It’s a bit of a drive from Des Moines, but the trip to Center Gove Orchard along Iowa’s backroads is well worth setting aside the day for. Kiddos and families will enjoy picking apples and the many farm related fall activities that await. Read on for tips for a family fun day at Center Grove Orchard in Cambridge.
Know Before You Go
- Hours of Operation: 2015 Season is September 12th to November 1st; Monday through Sunday 9:00 am – 7:00 pm.
- Cost of General Admission: Weekday Pass (Monday-Friday) is $8.95 per person; Weekend Pass (Saturday & Sunday) $10.95; Season Passes are also available
- Parking: There is plenty of FREE parking available at the Orchard. You will be parking in a field, so it may get a bit soggy on rainy days.
- Food: Outside food and beverages are permitted and it’s a great place for a picnic. However, if you forget to bring something or would rather let someone else do the cooking, the Orchard offers a wide variety offood and beverages for purchase at several concession and restaurant locations.
- Restrooms: The Orchard is very proud of its “Potty Barn”. There are several modern clean facilities located here.
- Prior to your visit check out Center Grove Orchard’s website where you’ll find everything you need to know.
While You’re There
Center Grove Orchard is not a small operation by any stretch of the imagination. In addition to offering pick your own apples, they entice visitors with hay rides, games, a corn maze, restaurants and store, and many other whimsical farm creations. It is a true retail operation.
Situated on over 25 acres, the property not only grows apple trees, but also produces pumpkins. There is a general store which includes a bakery for buying all things apple related, from apple butter to apple pies and donuts. You can shop in the store and pick apples without paying admission, but you do have to pay for the apples. I will warn you that if you take your kids, they will beg you to attend all of the other attractions.
To gain access to all of the “farm fun” you will walk through the general store and pay admission at a “grain bin” kiosk. Once you have paid your admission fee, you are free to explore all the Orchard has to offer. Attractions are spread out and you’re in for a lot of walking. You will want to bring a stroller or wagon along if you have small kids. Don’t forget the sunscreen and hats; the day we went it was hot!
We started our Center Grove Orchard adventure at the Corn Pool and petting the goats. Both are near the entrance and are hard for kids to pass up. Our kiddos particularly liked the Jumping Pillows, Super Slide and Pedal Carts. One of the newest attractions to the Orchard is the CGO Express a new train ride that the Orchard is hoping to have up and running by the first of October.
To pick apples you can take a hayride out to the orchard. After a short ride, they deposit anxious apple hunters near the trees that are ripe for picking. We wandered through the orchard picking apples and also took a peek at the pumpkins. The corn maze is also located out by the orchards and we took a turn trying to find our way through it. Once we were done picking we rode the same hayride back.
The Orchard has several varieties of apples available to pick on your own. They provide you with a bag (1/4 peck, ½ peck, 1 peck, ½ bushel bag and 1 bushel bag), and you can mix and match any ready-to-pick variety to fill your bag. Apples ripen at different times throughout the season, so check Center Grove Orchard’s website to make sure the variety you want is ready when you want to visit.
To pick apples choose a nice looking apple full of color that you want to put in your bag. Gently grab with your hand, then twist and pull up. Apples can bruise so don’t squeeze too hard. You will be able to tell if an apple is ripe if it comes off the tree easily. If it is not ready then part of the tree limb and leaves will come off with the apple.
Center Grove Orchard was a fun family outing. We spent a good part of a Saturday there, enjoying the fun farm activities, picking apples and enjoying snacks like “Apple Nachos”.
After Your Visit
Once you are home you will need to figure out what to do with all of your apples. First, sort through the bag for any bruised apples. You know the saying “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch?” It’s actually true. A bad apple gives off ethylene which will spoil the other apples around it. So remove those and eat them first.
Be sure to store the rest in a cold dry place and don’t wash them until right before you are ready to use them because it can promote bacterial growth and speed up spoilage. Usually we make an apple crisp and have the kids take apples to school for their snack for the next few days.
Center Grove Orchard
32835 610th Avenue
Cambridge, IA 50046
What are your tips for a family fun day at Center Grove Orchard?