It's harvest time, and that means one thing: You'll find kid-friendly farms and farm-fresh produce no matter where you go in Pennsylvania this fall.
Out on the farm or down the street at a farmers market, the harvest is in. You can buy cold apples at the grocery store and bring them home in plastic bags. You can order award-winning varieties that arrive at your door wrapped in expensive chartreuse tissue paper. Or you can hike through a fragrant, gnarly orchard, toting a beat-up Red Flyer wagon behind you, and pull the very ones you want right off the trees.
If you're totting a wagon at Linvilla Orchards in Media, you would then know which apples to cut up for pies that will later cool on your windowsill (Rome), which ones to pulverize into applesauce (Golden Delicious) and which ones to munch on the way home (Red Delicious). And as if fruit picking in the crisp autumn air wasn't enough, the Linvilla Orchards Pumpkinland Harvest Festival gives you plenty of other excuses to spend some major time outside. Mosey straight into the gaint Pumpkinland, where more than 100 tons of big orange gourds wait to be chosen for you front porch's jack o' lantern. Straw bale and cornfield mazes are ripe for exploration.
Need to catch you breath? Try a hayride through the farm's scenic fields and orchards, or have the kids sit down for a Halloween face painting, because from there, they'll easily catch sight of the mammoth playground sets (one for big kids, one for toddlers) and feeding zoo full of chickens, pigs, rabbits, and goats. With so much to do you might find yourself spending the whole day at Linvilla. Luckily, you can choose lunch from any of the booths (burgers, dogs, fires, smoothies), score one of the picnic tables scattered all over the property, and refuel for the rest of your afternoon. Just make a mental note to the hit the bakery tnet on your way out for a dozen impossible-to-resist apple-cider donuts.
Reynolds Farm Fall Festival:
Speaking of donuts, delicious baked good are only part of the draw at the Reynolds Farm Fall Festival in Waynesboro, another harvest celebration about two hours west that's all about the kids. The play are alone could make them forget about the pumpkins enitrely. Prepare to spend a few hours at the 30-foot slide, the wooden Noah's Ark, the straw maze (only one bale high so adults can keep an eye on any stragglers), and the popular trike track, a three-wheeling kidney-shaped loop even the smallest cyclers can master.
When you can tear them away, hop a ride out to the pumpkin patch on the hay wagon and pick orange beauty right off the ground. Farmers markets, on the other hand, are in the nice habit of offering delicious, off-the-vine produce without that hopping-through-the-fields step.
Central Market in Lancaster:
Places like Central Market in Lancaster, the country's oldest publicly owned, continously operated farm, continue this colonial tradition for casts of regulars and tourists alike. Prized Amish stands draw long line for shoppers like scrapple, Lebanon bolongna, jarred preserves, and shoo-fly pie. While other markets boast stands that are Lancaster County Farm Fresh, this market is mere minutes from those actual farms. Maybe get some newly pciked yellow squash for dinner and a potted mum for the porch. Then grab a sub sandwich and a lemonade, scoot out he front doors and find a seat on Penn Square to watch the mounted police keep things orderly. That's how they do it in rural Lancaster.
Reading Terminal Market:
In big-city Philadelphia, the markets grow surprisingly even bigger. Reading Terminal Market, occupying an entire downtown city block. once thrived on the bustle of the now-defunct Reading Railroad, even carting grocery orders out to early suburban housewives via the railroad's Basket service.
Now with more than 80 merchants, Reading Terminal in as much a local microcosm with must-stops like Rocco's Famous Italian Hoagies, Famous Fourth Street Cookies and Bassett's Ice Cream as it is a world bazaar offering everything from a chinese lunch counter to a gyro stand to an African jewelry mart. Saturday October 15 their 16th Annual Harvest Festival, transforming Filbert Street into an urban farm complete with tractor hayrides, a beer garden, a pumpkin patch, live music, and apples, apples, apples (try the choclate dipped ones!). After you dig into some Pennsylvania cheese and wine, get the kids face painted, mingle through the craft fair, and tap your foot to a bluegrass band, you might forget you're standing just blocks from City Hall. That telltale chill in the air, the sudden arrival of sweaters, and the delicious autumn harvest bursting from every stand will remind, no matter where you are, that it's finally, fabulously fall.
To find markets on your next road trip, check out a complete list of farmer markets at www.agriculture.pa.gov. Or follow our Pinterest board to find your next pick-your-own location and Pursue Your Happiness in Pennsylvania.
For more fall attractions and events, visitwww.visitpa.com.