When the cold weather comes in and the nights start getting a little longer, many people are sad to be seeing a little less of the sun and having to wrap up warmer whenever they head outside, but the colder times of year offer us unique recreation opportunities and activities that simply aren't available in the spring and summer, with apple picking being a prime example. Highly enjoyable all around the United States, apple picking is particularly fun and exciting in certain key locations, with the great state of Minnesota being a fine example.

More ideas: Best Weekend Getaways, Best Day Trips

The state has a rich history of apple cultivation and growth, with the famous apple breeding programs at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Landscape Arboretum going back over a century and helping to produce some hugely popular varieties like Honeycrisp, Zestar, SnowSweet, SweeTango, and more. All kinds of apples are grown all around Minnesota, including the aforementioned varieties, along with Red Barons, Sweet Sixteens, Honeygolds, Haralsons, Connell Reds, Regents, Keepsakes, and dozens of others.

Together with their friends and families, countless people head out to the farms and apple orchards of Minnesota when apple picking season comes along each year, plucking bag after bag of delicious, ripe, crisp apples straight from the trees to be used in all sorts of recipes and desserts when they get back home. Apple picking is a wonderful activity that the whole family can enjoy together, and it's a great way to spend a cold fall day. Not only that, but many of the best apple picking spots around Minnesota also offer additional activities and excitement for guests of all ages to enjoy like mazes, hayrides, farm stores, live entertainment, and more. Read on to learn all about some of the best apple orchards and apple picking locations in MN.

- Pine Tree Apple Orchard - 450 Apple Orchard Rd, White Bear Lake, MN 55110, Phone: 651-429-7202

By far one of the very best apple picking spots in the whole of Minnesota, Pine Tree Apple Orchard is located in White Bear Lake, offering easy access for people who live and work in the Twin Cities. It's only a short drive away from St Paul and Minneapolis, so it's a perfect option for people living in the city who want to get away from it all for a few hours and spend some time in a beautiful location enjoying the fresh air and stunning surroundings of nature.

Some of the apple varieties you'll find at this location include First Kiss, Whitney Crab, Duchess, Paula Red, Zestar, Sweetang, Beacon, McIntosh, Haralson, Honey Crisp, Cortland, Golden Delicious, and Honey Gold. In addition, this orchard really comes to life in the fall, offering fun extra activities to keep people of all ages amused and entertained like a corn maze, pony rides, wagon rides, weekend festivals, pick your own pumpkins, freshly baked goods, caramel apple sales, and more.

- LuceLine Orchard - 2755 Rose Ave, Watertown, MN 55388, Phone: 612-817-6229

Consistently ranked as one of the very best apple orchard locations in all of Minnesota, the family friendly LuceLine Orchard is situated in Watertown, about an hour's drive to the west of the Twin Cities, although the journey may take more or less time depending on the traffic. This is a family owned and operated orchard that has been running since 2004, offering warm welcomes and magical memories to all those who visit.

Spread out across 155 acres with close to 10,000 different apple trees, LuceLine Orchard has more than enough space for all to enjoy and offers a lot of fun and excitement in the apple picking months, with bonus activities like apple sales from the store, hay rides, corn mazes, pony rides, a petting zoo with friendly farm animals, a hay mountain, corn box, kiddie train, and more. Some of the apples you can find here include a wide range of classics and Minnesota favorites like SweeTango, Honey Crisp, Zestar, Haralson, Keepsake, Sweet 16, Fireside, and Snow Sweet.

- Minnetonka Orchards - 6530 County Rd 26, Minnetrista, MN 55364, Phone: 763-479-6530

Located out towards the west of Minneapolis and St Paul, Minnetonka Orchards is another great place to spend some time and load up on bags filled with apples to take home and start using in your recipes. There's a lot to love about this MN apple picking spot, and guests of all ages have been recommending it to their friends and family members for years now, with this orchard having been in operation for over 40 years now and even hosting many weddings and parties over the years.

Apple picking season starts here in August and usually runs through to the end of fall and the early days of winter. The location of Minnetonka Orchards also doubles as th ehome of Painter Creek Winery and Cidery, so adults can have a little extra enjoyment at this location by taking a winery and cidery tour and trying some of the local creations. As for the apples themselves, you'll find the likes of Sweet 16, McIntosh, Chestnut Crab, Honey Crisp, Cortland, Honey Gold, Haralson, and Zestar at this location.

- Apple Jack Orchards - 4875 37th St SE, Delano, MN 55328, Phone: 763-972-6673

Another great place to pick apples in Minnesota is Apple Jack Orchards. Located up in Delano in Wright County, this apple picking spot is some distance from the Twin Cities, but is nicely situated for visitors from some of MN's other cities like St Cloud. Lots of birthday parties, school tours, and business outings are organized at this orchard, which has a professional yet family-friendly vibe to it.

There are a lot of different apple varieties to pick at this farm, which also offers pumpkin picking for Halloween, and the varieties change each and every week, so it's the sort of place you can visit multiple times over the course of the fall and stock up on all your favorites, as well as maybe trying a few new ones. Additional activities at this apple picking location include a cow train, corn maze, jumping pillow, apple cannons, corn pits, play areas for the children, and a petting farm where you can meet the friendly animals.