PLEASE NOTE: This post was written about the 2011 event. While this post should still give you a great idea of the overall experience, it is also possible that it may contain some out-dated information. Please be sure to check the Scott’s Orchard website for the most current information, especially about things like dates, times and pricing.
I love fall. I’m going to go out on a russet and golden hued limb here and call it my absolute favorite season. I love the hot colors and the cool air. I love the celebrations that are about food, fun, and family (no gifts required). I love pulling out my big fuzzy sweaters and ridiculous shearling boots. And it probably won’t surprise you that I have boxes and boxes of fall décor waiting patiently in my basement for me to have a few spare minutes to deck the halls, walls, and anything else that can support a garland or a pumpkin.
Now, if you have lived in New England as long as I have, you are probably familiar with the old adage: if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. Well, I have been waiting and waiting for that glorious New England fall to kick in, but alas, the temperature was still hovering around 80 when we decided to visit Scott’s Orchard in Glastonbury two weekends ago for some quintessential fall activities. These included apple picking, a hay bale maze, photo opps in the pumpkin patch, and perusing all the gorgeous fall mums.
We’ve always loved Scott’s for their freshly picked produce and beautiful plants, but I guess I’ve always been a little intimidated by the idea of harvesting my own fruits and vegetables. I always expect there to be a long, exhausting trek to the orchards and a tiresome hunt to find any fruit that’s low enough to pick. (And of course the anxiety only deepened when Boo came along because the only thing worse than being lost and exhausted in an orchard miles away from your car, is being lost and exhausted in an orchard miles away from your car AND with a toddler.) This may be because I grew up a city girl (well, a Providence, RI city girl anyway) and the thought of an orchard being as close as my backyard seemed like an impossibility. Until now. Because, as I was pleased to discover, going to Scott’s really is like having an orchard in my backyard.
So on this 80-degree morning we headed down New London Turnpike to Scott’s Orchard trying to get into the fall spirit despite this ridiculous summer heat. Scott’s is super easy to get to, no matter where you are coming from. The route is basically highway and/or main road the whole way. And there is big lettering on the building that you can’t miss, so finding it is a breeze. The parking lot, however, is a different story. It is barely big enough to hold the crowds that descend there on fall weekends, so going early is your best bet. I would encourage you to get there no later than 11:00 (which is when the hayrides start too). The main parking area is in front of the fruit stand but it is almost always full this time of year. So don’t worry if you pull into the narrow lot and find yourself without a space. There is a much bigger, unpaved lot off to the left of the store (and by that I mean, if you are facing the store, the parking lot is off to the left) and when it’s busy there will be someone from Scott’s directing traffic to open spaces.
When we arrived just after 11:00, there were still plenty of open spaces in the large parking area (photo above). Boo, whom I can no longer count on to fall asleep in the car on hour-long rides, had nevertheless konked out in the 10 minutes it took us to get over here from our house. Figures. So I left him to sleep in the car with daddy for a few minutes so I could get some good pictures of the parking lots and the building.
Initial reconnaissance complete, we considered the best way to transport Boo for this adventure. We settled on the stroller because Boo’s desire to walk is still intermittent at this point and we didn’t know how far we (and by “we” I mean hubby) would have to carry him to get to the orchard.
First stop, the pumpkin “patch” for some cute photos.
We took Boo to this very spot last year too, when he was not even two months old. Of course, we had to recreate the pictures we took last time. I just couldn’t resist throwing in this side-by-side shot.
Here we are last year. Look at my itty bitty Boo!
This year I had a bit more trouble getting him to sit still. So much for the cute mommy and me photo.
When Boo had had it with the photos (so about 5 minutes after we started), we got him back in the stroller and headed toward the orchard.
First, we stopped at the display table to grab this handy map and a free bag.
Also, if you stop in the garden shop before heading out to the orchard, sometimes they have a great display featuring samples of all the kinds of apples you can pick here, and telling you their best uses.
Or, in case you like to prepare ahead of time, use this handy link to find a list of basic apple varieties and how they taste best.
It’s always good to know the rules.
After we collected some bags and a map, we followed the signs toward the orchard. (Don’t worry, we’ll be back for the hay maze later.)
I was shocked to discover that this big imposing orchard I had imagined was literally just steps away. There were plenty of signs telling us which way to go, and we had no problem pushing Boo along in his stroller.
