Welcome the fall by spending the day in an orchard. September and October are the best months to do this, as many fruits will be in season. Not only is fruit picking a great day trip and way to get the family outdoors, but the products are also cheaper and fresher than at the grocery store.
Most orchards are located on the outskirts of Beijing, with many in Changping, Huairou, and Daxing. Some charge an all-inclusive flat fee that covers admission and the fruit you pick, but most have an entry fee and charge for the fruit separately by weight.
Though it’s possible to take public transportation to the orchards, lugging a bunch of fruit back home while dealing with kids is probably the last thing you want to do. It’s best to drive, arrange a car, or organize several families to pitch in for a minibus.
While navigating unfamiliar country roads may be daunting, farm owners are happy to provide directions or even drive out to get you if you’re lost. Most orchards are located close to each other, so don’t worry if you can’t find a specific one; you won’t walk away empty-handed.
Located 70km north of Beijing, Huairou Dashuiyu Fruit Picking Garden is best known for its apples. Bookmark this trip for October or November to catch the annual Apple Festival, where you can pick your own fruit and browse a selection of apple-based treats sold by local growers. Expect apple salads, fresh apple juice, and other apple-based treats. After sampling and picking apples, take them home and bake your own desserts like apple muffins or apple pies. Best time to go: September to early November
Caiyu Vineyard has over 1,300 hectares of grapes and is located in Caiyu County, one of the biggest grape growing regions in Beijing. The region has been likened to Bordeaux in France, since both boast the climate and geography best suited to growing grapes.
At Caiyu, over six hectares are open to visitors, who can sample more than 70 varieties of grapes ranging from domestic brands to smaller, more exotic clusters. Grape picking season lasts until late October.
However, a visit to Caiyu shouldn’t be a pick-and-run. Most of the county’s residents are involved to some degree in the grape ecosystem, resulting in a strong sense of community. Adults can attend wine-tasting parties in the evening; be sure to try a few sips of locally-made Harvest or Fengshou wine. Best time to go: September to late October
Harvest Garden, made up of group of small peach farmers, is located in Pinggu. The orchard claims its peaches aren’t exposed to pesticides or preservatives, ensuring quality and freshness. The farmers get up at dawn to pick their fruit, but you don’t have to wake up that early to enjoy the activity.
Visitors can also opt to stay the night at the orchard to experience rural country life. We recommend this for visitors who opted to drive themselves up the orchard, as it allows them to get some well-deserved rest. Best time to go: August to September
The Red Sun Fruit Picking Garden is located in Huairou. The area is best known for its tasty pears, but also grows grapes and watermelons available for picking. If you want to pick something other than pears, just mention it to the locals and they’ll direct you to another orchard just down the street.
If you aren’t full of fruit yet, the orchard has its own restaurant serving up simple local foods and a barbeque with all kinds of chuan’r. If what you’re hungry for is adventure, then head to the nearby Qinglongxia to check out the Black Dragon Waterfall or cool off by paddle boating down the river. Best time to go: Mid-August to September
Watermelons are the perfect thirst-quenching fruit and it never hurts to have a supply on hand to juice or eat by the slice. Luckily, there are two opportunities a year to get your watermelon fix; the first round of harvesting runs from mid-May to the end of July, and the second runs from mid-September to mid-October. Laosong Melon Garden in Daxing District is known for growing watermelons, so head there if you’re looking for a taste of summer.
If watermelons get boring, there’s a greenhouse especially designed for children that features more exotic fruits like passion fruit and dragon fruit. Best time to go: Mid-September to mid-October
Dashuiyu Fruit Picking Garden 大水峪采摘观光园
Dashuiyu Village, Huaibei Town, Huairou District (400 631 7160)
Caiyu Vineyard 采育镇采育万亩观光园
Caiyu Town, Daxing District (8027 2793) 大兴区采育镇
Red Sun Fruit Picking Garden 北京怀柔红日采摘园
Dashuiyu Village, Huaibei Town, Huairou District (137 1659 1895) www.hrhongtaiyang.com 怀柔区怀北镇大水峪村
Harvest Garden 北京丰和谷果品产销专业合作社
Weitaiwu Village, Xiagezhuang Town, Pinggu District (135 8157 7247) www.bjfhg.com.cn 平谷区夏各庄镇魏太务村
Laosong Melon Garden 大兴区老宋瓜园
Panggezhuang Town, Daxing District (8928 2866) 大兴区庞各庄镇
This article originally appeared on p32-35 of the September 2014 issue of beijingkids. To view it online for free, click here. To find out how you can obtain your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Debbie R, Eewortman, Harsha KR, and Raul Lieverwirth (Flickr)