It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – fall is the best. The second I smell cinnamon pine cones in the grocery or craft stores, it’s all over. Pack up the summer blankets and picnic baskets and bring on the apple cider and pumpkin flavored everything.
It was a slightly chilly 60 degrees when I left for my cycling class last Saturday morning and it didn’t take long for a text to arrive from Molly: “We have to go apple picking today.”
But, having done this a couple times before in the Chicagoland area, I knew we’d have to do our research to ensure that in our attempt to escape the city, we wouldn’t end up somewhere that thousands of other Chicagoans also trekked to.
Enter Prairie Sky Orchard in Union, IL. Enough Yelp reviews for us to know that it actually existed, without hinting that the entire city knew. And when we finally got out there, we knew we hit gold.
There were maybe 15 total cars in the “parking lot,” which was basically the owners’ front yard, and the only kid activity was a pile of loose hay bales. Apple picking was simple and cheap. A peck’s worth (ten pounds) only put us back $17, and we could pick whichever varieties our hearts desired. We shared the small but spacious orchard with maybe four or five other families, and every type was clearly labeled and marked with ribbons to indicate their ripeness. If the day ended there, it would’ve already been perfect – but then we ate Sue Ellen’s pie.
You guys. We’ve eaten our fair share of apple pie, but this was next level. It was buttery, flaky, sweet but not too sweet, and so good that both of us audibly went, “oh my god,” as soon as we took a bite. There are cider donuts, too, and they’re fine, but if you come out here, you’re getting a piece of pie. Period.
We grabbed some cider and hit the road, chalking the trip up as a win, but then Molly spotted a sign for pumpkins, and off we went.
A couple of miles down a country road brought us to Grizzy’s – a pumpkin and decorative gourd heaven. Big pumpkins, small pumpkins, white pumpkins, Indian corn – they’ve got it all, and the prices are so cheap, it’s almost laughable.
We ransacked the barn and walked out with overflowing armfuls of stuff that should’ve amounted to much more than the $10 total they charged us. The owners are so dedicated to their craft that they’ll even “guarantee” your un-carved pumpkin, replacing it no questions asked, if it rots before Halloween.
If you’re looking for a fun day trip to the ‘burbs, to some local, under the radar gems, we can’t recommend Prairie Sky Orchard and Grizzy’s enough.