So close you can almost taste it...
The 23rd Annual CiderDays is one month away!
It's autumn in New England -- the air is crisper, the leaves are turning a kaleidoscope of colors, and apple trees in orchards throughout bucolic Franklin County, Massachusetts, are laden with ripening fruit. It's been a good apple year and we honor the seasonal bounty by showcasing hard and sweet cider and all things apple at CiderDays - November 3 - 5!
This year marks our 23rd Annual CiderDays! Join us for hard cider tastings, workshops, orchard tours, talks, and more, and experience a county-wide celebration from Ashfield, Deerfield, and Colrain to New Salem and the towns in between. Whether you are a hard cider drinker, a cider maker, an heirloom apple aficionado, or simply enjoy soaking up all the goodness that fall in Western Massachusetts has to offer, there's something at CiderDays for you! Here are some highlights:
How to Taste Hard Cider
To get the most out of the Saturday Cider Salons, join us on Friday evening, November 3rd, at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in downtown Greenfield for some pro tips on how to taste hard cider. Cider educator Eric West and Nicole Leibon of Farnum Hill Ciders will focus on the thought process behind tasting and evaluating cider, then will guide the participants through a tasting of various cider styles. Light hors d'oeuvres will be served.
Cider SalonsThe Cider Salons on Saturday, November 4th, are your opportunity to sample almost 100 individual craft cider brands from producers throughout North America and Europe in a range of styles (from semi-sweet and sweet to dry and über dry and everything in between!).
This year, the two salon sessions will be held in a big tent in Unity Park on the banks of the Connecticut River in downtown Turners Falls. There will be plenty of room to taste the ciders and talk with producers. Parking is conveniently located within walking distance of the venue.
Session I - 3:30 - 5:00pm
Session II - 5:45 - 7:15pm
Note: If you are looking to eat before or after your Salon session, there will be two food trucks on site as well as restaurants in downtown Turners Falls offering seasonal fare. More info on participating restaurants will be included on the dining page of the CiderDays website soon.
The limited ticket tastings on Sunday, November 5th, at the Deerfield Community Center in Historic Deerfield give you the chance to learn from the experts and taste cider in a more intimate setting.
Perry Tasting with Tom Oliver, Oliver's Cider & Perry, Herefordshire, UK
SOLD OUT (but catch Tom Oliver at his free talk on Saturday at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center)
Specialty Cider Tasting with Ben Watson (author, Cider: Hard and Sweet)
Making Spanish-Style Cider (Sidra) in America Panel and Tasting with representatives from Ciders of Spain, Black Duck Cidery (NY), and Tilted Shed (CA)
Cider and Cheese Pairing with Provisions of Northampton. Tasty cheese perfectly paired with delicious cider.
This year, we've added a fifth Sunday workshop and it's FREE (first come, first served) -- Cider & Perry Traditions in Lower Austria. Johannes Scheiblauer, head of the Mostbarons, a group of cider and perry producers in the Mostviertel region of southwest Austria, will present an overview of the Mostviertel, the cider and perry traditions of this scenic and historic orchard region, and the products made there. 10am - 11am at the Deerfield Community Center.
Beginner Cidermaker's WorkshopHands-on beginner's cidermaking workshop with Bob Delisle and Charlie Olchowski on Saturday morning, 8:30 - 10:30 am, November 4th, at Pine Hill Orchards. Your ticket includes instructions and materials for making your first batch of cider.
Materials include: plastic fermenter, 5 gallon glass carboy, bored stopper, airlock, 6' syphon hose, 30" racking tube and bottle brush, plus sweet cider.
Fifth Annual Amateur Cidermaking Competition
The 2017 CiderDays Amateur Cider Competition will be held on December 2nd, allowing cidermakers attending this year's CiderDays to drop off entries at the event rather than sending them via UPS. The competition website will be updated with more details soon. Registration for the CiderDays Amateur Cider Competition will open on Saturday, October 21st, and close on Saturday, November 18th.
But Wait, There's More!
The events listed here just scratch the surface of this multi-faceted event. Visit the CiderDays website to see all that we have planned and download a preliminary schedule.