One thing to note: as you head toward the picking areas, you will see this normal, residential-looking house.
We spent a few minutes wondering if we were really meant to trek through someone’s front yard, then decided that between the signs pointing that way and the crowds of other folks traipsing through, that must be the right direction. So just a heads up. It will feel like you are walking into someone’s yard, but that is the right way to go.
I also got very excited when I saw this sign. (Is it sad that the prospect of a real restroom makes this mommy positively giddy?)
But my excitement quickly faded when I saw this. Oh well. At least there is some option. And they did try to gussy it up with cornstalks and everything. Points for that.
We didn’t have time to try it today, but the sign said it cost $3, which is per person (there is another sign that includes the “per person” explanation). I didn’t see a schedule or anything, so I assume it just runs continuously.
We decided to hunt down some Mcoun apples for making a tasty applesauce. I had a brief Dorothy meets the Scarecrow moment, because the signs for the Mcoun apples pointed in two directions. It seemed like most folks were heading off to the right, but we decided to take the road less traveled.
Excellent choice! No need to scour the branches here. These trees were dripping with apples. In fact, many were hanging in clusters so that if you picked one, you also picked its two neighbors. I was worried we’d get too many!
We accidentally snapped this great photo, which happens to be almost a mirror of one of our favorite shots from Boo’s pro photo shoot back in August. So is this life imitating art or art imitating life? Hmmm. You can get back to me on that one. Along with the whole chicken/egg thing too.
The pro pic is the one on the right (like you couldn’t tell). The photographer’s name is Christina Houser. Click here to see more of her work. She’s wonderful.
When we’d gathered enough apples, we looped back through the Golden Delicious trees. This brought back memories. I may have been a city girl, but it didn’t stop us from having a couple of Golden Delicious apple trees in our backyard. I remember the intense anticipation each summer, watching the fruit bloom and grow, until we could FINALLY pick them in the early fall. Mental note: I need to look into planting an apple tree in our yard for Boo.
As you can see, we had no trouble maneuvering the stroller around the orchard.
When we came to the end of the row of trees, we spotted this little barn with some chickens and a few goats.
I think this goat thought I was a scout for Ringling Bros. and Barnam & Bailey Circus. He wanted to show me his tightrope act.
On our way to the cashier, we walked past the giant pumpkin bounce.
We had picked about 3 lbs of apples. The cashier out here where you weigh and pay for your fruit only takes cash or checks, so keep that in mind. The store/farm stand does take credit cards.
Now it was time for the hay bale maze! So I know this is going to sound funny because you are thinking to yourself, how do you miss a thing like a giant hay bale maze? But yes, we did. We followed the sign, which pointed towards the expansive outdoor garden shop where we wandered around for a bit
Finally, we realized that the maze was INSIDE. Yup. The hay bale maze is under cover. You enter through the covered area of the garden shop.
Now, this has its advantages. It’s sheltered from the rain and wind, it keeps you out of the sun, and it makes it easier to ensure that your kids don’t run off somewhere they shouldn’t. However, when it is 80 degrees out, a tented hay bale maze is also very, very, stuffy. So I figured I’d snap a few pictures, let Boo jump on a few hay bales, and then we’d call it a day. Well, who would have guessed that my Boo would pick this very moment to perfect his outdoor walking skills. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my son officially became a “walker” for all terrains in the Scott’s Orchard hay bale maze. This was a very proud moment, of course, but it also meant that we were going to be in here for a while.
In case you couldn’t tell, Boo had a phenomenal time in this maze. He loved peeking around the corners, climbing over the short bales and crawling under the hay bale “bridges.” The maze is sized just right for small kids (which means, blessedly, that adults can see all the ins and outs from their higher vantage point). Unfortunately, some of the older kids were not so much following the “no running in the maze” rule, and almost toppled Boo on several occasions. I swear my mother threw her voice all the way from Rhode Island when I heard myself snapping, “Slow down kids! There’s no running in here!” (That’s such a “mom” thing to say, isn’t it? It couldn’t have been me…)
We did try to take the stroller through for research purposes, but unfortunately the passageways are really not wide enough for that. A really slim umbrella stroller might work, but your best bet for an infant would be a wearable baby carrier. Although, then both you and baby would be looking out over the top of the maze. Also, this maze is definitely better for walkers as opposed to crawlers, mainly because crawlers also tend to be put-everything-in-their-mouth-ers. There’s a lot of loose hay and dirt down there on the ground. Just sayin’.
