I went apple picking today with my husband at sons at Apples on Oak
in Joliet. I chose it because their goal as stated on their site is "To produce the highest Quality Apples possible, while using a 'Low Spray' philosophy for pest control".
I also chose it for the lack of anything besides apple picking there. They have nothing for sale but the apples you pick yourself, and there is really nothing to do there except pick apples. We wanted to go somewhere (relatively) nearby and we didn't want to make a whole day of it, just to get some apples and show the kids where apples come from. I figure that at 2 and 3, the boys have plenty of years of apple picking with "Family Fun" ahead of them if we want that, and right now they don't know what they're missing. We were very pleased with the low-key and uncrowded scene.
I was also attracted by the fact that they have more than 100 varieties of apples, the vast majority of which I know nothing about. That said, not all the trees are well marked, so I don't really know what all we got, though I'm sure if we asked we could have found out. As we arrived the owner (I presume) greeted us warmly, and explained that the orchard was a hobby run amok. He gave us a small piece of paper with a list of six varieties that are ripe now with descriptions of each (it seems that the ones on the list were ones that they had larger quantities of, and these were well marked). He told us where the trees were that were low enough for the kids to pick from, encouraged us to taste the apples and to have fun.
I'd highly recommend them if to anyone seeking just apples and no other attractions.
Apples on Oak
16146 Oak Ave.
Joliet, IL 60432
BTW, I found them on http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/index.html
, my go-to site for food preservation. I need to remind myself to browse around there more, because there is so much more there--gardening, nutrition, environmental stuff, etc. It's a great resource!