Check out this article to learn more about some of the orchards involved in CiderDays.
Subscribe to the Franklin County tourism list to get news and information about year-round events in our corner of the world delivered to your inbox.
Looking to get out of the office and into the fresh air? Been meaning to do more physical activities and eat more fresh fruit? What about getting in some fun outdoor activities with the family before the cold weather hits? Picking your own apples is the perfect way to check these items off your list.
Franklin County has orchards dotting some of the most scenic landscapes in Massachusetts. Pick from century old trees located in orchards that have been in the family for generations or from newer experimental orchards. While you’re at it, take a break, bring a picnic lunch, and take in the scenery or refuel at some of the orchard restaurants. Here are four of our favorite pick your own spots.
Clarkdale Fruit Farms
303 Upper Road, Deerfield, (413) 772-6797
Pick Your Own daily 9am-5pm
Farm Stand open daily 8am-6pm
This fourth-generation family fruit farm located in the beautiful hills of Deerfield grows heirloom apple varieties from trees planted by the first generation of Clarks in1912. As true New England farmers, the Clarks are not ones to rest easy and continue to plant new varieties every year. Clarkdale offers eight pick your own apple varieties to choose from including Macintosh, Ginger Gold, Gala, Empire, Cortland, Macoun, and Jonagold. Looking for that hard to find variety that you won’t find in your local supermarket? The Clarks actually grow over 40 apple varieties including Esopus Spitzenburg, Wolf River, Akane and Pound Sweet. If you’re looking for more for your cornucopia, their farmstand, open 8am-6pm daily, also carries pears, nectarines, plums, grapes and more. They accept credit cards and SNAP EBT. While you’re there, don’t forget to take your picture in front of the iconic Clarkdale apple.
Let’s face it, there are only so many whole apples you can eat, so they conveniently have a few tasty recipes on their website like Lavinia’s Apple Lemon Custard Pie
New Salem Orchards and Preserves
67 South Main Street, New Salem, MA, (978) 544-3437
Pick Your Own Saturday and Sunday, 9am-5pm
Spectacular view overlooking Quabbin Reservoir? Check. Location on a farm established in 1750 with 125 year old fruit trees? Check. A barn with fresh pressed cider, just baked cider doughnuts, local cheeses, preserves and apple butter? Yup. You’ll definitely want to bring a picnic lunch and make a day of your trip to this orchard in the historic town of New Salem. The views here are spectacular year round but for a real treat, come at the peak of foliage where you will likely find friends and neighbors savoring hot mulled cider in the barn kitchen. If you hit it right, you may find a pop up cider or vinegar making workshop.
Bear Swamp Orchard
1209 B Hawley Road Ashfield, 413-625-2849, 413-768-7989
Organic Pick Your Own and Hard Cider Tasting Room open Fridays - Sundays, 10am – 6pm
Stroll through this ten year old small family-owned certified organic solar powered orchard perched on a hilltop in Ashfield with panoramic views that span Vermont and New Hampshire. With more than 60 different cultivars in varying degrees of production, the Gougeon family grows many great heirloom varieties. Since 2010, the family has focused on identifying new apple varieties that have seeded naturally and grafting them into the orchard.
This is definitely a picnic worthy spot and while you are there, say hi to the chickens and Shetland sheep. Aside from apples you will also find hard ciders, sweet ciders, vinegar (raw, un-pasteurized, untreated), jams and jellies, baked goods, and maple syrup. In case you did not get enough of a workout while you were picking, the orchard borders the Trustees of Reservations Bear Swamp Reserve which offers miles of scenic hiking trails and views of its own.
Pine Hill Orchards
248 Greenfield Rd, Colrain, MA 413-624-3325
Pick Your Own Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm and Monday holidays
Restaurant open Monday – Friday, 6am-2pm and Saturday and Sunday, 7am-2pm
Matt Shearer, a member of this family-owned 75 acre orchard in Colrain, says people come for the apples but stay for the animals. After picking Macs, Courtlands, Jonagolds, Spencers, Honey Crisps, Macouns, and Galas, he finds visitors lingering for hours at the pond with the cows, goats, potbelly pigs, donkeys and ducks. The on-site restaurant serves delicious comfort food every day from early morning until 2 pm. And there’s more. The orchard’s market has hard and sweet cider, fresh baked pies, cider doughnuts, maple products, crafts, and local meats.
