If it seems like Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Orchard in grows every year, you are not mistaken. And in 2022, the popular fall attraction in Gretna, Neb., has opened its largest addition ever: The Apple Orchard & Cider Mill Area. My family got a peek at the new space – plus the two new rides – recently before the pumpkin patch opened for the season fully on Sept. 23.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Orchard. All thoughts, opinions and typost are my own. This post may contain affiliate links.
The Apple Orchard & Cider Mill Area
The Vala family has been planning the Apple Orchard & Cider Mill Area for years, and you see it, you’ll understand why it took so long. It’s huge. It’s tucked away in the west side of the farm, but you’ll know you’ve found it when you reach a bridge and spy the large sign.
The big draw in the new addition, for me at least, is the Cider Mill, a spacious building with a large patio overlooking the new area. Inside, you can order cider (both hard and non-alcoholic) and donus, as well as shop for merchandise and cider to take home. I liked the new sweatshirts and beanie hats Vala’s is selling now!
Outside is a relaxing place to rest and enjoy your drinks. There are couches, tables, and my favorite, a fire pit. Each table had solar-powered lights in mason jars for a nice touch.
Now, the kids are probably going to love the new ride in new area, Stefan’s Country Drive. It’s a track with Tin Lizzie cars on an impossible-to-run-off rail. Even the most mature “I’m almost a teenager” kid will like driving one around the long track.
The space is also home to the U-pick apple orchard, U-pick flower patch, apple shooters, play houses and a new restaurant, Ethan’s Applewood Smokehouse. It wasn’t open when we visited but it sounded like it’s nearly ready.
There’s a large picnic area with a performance stage, as well. Don’t forget that Vala’s does allow you to bring outside food and drinks (non-alcoholic, of course).
Two new rides
Two new rides were added at Vala’s in 2022. I’ve already mentioned one of the new rides, the antique car ride in the new Apple Orchard & Cider Mill Area.
The other new ride is Jan’s Carousel, an antique carousel. You can’t miss it. Your kids certainly will notice it.
With the new rides, Vala’s now has a total of three rides. The train has long been a favorite for families at the farm.
The good news is that these new rides AND the train are now included with admission!
New food at Vala’s
I didn’t think they’d be able to out-do themselves after they unveiled the Monster Shakes a few years ago, but the Vala family has. In 2022, they added the Taco Cone to the menu. Find it at Pirate’s Cove.
I also had a Donut Tower for the first time. Well, I didn’t eat it all myself, I shared it with my family.
The Donut Tower is six donuts, drizzled with caramel and then stacked on top of an apple. It’s sugar overload, especially if you order a cider or cider slushie. Find the Donut Tower at the new Cider Mill.
Old foodie favorites are still available, including pies, turkey legs, cookie buckets and fudge.
Tips for visiting Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Orchard
Vala’s opened for summer festivals on weekends-only starting with Labor Day Weekend. The final festival weekend, Sept. 16-18, is the Cider & Sunflower Festival. Yes, it’s the time to get those Instagrammable photos in a sunflower field.
The farm opens fully for the season on Sept. 23 and opens daily through Oct. 31. The hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.
The best deal is to buy a season pass if you plan on visiting more than once. And given the size of the place now, you’ll want to go more than once. Of course, there are daily passes available.
If you want to visit during off-peak hours, I recommend going on a weekday. And go in the morning. A not-too-hot September day is also a good time to visit.
The crowds get larger the later into October, with peak crowds usually the weekend before Halloween. Naturally, people are getting their pumpkins and gourds at this time, as well as family pictures.
However, a little known fact: Halloween is a fantastic time to visit. If your kids are past trick or treating age, spend the evening at Vala’s and enjoy the experience. I have friends who do this every year!