Visiting apple orchards in the fall is a time-honored Minnesota tradition. It ranks next to lakeside cabins and the State Fair as hallmarks of our year. As the leaves begin to turn and the days grow shorter, if you find yourself craving an apple cider doughnut or feel the need to pluck Honeycrisps from branches, here are two highlighted orchards where you can do just that.
LuceLine Orchard sits just alongside the LuceLine trail, southwest of Watertown. Owned and started by Rich and Terri in 2004, LuceLine Orchard, as it exists today, was never a set plan. Terri says, “We didn’t buy this place with the intent for it to be an orchard. It just kind of morphed, fell into place, or was meant to be.” In 2007, the couple planted the first 300 apple trees, and in 2009, they planted an acre of grapes. Now, LuceLine Orchard boasts more than 10,000 apple trees and six acres of vineyards.
There’s a lot to do at LuceLine. Beyond the gardens and trails spanning the 200-acre orchard, LuceLine has a beer garden, pub and grill, petting zoo, 30-acre corn maze, and all kinds of local products from honey to syrup tapped just off the LuceLine trail. A key part of LuceLine Orchard’s calendar is its focus on live music. And if you’ve met Terri or maybe simply recognized her voice, that is unsurprising.
Before coming to LuceLine, Terri worked at KQRS in Minneapolis for more than thirty years. Her morning show was the number one show in the country, several of them. Now, she leverages that PR experience to bring live music to the orchard. About making the jump from a radio skillset to an orchard, Terri shares, “This was completely different, but then it’s not. It’s very similar in some ways.” Bands coming to LuceLine in November include Emerson Avenue, The JustUs Band, Olivia Roosa, and The Stand Ups.
The farmhouse and barn that Rich and Terri turned into LuceLine Orchard was built in 1907. That more than a century in age required some serious renovations to both structures.
What has been surprising about opening the orchard, however, has been crossing paths with people who used to live there long before Rich and Terri bought the place. While there have been several, a notable example was a woman who celebrated her ninety-fifth birthday at LuceLine Orchard. She had lived at the farm in the 1930s and 1940s when she had been a schoolteacher in Hutchinson. “When she first saw the barn, she teared up because she thought it would have been torn down,” says Terri. lucelineorchard.com
Minnetonka Orchard is another well-loved fall destination for apple picking. Located west of Orono on County Road 26, Minnetonka Orchard has more than ten varieties of apples available to pick across its forty acres.
Minnetonka Orchard sets itself apart by staying open through the Christmas season. The orchard opens for the Christmas season Thanksgiving weekend for a full calendar of Santa and Grinch visits, Live Christmas tree sales, and a gift barn.
A specific focus of Minnetonka Orchard is tradition. “People come here with their kids and now with their grandkids,” says Crystal, the manager of Minnetonka Orchard.
Many have been coming for years and don’t want the traditions that they once did to change. Favorites include Minnetonka Orchard’s apple cider doughnuts as well as the now-famous ‘How Tall This Fall?’ sign. “Simple things like a ‘How Tall This Fall’ sign, a Minnetonka Orchard sign with a ruler, hold a special place for visitors. People have been coming out to measure their kids with it for years. It’s just a staple here,” says Crystal.
So, whether you are returning to a long-loved orchard or venturing out to a new one, apple picking or kicking back for a picnic within the groves is a time-honored way to celebrate the season. minnetonkaorchardmn.com
Simple things like a ‘How Tall This Fall’ sign, a Minnetonka Orchard sign with a ruler, hold a special place for visitors. People have been coming out to measure their kids with it for years. It’s just a staple here.