Every fall, as the leaves turn into warm shades of scarlet and amber, I am reminded of my happy place: The Elegant Farmer Mukwonago, WI, — home of everything that is awesome about autumn! My family has made an annual trek to The Elegant Farmer ever since my little ones were toddlers. Located about 25 miles north of Lake Geneva, the Elegant Farmer is an easy day trip from any Lake County suburb.
This is not your ordinary apple orchard. You can easily spend an entire day here picking apples, wandering through the pumpkin patch and munching on their popular warm cider donuts (you just can’t stop at one). We still have frozen apple pies from the last time we visited their farmer’s market.
Here are some highlights of this delightful fall destination.
The Elegant Farmer is home to acres of orchards with 12 varieties of apples, including Honey Crisp, Jonathan, Wisconsin Granny Smith, Crisp Red Delicious, Royal Gala, McIntosh and more. The orchards and plentiful and abundant – even when my family has not been able to make it to the orchards until the end of October, there is always plenty of pickin’ left. Unlike smaller orchards, where you feel like you are battling a swarm of families for the best fruit and photo ops, The Elegant Farmer feels open and spacious – we’ve never had trouble with crowds or selection. Tractor-pulled hayrides will transport you to the top of the orchards, a nice option for those with little ones who may have trouble walking longer distances.
Although the apple orchards are the main attraction, there is also a small pumpkin patch where you can pick your own pumpkins. If you don’t want to pick, pumpkins are available to purchase at the farmhouse.
Mmmmm, Donuts …
You can’t leave the farm without trying their cider donuts (yes, plural on purpose – you can’t just eat one). They are coated with cinnamon and sugar, and are served piping hot in a paper bag. Bring cash, and plenty of it – although the donuts are only $1 each, $5.50 for 6 or $10 per dozen, you will want to stockpile these babies. Believe me, they are just as good microwaved.
Word of warning: don’t delay your visit to the Donut Shack until the end of your trip. They have been known to run out early, and lines are typically long. But it’s worth the wait.
If getting lost in a field of corn is your thing, you won’t be disappointed by the corn maze. It expands across five acres and is in the shape of a farm scene. Although my family and I have never tried the maze (I feel like I spend enough time being lost and confused), it’s a popular activity, and is large enough to accommodate large groups.
Your little Thomas the Train lovers will love taking a vintage, turn-of-the-century train ride departing from The Elegant Farmer Depot at the top of the hour on Saturdays and Sundays through early November. Enjoy the lovely fall colors as you take a 10-mile trip that winds through Southeast Wisconsin. At the depot museum, kids can pretend to be a trolley motorman, learn about electricity and view model railroads. Train lovers will enjoy the gift shop, which features a variety of railroad souvenirs.
As I mentioned, there is plenty to do to occupy an entire day here. Plan to have lunch or an early dinner here. Throughout the Autumn Harvest Fest, a variety of fresh foods are served up in the barn, where you can plop on bales of hay and enjoy BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, piping hot chicken pot pies, hot dogs, homemade chili, loaded spuds and make-your-own caramel apples.
I love the farmers market at Elegant Farmer. On its website, The Elegant Farmer claims to have “the best gourmet apple pie in America.” While making such a bold claim would typically trigger my inner skeptic, I’d have to agree with this one. The Elegant Farmer’s award-winning apple pie baked in a paper bag has been the farm’s signature item for decades, and the farm bakes more than a quarter million pies each year.
The Elegant Farmer pies are a Thanksgiving staple in my house. We stockpile them during Harvest Fest, freeze them, and reheat them for the holidays. They are delicious. The pies are baked in paper bags, which seal in the juices from the fruit, while creating a crisp, sugary crust. Try the baked caramel apple pie in a bag – it is the closest thing to heaven.
The farmer’s market is also home to seasonal fruits and vegetables, apple cider, deli meat, fruity applesauces, cheeses, fresh salsa, gourmet popcorn, and a variety of bakery goods, including jumbo muffins and cookies.