Smarties, pack up the minivan and take your crew to Hendersonville for a weekend of family fun. September is prime apple picking season and North Carolina – especially Hendersonville – is brimming with U-Pick orchards. Our family spent a weekend exploring the area, picking apples and flowers, and seeing only a portion of what Hendersonville has to offer. Whether you want to spend the whole weekend or just make a day trip. Hendersonville is a great place for a quick getaway from Charlotte.
As long as I can remember it has been a family tradition to take an annual apple picking trip to Stepp’s Orchard. This year my husband and I decided to slow things down and spend a whole weekend devoted to apple picking and all things Hendersonville. At Stepp’s the apples never disappoint, they have apple cannons, an inflatable jumping track for kids, a food truck, a market, tractor rides, and pick your own flowers or grapes. You could spend a whole day there easily. Don’t stop with just one orchard though; there are dozens of family-owned orchards all over the county, and each one has something different to offer.
Apple picking is always better in the morning before the sun is up too high and the heat bakes your family. Pack a picnic so you can eat lunch in an orchard or do what we did and stop by Jackson Park to enjoy the shaded picnic area in between attractions. We also avoided the bigger and more crowded playground even though it looked great because there was a perfect, shaded playground at the picnic area with a remarkably clean restroom.
After lunch we let our little kids have car naps while Dad drove them around, and Mom took the older kids to the North Carolina Apple Festival in downtown Hendersonville – an apple festival, or as our 3-year-old called it all weekend the “apple vegetable.” Vendors and events fill Main Street Hendersonville every year during the first weekend of September to celebrate the start of apple-picking season. It’s easy to tell that this place loves apples! Regardless of whether you are downtown for the festival or not, a stop to McFarlan Bakery is always a must. In fact it’s a requirement that if you go to Hendersonville, you visit the bakery and bring me back some chewy chocolate pecan cookies (please?!).
As the temperatures heat up, you can cool off in the shade of any number of hiking trails, national forests, or waterfalls within easy driving distance of Hendersonville. We opted for Pisgah National Forest, home to campgrounds and Looking Glass Falls (which happens to be the most photographed waterfall in the Southeastern U.S.). Be sure to pack your bathing suits if you stop at the falls because you can swim there. Water shoes are also a great idea as we learned the hard way that the rocks can be tough on little feet.
During our weekend, we also made a visit to Hooker Falls which has about a half-mile hike to get to the falls and is worth it. After our morning hike we headed to Jeter Mountain Farm which felt like a Charlotte brewery and an orchard combined. They have a massive market, cindery, coffee shop, covered playground, donuts, and don’t forget the wagon rides into the orchards for berry and apple picking. Easily a place you could spend a whole day, but it can definitely get crowded so going early might be better.
We barely scratched the surface of things to do over our weekend and are eager to return to visit more of Hendersonville and the surrounding area. Places we weren’t able to get to included the Apple Valley Model Train Museum, Gem mining, the Children’s Museum, the Carl Sandburg Home, and many of the other local orchards. Fall doesn’t really feel like fall until you spend some time in the mountain air, so head for Hendersonville and pick some apples!
When you’re planning your trip, I highly suggest staying where we stay at Barton Cottage at Blantyre just outside of Hendersonville in Horseshoe, NC. Cozily tucked away from the hustle and bustle, our cabin was the perfect spot to enjoy our apple picking weekend. Our hosts were remarkable and went beyond the normal call of duty to make our family’s visit lovely. Also there’s a treehouse. A REAL treehouse with a hammock and swings, and games. I’m not sure if our kids had more fun playing outside or if my husband and I had more fun relaxing while the kids were busy. Either way- this was the ideal location for our family and I have no doubt your family will love it too.