Pick out and cut down your own tree for the holidays, and transport it home in your Silverado
By Anna Fader
Whether it’s a family tradition or a new experience, cutting down your own Christmas tree adds a spirit to the holiday season that’s hard to match. There’s nothing quite like the real deal—a sap-sticky, aromatic pine—and the opportunity for creating a lasting family memory is an added bonus. So grab your gloves, ropes, some cheery holiday music, jump in your Silverado and go find the perfect tree!
There are Christmas tree farms all over the country, but no matter where you go, here are some foolproof tips:
1. Familiarize yourself with your options. The tree varieties grown in different regions have different characteristics. Is it more important to you that the tree smells really great or that it has that iconic Christmas tree silhouette? Look at photos of the trees available at the farm you’re going to (many have websites), and you may get an idea of what you want.
2. Call the farm before you head out. Confirm that the location is open and the type of tree you want is still available.
3. Bring the right kind of gloves. Tough, washable or disposable ones are essential for handling your prickly and possibly sap-covered tree.
4. Bring rope or bungee cords to tie your tree to your car or truck. Some farms provide it, but they can run out. Other farms assume you have your own.
5. Bring a tarp or old blanket. You’ll need this to protect the bed of your truck or roof of your car when you bring your tree home.
6. Check with the location to see if you need to bring your own hand saw. Chain saws are prohibited, but many locations provide hand saws, twine and tree wrap.
7. Dress appropriately. Tromping through a forest of pine trees, possibly through piles of snow, means you’ll want to dress warmly and wear sturdy boots.
8. Inspect your tree for residents. Spiders and field mice may consider your tree home. Shaking your tree vigorously after cutting will dislodge them. Some farms have mechanical shakers that do the job for you and are very amusing to watch.
9. Cut your tree as close to the ground as possible. You will want a long trunk so that you can make a second fresh cut when you get your tree home, and still have enough to secure into the tree stand.
10. Bring cash or checks. Many farms do not accept credit cards.
You can find a Christmas tree farm near you by checking the online directory Pick Your Own Christmas Tree or MommyPoppins.com, but here are a few exceptional ones we’ve heard about:
Bees, Fleas & Trees Christmas Trees, Litchfield, Connecticut
This is the now-famous family tree farm that Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, describes growing up on in her memoir. Her parents have Christmas trees, swags, wreaths, complimentary hot cocoa, a gift shop and even a Santa’s Mailbox. Saws are provided, and helpers will cut your tree or you can cut your own.
Fillmore & Western Christmas Tree Farm, Fillmore, California
Sixty miles from Los Angeles, the Fillmore & Western Christmas Train takes you on an historic locomotive ride right to a Christmas tree farm. As the train chugs merrily along, enjoy a visit with Santa and hot cocoa. De-board to select and cut down your tree, buy gifts at the Christmas shops and then hop back on the train. Your tree will be loaded onto the train’s flatbed and can be transferred onto your car or truck back at the station.
Marmion Abbey Farms, Aurora, Illinois
Buy your tree from a 300-acre farm run by the Monks of Marmion Abbey. Free hot cocoa, sleds to use on the farm, a warming fire and a seasonal store stocked with wreaths and Marmion-made gifts round out the experience. All proceeds go to support the Abbey.
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Anna Fader is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Mommy Poppins, the ultimate insider city guide and family travel blog for families in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut.