Getting my 2 kids dressed and out of the door with basic necessities to make it to soccer on time is a feat that leaves us sweaty and feeling like we’ve run a marathon. We will undoubtedly have forgotten something we needed to bring but usually just feel thankful we’ve made it in car alive, seriously. I questioned myself a little when I decided I would take the boys apple picking at Carter Mountain Orchard by myself. What was I thinking? A simple errand is too much to ask some days yet I wanted to go on all day adventure on a mountain? Recipe for disaster or best idea Ive ever had?
We loaded into the trusty Camry around 8am and left Richmond to head to Charlottesville right after breakfast. My youngest wasn’t pleased to be strapped into car seat less than an hour after waking up and my oldest asked me 8,000 times if we were there yet on the hour drive. I tuned them out, cracked the windows, and enjoyed the foliage and scenic route.
Carter Mountain Orchard is very easy to find and only minutes from 64 exit. We pulled up right as they were opening at 9 (go early it got super busy after 1230/1) and snagged the first parking space. I had.a bookbag with diapers, wipes, water, and a snack and off we went. They set you up for success from the beginning – the friendly and energetic woman at the Information booth welcomes you and gives you tips on what kind of apples are available for picking, where is good terrain for the ages in your group, and various apple facts. Off we went with our bag (Because we forgot our bag at home – whoops, told ya I forget something every time!) ready to pick!
We stayed relatively close to the barn, grill, and kids area but you could hike and go really far if you are little kid free and ready for an adventure. It was still pretty steep and the boys took a few tumbles but didn’t phase them at all. Best attire is comfy clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. You want to have good shoes for climbing and walking, save your Jimmy Choo’s for later. The staff at information booth has signs to show you type of apples are in that area of orchard and price per lb. We ended up primarily with Golden Delicious and Winesap, yum!
The scenery and orchard are breathtaking. We wandered the rows of trees and talked about Johnny Appleseed, different colors of apples, how to pick them, and what we would make with our apples when we got home: applesauce.
The hayride was perfect for relaxing after we walked and gathered apples for 30-45 minutes. Under 2 are free, so for 6$, we all got to take a tour of the orchard and see parts we wouldn’t have seen on foot. The hayride provides continuous rides to public every 30 minutes throughout the day, so you’ll have plenty of chances to catch a ride.
The kid’s area was a hit – the apple and worm wooden cut out is a must for a funny photo op. You can make the trip educational by stopping at the bee, apple, or pumpkin boards for facts and questions and answers. We hung out there for over an hour letting boys run before we headed to Mountain Grill for lunch. I will say the lunch wasn’t the most delicious (pack lunch and save!), but the apple cider doughnuts are the most delicious doughnut I’ve ever eaten. Served warm and ready for consumption, you should buy multiple boxes. My mouth is still salivating thinking about how yummy they were.
After you buy these magical doughnuts, go find a seat on one of the picnic tables and take in the scenery. Relax and soak it all in. If you are over 21 grab some wine or cider kick your feet up and stay a while. My two were beginning to get sleepy after 3 1/2 hours so we did one more final play in the kid’s area and headed back to the car. They both were asleep before I put the car in reverse to head back down the mountain. But before my oldest began to snore, I heard his sweet voice say “Hey mama, thanks for taking me that was fun. Gray Gray loved it too.” I cried, I won’t lie, because it’s those moments that remind me the risk of meltdowns, skinned knees, grumpy attitudes, tears, fighting, etc. is worth it. We all had an amazing time building memories and starting a yearly fall tradition that I hope will continue well into the future. I’d like to hope that one day I can say to my grandchildren, I took your dad to this same orchard when he was 1 and we had the best time. Long after the apples are eaten or they are too cool to snuggle me during the hayride I have a feeling I’ll never forget that sweet little voice in the backseat thanking me for being brave enough to take my two wild ones on a day trip that reaffirmed what I know, I just love spending time with my two boys. I love the admiration and awe at seeing new things. Its not toys and material things that matter, its experiences and quality time.
So the moral of the story: just go. Take the day trip, go somewhere new, break out of your comfort zone- it may turn out to be your next family tradition!
- 10 apples
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 3/4 cup of brown sugar
- 1 1/4 cup of water
- Wash apples with water.
- Peel and remove the core.
- Slice into smaller pieces and throw in Crock-Pot for 8 hours on high.
- Stir and mash apples.
- Place in refrigerator to cool.
What a great snack and discussion! We sat on the front porch and dipped cinnamon Graham crackers in ours. There is something more delicious about a treat when you made it yourself than a store bought treat will ever bring!
What are your favorite memories at Carter’s Mountain Orchard? What is your fall family tradition? What’s your favorite fall family road trip? Can’t wait to hear!