Apple Picking with Children Near the Bay Area - 510 Families
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Apple Picking with Children Near the Bay Area

Early fall is the perfect time for apple picking with children in the Bay Area. I mean, the ONLY time. Looking for a place to get your hands on a bushel of apples? Always double-check with the farm in question before you pack up your hungry posse of children. Apples might grow on trees, but when they’re gone, they’re gone.

When planning your day be sure to bring snacks, water bottles, sunscreen, sun hats, grocery totes, and a wagon if you have one. For 2020, be sure to wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer and prepare to social distance.

Apple-Picking -Gabriel-Farm-Sebastopol
Low hanging fruit is easy pickings for little hands | Photo: Julie Herson

Bay Area Apple Orchards

Apple-picking in the Bay Area reaches its peak in September and October. Here are a few fun ideas for your farm-visiting and apple-picking sorted by approximate drive distance from Oakland:

Chileno Valley Ranch, Petaluma offers “drive by U-Pick”

Updated 2020 Covid-19 Information: The Apple and Pear U-Pick Season will open August 23rd, 2020, with a pre-paid, drive-by option. Nothing like years past, sadly. Due to Covid-19, and to ensure safety for all, there will be no apple and pear picking, no tours to see the animals, no getting out of the car at all, even for a bathroom break. Customers will order and pay for their farm items online ahead of time, and then drive into the ranch to pick them up on the 23rd of August. (There will be other Drive By Days during the Fall Season).
Cost: Apples and pears will be sold in 10 lb bags. Each bag will cost $2. Olive oil, honey, ground beef and delectable apple cider donuts are also available for pick-up. Check their Facebook page for updates.
Distance from Oakland: About one hour drive depending on traffic.

Apple picking at Chileno Valley Ranch
Apple picking | Photo: Julie Herson

Gabriel Farm, Sebastopol offers U-Pick to CSA members

Updated Covid-19 Information: This small family farm offers u-pick to CSA farm members who pay an annual fee of $40. Due to Covid-19 an appointment is required this year. To make an appointment, first purchase your Season Pass at the homepage, then send an email to request a date/time for your visit: Picking season for apples begins in August with Gravenstein and McIntosh; September brings Gilbert Golden Delicious, Gala, and Fujis; October offers Fuji and Rome varieties; November rounds out the season with Romes and Fujis. The farm is completely low-key — you get baskets and head out. You’ll need masks this year and social distancing is a must. The small town of Graton is just down the road where you can visit the cute and quirky Willow Wood Cafe. [Read all about our trip to Gabriel Farm]
Distance from Oakland: about 1 hour, 15 minutes depending on traffic.
Cost: $40 Season Pass and then apples are $2.50 per pound


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Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch, Sebastopol

Updated Covid-19 Information: Masks and social distancing are required, but no appointments as of yet. U-Pick season is September and October. You’ll need to check with them for up to date days and times since things are always changing with apple ripeness and availability. Their trees produce Gravenstein, Golden Delicious, and Rome apples. They are open five days a week, 9-5, closed on Thursday and Saturday. They also process and sell yummy fresh apple juice.
Distance from Oakland: about 90-minute drive depending on traffic.
Cost: $2 per lb with no other fees.

Swanton Pacific Ranch, Davenport

Updated Covid-19 Information: Masks and social distancing are a must. This Organic Apple Orchard is open seasonally to the public, Cal Poly alumni, and grade-school groups. Open weekends beginning Labor Day weekend until the apples are gone. The harvest is expected to run through September and into October with new varietals ripening throughout September. Find harvest notes and directions online.
Distance from Oakland: about 1 hour, 45 minutes depending on traffic.
Cost: Fruit prices are $2.50/lb (subject to change)

Clearview Orchards, Watsonville

Updated Covid-19 Information: Masks and social distancing are required. No large groups. This Organic Apple Orchard has Fuji, Gala, Honey Crisp, and Mutsu apples ready to pick beginning Saturday, September 5th for the 2020 season, every Saturday/Sunday from 10am to 4pm through early November. Double check hours and dates online before you go. The orchards are in a beautiful terraced setting overlooking the valley of Watsonville and only 3 miles from the ocean and La Selva beach. And don’t forget to try their famous fresh baked apple turnovers!
Distance from Oakland: about 1 hour, 45 minutes depending on traffic.
Cost: Varies

Apple Hill, Placerville — check for reservations

Updated Covid-19 Information: Masks are required and social distancing is requested. More details here.  Apple Hill is a collaboration of several apple growers in the Placerville area. Several of the farms have apple-picking while others have hayrides, pony rides, gold panning or other family activities. Visit the Apple Hill website to read summaries of the farms and plan your trip. Some farms and wineries are taking reservations for visits and U-Pick activities, or may have additional measures in place for our busiest weekends in October. As you make your plans to visit, we recommend that you check member websites, social media, or call ahead for any last-minute details to ensure a fun and successful experience.
Distance from Oakland: about 2 hours depending on traffic.
Cost: Varies by farm

Gizdich Ranch, Watsonville

Updated Covid-19 Information: You will be required to wear a face covering and you must practice social distancing. They will only allow a certain number of guests into the U-Pick area at a time, so be prepared for a longer wait than usual and you may be asked to wait in your car. The 2020 U-pick apple picking season starts mid September for three-four weeks with different varietals available: Newtown Pippin, Fuji, Red and Golden Delicious. They also serve apple slush and homemade pies. Check details before you visit. {Make a weekend of it by camping at Mount Madonna State Park}
Distance from Oakland: about 2 hours depending on traffic.
Cost: Varies


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Farms and Ranches that might have apples:

Smith Family Farms, Brentwood

Updated Covid-19 Information: All visitors and customers are required to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Our closest option, Smith Family Farms, is superfun for kids with wide open spaces and many different varieties of fruits and veggies. They have a little bit of everything including pre-picked apples from Sebastopol at the stand through October. As for U-Pick, they should have persimmons and pomegranates by mid-late September. Check them out on Facebook for current details on U-pick. Read our pre-Covid-19 review here.
Distance from Oakland: about 45 minutes depending on traffic.
Cost: Varies

Parent tips before you head out on your apple-picking adventure:

  1. Double- or triple-check with the farm in question.
  2. Pack up snacks or a hearty lunch. Bring water bottles.
  3. Slather on the sunscreen and wear hats.
  4. Bring grocery totes and a wagon if you have one!
  5. 2020: Bring masks for everyone over 2 years old.
  6. 2020: Hand sanitizer is a good idea as well.
apple peeler corer
Heather has one of these apple peeler corer thingies and it only gets used for baking pies in the fall, but she loves it!

Have fun out there and save me a slice of your apple pie!

[Photo credit Julie Herson as indicated]

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