Monday, October 25, 2010

Open Your Wallet And Say "Apple"

It's no secret that fall is not my favorite season, but from time to time I do find something to make it a little more appealing to me.  The activity of choice for this past weekend was a trip to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch.  I thought we would all enjoy the hayride through the orchard and have fun picking a bushel of apples.  If the pumpkins were nice, we might pick a few of them, too.  Afterward we could each get a hot donut (or doughnut, if you prefer) and a glass of freshly pressed cider.

We haven't been apple picking in years, so I wasn't sure where we should go.  We live on the outskirts of an area literally bursting with apple orchards which means there are quite a few to choose from.  They all have Halloween related attractions right now and I thought wandering our way through a corn maze sounded like fun, so I set out to find an orchard that had one.

Google seemed like the best place to start, so I searched for you-pick (or u-pick) apple orchards near the town we live in.  I got a list of nearly a dozen orchards in the area, some of which had websites.  Nearly all of them also had reviews.  Everything I needed to choose the perfect orchard was right at my fingertips.  Sort of.

The first thing I noticed is that none of the websites list prices for anything.  Would a bushel of apples cost $20, $40 or $100?  Was there a fee for the corn maze?  How much are the pumpkins?  It's more about the fun than the money, but I like to know these things before we head out.

Next, I moved on to the reviews.  I know you have to take the opinions of strangers with a grain of salt, but it's still nice to hear what others have to say.  One of the first reviews I read said that a particular orchard had an eleven dollar admission fee.  What did the reviewer get for his eleven dollars?  Nothing.  That is the fee, per person, just to enter.  Each attraction has an additional fee; the petting zoo, the corn maze, the haunted house, the children's play area and even the ride out to the orchard and pumpkin patch.  There were five people in our group, so it would have cost us $55 just to say hello.  I don't think so.

I kept reading reviews and finding that same story at other orchards.  The admission fee differed from place to place, but every orchard in the area was charging one.  The price of everything else seemed to be highly inflated, too.  More than one place was charging $9 per gallon of cider.  And a dozen donuts?  Twenty dollars and up.  If you still had the room (and the money) for a caramel apple you could expect to shell out another $6.  Oh, and you wouldn't want to forget to bring something to hold the apples you pick.  If you needed a bag or box, there's an additional charge.  It's no wonder that one reviewer said she felt so nickled and dimed that it put a damper on the fun she and her family had.

I didn't have to spend much time deciding which orchard we were going to visit on Saturday afternoon.  We weren't going to go at all.  I don't mind paying for a good time, but this is out of control.  We could easily have dropped over a hundred dollars at any of the orchards and that wasn't even including the cost of the apples or pumpkins.  What should have been a simple, fun afternoon would have been more expensive than some amusement parks.

When I was a kid, we went to the same place to pick apples every year.  The hayride out to the orchard was complimentary, there was no additional fee.  The only things you paid for were the food and drinks you consumed and the apples and pumpkins you took home.  There was no petting zoo or pony rides (I'm not a fan of either, by the way, I feel sorry for the poor animals) and the corn maze was free (when they had one).   Times sure have changed.

Just what I needed, another reason to dislike fall.   



L.B. said...

We went apple picking out here last month and everything was so stinking expensive. I couldn't believe how much it cost to get in and how much it cost for small bag of apples. It was like 20 bucks for a small bag. Ugh. Not sure if the girls even enjoyed themselves but we got a few good pictures out of the trip.

It was something my wife had wanted to do for a bit but having spent so much, we got that feeling out of our system now.

At least out here those apple places can sort of get away with charging as much as they do because they aren't in high supply. We drove about 30-40 minutes to get out there, and that's the closest place. I can imagine it would be quite annoying having a wealth of apple farms nearby and all charging way too much.

5thsister said...

That is just too sad. I have to admit that we have a couple of farms nearby where we go strawberry picking and they are so very reasonable. At one you pay a small fee and it includes a container for your strawberries. The other is no fee (but there are no "country stores" or playgrounds attached either) so you just pay for what you pick, by the pint.

When I lived and traveled in Missouri I would visit the farm stands in fall and by the apples in season...they were so tasty. I hate that those places have now resorted to price gouging.

lisleman said...

I don't know if you read my post called "sun apples wine beer good times" but I had a totally different experience. NO entrance fee but there was no maze. We went to two places, the simple orchard let you sample the apples and gave hayrides out to the orchard. The second place was more commercial (winery brewery combo) but no fee, free music, some type of sampling deal. Their beer was overpriced so I didn't take any home. But I enjoyed one there.

Matty said...

That is just plain awful. Highway robbery. They are taking advantage of the fact that parents will take their kids to these places and pay the price so their kids won't be disappointed. Price gouging at it's finest. What ever happened to the good ole days?

Liz in Virginia said...

Sing it, sister! One more reason to hate the fall -- my least favorite season as well. We have two "pumpkin patch" options around here -- both crowded and expensive. TO go apple picking we have to drive quite a distance.

I do have a happy memory of going apple-picking as a kid -- but it mostly had to do with hitting the West Virginia race track that night (I love me some thorough-breds!) and the apple butter my mom put up that winter.

Donna-FFW said...

Those prices are ridiculous. I go picking every season, yes, I hate to pay the $$.. something so special about just picked from tree..

Pumpkin patch.. I can skip that, I buy them for less money at grocery store:)

Betty Manousos @ CUT AND DRY said...

Loved this post! :)
Just picking from tree is so great and I loved reading about your happy memories of going apple-picking as a kid.

Hope you have a lovely Wednesday!

Big hugs!
B xx

Together We Save said...

I have not been apple picking in years!! Sounds fun!!

Joanna Jenkins said...

Admission fees for the purpose of picking their apples that you PAY for. Times sure have changed is right and what a shame.
Sorry your plans were dashed.
xo jj

Jenny said...

Although it won't be quite the same, you can come toward the end of November and pick all the lemons you want here...and then we can go to my Dad's and pick bushels of the oranges he tries very hard to not waste every year!

thamesarino said...

Hi there, Willoughby! : )
{I am so vacant from the land of blogging right now.. but came on today to try and relax... :)}
I agree.. it is so sad. We wanted to take our family to the pumpkin patch this year, but with a family of six $10 a head just to get in is too much!
We didn't want to go and tell the kids, NO you cant ride the pony, NO you cant have a treat, NO we can't go through the maze.. even at $2 a person to do those things (times 6... or even 5 doubt they count a baby) the price by the end would have been over $100, which is way to steep for us for a day of "fun"... and too steep for anyone as far as I am concerned.. bummer, huh!
But I actually love Fall, I can eat pumpkin products all day, and squash and apples... I bought mine from the local farmer's market for way cheeper than the grocery store, and just made a ton of applesauce half of which is headed towards apple butter.... yum! :)