Plan a trip to a Southern apple orchard on a crisp fall afternoon, and you'll be in for a treat.

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Apples
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After a long Southern summer, we're ready for the cooler, sweater-swathed activities of fall. Here at Southern Living, that means showing our school spirit, putting together the perfect tailgate, and, of course, going bananas for apples. This year, we thought we'd pick our own to use in our favorite apple recipes, everything from the best apple pies to apple-bourbon pork chops.

New to apple picking? No problem. We've put together a how-to with everything you need to know about planning the best-ever apple-picking trip this season. With the promise of a crisp fall afternoon, a cup of hot apple cider, and an orchard full of trees laden with apples ripe for the picking, this may just become your family's favorite autumn tradition.

Plan Your Trip

The first step in planning the perfect apple-picking trip is deciding where you'll go and how you'll get there. There are many apple orchards around the South, and they're filled with bustle during the harvest season when families travel from all over to pluck their own fruits to take home and enjoy. Do your research and decide what varieties of apples you'd like to pick, because each orchard will have different kinds of trees in their orchards.

Depending on the location of the orchard, the harvest times will vary. Take a look at the orchard's website to find guidance on their peak seasons and also hours, pricing, and calendars of events. Each spot has its own varieties, festivals, and seasonal events, and you'll want to make the most of it. (You can find a list of our favorite Southern apple orchards at the end of this article.)

Apples
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What You Need

Once you've decided when and where you're going, bring yourself, your family, and a great attitude. In some places, you'll need to pre-pay, pay in cash, or buy tickets online, so be sure to familiarize yourself with all the details on the orchard website. That will help ensure you're ready to get in there and get apple picking as soon as you arrive.

Some spots offer their own bags and baskets for gathering, but it's a good idea to bring a few of your own just in case. Comfy clothes and shoes are a must since you'll be trekking around beneath the trees, and you should also be sure to check the weather. Packing for all contingencies makes for a successful apple-picking trip no matter the weather.

Pack a lunch and bring a picnic blanket if you plan to make a day of it. It's also a good idea to bring hand-washing supplies and/or hand sanitizer. (You'll want fresh hands after apple picking.) If it's a sunny day, don't be caught without sunscreen and hats too!

Apple
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Southern Orchards

Here are just a few of the orchards around the South where you can fill your baskets this fall. Make sure to call ahead for hours and availability. All of the locations listed below include tasting notes on their sites, so you can go armed knowing what you'd most like to pick–and when they're most likely available. And if you come across a variety that you're not familiar with, just ask the farmers what they like to do with them.

Nivens Apple Farm (Moore, SC) - Whether you need them for baking, snacking, or storing, this South Carolina apple farm's fourteen varieties on offer cover all culinary bases.

B.J. Reece Orchards (Ellijay, GA) - Come to pick Galas and aromatic Arkansas Blacks, but don't miss the fried apple pies at the bakery.

Morgan Orchard (Sinks Grove, WV) - With more than twenty varieties of apples, this West Virginia orchard has you covered from sweet Fujis to slightly tart Yorks.

Sky Top Orchard (Flat Rock, NC) - When you're finished picking from the 22 varieties, relax with an apple cider doughnut.

The Fruit and Berry Patch (Knoxville, TN) - With 32 varieties, this Tennessee spot has everything from Galas to Goldrushes. Fresh fruit pies, apple butter, and apple chips are on offer for when the picking is over.

Apple Butter Pound Cake with Caramel Frosting
Credit: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Mary Clayton Carl Jones; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

How To Use Your Apples

After you've had fun and gathered basketfuls upon basketfuls of apples, you'll need some ideas for how to use them. Don't let them go to waste! Start with our Apple Butter Pound Cake with Caramel Frosting (pictured above), our best-ever Fresh Apple Cake, and our super easy Baked Cinnamon Apples. Then browse a few of our favorite apple recipe roundups like Crisp & Juicy Apple Recipes That Bring All the Fall Flavor, Apple Desserts Too Tempting To Turn Down, Slow Cooker Apple Recipes To Make This Fall. Happy picking!

WATCH: How To Make Caramel Apples At Home With Just Three Ingredients

Tell us your favorite spots for apple picking in the comments below. Do you go on apple-picking trips every autumn?