New England is famous for its fruit orchards that produce apples, peaches, plums and berries and the time couldn't be better to visit one.
The cool autumn weather is perfect for meandering through serene rolling hills lined with fragrant fruit trees to pick-your-own fruit, from sweet to tart. Availability varies and not all varieties are harvested at the same time so it's best to call ahead or visit websites listed below.
Freshly pressed cider, homemade cider doughnuts and honey from bees that pollinate the fruit orchards, are available at several orchards.
How to pick apples: Select bruise-free apples that are crisp and firm and when picking, roll the apple upwards off the branch giving it a little twist, being careful not to pull it away from the tree. Store picked apples in a cool dark place.
PYO apple orchards:
*Autumn Hill Orchards
495 Chicopee Row, Groton
Open: Through October; Weekends and holidays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weekdays by appointment.
Directions: From Groton Center, right on Hollis Street and continue straight pass the cemetery on your right. Note: Hollis Street changes to Chicopee Row. When you pass Watson Way on left, look for "Autumn Hills" sign on left.
PYO with spectacular vistas from the hilltop orchard. Picnic tables; gourmet picnic lunches; apple tastings; tours -- by reservation.
Apples (20 varieties); pears, plums and raspberries.
* Kimball Fruit Farms
184 Hollis St. (Route 122), Pepperell
Open: 7 days, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., pick your own September-October
Directions: Exit 5 West off Route 3, North to Route 111 into Pepperell, take a right at yellow blinking light, farm is 3 miles on left.
Apples (38 varieties); peaches, berries, pumpkins and a variety of vegetables.
* Doe Orchards
327 Ayer Road, Routes 110/111, Harvard
Open: Through October, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week.
Directions: Route 2 West to Routes 110/111, exit 38B. Go one-fifth of a mile north of exit on left. Watch for signs.
Apples: McIntosh, Cortland, Delicious, Empire, Macoun; cider; honey; pumpkins.
* Carlson Orchards
115 Oak Hill Road, Harvard
Open: PYO hours 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 7 days a week; retail hours Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekends 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Directions: From Ayer rotary, take Route 110N, turn left at Poor Farm Road, follow signs, 2.5 miles. From Route 495 take exit 28 to Route 111 towards Harvard; one-quarter mile, follow signs.
Apples (14 varieties), peaches, nectarines; cider; honey; apple pies and crisp; cider doughnuts.
* U-Pick Phil's Apples
24 Prospect Hill Road, Harvard
Open: September to November; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Directions: Route 2 West, exit 38A, Routes 110/111 Harvard exit. Take first right. Old Shirley Road leads to Prospect Hill Road, one mile before Fruitlands Museum.
Children are welcome to pick apples and turn the cider press.
Apples: (12 varieties) McIntosh, Macoun, Cortland, Red Delicious, Enterprise, Gold Rush; peaches; honey.
* Westward Orchards
178 Mass Ave.
Route 111, Harvard
Open: Through October, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday to Monday (closed Tuesday), lunch served daily 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and breakfast weekends, 9-11 a.m.
Directions: Route 2 east, exit 38A, Routes 110/111 Harvard exit. Follow Route 111; after the public schools, stay left on Route 111, big red barn on the right.
Apples, pears, plums, nectarines, vegetables, apple cider donuts, caramel apples and pies, pumpkins and live bluegrass music Sunday 1:30-4:30 p.m.