When Boo finally tired of the hay bale maze, we poked around in the garden shop and found these two adorable young ladies doing complimentary face painting. They were good too.
On our way to the orchard, we’d spotted this nifty-looking food truck with an intriguing name: The Whey Station.
Now, I’m not gonna lie. The first thing that came to mind is that little ditty about Miss Muffet and her tuffet, and that curds and whey never sounded too appetizing to me. (When I got home I immediately Googled curds and whey and found out that it is more commonly known as cottage cheese; still not my favorite thing). But when we got close enough to see the menu (and the illustration on the side of the truck), we realized that they were actually serving up gourmet grilled cheeses. Hmmm. Now that was intriguing. At around six bucks a piece though, I was a little skeptical. I mean, I could get a whole loaf of bread and a half-pound of pretty decent deli cheese for that. But you know how this goes by now. It was for the blog! So we decided to split the “Orchard Special”:cheddar, apples, and bacon. It took several minutes to make, but it was worth the wait…and the price. This was the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich I have ever eaten.
They had other great flavors with interesting and unusual ingredients too. That sure gave me some inspiration for spicing up my own grilled cheeses. Can’t wait to try some of these combinations in my own kitchen! They also had a plain option for the kids for only $4.
They also had these wacky Avery’s sodas, which I’d recently seen featured in Hartford Magazine.
Apparently, there is a soda factory in New Britain called Avery’s Beverages where kids can have the chance to create their own delicious soda with a disgusting name. Sometimes their creation is even added to the official roster of “Totally Gross Sodas.” Anyway, I made another mental note to file this info away for when Boo is older. It would make a great birthday party activity!
Side note: I asked if this food truck was a permanent fixture at Scott’s, but sadly the answer is no. The Whey Station moves around from event to event. You can visit their website for more information and their facebook page to find out where to catch up with them next. As luck would have it though, this coming weekend is Scott’s Harvest Festival (October 8th, 9th, 10th), and The Whey Station team told me they are scheduled to be there serving up their delicious grilled cheeses.
By the way, here’s the flier for the festival this coming weekend (October 8th, 9th, 10th). By total accident, we were actually there during the “Annual Apple Festival” so it’s possible that some of the activities we observed, like the face painting and pumpkin bounce, might not be permanent fixtures. They’re there this weekend though!
Meanwhile, all that running around in the hay had finally taken its toll on Boo and he was ready for a N-A-P.
I made one more pass through the fruit and vegetable stand.
I came so close to buying this apple pie popcorn. Doesn’t that sound delicious? I think I may have to go back.
So there you have it. It was a great fall day at Scott’s. We snapped some pictures, picked some apples, and played in some hay. I overcame my inane fear of orchards and Boo officially got his land legs. As for hubby, well, he was looking forward to a big batch of homemade applesauce.
Scott’s Orchard and Nursery
1838 New London Turnpike, Glastonbury, CT
Get directions here:
HOURS & ADMISSION:
UPDATE September 2015: The 2015 Scott’s Orchard Apple and Harvest Festivals run September 26th & 27th and October 10th, 11th, 12th, 2015; Wagon ride weekends only and hay maze open daily from mid-September to October 12th. This post is about the 2011 event. It is possible that it may contain some out-dated information. While this post should still give you a great idea of the overall experience, please be sure to check the Scott’s Orchard website for details about things like hours and pricing.
RESTROOM FACILITIES: Porta-Potty
CHANGING STATION: No
Comfortable shoes for walking in the orchard and the hay bale maze
A heavyweight stroller or wearable baby carrier for navigating the orchard
Cash or check to pay for the fruit you pick and/or hay rides (The farm stand also takes major credit cards)
Snacks for the wee ones (If you plan to tackle all the activities, you might be there for a while and there is no place to purchase a meal unless The Whey Station happens to be stationed there)
A camera to snap some pics in the pumpkin patch
Join us early next week for a visit to the Emerald City of home furnishings stores. Then later, we’ll furnish you with ideas for extending your shopping spree into a family-friendly day trip. And don’t forget to check back tomorrow for some toddler-tested apple recipes that even grown-ups will go ga-ga for.