Did you know that if you venture a little further afield than the grocery store parking lot, you can fell your own Christmas tree? It's a fun family adventure: everyone gets to feel outdoorsy and strong, and a thermos full of hot chocolate is a delicious reward.
These u-cut Christmas tree farms all offer acres of trees to run through -- at some, you can wander around with a saw, whereas others prefer to have an employee do the cutting for you. As always, call ahead to get the details and check availability. If the tree farm's in a snowy area, check road and weather conditions before you leave, too. You want to get that glorious tree home safely!
Wiley's Christmas Tree Farm: This rural Monterey County farm has some less-common tree varieties to choose from, including Monterey Pine, Leyland, and Arizona Cypress. They also have hayrides and free cocoa and cider around the fire.
Hillcrest Tree Farm: The oldest tree farm in the San Joaquin Valley, Hillcrest offers both u-cut (Monterey Pine) and pre-cut (Nobel and Douglas). The farm also offers rides around the property on their half-size steam engine train.
Nancy's Ranch: This Santa Clarita farm probably sells more Washington-grown that California-grown trees (they bring in just about every kind of fir from up north), but you can also cut your own Monterey Pine. They're certified by the California Christmas Tree Association, which is practically a guarantee that their whole stock is lush and healthy.
Christmas Ranch Tree Farms: Though the farm has two locations, we recommend the Thousand Oaks one: it has a bigger selection, including a variety of cypress, and table top trees. Plus, if you want to go in deep, they'll let you ride in their vintage military Jeep into the woods and over the hills. Literally.
Richfield Pines: Located in Orange County, this tree farm only carries Monterey Pines: nontraditional, but California local! They let the pines grow up to 26 feet, so if you live in some sort of earth-friendly castle, they've got the Christmas tree for you. They also sell firewood, and will give your kids free candy!
Hidden Springs Tree Farm: This family farm initially only grew food crops, but added trees in the '60s. They grow pretty, unusual Christmas trees like white fir and blue spruce. Customers can snack on (and buy huge bags of) roasted chestnuts.
Sand Haven Pines: This is a full-service family outing: San Haven even has an on-site taco stand. There's also a bounce house and a gift shop, and the kids get balloons. Various farm animals are sometimes led around the property ... sometimes joined by Santa.
Christmas Conifers: This farm is stocked only with Monterey Pines. They get pretty big. Additionally, there's a petting zoo (you can feed the goats!) and pony rides for kids.
Highland Valley: This is a combination Christmas tree farm/winery. Now that we know that exists, we don't know why more farmers don't do this. Do a wine tasting and then go find your tree (or, if you're cutting it yourself, maybe save the wine for after). There's also mini zoo, featuring ... a reindeer named Faun Faun.
Family Christmas Tree Farm: As the name indicates, this is an eminently kid-friendly spot. They're encouraged to go nuts amongst the straw bales, and they'll all head home with a six-inch seedling of their own.
Once you bring your Christmas tree home, you'll want to keep it healthy. Click here to find out how!