Getting into the festive spirit at Uncle John’s Cider Mill

PumpkinsSAINT JOHNS, Mich. — Sipping fresh apple cider with a doughnut in hand is quintessential to a Midwest autumn experience, so a fall foliage trip would not be complete without visiting one of more than 100 Michigan cider mills.

In the middle of the Lower Peninsula, the small farming town of Saint Johns, Mich., located about 20 miles north of the state capital, is home to a cider mill with agricultural roots dating back to the early 1900s. At the turn of the century, the old white barn that sits along U.S. 127 was for used for raising cattle, but since the 1970s, it has housed the cider press at Uncle John’s Cider Mill.

One of the Great Lakes State’s premier cider mills, Uncle John’s produces award-winning unpasteurized apple cider and fermented hard cider. This popular mid-Michigan attraction is also known for its freshly baked flavored breads, fruit pies, wine tastings, pumpkin patch and 5K nature trail.

Inside the charming old barn, visitors can taste fresh cider and doughnuts while watching the bottling and cider press in operation as green-and-red apples are cleaned, chopped, mashed and pressed into cider. Though the press schedule can vary, it usually runs Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout September and October.

All Uncle John’s cider is made with Michigan apples, and its crisp, tart flavor will last about two weeks. However, cider can be served at a later date if it is kept frozen, so don’t forget to travel with your cooler!

Autumn activities at Uncle John’s also include the annual corn maze, tractor-pulled and horse-drawn wagon rides, and searching the pumpkin patch for the perfect gourd.

Although visitors are not allowed to handpick apples, they can ride through the orchard on a horse-drawn wagon. The horses trot through rows upon rows of apple trees — McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Gala and Golden Delicious — providing expansive views of the barn and surrounding countryside.

To pick apples in Michigan, check out Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill in Macomb County. It was the first pick-your-own orchard to open in the state and has been a family-fun destination for 68 years.

Also in the Detroit area are a couple of historic cider mills, which opened in the 1800s. Franklin Cider Mill, located just north of downtown Detroit, presses 100-percent organic cider in a mill that opened in 1837. Yates Cider Mill, in Rochester Hills, has been water-powered since 1863 and has expanded to include a petting zoo, pony rides, and ice cream and fudge shops.

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