Apples for Autumn — Our Labor Day Getaway

When we decided for sure to postpone the robot birthday party, I knew I needed to get the heck out of Dodge Phoenix, even if just for a day or two.  We have family in Prescott and enjoy going up there when we get a chance, but we knew most of the residents of the Valley of the Sun would be headed North and we didn’t really want to fight with them.  Besides, I was in the mood for a new adventure.
My imagination had been captured by an article in the AAA Arizona magazine about U-pick Orchards and farms in Arizona.  I don’t know if I had heard much about this concept before, but since then I have seen other bloggers writing about the same thing.

So in search of Autumn and an inexpensive adventure for our family, we headed South to the booming metropolis (read sarcastically) of Willcox, AZ.  Truthfully, Willcox felt like a ghost town, for most of the weekend.  Most Labor Day travelers, did not come here.  We were able to get a great rate at the Plaza motel for the night.  Initially I was hoping to find some rustic, quaint B&B in the vicinity, but most of those didn’t look like they could (or would) accommodate our children.  The staff at the Plaza was great–very laid-back and accommodating.  Their free breakfast spread was a complete buffet.  My kids were just so excited to be staying somewhere other than home that had a swimming pool.  They probably much preferred this to the kind of thing I had in mind.
We did find lots of people on Labor Day at Apple Annie’s Orchard, north of Willcox, in an area full of agriculture.  We had a great time picking buckets of 4 kinds of apples, some yummy ripe peaches, and a few asian pears.  They take you on fun trailer rides around the orchard to the different picking areas.  The weather was better than Phoenix, but if it could have been 10 degrees cooler, it would have been so nice.
Here are a few things about going to a U-pick orchard that I learned.
* At Apple Annie’s, they don’t spray the trees, and they welcome you to sample what you are picking.  “Just don’t make a meal of it”, the sign says.  My kids loved this, and it was nice not to worry about pesticides.
*  They warn you that you pay for everything you pick and that you may be picking more than you realize.  A full bucket can easily weigh 30+lbs.  
*  Prices are ok, but not the real reason to come.  The apples were $0.99/lb. which would be a good price at the grocery store, but not a steal.  Peaches and Pears were a little more.  But these look and taste a lot more like “real” apples, than the wax coated ones you often choose from at the store.
* I have heard that getting food fresh from the farm is healthier than buying organic.  I guess that is part of the draw.  The other is just the fun experience.
*  There was no cost for admission or supplies–only for produce or concessions purchased.
*Apple Annie’s (and I would guess other similar ventures) had food and treats for sale–kettle corn, ice cream and other farm favorites.  But the burgers they advertised as “applewood smoked” were pretty disappointing.  The delicious smell of apple pie permeated the air, but the slices we bought to eat were just ok.  
*  It would be a good idea to have a plan for what you are going to do with all of the produce you bring home.  (Still have some bags of apples I need to do something with, pretty quick) :-/
Overall, it was a fun family-bonding experience, and we came home with lots of yummy fruit!
For a list of U-Pick farms in the Willcox area go here.  For listings in other parts of the country, go here.  I know many will be having pumpkin festivals soon!
Our other stop in South Eastern AZ was the Chiricahua National Monument.  Where you can look at rock formations like these:

I’m married to a geologist.  It was a must see!
It’s a beautiful drive with some short and some longer hikes, and was another fun and educational place to take our kids.  For more info on Chiricahua, go here.
So did you go anywhere new for Labor Day?  Do you have any hidden gems away from the crowds where you like to play?  This trip made me want to take a long road trip along all the scenic highways and by-ways discovering local ice-cream parlors and cafes, finding historical and geographical monuments.  And then I remembered that I would be traveling with four young children, and pushed that thought back to the “someday ” list.

FYI:  I was NOT compensated in anyway for any of the activities I blogged about here.  I just thought my readers might be looking for unique trip ideas.

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  1. Susan Crabtree says

    We love Apple Annies too!

  2. Awesome rock formations!

  3. Ahhh I love the Chiricahuas…and Apple Annie's. Beautiful photos. I must get back down there. thanks for stopping by my little blog. 🙂

  4. One of the best ways to use up a ton of apples is to make apple butter. It's relatively easy, and very tasty. This recipe is great if you have a crock-pot or slow-cooker.

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