By Chrissie Nelson
The leaves have changed. The air is crisp. Fall is in full effect here in Charlotte.
Along with that bite in the air comes some of our favorite fall activities: driving to the mountains to see the leaves change, building bonfires, drinking hot chocolate, eating pumpkin everything and visiting apple orchards.
Don’t fret if you missed prime apple-picking time (mid-September) or the chance to snap photos of the little apple of your eye finding them; the 40-minute drive to Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill is entirely worthwhile later in the season. The beloved cidery has been welcoming guests each fall, from mid-August to Christmas, for 20 years.
For the full experience, button up the brood in something warm, bring your camera and pile the family aboard a hay ride through the picturesque grounds. Rides are available on select Saturdays.
You’ll also enjoy browsing and shopping the open-air stand (open on Saturdays and Sundays), which features Windy Hill products. The mill also operates as a sustainable farm. With close parental supervision, kids can watch this fascinating working farm and the animals that fill it in action.
Of course, no trip is complete until you’ve dedicated yourself to devouring an appropriate amount (we’re talking well above the “serving size”) of apple cider doughnuts. These small wonders are freshly made, and the aroma and taste embody everything that makes autumn so amazing. But they only skim the surface on sweet treats. When you can’t eat another bite of the hand-dipped caramel apples and fried apple pies, wrap up a few to take home.
After you’ve had your fill polishing off desserts and drinking in the unbeatable scenery, it’s cider time. Cap off your visit with a flight of Windy Hill’s gluten-free hard cider for the adults and a cup of fresh-pressed apple cider for the little ones. The mill has been producing and selling hard cider at its orchard since 1996, and in recent years, it’s been distributing the sweet elixir to bars and stores in North and South Carolina. For $11, you get to sample six different ciders, ranging from traditional hard apple cider to a sweeter variety, with peach, strawberry and pomegranate cider thrown in the mix. On certain Saturdays, you can sip while swaying to live local music performed on-site.
For more Charlotte play dates, visit charlottesgotalot.com
This article ran in the November 2016 issue of Charlotte Happenings.