Part of my childhood memories of growing up in Florida are the long car rides that started most family vacations. Roadside attractions, fruit vendors on the side of the road, dubious gator farms, odd little pit-stop towns with a Waffle House and not much else. These scenes broke up the monotonous landscape of swamp and pine trees. When in season, “U PIK” strawberry fields opened to the public throughout most of the state. You’d pay a fee for a small basket that you can fill with berries to your hearts content. It was so wholesome, and it got us city kids lots of fresh air.
Luckily, recreating this feeling of visiting a farm is easy in the outskirts of Beijing, and it’s an ideal autumn family activity. For those of us who’ve experienced Beijing’s autumn, it’s brief, cool, less polluted, and certainly the nicest weather all year. September, October and November are also when many of our favorite fruits are in season, like peaches, grapes, pears, apples, and watermelon.
Here is a list and description of some independent orchards and also nóngjiālè (农家乐) or “Happy Farmer” -type tourist establishments that welcome city-weary visitors to come pick fruit themselves. Usually there will be food and guesthouse options. Please note that all of the following farms are Chinese language only, so bust out that putonghua or get some help from friends or family.
Da Shui Yu Fruit Picking Garden (大水峪采摘观光园)
This farm, located in a tourist village in Huairou, grows mostly apples and pears, but chestnuts and peaches should also be in season. Inexpensive and basic guesthouses can be found as well as restaurant options. Surrounded by mountains and trees, it would be an excellent escape on a blue sky day. Couple this with an early visit to the nearby Mutianyu Great Wall, which is especially gorgeous with autumn foliage, for a packed full day of outdoor adventures. Dashuiyu Village, Huaibei Town, Huairou District (400 631 7160, WeChat ID: S289809003) 怀柔区怀北镇大水峪村
Run Zhi Du Orchard (北京润之都葡萄采摘园)
Located in Miyun, Run Zhi Du has a large wine grape orchard and even rabbit and peacock pens. Currently, walnuts and grapes are in season. Since many venues centered around agricultural tourism cater to tour groups and families, they have specials for large parties. Come in the morning and enjoy a generous lunch: An entire 25 kg roasted lamb with at least eight other dishes, a bottle of red wine, and a generous amount of grapes (about 13 kg) that your family and friends can pick themselves for a total of RMB 1,380. Not a bad way to spend a cool weather, fall weekend. Kanggezhuang Village, Jugezhuang Town, Miyun District (391 104 1345, WeChat: S289809003) 密云区巨各庄镇康各庄村
Pinggu Big Peach Farm (平谷大桃采摘)
Nothing is left to the imagination in this name. Pinggu Big Peach Farm. You pick big peaches here, and it’s also in Pinggu. But besides that, it’s located in a nóngjiālè, so there are countless other activities. Take a cable car up the majestic Emei (not the one in Sichuan) mountain ranges and see waterfalls. They even have one of those infamous glass viewing bridges. Remember last year when glass bridges became a trend, along with the viral videos showing terrified people attempting to cross, clutching to family members? Well, if you want the same hair-raising experience, before you pick some peaches, head to the circular glass viewing platform and enjoy the view. If you time it right, you’ll see plum blossoms and autumn leaves as you gaze down in terror. Emei Mountain Village, Nandu Happy River Town, Pinggu district (338 102 7861, www.pgdtcz.com, WeChat: 平谷大桃) 平谷区南独乐河镇峨嵋山村
Beijing Eight Family Village (北京八家村)
Apples, apples, and more apples. Did we mention apples? Eight Family village has guesthouses dotted in the village surrounded by apple orchards, mountains and rivers. The village itself sells agricultural products, has restaurants for overnighters and daytrippers, and they also sell walnuts at a very cheap price. Arrange a visit using their phone number or connect using their very active WeChat account. Eight Family Village, Cui Cun Town, Changping District 511 025 3730. 北京八家村 昌平区催村镇八家村