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.