Wilson’s Orchard belongs in an old movie. Between the acres of green hills and towering trees, the old-fashioned farm house shop, and the picnicking families near the entrance, the place seems unreal. A pair of five-year-old twin boys sat with their mother having an afternoon snack; the tow-headed youngsters seemed to be competing to see who could take the biggest bite of apple. Nearby, a gaggle of young boys stood on their tip-toes to reach the face-in-hole cutouts to be king of the farm while two little girls splashed in the water billowing from a red spigot.
Nikki Woodcock stood watching her daughter play in the makeshift fountain, smiling that little Noelle was enjoying her sixth birthday.
“We came a few weeks ago, picked a bunch of apples and ate them all,” she said. “They were delicious, so we came back today for Noelle’s birthday. We like the farm environment – they get to play out in the open space, which we don’t have in Cedar Rapids.”
Open space is in no short supply out at Wilson’s. Standing near the entrance, there’s nothing but green space dotted with trees. On the gravel path leading down to the prime apple-picking real estate, the trees reach out towards you over the road, begging for their apples to be plucked and enjoyed. Look carefully, though, because Wilson’s has marked the trees with the best date for picking to ensure a ripe, tasty apple.
The first surprise of the day – Wilson’s has pumpkins. Yes, pumpkins. Big, huge pumpkins just waiting to be turned into Cinderella’s carriage mixed among little green baby pumpkins still preparing themselves for Halloween. A huge blanket of leaves and vines covered all the pumpkins, enticing you to turn them over and hunt for the best one. I couldn’t stay for too long, though, because I noticed the world’s coolest bridge up ahead.
With a weeping willow looming in the distance and vines creeping up the sides, the dark wooden bridge looked as though it was plucked from the past and plopped down right smack in the middle of Wilson’s farm. Despite almost tripping over the one loose board near the center of the bridge, I took my time to enjoy the view of the murky water rushing below. The stream stumbled over the smooth stones along the bottom of the shallow riverbed before widening out and forming a nifty wading pool.
Leaving the bridge and walking towards that resting place, I passed fallen trees lining the shore, crawling over each other for the chance to be near the water. From the trees still standing hung huge, thick vines that obviously wanted me to swing from them Tarzan-style. I resisted their siren song and came upon a family splashing in the water.
Wading in knee-deep, their pants rolled up for safe keeping, four girls and one boy all let the water slide against their skin, searching for the perfect skipping stones and seeking out the tiny fish littering the water. It was quite the family bonding moment to witness.
“On beautiful days in the fall, it’s just not right to not go to Wilson’s Orchard,” said Maria Teets as she looked at the pail of apples she had gathered with her mother, sisters, and brother.
Not everyone wants to pick their own apples, though, so Wilson’s sells a selection up in the farmhouse-turned-store. When you walk in, there’s nothing but apples: apple crisp, apple butter, apple cider, apple pie, apple turnovers, apple cider doughnuts, dried apples, apples preservatives, and, of course, fresh apples. I’d heard many tales about these apple turnovers, so that was my first stop. It was heaven. With a flaky, golden crust and fresh, juicy apples, I wasn’t sure how the bakers at Wilson’s made this perfect treat, but I hope they never stop. While down at the water, the Teets family had recommended the apple cider doughnuts, so I had to have one of those as well. Really, I had to. That, as well, was great – sweet, sugary, and satisfying.
If all this hasn’t convinced you that you should probably check out Wilson’s, I have one last trick up my sleeve: this weekend, Wilson’s will be celebrating Johnny Appleseed’s birthday with apple hunts, music, balloon animals, trailer rides, and apple treats Saturday and Sunday during their regular hours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s the perfect excuse to pay them a visit. Eat an apple turnover in my honor while you’re there.
Johnny Appleseed’s Birthday Celebration