Apple picking time is here! So don your flannels and boots and pack up the kiddos for a good old-fashioned day of apple picking in the North Bay.
About an hour and fifteen minutes from the East Bay, I recently took my four kids (ages 3-10) to Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch in Sebastopol for a morning of U-Pick and everyone loved it. There aren’t a lot of U-Pick apple farms available in the Bay Area, so Ratzlaff Ranch can be admittedly a bit busy, but there’s plenty of space to spread out and an abundance of sweet Roman Beauties and Golden Delicious hanging low on the trees. Act fast though, the season will likely end by October!
Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch for Families
Ratzlaff Ranch is a locally-owned, small, family-run farm that is open for U-Pick apples usually from September through December. For 2021, U-Pick opens in late September and will stay open as long as there are apples on the trees (check their Facebook page for updates). No reservations or advanced tickets are required (except for Thursday).
Park in the makeshift dirt parking lot and find your way to the large “Check-In” sign. There, a friendly farmer provides with a big hefty bag and fruit picker tool and then explains where the best pickings are for the day.
On the crowded Saturday morning we went, there weren’t any bags or pickers left. Luckily I brought my own cloth grocery bags (each kid always wants their own) so that wasn’t a problem, and the apples were hanging low enough on the trees that the picker also wasn’t really necessary.
Pro-Tip: Bring your own gear if you have it!
Pro-Tip: Weekends get crowded, so consider a weekday field trip or arrive early (9 am) on Sunday.
Before You Go to Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch
Check the weather and dress in layers because this time of year it can either be hot or foggy or drizzly or all of the above. Also, pack a lunch and enjoy your meal al fresco among the trees. It really is quite picturesque. Keep in mind, apple picking doesn’t necessarily take all that long (we had 20 pounds within ten minutes!). So consider adding other destinations to your trip.
We stopped in Occidental. The adorable town of Occidental is just down the road, and they have several kid-friendly restaurants. A favorite of ours is pizza at the Union Hotel. We also like the pastries and coffee at Howard Station Cafe. If you have more time, drive another 30 minutes out to the coast and enjoy the rest of your day at the beach. Our favorite spot is Schoolhouse Beach because it’s made up of mostly tiny pebbles (no sand in the car, woohoo!) and at low tide, there are tide pools.
What to Bring:
- Your own bags/baskets to collect apples (Pro tip: make sure each kid has their own to cut down on squabbles)
- Hats and Sunscreen
- Sturdy closed-toed shoes as this is a working farm
- Lunch or snack to enjoy at the orchard
- Carrier or wagon for little kids
- Matching flannels for an authentically fall photoshoot for your Holiday Cards
Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch Details
Location: 13128 Occidental Rd Sebastopol, CA 95472
Hours: Open 9 am – 4 pm every day except Thursday & Saturday; Thursday by appointment only; Saturday closed
Price: Apples are $2 per pound (Golden Delicious, Gravenstein and Roman Beauty Apples); Cider (so good!): Gallon $8.00, ½ Gallon $5.50, Quart $3.50, Pint $2.00. Cash or card accepted.
Reservations/Entry Fee: None
Bathrooms/Hand-washing Available: Yes
Dog Friendly: Yes