Tips and resources
Call ahead to find out which apple varieties are currently available for picking or just show up and be surprised. If you’d like to do your own research before heading out, this interactive Apple Finder has pictures, tartness levels, and descriptions of more than 120 varieties grown in New England.
Still have not satisfied your apple appetite? You can immerse yourself in all things apple with workshops, tours, tastings and more at Franklin County CiderDays. This annual event, held the first weekend in November, features the longest running hard cider tasting in the country.
Why not get some creative ideas on what to do with your apples by taking cooking classes from James Beard Award winning Chef Sanford (Sandy) D'Amato at Good Stock Farm?
South Deerfield, MA
The ViewWhether you arrive at the top of Mount Sugarloaf’s south summit by driving (just a few minutes) or walking (about a half-hour) up the winding auto road, or by hiking up one of the marked trails, once the Connecticut River comes into view you’ll have no doubt that agriculture is alive and well in this valley. Lined with trees and productive farmland, and an occasional red barn and white steeple in the distance, this spectacular and quintessential rural New England view is both serene and inspiring.
Before it was called Sugarloaf (sugar was once molded into cone-shaped loafs for shipping), the indigenous Pocumtuck people called the mountain Wequamps, believing it was a giant greedy beaver killed by the god Hobomok and turned to stone. The south summit is the head, the north ridge its back. Directions and information about picnicking, trails, and parking here.
While You’re There:Visit Historic Deerfield, an authentic 18th-century New England village. Tour beautifully restored museum houses with period architecture and furnishings, see demonstrations of colonial-era trades, and explore world-famous collection of early American crafts, ceramics, furniture, textiles and metalwork.
French King Bridge
The View:If you are traveling on Rt 2 you are definitely going to want to pull over when you reach the French King Bridge for its beautiful form, impressive height, and breathtaking views of the Connecticut and Millers Rivers and surrounding landscape. This steel three-span cantilever arch bridge over the Connecticut River, connecting Gill to Erving, opened for travelers in 1932 and won the American Institute of Steel Construction’s Most Beautiful Steel Bridge Award. From the parking area at the end of the bridge, you can walk to the center and take in the view of the river winding through a dramatic undeveloped landscape including the Wendell and Erving State Forests. For a view of the bridge itself, follow the path down the bank.
While You’re There:Get a hearty meal at the French King Restaurant right next to the bridge and then head out to the Erving State Forest or Wendell State Forest for hiking, XC skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, and water sports.
If you’re the type of hiker who is all about the view, then High Ledges is the hike for you. You can park your car at one of the clearly marked parking lots and take the 1-mile moderate trail straight to the overlook. The trail meanders through fields of wildflowers, where birds, butterflies, and other critters can be seen. Large rocks create perfect seats to gaze at the 3-directional view of the Village of Shelburne Falls, the Deerfield River Valley, and Mt. Greylock in the distance. If you can peel your eyes away, you will also see a large chimney, the remnants of Dutch and Mary Barnard’s cabin. After reaching the summit, you can continue hiking on the series of trails. The trails all loop around, so you can pick the distance you would like to do. Directions and more information here.
While You’re There:
You’ve just seen the Village of Shelburne Falls from a bird’s eye view, now see it up close. Head west on the Mohawk Trail and turn left at the Sweetheart sign to get to the village. There you can check out the amazing art galleries and shops, find a good book at any of the 3 bookstores, and eat quality fresh food at any of the restaurants or cafes. See what else is happening in the village and the surrounding hilltowns at shelburnefalls.com.
Connecticut River Waterfront and Industrial Canal
Turners Falls, MA
Across the Connecticut River from Barton Cove, Turners Falls has no shortage of great waterfront views. Unity Park is the ideal place to picnic and observe migrating birds and fall foliage as well as glorious sunsets behind the Gill- Montague Bridge. It is also a spectacular vantage for full moon and eclipse events with an unobstructed sky and shimmering moonlight frosting the water. A short walk along the scenic waterfront bike path winds you around to the canal view complete with 19th century mills, smoke stacks, and post-industrial vistas.
