The Little Farmer in Malone has apple picking, homemade pies, and goats for petting. (Photo by Susan Lampert Smith)
The Little Farmer in Malone has apple picking, homemade pies, and goats for petting. (Photo by Susan Lampert Smith)

Get ready for cider donuts and apple picking fun with your ultimate guide to family-friendly apple orchards throughout the Badger State.

The first autumn of the pandemic was crazy for Wisconsin’s apple orchards, as families flocked to the hills for fresh-air frolicking and orchards were as busy as bee hives. 

Fall 2021 looks to be another big one. Luckily, Wisconsin has lots of apple orchard fun no matter where you live.

Ker-splat Goes the Apple Slingshot at Leffel Roots

Yes, you can pick pumpkins and enjoy live music at the Leffel Roots Apple Orchard just south of Eau Claire. But your inner 9-year-old will be thrilled watching apples arcing from the giant slingshot and splatting far out in the field. 

The orchard opens for the season Sept. 15 and features live music, a corn maze, and bonfires.

Two boys try their hands at the apple slingshot at Leffel Roots Apple Orchard just south of Eau Claire. (Photo by Susan Lampert Smith)

Applefest Returns to Bayfield Oct. 1-3

Bayfield’s Applefest returns after being suspended in 2020 due to COVID-19. This event celebrates the Bayfield Peninsula and its historic role as the fruit-growing region of Lake Superior. 

Erickson Orchard, Hauser’s Superior View Farm, and Bayfield Apple Company have plenty of apple-centric activities. The big day is Sunday, when the grand parade kicks off at 2 p.m. on Rittenhouse Avenue. Kids can register to be in the Apple Dumpling Gang, which includes a T-shirt, goodie bag and chance to ride in the parade. All three days feature music beginning at 10 a.m.

Cute Goats Add to Family Fun at The Little Farmer

On the quiet, eastern shore of Lake Winnebago you’ll find The Little Farmer, a cute collection of farm buildings surrounded by an orchard. You can feed the goats by hand, take a hayride, or shop for apple-themed gifts. 

Treat yourself to a piece of pie and coffee in the Victorian farmhouse. The Little Farmer sells hundreds of pies a season and you can even buy them frozen and bake them yourself, to bring the fall perfume of apple and cinnamon back home.

Drive Highway 171: The Kickapoo Valley’s Apple Avenue

For many Wisconsinites (and plenty of folks from Iowa and Illinois, too, judging by the license plates), you haven’t had your apple fix until you’ve driven the High Ridge road of Highway 171. 

In both directions from Gays Mills, you’ll find Wisconsin’s most intense concentration of apple orchards, including six that are open to the public. They range from the Turkey Ridge Organic Apple Orchard to Hillcrest Orchard, which has hard-to-find varieties such as Wolf River. Kickapoo Orchard has a Sunflower Maze.

Kickapoo Orchard in Gays Mills has a sunflower maze. (Photo by Susan Lampert Smith)

Sutter’s Ridge: Pumpkin Bars and Hot Apple Cider Donuts

Madisonians who know the Sutter family from their years at the Dane County Farmers Market know that their pumpkin bars and hot apple cider donuts are the best. 

The farm is located south of Mount Horeb, about 15 miles southwest of Madison, and features a corn maze and a pumpkin patch. Open Thursday to Sunday in September and October.

Ski-Hi Fruit Farm One of Wisconsin’s Most Historic Orchards

For many families, a stop at Ski-Hi for apples and pie is the perfect finish to a fall hike at Devil’s Lake State Park. Located just outside the park boundaries in the Baraboo Hills, the Bassett family has been producing apples and other fruit for more than a century at their Ski Hi Fruit Farm. 

Visitors to the property can also see the historic cabin built by a homesteader in 1962. And speaking of family fun—Ski Hi offers weekly kids’ activities for small children on Wednesday mornings at 9 a.m. And, yes, parents, there is coffee.

Ela Orchard, Up From the Ashes

(Photo via U+1F360/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Another farmers market favorite, Ela Orchard, located just outside of Rochester between Milwaukee and Burlington, suffered a debilitating fire in January 2021 that wiped out its historic apple barn. Fans of the orchard donated more than $27,000 to a GoFundMe campaign to help. 

The trees were unaffected, though, and are already producing early-season apples that are available at farmers markets in Madison, Shorewood, Greendale, Burlington, and Lake Geneva. The farm store is expected to open later in September. Check the Facebook page for details.