FENNVILLE, Mich. — There is no shortage of incredible apple orchards in West Michigan. But with so many options, how do you choose where to indulge? We — 13 ON YOUR SIDE digital producers Riley and Amy — have set out to find the tastiest spots in the area and are documenting our journey with a new series called 13 Eats.
13 Eats is all about highlighting the best, locally-owned eateries in the Grand Rapids area. And for the month of October, we’re hunting for the best apple orchard donut.
So far on our journey, we have checked out Moelker Orchards & Farm Market, Robinette's Apple Haus & Winery, Schwallier’s Country Basket, Post Family Farm and Grandview Orchard. Now, we’re exploring the beloved fan favorite, Crane's Orchards. For all those who love Michigan autumn, you’re in for a treat.
Nestled across acres of rolling hills and lush Fennville land, Crane’s Orchards is a family farm with deep community roots and tradition. According to the farm’s website, the place was bought in 1916 by Henry Blakeslee Crane. Since then, five generations of Cranes have run the farm and helped it expand into a huge bundle of fall perfection.
►Learn more about the farm here.
The Most Important Part...The Donuts
We’ve summarily decided the door of an apple orchard’s bakery is a great indication of how their treats will taste. Crane’s is a great example: Their giant wooden door creaks when it opens and has years of wear and tear in its splintered planks. It’s obvious there’s a century of history behind it, just like each of their tried-and-true recipes.
Upon opening that fantastic door, you’re met with the smell of a woodsy cabin and the aroma of delicious cinnamony baked goods. We each ordered one apple cider donut and one cinnamon sugar apple cider donut from a glass case, and set off to find a table where we could enjoy the view. The donuts are wonderfully inexpensive, with one for $1, six for $5.50 and a dozen for $10.
Crane's: The Donuts
Let us say, these donuts are small but mighty. The plain apple cider donut is anything but its ‘plain’ namesake — it packs a punch of flavor in each bite. The apple taste is dominant, which is surprisingly new to us on this donut hunt. There is cinnamon goodness and the delectable fried flavor to boot. Our only critique was that it was on the drier side, so we’d say this donut is a perfect pairing with their famous apple cider.
The cinnamon sugar apple cider donut is their champion. All the perfect flavors in their plain donut remains, but there’s the extra layer of cinnamon sugar coating that completes it wholeheartedly. The crunchy coating is that one touch that makes it the perfect apple orchard donut. I think we can confidently say Crane’s Orchards knows how to go big or gourd home when it comes to baked goods.
Let’s talk about Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant & Winery. With a 150 year old barn, tons of true vintage décor and hand-crafted goods everywhere you look, this place is… well...a whole vibe, if you know what we mean. From the large wooden doors to the wall-length shelves of small-batch wine, the beauty of this place truly lies in the details.
Walking into the barn is like being tucked into warm covers. The soft light and cinnamon smells create the perfect atmosphere for browsing and munching. And let us say — there is so, so much to both browse and munch. The walls are covered with Crane’s-labeled goods. From syrup to mixes, cider and even pre-made sloppy joes, the shop has it all. But honestly, we were most impressed by the long freezer full of premade, ready-to-eat pies. They were so beautiful and tempting that we ended up leaving with a raspberry-rhubarb pie each (no regrets!).
Crane's: The Vibe
Opposite of the pie freezer is the bakery counter, which is a rather small front for a very large bakery operation. The little glass showcases gleam in front of even sparklier treats. But the true beauty is far behind the counter, where countless trays of donuts and other goodies sit patently, waiting for their moment of glory.
The overall vibe of Crane’s is calm and complete, as if every single object knows exactly where it belongs and nothing is out of place. But perhaps the best part of the whole experience for us was the years and years of history that linger in each and every door, floor board and pie recipe. It’s obvious that the Crane family knows what they are doing and they do it incredibly well.
When we think about the land that is Crane’s Orchards, the first words that come to mind are lush, extensive and charming. The hills roll with lines of apple trees and the fields stretch with miles of pumpkins and corn. It seems there is something new to see in every direction and down every path. We spent some time walking around the bakery barn and also enjoyed a stroll through the fields, stepping on colorful, crunchy fallen leaves. The air was crisp and a little chilly, which paired perfectly with the cozy fall vibes of Crane’s.
Crane's: The Land
While the land itself is beautiful, it is also packed with fun activities for the whole family to enjoy. The operation includes U-pick fruit, a corn maze, hay rides and a cow train, among other things. But to us, the best part was simply walking around and taking in the fresh, outdoor air.
We could never explain in 1,000 words how wonderful an afternoon at Crane’s Orchards is. The rolling hills, lines of apple trees and falling bright-colored leaves alone make it worth it. When you add delicious, homemade treats onto that? We’ve discovered our autumnal paradise.
Wherever you live, we promise the drive is worth it. Grand Rapids? 45 minutes is nothing for all the donuts you’re about to eat. Antarctica? Yep, you’ll have a perfect fall adventure.
The activities extend all the way down 124th Avenue, showing their visitors just how successful the Crane’s family has become, despite their humble beginnings here in West Michigan. Each of their employees have cheerful smiles and willing-to-serve attitudes. It’s obvious that they have pride in the work they do, just like the Crane’s do in their land.
We feel lucky to have been on this delicious, donut-eating journey with you all, and especially lucky to end it at Crane’s.
Join us in December for our next hunt, you might just enjoy what treats are in store. We can't wait to share it with you.
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