While You’re There:
Along the bike path you’ll find the Great Falls Discovery Center, dedicated to the natural, cultural, and industrial history of the Connecticut River watershed. The Center’s four acres of native plants, butterfly gardens, and open lawn are a peaceful retreat with especially beautiful views of Turners Falls' historic mill district. Take in some comedy, theater, dance, or music at the newly renovated, 320-seat Shea Theater, grab dinner at The Rendezvous, or plan your trip so it coincides with any number of town festivals. Information on these and many more events in Turners Falls can be found at www.turnersfallsriverculture.org
Enjoy a long western vista from the beautiful 1912 sandstone structure Poet’s Seat Tower, so named for the area’s attraction to poets such as Frederick Goddard Tuckerman long before the tower was built. Reach Greenfield's topmost point by hiking or by walking up a paved road then climbing winding staircases in this peaceful location conveniently located to downtown. From Main Street, turn left onto High Street and turn right at Maple Street. At the end, bear right to the top of the hill. There is a parking area on the left and you can walk up to the Tower.
While You’re There:
Visit Greenfield’s newly minted Crossroads Cultural District downtown for eclectic shopping, eating, and entertainment. Favorite eating spots include Tex-Mex comfort food breakfast and lunch at the Brass Buckle or everyday-special locavore fare and modern cocktails for lunch and dinner at Hope & Olive. Browse John Doe, Jr. Used Records and Books for just the right music or visit one of the oldest family-run department stores in the country, Wilson’s. At night, hear all kinds of music at the Root Cellar or the Arts Block.
New Salem, MA
What tour through scenic beauty would be complete without a waterfall? This special spot, managed by The Trustees of Reservations, indulges you in waterfall splendor with a minimal trek to get there. According to The Trustees, “on its way to the Quabbin Reservoir, the Middle Branch of the Swift River cascades into an intriguing woodland pool at the bottom of a secluded gorge. Here, along a short, quarter-mile trail, you have two choices: go to the left and you can explore the enchanting waterfall; head to the right to follow the stream as it tumbles through large boulders past the site of an old mill." Directions and info here.
They also explain that "...in 1675, the great chief Metacomet (known to European settlers as King Philip) met here with neighboring chieftains to plan attacks on Hadley, Deerfield, and Northampton. A black bear shot on the property gives the reservation its name."
While You’re There:
Visit the Quabbin Reservoir, one of the largest man-made public water supplies in the country; stop by New Salem Preserves for some hot mulled cider, just picked apples and fresh warm cider donuts on the weekend. Check out more activities here. visitnorthquabbin.com
If one waterfall were not enough, here’s another coupled with panoramic views of the Highlands and foothills of the Berkshires. If you want a strenuous hike you’re in luck but there is also an easy way up. Chapel Brook is also among the impressive sites managed by The Trustees . As they describe it, “We think it’s the rugged beauty of the landscape, like much of the Highlands a blend of steep and deep forests, sensational summit views, and streams that surge and trickle with the seasons. The brook is tranquil – except when spectacular Chapel Falls are in full roar! – and rugged Pony Mountain has a kick. Although Pony Mountain is only 1,420 feet high, the hike to the top is exhilarating. The Summit Trail rises to meet the abrupt, vertical, 100-foot rock face of Chapel Ledge (which attracts experienced rock climbers). You’ll want to be in good shape to tackle this trail. A less-daunting, half-mile trail leads around the western side of Pony Mountain to its summit." Info and directions here.
While You’re There
Get a Big Time Breakfast at Elmer’s, where half the fun is the charmingly amusing menu.
While You’re There:
Take in Northfield's classic New England architecture or treat yourself to a wine tasting at Cameron’s Winery. After reading about all of Northfield's attractions, you may want to extend your stay at Centennial House B & B. Too tired for another hike? Come back for biking, boating, skiing, and hiking at Northfield Mountain.
Franklin County has much to offer throughout the year. Find out more!
Check out the events calendar.