You don’t have to be Clark Griswold to have a fun and memorable time chopping down your own Christmas tree. (Added bonus: 20 minutes of swinging an ax burns about 120 calories. That’s enough to earn you some cocoa and cookies afterward.) Here are some of the coolest, kid-friendly farms within an hour’s drive from the city. Happy chopping!
Pruitt’s Little Farm
Cutting, bailing and loading the family’s pick is a cinch and made easier courtesy of on-call helpers on certain dates. Before you head home for decorating, gather the family around the farm’s antique parlor stove to enjoy gratis hot chocolate and candy canes.
Open: Nov. 25-27 and Dec. 3-4 (with on-call helpers); other dates are self-serve and on the honor system
16477 Woodgrove Rd. (Roundhill, Va)
While others crowd the malls on Black Friday, point your car here for a more festive destination. Opening Nov. 27, Friendship Trees offers cut-your-own firs, pines and spruces. It’s the perfect location if you’re a little behind on your decorating. Their Christmas shop boasts ornaments, wreaths, roping, and kissing balls for holiday smooching. They offer a treasure hunt for children visiting the farm, too. Can’t say that about the big box stores.
Open: Mon-Fri, 1 pm-4:30 pm; Sat-Sun, 9 am-4:30 pm (Nov. 25 until late Dec.)
6950 Old Solomons Island Rd. (Friendship, Md)
Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm
Procrastinators who haven’t gotten around to taking a photo for the family Christmas card can cross two items off their holiday to-do list here. The farm’s log barn with a wraparound porch, scenic vistas, and horse-drawn sleigh make for great backdrops for a memorable pic. You can even include Fido in the family portrait, as leashed pets are welcome in the outdoor areas of the farm. The gift shop sells a wide selection of Christmas tree ornaments, including a number of new, handmade stained glass designs. Pick up a few as gifts and you’ll cross three things off that to-do list.
Open: Thu-Sun, 9 am-4:30 pm (Nov. 25-Dec. 18)
2425 Wickliffe Rd. (Berryville, Va)
Snickers Gap Christmas Tree Farm
With thousands of trees to choose from—including douglas firs and Norway spruces—you’ll have to just go with your gut at this farm. The farm doles out maps, saws, and rope to pull the tree back to the barn. And they graciously shake and tightly bale trees for you. Their suggestion: Bring bungee cord to secure the tree to your car. But before hitting the road with your prize, swing by the snack shack for hot dogs and complimentary cups of hot apple cider.
Open: Sat-Sun, 9 am-dark; Mon-Fri, noon-dark (Nov. 25-late Dec.)
34350 Williams Gap Rd. (Round Hill, Va)
Hank’s Christmas Trees at Hartland Farm
Take a few extra whacks with your ax and you’ll be able to indulge in this farm’s signature après-chop treat without guilt. On the weekends, they hand dip caramel apples right in front of you. The farm boasts nine different varieties of trees available to cut: blue spruce, Norway spruce, Serbian spruce, white pine, scots pine, concolor fir, fraser fir, Leyland cypress and Arizona cypress.
Open: Daily, 10 am-5 pm (Nov. 25-late Dec.)
12230 Belle Meade Lane (Markham, Va)
Middleburg Christmas Tree Farm
Type A planners will appreciate the amount of information available on Middleburg Christmas Tree Farm’s comprehensive website: there are price lists, tree handling hints, videos that demonstrate their tree bailing technique and even a map of the farm to allow for efficient selection. Chopping a tree for a McMansion or an embassy foyer? Head here for 16-footers that ring up around $350. But never fear, the farm offers a slew of coupons and discounts (and most of their 6-foot trees are $70). They have Norway spruce, Colorado blue spruce, and Douglas fir available to cut.
Open: Sat-Sun, 9 am-5 pm (Thanksgiving to Christmas)
Christmas Tree Lane (Round Hill, Va)
You don’t even need to remember your own saw when you come to this full-service Maryland farm. They’ve got them on hand, and once you pick your perfect pine (or spruce), they’ll shake it to remove any dead needles or hitchhiking critters, bale it and help you haul it onto your car. Plan your visit for the weekend. Like most area farms, they’re open Friday through Sunday from Thanksgiving until mid-December.
Open: 9 am-5 pm (Nov. 25-27, Dec.3-4, Dec. 10-11)
15604 Sugarland Road (Poolesville, Md)
Where does your family score the best Christmas tree? Tell us in the Comments section below.
Photos courtesy of Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm via Facebook, AWelsh via Flickr, Hartland Farm and Orchard via Facebook, Middleburg Christmas Tree Farm, Friendship Trees via Facebook, Snickers Gap via Facebook