While the pandemic has limited opportunities for students to go out and socialize, a great way to spend time with friends is through apple-picking. Exploring different orchards makes it easy to maintain social distancing between friends. At each orchard, groups respected social distancing and wore masks while picking apples. Through apple-picking, you are able to explore the area and joke about the apples on each tree. After visiting Apple Hills Farm, Lone Maple Farm and Russell Farms, I realized that each farm and orchard has its own appeals.

1. Russell Farms

My personal favorite farm was Russell Farms. This farm is 15 minutes away from Binghamton University and is located in Pennsylvania, slightly past the border of New York. Prior to letting in each group, apple-pickers were advised to pick in-season apples and were given directions to do so. Bags were provided. This orchard was incredibly organized, since each row of apples was labeled. The apples that were in-season were delicious. My group favored the McIntosh apples over all other varieties. The orchard was not as scenic as others but offered an outdoor and indoor market where you can purchase fresh produce, as well as a small on-site coffee shop. The indoor market had a large variety of food products, including unique jams and jars of pickled vegetables, such as pickled garlic. Visitors pay for the apples at the indoor market based on weight. Russell Farms’ apple cider is the perfect blend of sour and sweet. The apple cider doughnuts were smaller than the average doughnut and had less seasoning than the doughnuts at the other orchards. The texture of the doughnut was perfect and had the softest dough compared to other cider doughnuts. After eating one doughnut, it was impossible not to reach for a second.

2. Apple Hills

Apple Hills Farm is just 15 minutes away from BU. The farm provides bags for apple-picking and you pay based on the weight of the apples picked. Apple Hills Farm provides a great selection of large and delicious apples. Apple Hills has an organized orchard that is easy to navigate. There are plenty of things to do at Apple Hills between going into the haunted house, looking at farm animals, eating at Apple Hills Cafe or picking some large, juicy apples. While stopping by the farm, make sure to take a look at the lake on the far side of the farm. The lake is slightly hidden from plain sight, but is a beautiful area to stop and bite into some of your fresh-picked apples. The apple cider doughnuts were average-sized and had a nice, soft texture. The doughnuts had lots of cinnamon seasoning, and as a result, the apple cider flavor was hard to make out. The apple cider was a blend of mostly sour and some sweet. If you prefer a more sour cider, this would be a great place to go.

3. Lone Maple Farm

Lone Maple Farm is closest to BU as it is just an eight-minute drive away. Make sure to bring your own bag for apple-picking and reserve your apple-picking time slot in advance. With the reservation, you must pay a minimum of $10 per person, but there is no limit on the number of apples you may pick. The staff was extremely friendly and asked apple-pickers to stay on the right side as they traveled throughout the orchard. Lone Maple Farm had the most beautiful orchard and is the perfect place to go for an apple-picking date. As you follow the trail, you pass by trees with colorful foliage and a multitude of brightly colored flowers. The orchard was large and a bit difficult to navigate. The website explained that the cold winters have led to the apples having imperfections. Many of the apples were irregularly shaped, with raised welts found on different sides. The apples were safe to eat, but apple-pickers should expect smaller and more sour apples. It was difficult to make out which apples were ripe. Lone Maple Farm also offers a selection of pumpkins. The farm market at Lone Maple Farm asked customers to use self-checkout on weekends and during other high-traffic times. Lone Maple Farm had the sweetest cider compared to other orchards and it was difficult to taste any sour flavor — the cider tasted more like a juice. The farm had the best apple cider doughnuts. The doughnuts were average size but had more texture than the typical apple cider doughnut. The outside of the doughnut had a delightful crunch while the inside was soft and fluffy. BU students should definitely pick up some cider doughnuts from Lone Maple Farm and try them for themselves.