Crisp fall air means sweaters, bright colored leaves and crunchy apples with sweet apple cider. I love this time of year, and picking apples at an orchard or farm is one of my favorite weekend adventures away from the city. There are well over 100 orchards in the state of Minnesota, and this is just a small flavor of some of my favorites — all have a unique twist.

(credit: Aamodt

Aamodt’s Apple Farm, Bakery and Store

6428 Manning Ave.
Stillwater, Minn.
Hours: Aug. –Dec. 31, Daily, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

If you are looking to stay close to the Twin Cities but still want to venture to a top rate apple orchard, Aamodt’s is an easy choice. There are apples, a fully-stocked store, a hay bale maze, a goat farm and kiddie trikes. For three generations the Aamodt family has been providing fresh fruit and a great family experience. To discover what apples are in season or order online, visit the apple farm website.

(credit: Afton Apple)

Afton Apple

14421 S. 90th St.
Hastings, Minn.
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., call for availability

The 190-acre Afton Apple Farm in Hastings boasts many fruits throughout the year, but it’s the 13 varieties of apples that make this a fun destination spot. Check out the apple festival held the weekends of Oct. 1-2, Oct. 8-9 and Oct. 15-16 in 2011. Admission is $3.00 for ages five and up, and $2.00 for ages 4 and younger. Beginning Sept. 17 a six-mile, 15-acre corn maze will be open on the grounds. More of the shop-and-go type? Stop in for frozen pies, jams, fresh honey, maple syrup or take home some fruit butter from the market.

(credit: Apple Jack Orchards)

Apple Jack Orchards

4875 37th St. S.E.
Delano, Minn.
Hours: Daily, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Apple Jack Orchards is a place where you can spend 20 minutes or two hours. You can pick-your-own-apples or just pick up a pre-filled bag from the market. Apple Jacks also offers online ordering if you are looking to ship fresh fall goodness to family or friends. From June until December the Apple Bakery Café is open for lunch or sweets. Over fall weekends you and your family can run through a corn maze, play on the playground or pet farm animals in the animal park. There is also live music, pony rides and face painting. Want to try your hand at target practice? Fire apples through an apple cannon and see if you can hit the mark! A small fee is charged for some activities, so call ahead for pricing.

(credit: University of Minnesota)

Center Creek Orchard

663 254th Ave.
Fairmont, Minn.
Hours: Sat.-Sun., 12:00 p.m. – 6 p.m.

At Center Creek Orchard you can get your fill of fall apples and be a princess for a day. In addition to 11 varieties of apples on eight acres, Center Creek offers the unique opportunity to take a leisurely ride in a Cinderella carriage for $2 per person. Bring the camera to capture a family portrait or your perfect little princess on the ride of her life. There’s also something for the more sports-minded in the family – a nine-hole miniature golf course. The cost? Only $3 per player. Located eight miles from Fairmont, the orchard is surrounded by the East Chain Wildlife Area.

(credit: Emma

Emma’s Apple Orchard

501 East South Street
US Highway 169
Belle Plaine, Minn.
952- 873-3006
Cost: $5 per person – children 2 and free
Hours: Daily, Aug.-Oct., 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

As part of the Emma Krubee’s empire, Emma’s Apple Orchard is a pick-it-yourself farm that brings visitors out to the field on tractor-pulled wagons. Located 45 minutes from Minneapolis, Emma’s is an award-winning orchard with top honors as “Favorite Apple Orchard in Minnesota” by Minnesota Parent Magazine and voted “Best Apple Orchard” by the readers of the City Pages. One of the unique aspects of Emma’s is the scarecrow display. From Sept. 10-Oct. 30 Emma’s hosts the annual Scarecrow Festival, with over 100 handcrafted scarecrows on display.

(credit: White Pine Orchards)

White Pine Orchards

7901 830th Avenue
River Falls, Wis. 54022
Hours: After Labor Day until October 31, Wed. – Fri., self-service,
Saturday & Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

If you are interested in free-range apples, hop in the car to take a short drive over to White Pine Orchard in River Falls, Wisconsin – the best spot for organic apple picking and non-pasteurized apple cider. Since the first trees were planted in 1975, White Pine has been carefully growing its orchard organically just six miles east of River Falls. Visitors are invited to bring a picnic basket and enjoy their freshly picked apples with lunch. Kids are welcome to pick one apple free of charge, and the owners are always eager to talk about their growing practices.

For a full list of Minnesota apple farms, visit the online apple resource, Orange Pippin.

Colleen McGuire is a digital marketing communications professional and author of the blog Travel Snapshots. When she is not touring the Twin Cities for interesting festivals and events, she is wandering the world with her camera and iPad.