm's Koffee Kiosk for hot chocolate and apple cider doughnuts.
From Chicago: 65 miles west
This orchard is worth the drive—and it's not too far from Shabbona Lake State Park if you want to make a day of it. You'll find more than a dozen types of apples available for U-Pick and in the country store. Youngsters will love the petting zoo and straw maze, while parents will dig the fact that the orchard doesn't charge admission. That's right: Entry is free, and so are all of the activities.
From Chicago: 65 miles north
You'll want to clear an entire afternoon to wander around this massive Wisconsin orchard. Beyond the obvious (trees filled with apples), the property is home to a restaurant, bakery, gift shop and family farm—which means there's no shortage of family-friendly activities. Come fall, be sure to check out the events calendar so you don't miss hayrides and festivals.
From Chicago: 40 miles southeast
Forty acres of U-pick apples await at this beautiful orchard in Hobart, Indiana, but there's a lot more happening behind the scenes. Get lost in a corn maze, explore the bee yurts, feed the goats or roast marshmallows over a campfire. You won't have to go far for food when the kids get cranky: Find fresh-baked doughnuts, chicken salad sandwiches, pizza and burgers are all available on site.
From Chicago: 70 miles west
This family-owned property boasts 105 acres and more than 20,000 apple trees. Check the interactive website to find out what's ripe for the picking and how to use each apple variety. Make a day of it by checking out the corn maze or booking a private campfire site for your group. Before you pack up the car, wander around the Cider House, where you'll find an impressive selection of apple wine and hard cider to take home.
From Chicago: 40 miles north
There's no hoopla at this small family-run orchard, so don't expect hayrides, hot cider and a sprawling corn maze for the youngsters. You're here for the apples, after all, and there are plenty of those. A word to the wise: Be sure to check the farm's website ;before you visit for upcoming hours and possible closures.
From Chicago: 55 miles west
Back in 1998, Wade and Kim Kuipers opened their pumpkin patch to the public with a simple mission—to share the pleasures of spending the day on their farm. Today, the operation has grown to include apples, hay rides and Christmas trees. You can even get married on their picturesque grounds.
From Chicago: 60 miles northwest
Whether you favor Gala or Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious or Jonamac, there's something for everyone at this family-owned orchard. Plank Road is the ideal destination for adults who can do without the hayrides and petting zoos (spoiler alert: there are none). Aside from the apples, the baked goods are the main attraction here; fill up on apple cider doughnuts, fruit-filled turnovers and caramel apple cookies.
From Chicago: 65 miles northwest
Surround yourself with more than 15,000 apple and pear trees at this family-run orchard in Woodstock, Illinois. You can head straight to the fields for picking, play corn hole with the family or get your thrills on the mini zip line. Return in September to walk through the 10-acre pumpkin patch and munch on hand-dipped caramel apples.
From Chicago: 80 miles northwest
Royal Oak boasts more than 17,000 trees and 30-plus varieties of apples, so lace up your walking shoes. The orchard provides containers for pick-your-own types, and the store features doughnuts, caramel apples, pies and a Royal Oak specialty—apple-cider slushies.