Orange you glad there are fun spots in Florida you can visit to get a taste of the olden days? National Orange Juice Day is May 4 and you can get your fill of the juicy citrus fruit in Fort Pierce at one of Florida’s oldest orange farms.

Fort Pierce is a city that may seem like a dead zone at first glance, but with a little bit of research, you’ll discover there’s plenty of off-the-beaten-path essentials to check out.

Lucky for you, we did all the research.

Being a born and raised Floridian, I must admit, it’s a shame I never checked out Al’s Family Citrus Farm before. I mean, what’s not to love? There are loads of oranges to sample, an interactive tour and a store full of all things orange.

Let’s get this day trip to Fort Pierce started.

Before you go

To get the best out of your time at the citrus farm, hit the road sunrise-early to Fort Pierce.

Why so early? There’s a method behind this overachiever madness. It’s almost summer time so an early rise is crucial to beating the heat and the swarm of pesky love bugs. You’ll see the most love bugs between April and the beginning of May and again in August and the beginning of September.

Waking up that early will get your  stomach rumbling, so grab some breakfast from a Waffle House, which is about four miles away from Al’s. The hearty meal of southern grits, waffles and eggs was the perfect “stick to your ribs” breakfast to fuel the sun-soaked adventure ahead.

The tour

The tours begin at 10:30 a.m., but before you do anything at the farm, you must stop and grab a pint of freshly squeezed OJ at the Red Barn Grill. It’s summertime and you’ll need something refreshing to sip on during the tour.  

Led by a charming and knowledgeable tour guide, Sherry, you’ll be transported to “Old Florida” and get a look at how agriculture was done back in the day.

But first, a little background. Florida’s known for a lot but it’s no secret that oranges are a billion-dollar industry for the state. Oranges from the Sunshine State make up 56% of the United States orange supply.

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What sets Al’s farm apart from the rest? It’s located in the historic “Big Red Barn” on Kings Highway in Fort Pierce. The current owner, Jeff Schorner, took over the family business after his father Al passed away in 1987.

Back in Al's day, Kings Highway was flooded with citrus stands. Snowbirds and tourists would even load their trunks with big bags of the sweet Indian River fruit on vacations. And for good reason. The historic farm has been hand picking oranges for 42 years before boxing them up into the flavor-packed, thoughtful gifts for loved ones that have kept customers coming back for decades.

Time and dedication go into the gift baskets, which are individually wrapped by real folks -- no machines necessary.


During the tour, you’ll sample some of the farm’s most popular oranges -- like my personal favorite, the Unique orange also known as an Ortanique.

Your mouth will probably be watering from looking around at all the plump fruit, but be sure to listen up because you won’t want to miss the Legend of the Unique Orange.

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Took a field trip to learn about Our local orange groves  . . . . . #earlyeducation #homeschool #florida #orangegrove #alsfamilyfarms #education #bertholdacademy

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Uniques are a cross between a Chinese Mandarin Orange and a wild Jamaican Tangerine. The orange itself  is “unique” considering there are only four groves in the entire state of Florida that grow them, according to Al’s farm. But no spoilers here. you'll have to make a trip to hear the tale.  

After learning some quirky Florida citrus facts, you’ll get to watch the fruit roll as workers wash, sanitize and pack it to ship to orange-hungry Floridians and the snowbirds up north.

Tour guide Sherry will walk you along the wet-line and take you into the packinghouse where you’ll see how Florida citrus is processed.

Pro-tip: Dress appropriately for the tour. Closed toe shoes are required. Grab a jacket just in case you run into any spontaneous Florida weather. And if you’re scared of bugs, insect repellent will be your ally because everything is outdoors besides the gift shop and it’s definitely love bug season.

Guided tours are offered at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday January through April.

The guided tours are over for 2019 but don’t fret. If you have a group of friends or are part of an active senior adult group, school group or church group, you can set up a special date and time to have your group take a tour. Just call 1-800-544-3366 and ask for ‘tours.’

Love oranges, but not heading to Florida anytime soon? You can order Big Al’s orange gift baskets here.

The authentic Mexican food

I know what you’re thinking: Mexican food at a citrus farm? Don’t knock it until you try it. This joint is a local favorite.

So here’s the formula for ordering at the Red Barn Grill:

Order anything Mexican or a burger off the menu Ask for a “Sunshine Shake” Grab a scenic seat outside and enjoy


The Sunshine Shake is the Red Barn Grill’s signature drink. Picture the best of both worlds: vanilla ice cream mixed with sweet, freshly squeezed orange juice. The juice blends in subtly for a nice, slightly tart flavor followed by the creamy smoothness of the ice cream. It is the perfect mid-day treat.

The drink is so much of a local staple that anytime I mentioned Al’s farm in Fort Pierce, locals told me I had to try it. Like the wine expert, Brie, who I met later on my trip to the Summer Crush Vineyard & Winery. But we’ll get to that experience in a moment.

