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We Take a Fall Road Trip to Nearby Chester County, Pennsylvania

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Owned by the Baily family since the 1880s, Baily’s Dairy farm is located in West Chester, Pennsylvania just 20 minutes away from downtown Wilmington./Photo by Ashley Breeding

From apple picking to cattle gazing, fun autumn activities await just over the state line.


If back-to-back travel seasons put on hold has you wanderlusting for new locales, you’re in luck. Since flying to faraway destinations still might not be advisable (or possible), the perfect place to enjoy all things autumn lies in towns nearby. This month, we road trip to Chester County, Pennsylvania, where you’ll find fun activities in the country for the entire family. (Just be sure to wear a face mask and adhere to social-distancing guidelines.)

Mooovin’ Along

In Chester County, Baily’s Dairy farm is one of many places that feature epic scenery and fall fun for the entire family./Photos by Ashley Breeding

Just 20 minutes from downtown Wilmington, Route 52 and scenic back roads wind to Baily’s Dairy, a historic farm perched on a hill in Pocopson overlooking 65 acres of bucolic beauty. Owned by the Baily family since the 1880s, the farm oversees all steps of the process, from birthing calves to bottling milk. Here among the mixed breeds of cows you’ll find a herd of American Linebacks (identifiable by their pretty speckled coats and dark muzzles) roaming the grass pastures that help them produce nutrient-rich milk chock-full of antioxidants and omega-3s. The Bailys also breed for A2A2 milk, believed to be more easily digested than average moo juice. Kids (and adults) can canoodle with the farm’s other fuzzy friends, including goats, sheep, chickens and one big bunny (if you can find him). Inside the marketplace, shop for dairy, locally grown produce, seasonal sauces and even homemade ice cream—churned right on-site and served in to-go gallons or cups. 1821 Lenape Unionville Road, West Chester; 610-793-1151; bailysdairy.com

How Do You Like Them Apples?

Barnard’s Orchard offers about 10 different varieties of apples, ripe for picking through the end of the month./Photo by Ashley Breeding

Another 10 minutes (and more winding thoroughfares) takes you to Wawaset Road and Barnard’s Orchard, a fourth-generation farm sprawled across 74 green acres. Growing produce year-round, Barnard’s autumn harvest provides seasonal staples like kale, pumpkins and apples—the latter of which you can pick yourself. Among the dozen or so variety of apples (the season typically runs from late September through October, but Mother Nature makes the call) are Jonathan Golds, Ida Reds and Stayman Winesaps—a No. 1 seller that “blows Honeycrisps away,” says owner Lewis Barnard. Purchase a bag at the little market out front (don’t forget to stop and say hello to Bootsy the barn cat) and get pickin’. 1079 Wawaset Road, Kennett Square; 610-347-2151; facebook.com/Barnards-Orchard-277402103895

Another hop, skip and a spin through horse country and you’ll arrive at Highland Orchards, owned and operated by the Hodge family since the 1940s. Originally 100 acres used primarily for growing apples, it’s since expanded to about 300 and sprouts everything from early-summer rhubarb, berries and cherries to late-summer corn. In the fall, you’ll find a variety of pumpkins and over 30 different kinds of apples, from sweet Fujis to sour Granny Smiths. In a typical year, the farm’s team offers “Safari Shuttles,” dropping off customers who want to pick their own. (At press time, they were still working out the details of how to do this in a way that was safe and socially distant.) Known in these parts for its season-long festival and moonlit hayrides, those events are sadly on hold until next year. But the market, offering cooking staples and treats made close by, remains open. Enjoy a pastry in the picnic grove adjacent a playground and herd of goats. 1000 Marshallton-Thorndale Road, West Chester; 610-269-3494; highlandorchards.net

Back It On Up

Around the bend from Northbrook Canoe Co., Northbrook Cattle’s resident herd welcomes passersby from the pasture fence. Be sure to give them some space, as their massive horns can stretch 8 feet across./Photos by Ashley Breeding

To get to the orchard, you have to pass through Marshallton and Northbrook Historic District. Worth a stop on the way is Northbrook Cattle, where a herd of Texas Longhorns amble around a roadside pasture conveniently located across from a gravel lot. If you give them a whistle or a holler from the fence, they’ll usually come over. As you might’ve guessed, these cattle are named for their massive horns—which can extend more than 8 feet—so you might want to wave hello from a distance.

Up the Creek, With a Paddle

October is your last chance this season to canoe or kayak down the Brandywine River with a local adventure outfitter. Sign up with Northbrook Canoe Co. and start at one of three different locations—depending on how far you want to paddle. The crew will take you where you need to go./Photo by Ashley Breeding

Around the bend from these hooved creatures, an old barn houses Northbrook Canoe Co., an outdoor adventure outfitter in operation since 1977 that offers canoe and kayak excursions through October. If you speed past the signage, you’re sure to catch sight of a caboose as you slow over the train tracks—a remnant of when the Brandywine Scenic Railroad operated here in the 1990s. You’ll need to reserve a boat in advance, and adventures begin at one of three different locations and end at Northbrook’s dock. (The crew will get you to where you need to go.) 1810 Beagle Road, West Chester; 610-793-2279; northbrookcanoe.com

Doing Doughnuts

 

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A beloved hangout of classic-car enthusiasts and local cyclists—you’ll often see them in groups in the early hours on weekend mornings, their backs soaked with sweat and their bike cleats clicking all over the place—Northbrook Marketplace is perhaps best known for its apple cider doughnuts, served year-round but especially delicious in the fall. And that’s not all this spot—housed in a big red barn on the corner of Wawaset and Northbrook roads—serves up. Need coffee? Pick your pour from a full bar. A heartier bite after that ride? Jump in line for something hot from the oven or pre-prepared in the fridge. Seeking locally made treats? They’ve got everything from jams and syrups to jerky and gourmet snacks. Come toward day’s end and you can catch a sunset from a rocking chair on the front patio. 1805 Unionville-Wawaset Road, West Chester; 610-793-1210; northbrookmarketplace.com

Take a Hike

Once used to fatten cattle and for mushroom farming, Natural Lands’ ChesLen Preserve in Coatesville is steeped in agriculture and history. At a vast 1,282 acres, it is Chester County’s largest privately owned preserve that’s open to the public and features a trail for every hiker. Littlest legs will enjoy climbing logs and exploring streams at Ollie Owl’s nature playground, while older adventurers can meander (or trek) miles of marked trails through wild meadows, farmland, woodlands or valley streams. 1031 Palmers Mill Road, Media; 610-353-5587; natlands.org/cheslen-preserve

(FROM LEFT): A must-visit for every hiker, Coatesville’s ChesLen Preserve boasts miles of trails through farmland, meadows, cool woodlands and valley streams.; Foxy Loxy is the perfect spot to relax with an ice cream cone or espresso in hand./Photos by Ashley Breeding

Fox Got Your Tongue?

From Barnard’s, a long stretch of the PA-842 spits you onto Route 82 and into the charming town of Unionville, with its historic structures and tight-knit community vibe reminiscent of a much simpler time. At the heart of the village is Foxy Loxy Ice Cream Parlor and Coffee Shoppe, boasting 18 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream served year-round, plus a bevy of other tasty bites and beverages. (I recommend this be your last stop, so you can sit back and relax with an espresso. Choose from a patio, picnic tables or a small firepit—and enjoy the sights and scents of fall.) 5 Cemetery Lane, Unionville, 610-347-1129, facebook.com/FoxyLoxyLLC


Published as “Country Roads” in the October 2020 issue of Delaware Today.