PLEASE NOTE: This post is about the 2013 event. It is possible that it may contain some outdated information. While this post should still give you a great idea of the overall experience, please be sure to check the Bishop’s Orchards website for details about things like hours and pricing.
I’ve always known that Mandy is amazing, but let me tell you, now that I have two kiddos to keep track of on outings (compared to her three under 3!), I have a whole new level of admiration for her mommy skills. And when I read her post on Tuesday–where she was flying solo at Flight Trampoline Park AND managed to get all those awesome photos–it totally cemented her rock star status 🙂
Last weekend, I got my newly expanded crew together for our first big outing since the little guy arrived in July. And let’s just say I have a lot to learn when it comes to getting out with two kiddos! So if my pictures are a little blurry, or I’m missing some pertinent information, I apologize in advance. I’m just happy I made it there and back with everyone in one piece!
Last fall, one of our readers mentioned that his family’s favorite place for that quintessential fall activity, apple picking, was Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford, CT. Unfortunately, it was a little late in the season for us to take a drive down to New Haven County to partake in the apple picking, so I made a note to check it out next fall.
Well, here we are, at the start of the season and apple picking, not to mention other fall fun, is in full swing. It was a beautiful fall-feeling day when we headed down to Bishop’s Orchards. (And hey, we only left an hour later than we were planning to–not bad, right?!) Although the GPS on my phone indicated that we should follow Route 17 South towards the Guilford area, we decided to take the longer, but faster 91 South to 95 North route. Plus, we knew we wanted to take Route 17 home so we could pass by the orchard’s satellite location (also open for PYO on weekends) in Northford, CT.
It was a really easy drive (somewhere between 50 minutes and an hour for us–sorry, I forgot to look at the clock again when we arrived–like I said, I was a bit distracted with the extra kiddo in tow 🙂 ), but really close by if you live in the New Haven area. You can’t miss the place. There’s a giant piece of fruit out front! And a huge parking lot.
This is the main location in Guilford. As I mentioned above, there is another PYO farm in Northford (about 25-30 minutes north). But we’ll get to that later. We’ve got a lot to see first!
As much as I love apple picking, I was pretty sure I couldn’t take on too many activities for our first big outing with both the boys. And what I really wanted to see was the corn maze. (Ever since Mandy’s outing to Lyman Orchards, I’ve been wanting to try one out for myself.) So I figured we’d find (and conquer) the corn maze, and then see how much energy we had left for a possible picking excursion.
Because I hadn’t done quite enough “research” on their website, I wasn’t totally sure where to find the corn maze. So we unloaded here and decided to go on the hunt. I immediately noticed that this area, though expansive, didn’t really look like the type of place that you’d find a giant corn maze. Turns out my instincts, honed during two years of outing reconnaissance, were correct.
So the corn maze and the picking would be a short drive up the road, but it looked like there was plenty to explore right here, and hey, we’d already gotten everyone out of the car so we might as well take a look around 🙂
From our parking space, I could see a big red barn to the left (with plants for sale behind it) and a small animal enclosure to the right.
Animals are always a big hit with the preschool set, so we started to head that way. Then Boo saw the giant field o’ pumpkins behind the barn, and we took a little detour that-a-way for some photo ops.
And tests of Herculean strength (you should have seen the one he tried to pick up before this one).
I also noticed that there was a good size hay bale maze back here.
The cost was $3 plus tax/person to enter. Since I knew we were going to have to keep things moving if we wanted to make it to the corn maze before one or both of the kiddos got hungry and/or tired, we bypassed the hay bale maze. So unfortunately I can’t give you the inside scoop on this activity. Looking back, however, I think this would probably be a great alternative to the corn maze if you have toddlers. We’ll come back to that later 🙂
Next it was time to see the animals. Is this a llama or an alpaca? I can never figure out how to tell the difference.
This is a goat. That I know for sure 🙂
Later I saw these for purchase in the Farm Market. It didn’t help clarify my llama/alpaca confusion, but it did explain why the animals might be there in the first place.
Before we got back in the car, I just had to check out the gigantic Farm Market. I don’t think I actually snapped a pic of the outside of the building (oops), but it’s big and white and if you really want to see an image of it you can click here. Of greater importance is what you’ll find on the inside.
Of course the store features Bishop’s Orchards fruits, vegetables, and specialty goods (like applesauce, cider donuts, and pastry mixes), but it also has staples like eggs, milk, meat, cheese, bread, and other packaged goods. Not to mention prepared foods and entrees. So you can get a little shopping done as well. There’s even a rewards card if you plan to become a frequent shopper (get one at the customer service desk).
And did I mention the cakes? Yowza! (This smile only lasted until we told him we were not bringing one home.)
Outside the building, Bishop’s Orchards staffers were hard at work cranking out big bags of scrumptious-smelling maple kettle corn. It’s a good thing I was feeling the pressure to keep moving, otherwise, I would have bought bushels of stuff at this place! As it were, I settled for a bag of kettle corn (pick it up outside, pay for it inside) and a little bottle of their homemade cider. A delicious pre-maze snack.
The checkout area was busy, and Boo was getting a little antsy. Fortunately, he spotted this model train/track along the ceiling. It wasn’t running, but he seemed to think it was pretty cool to look at anyway 🙂
Before we left the premises, you know I had to check out the restroom situation. So I followed these little signs around the back of the building until I found it.
There isn’t a changing station inside, but they are family-style restrooms (one big restroom) and there’s plenty of room to bring in a stroller (they can make a suitable changing platform in a pinch) or to change a baby on the floor (assuming you’ve got a cushiony changing pad). Hey, sure beats a porta-potty! (Although, there was one of those on the property, too.)
