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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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Apple picking is classic Wisconsin family fun.
Apple picking is classic Wisconsin family fun.
Unlike last year, apple offerings are abundant this year.
Unlike last year, apple offerings are abundant this year.
Apple picking offers fresh air, exercise and tasty treats.
Apple picking offers fresh air, exercise and tasty treats.

Area apple orchards offer very different experiences

Autumn glory is upon us, and it's time for the most family-friendly outing of them all – apple picking! Our area offers no shortage of apple orchards to enjoy, and they each offer something a little different.

To the south of the city, nestled on a little pond along Highway 100 in the city of Franklin, you'll spot Awe's Apple Orchard.

Even the gravel path leading to the main orchard area is lined with beautiful apple trees to entice you. You'll drive past the quaint pond, enormous old trees, and fall-themed scarecrows. Adjacent to the parking lot, you'll spot the store and the white tent where you purchase your apple picking bags.

Awe's Orchard is not huge, but it's smaller size contributes to its charm. When I visited, we picked McIntosh, Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp apples, and we got excited for Halloween seeing their sizable pumpkin patch.

But perhaps the best part of our visit to Awe's was trying their homemade cider donuts. They are fried and crispy on the outside, and perfectly soft on the inside. It's the perfect way to reward yourself for all that rigorous apple picking you did.

That same day, we headed north to Barthel's Fruit Farm in Mequon for a very different apple picking experience.

Far from strip malls and city life, the farm is expansive, and their apple-picking process is a well-oiled machine. You'll veer right to visit the store located inside the farm, and you'll go left to pick your own.

The drive-by attendant will provide you with all the information you need, as well as the bags for picking. You'll drive a bit past apple orchards that aren't quite ripe yet until you arrive at your destination.

It was a little crowded on the Saturday I visited, but it certainly didn't detract from the experience.

Pay on the way out at their drive-through register. If you want to pick up a caramel apple to end the experience, you can park off to the right before you exit and visit the store.

The highlight of our trip to Barthel's was their magical plum orchard. You'll feel as though you're walking through a fairy tale as you roam through rows of plum trees bursting with blue and purple ripened plums ready for the picking.

We ended our weekend apple-picking extravaganza at Neiman Orchards in Cedarburg, which happens to be our favorite apple-picking destination so far.

The Old Red Barn is rustic and filled with Neiman Orchards' own products, such as their delicious homemade cider.

Inside the Barn, you purchase your picking bags. They look small, but they are deceptive. You can fit more apples than you can eat inside even the smallest bag. But if you're an apple enthusiast or baker, it may be fun to use one of their vintage wooden baskets to collect your fruit.

Behind the farm, an old fashioned wagon is waiting for you and your family to climb aboard. They'll take you on a short ride out to the orchard, sans seat belts, doors, or anything else that might prevent a lawsuit. It feels old-fashioned and authentic.

At 4 p.m., the sun was low and it lit up the fields. My son and nephew were entranced with the bright red apples they saw dangling off the trees on the way to our picking destination. We were give no rules and no limits. We were just told to "pick what looks good."

We wandered around the rows and rows of apple trees, seeing nothing else in any direction. When we were finished, the wagon took us back to the barn, and our Milwaukee Apple Orchard Tour was finished - for now.

Stay tuned for a review of Peck and Bushel Organic Apple Orchard in Erin, with views of Holy Hill. The owner tells me I'll taste the difference.

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