As I was enjoying a taco plate lunch special at a table outside the barn, I saw the owner Jeff Schorner lending a helping hand to the kitchen staff. After introducing myself, he eagerly came over to have lunch with me, and he brought his wife Sharon who is the mastermind behind the homemade fudge in the gift shop.

From traditional flavors like chewy walnut fudge to key lime pie, Sharon makes every batch herself.

“I don’t just like to make regular fudge. I like to make outstanding fudge. If you take a bite of my fudge but go ‘oh what is it? I haven’t done my job. I want you to say ‘boy, that’s the best fudge I’ve ever had.’ Then I’ve done my job,” said Sharon Schorner.

The best part? She doesn’t even use recipes. All the fudge magic comes straight from her heart.

The gift shop

The quaint gift shop is the perfect spot to take your best Instagram shots. With orange artwork everywhere and the cutest orange colored seats, this area is where you can take a mid-afternoon load off after a big lunch.

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Inside the shop is wall-to-wall orange products. There’s orange body products, candies, sprays and more. My recommendation? Get some fudge to-go. You’ll want something to snack on as you head to your next stop.

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Now that you’ve explored everything at Al’s Orange Farm, it’s time to check out some other things to do in Fort Pierce.

Watch some manatees

Florida loves manatees. But did you know for just a dollar you can get a glimpse of the gentle giants plus a chance to touch an array of marine animals?

The Manatee Observation and Education Center is a waterfront environmental wildlife viewing center. It’s west of the Atlantic ocean and straddles the Indian River Lagoon. It’s smack dab in the middle of a historical site known to be a congregating place for Florida manatees due to the warm water environment.

Nerd out with the hands-on exhibits and informational displays that are both fun and educational.

If you take this Fort Pierce day trip during the week, be sure to check out the following weekly events that are included in the price of admission:

Fintastic Fish Feeding, Tuesdays at 2 p.m. Tide Pool Touch Tank, Wednesdays at 2 p.m. Mermaid Tales, Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. Reptile Encounter, Thursdays at 2 p.m. Seahorse Snack Time, Fridays at 2 p.m.


Planning to bring the kids?

Children 5 and under get free admission into the center. There’s also an entire station for the kiddies that includes coloring books, interactive learning tools and manatee videos.

Don’t leave without checking out the covered observation walkway or taking a climb to the second story observation tower for your chance to get a glimpse of the manatees resting or playing.

You may even get lucky and see other wildlife like the Bottlenose Dolphin or Brown Pelicans.

Sip on homegrown wines

After trying the Florida-made wine at Summer Crush Vineyard and Winery, I’m hooked on the homegrown touch that’s put into them.

All the wine is made on site. And the decor of the place is eye catching. The owner, Gary Roberts, stuck true to his Florida roots and has super cool surfboards -- which are his original boards  from as far back as 1972 -- showcased throughout the tasting room.

And speaking of history, did you know the first vineyard in the New World was planted outside Tallahassee in the late 1500’s? And the oldest wine in the new world was first recorded being made at Fort Caroline near Jacksonville in 1565. It’s not just oranges Florida has a history with.

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Adult Easter egg hunt!! @_chasinsunshine @chelsea__kayla

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Summer Crush Winery is open Tuesday - Friday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., and Sunday 12 pm - 5 pm. Tastings are $8.00 per person and comes with a summer Crush Vineyard and Winery logo wine glass or you can shave $2 off the price and opt for a disposable plastic taster cup.

If you love sweet wine that can be paired with light dishes like fish or sushi, you’ll enjoy their Mangotiki wine. It’s a flavorful sweet wine that won’t overpower whatever you pair with it.

Grab a bite like a local

You can’t wrap up the day trip to Fort Pierce without eating dinner like a local. After asking people around town for recommendations, I ended up at 12A Buoy restaurant. The seafood spot is unassuming and laid back serving up lunch and dinner. I loved watching the locals walk in and greet each other like long lost friends.

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Soft-shell Crab sandwich at one of my favorite restaurants #12abuoy They just never cease to amaze me. (The cheesy grits were delicious too) #manfood #seafood #crab #softshellcrab #instafood #food #ftpierce

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If you like people watching, grab a seat outside and take in the social scene.

Try the Crunchy Catch sandwich. It’s the catch of the day, breaded and fried but with just the right amount of crispiness.

The honorable mentions

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (7 miles from Al’s) offers free 30-45 minute tours. The center features a video theater, aquaria, interactive displays, a touch tank, gift shop and student information station. The interpretive tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Heathcote Botanical Garden (7.5 miles from grove) is perfect for relaxing and unwinding. Their specialty gardens including a Japanese Garden, Reflection Garden, Herb Garden, Rainforest Display, Native Plants Garden and a Palm & Cycad Walk. The cost for a guided group tour is $9.00 for adults and $3.00 for children (6-12).

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