There are also a pair of benches over here in case you need a place to hang out for a bit.
Back in the car, we headed out to the road behind the Farm Market (following the sign I showed you earlier). We turned left and started down the road we hoped would take us to the main PYO area and the corn maze (about 3 miles away). At first, the signage was great, but then they seemed to disappear. We kept going straight and finally saw a sign for a left turn on New England Road. FYI, the signs don’t actually say “Bishop’s Orchards” on them, so it’s a little confusing. But just keep your eye out for signs that look like this:
Boo had a great time being the “navigator.” Basically, whenever we came to a fork in the path, he got to choose the direction. Not the best strategy if we were actually trying to find all the checkpoints, but he enjoyed it 🙂
You might have noticed in that picture above that the ground looks a bit rocky. Well, it is. VERY rocky.
I was just thinking how treacherous that might be for little feet when BAM, down Boo went. Fortunately, he only got a little dirty. But from then on, we instituted a “marching” policy so Boo would high step over the stones. Just make sure you give your littlest ones a heads up to keep their heads down (so they can see where they are walking). And if you’ve got a new, wobbly walker in your crew, you might want to forgo this activity in favor of the hay maze back at the Farm Store location.
Obviously, this is not a place you can navigate a stroller. I wouldn’t even try it with a jogging stroller because not only is the terrain rocky, but it gets very narrow in places. You are much better off with a wearable baby carrier if you are toting an infant. Thank goodness Mandy was sweet enough to loan me her BabyBjorn. (Note that the poor little guy is crooked—clearly I need some more practice with this contraption!)
After about 30 minutes of exploring aimlessly, I was ready to find our way to the exit. Good thing hubby is a phenom when it comes to navigation. Left to my own devices, I’d probably still be wandering around that maze!
Of course, now our little lunch crisis could no longer be ignored. Fortunately, I’d brought a yogurt and some small snacks for Boo, so we were able to get him fed. Hubby wanted to abort the outing and head to New Haven to pick up subs at our favorite sandwich place, Romeo and Cesare’s, but I still wanted to head home via Route 17 (nowhere near New Haven) so we could stop at the alternate Bishop’s Orchard PYO location. We were at a standstill until I remembered this post that Mandy wrote where she mentioned that one of her favorite sandwich shops, Nardelli’s, has a location in Middletown (we’d be going right through there as we made our way home to the Gbury on Route 17; score!). So in addition to being a rock star momma, Mandy may have just saved my marriage too 🙂
This PYO location is in Northford, CT. It’s actually a bit of a drive from the main orchard. It took us about 25-30 minutes. Why pick here when there are plenty of good apples at the main orchard, you ask? Well, this little roadside stand is way more relaxed than the hustle and bustle we found at the Guilford location. (Please note that it is only open on the weekends.)
Although you can take a (very) short wagon ride to pick apples here, you can also walk right out to the trees (a big plus for those of you like me with an infant in tow who may not want to go too far from your car). So if you live in the area and don’t really need all the bells and whistles found at the main farm, this might be a good pick for picking.
Unfortunately, both kiddos had fallen asleep on the long ride over here, so our picking plans were foiled again. But I did take a few pics of the area to share. In addition to PYO, this location sells bags of apples and other Bishop’s Orchards goodies like maple kettle corn, pies, cookies, apple cider, and (usually) cider donuts.
Then it was time for a nice, leisurely ride back home with two sleeping kiddos in the back seat (sometimes I think long car rides are the only times hubby and I get to have any adult conversation with each other) and two hot, delicious grinders waiting for us at Nardelli’s.
Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market & Winery
526 New England Road (Corn Maze)
1355 Boston Post Road (Farm Market/Hay Maze/Pumpkin Patch)
Phone: 203-453-2338 – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow them on Facebook!
Hours & Admission:
UPDATE September 2015: The 2015 Bishop’s Orchards Fall Festival activities are as follows: Corn Maze open weekends through October 2015 at 526 New England Road; Hay Maze open daily in October 2015 at Farm Market location at 1355 Boston Post Road. This post is about the 2013 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 Bishop’s Orchards website for details about things like hours and pricing.
Tips & Things to Bring:
- When we were there they were picking McIntosh, Gala (my favorite!) and Cortland apples (plus Bosc pears). Call their PYO information line at (203) 458-PICK for further details 24/7, year round.
- Mommy-brain moment: I thought the price per pound was posted on one of the signs I took a picture of, but it was not. So I do not know the cost for PYO. If anyone can help us out with that, please comment below!
- Bishop’s Orchards also has a winery, with wine available for purchase 7 days a week.
- Live nearby? Don’t forget to pick up a FREE Farm Market rewards card at the customer service desk.
- We used a snap and go style stroller to navigate around the Farm Market location with no problem; I recommend a wearable baby carrier like this one for all other areas if you’re toting an infant.
- Bring a camera for photo ops in the pumpkin patch!
- Credit cards accepted (no minimum) at the Farm Store and both PYO locations (including admission at the corn maze).
- Bring cash to pay for snacks at the PYO/corn maze location (and possibly the hay maze–I’m not sure if they accepted credit cards out there).
- Snacks available at the PYO/corn maze location include maple kettle corn, cider donuts, apple cider and other assorted beverages.
- I was told that starting this weekend there would also be hot dogs and possibly a pizza truck available at the PYO/corn maze location.
- Look for donkey rides starting up (weekends only) in a couple weeks!
- Restroom situation: Family-style restrooms (no changing station) available at the Farm Market; porta-potties elsewhere.
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