As a parent of three small children, I have quickly learned that bigger is not always better. A bigger car is harder to park, a bigger playroom harder to clean, a bigger yard harder to mow. I feel the same about family outings. The bigger and more elaborate your plan, the more chances for things to go wrong. And when you are taking your 4-year-old, toddler and newborn apple picking there are lots of ways for things to go wrong. Tired legs, bellyaches, and buzzing bees, to name a few.
But when it goes right? Oh, what a beautiful afternoon! The warm September sun, rolling hills of New Jersey, happy sun-kissed kids, and the anticipation of a sweet new year.
My family and I had just such an afternoon earlier this week at Melick’s Cider Mill and Orchard. Admittedly, Melick’s Town Farm is a pretty big operation. They have a few locations for picking and buying produce. When it comes to Rosh Hashanah apple picking with small children, their Cider Mill and Orchard at 19 King Street in Oldwick, NJ has quickly become my favorite. Here are five reasons why (spoiler alert, #5 is alcohol!)
1. It is just an orchard. I know for some people this is actually a negative. I have been to some of the other apple-picking destinations in NJ, and they definitely have lots to offer. You could spend an entire day at Alstede Farms in Chester picking multiple crops, playing, buying plants, eating ice cream, and taking hayrides. But I could never handle the physical size or crowds with my three small children, and much prefer a simple orchard like Melick’s for our Rosh Hashanah outing.
2. The trek from your car to the apple trees is practically nonexistent. You pull up right on the grass near the farm stand and walk about 50 feet to the first group of trees. More importantly, it is only 50 feet back to the farm stand when you have an enormous bag of apples to carry! On the weekends, there is a tractor ride that can take you further back into the orchard. Weekdays you have to walk, but my brother-in-law easily pulled my two kids in our wagon so we could get to the Macoun apple trees.
3. There are real bathrooms. Clean, cool, bathrooms with running water. Every now and then, I take my kiddos to Brookhollow Barnyard in Boonton, NJ to hang out and feed the animals. The place is fantastic, but only has port-o-potties. This is fine for the spry and unimpaired, but last spring I had a pretty traumatic experience squeezing my toddler and 9-month pregnant self into one, and have definitely come to appreciate plumbing during these outings.
4. Look up to the hill, do you see that? It’s a playground! Unless you are planning to bring home 20 pounds of apples, the actual apple picking part of the trip takes 15-30 minutes. Tops. My 2-year-old was content to pick and consume exactly two apples. We spent the rest of the afternoon happily playing on the little playground.
5. Hard Cider. Melick’s is both an orchard and a cider mill. In addition to making delicious apple cider on the premises, they also make hard cider for adults. On weekends, they have a tasting tent where you can sip the different flavors of hard ciders. Both types of cider are available for purchase at the orchard, their farm stand, and local liquor stores. Take a few bottles home for your Rosh Hashanah celebration, or as a gift for your host. L’Chaim!
Melick’s Orchard and Cider Mill is located at 19 King St. in Oldwick, NJ. They are open mid-September through the first week in November, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (must arrive by 5 p.m. to pick). $2 entry fee on the weekends.
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