Every year around mid-September my family starts thinking about Eckert’s.  If you’re not from St. Louis, the name Eckert’s might not mean much, but for my family it means fall, apple crisp, and hayrides! 

Eckert’s is a family owned orchard with several locations.  My family most often visits the Belleville, Illinois location, about 25 minutes from downtown St. Louis, but there  also locations in Grafton, Illinois, Versailles, Kentucky and Millstadt, Illinois, the last of which we recently had the privilege of visiting.

The Belleville location is my favorite, because it is the one I’ve been visiting since I was little.  As a kid the only attraction was riding on a tractor pulled wagon out to the orchards and picking all the Jonathan’s and Golden Delicious my bag would hold.  Nowadays the Eckert’s experience offers quite a bit more. September features Apple Fest, which is a small carnival! You can buy tickets for your children to ride in the spinning apples, or the spinning swings, or the giant inflatable slide!  In that same area there’s free putt putt golf, kids pedal tractor races, and what kind of farm would it be without animals! You can pet/feed the goats, the camel, and a cow or two.  

And I haven’t even started talking about the food.  Around the rides there are classic fair foods like ears of corn, but the real awesomeness is in Eckert’s Country Store.  Just outside you’ll find fresh made kettle corn and inside there are always samples of their signature apple cider donuts.  I personally always have to pick up a bottle of cherry wine and a jar of apple butter! If you are looking for more food options there is also an ice cream stand and a full restaurant.  The restaurant is full of country favorites, like Fried Chicken, and they always bring fresh biscuits and apple butter for the table!

Recently, I also got to check out the Millstadt location, also in Illinois and about 20 minutes from the Belleville location.  Millstadt is even more about the activities and has a larger assortment of rides, play structures, and animals to visit. My girls loved riding the spinning buckets and had so much fun doing activities we never made it to the giant corn maze!  The Millstadt location does not have a full restaurant, but offers ice cream, funnel cakes, and ham and beans. 

At night Millstadt really comes alive for me.  At every turn there are bonfires set up and fixings for s’mores available.  My favorite fall event is sitting in front of a fire, so this was right up my alley!  There is also the haunted hayride, where you ride through the corn fields, while people pop up along the sides and run behind the wagon.  My kids were fine, but I had a fright or two…I may have dragged my daughter down with me to the base of the wagon when a chainsaw appeared.

There are good reasons to visit either location.  Millstadt could be more expensive, as on the weekends it costs $13 per person, while at Belleville you pay $2 per person to pick apples and extra for rides.  Belleville, also has much bigger orchards, along with year long picking for different produce and the giant country store. Millstadt however has more kid activities that could fill a whole day and evening.  Either way your family will have a great time!

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