It’s pretty much the California Christmas dream—trees you can cut down yourself without a lick of snow to deal with. The mountains that surround the Bay Area offer lots of options for families who want to choose their tree from the dirt instead of a parking lot. Bonus: these u-cut farms offer more than just trees: smiling Santas, trains to ride, friendly farm animals and warm holiday treats. Get ready to pick your festive fir!

Little Hill Christmas Tree Farm Petalumaphoto: Little Hill Christmas Tree Farm Petaluma

North Bay 

Little Hills Christmas Tree Farms 1&2
Best For: Getting Your Santa Picture Done On the Same Day

Free apple cider and popcorn will comfort those bellies as you wander Petaluma’s peaceful Little Hills Christmas Tree Farms in search of the perfect Monterey Pine, Douglas Fir or Sierra Redwood. Families will love the old-fashioned Christmas vibe (elves, ornaments for sale and on weekends, one of the best “real” Santas around sitting in a photo-worthy throne chair). The kids can meet the resident llamas, donkeys, alpacas and more.

Good to Know: 

  • Score a coupon for $3 off your tree over at their website.
  • It’s a popular site for families, so plan on midday crowds (early mornings are best to avoid them).
  • Santa is there ONLY on weekends from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Little Hills Christmas Tree Farm
961 Chapman Ln.
Petaluma, CA
Hours: Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 9 a.m.–5 p.m., from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve.
Online: littlehillschristmastree.com

grandma_buddys

photo: Grandma Buddy’s

Grandma Buddy’s Christmas Trees
Best for: Family Christmas Card Photo Backdrop

Located in Sebastopol, the picturesque barn and farm setting at Grandma Buddy’s Christmas Trees has been used for numerous photo shoots, including Pottery Barn catalogs. The inside of the barn is stocked with crafts, ornaments and a mini-Christmas train village. Families can wander through the farm, which offers many different Douglas Firs growing in the field, as well as custom wreaths and garlands, and free hot cocoa and candy canes.

Good to Know:

  • The farm is better known for its charming setting than quality of trees.
  • If you go later in the day, the barn and train village are utterly magical at dusk.

8575 Graton Rd.
Sebastopol, CA
707-823-4547
Hours: 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m., every day from the day after Thanksgiving through Dec. 23.
Online: grandmastrees.com

reindeer_ridge
photo: Reindeer Ridge

Reindeer Ridge
Best for: Getting Someone Else to Schlep the Tree to Your Car 

Wander along the acres and acres of trees growing at this farm and you’ll find a bevy of options, from Douglas Fir, White Fir, Grand Fir, Sequoia, Monterey Pine, Scotch Pine, Incense Cedar and Leyland Cypress all growing side by side. The best part? They provide the measure poles, tree saws and tree carts. They’ll even help re-cut the trunk, cover the tree in netting and help you load it into your car. Don’t forget your free bag of apples with tree purchase!

Good to Know:

  • If you have a kid that “likes to go,” the tractor ride, train ride, swings and zip line will keep them busy.
  • Got a December birthday? They also do train birthday parties here.

3500 Mariola Rd.
Sebastopol, CA
707-829-1569
Hours: Weekdays, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; Weekends, 11 a.m.–6 p.m., Thanksgiving through Christmas. Closed Wednesdays.
Online: reindeerridge.com

garlock_christmas_tree_farmphoto: Garlock Tree Farm

Garlock Tree Farm
Best for: Riding in a One-Horse Open Sleigh, errr Carriage

There a several tree farms near each other in Sebastapol and Garlock Tree Farm is a local favorite. The free carriage rides are a draw, as well as the free candy canes and complimentary coffee. Head into the farm’s eight acres to choose and cut one of five varieties of trees (cost: $7–$10.50 per foot), then visit with the ponies or hop onto Santa’s lap for a photo.

Good to know:

  • While carriage rides are free, the petting zoo costs extra.
  • Picnic tables are scattered throughout the property, so pack a picnic (hot dogs, breakfast burritos and popcorn are also offered at the snack bar).
  • Save a few bucks by printing out a coupon on their site for $3 off any tree.

2275 Bloomfield Rd.
Sebastopol, CA
707-823-4307
Hours: Weekdays noon–5 p.m., Weekends and the Friday after Thanksgiving, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Online: garlocktreefarm.com

frosty mountain tree farm photo: Frosty Mountain Tree Farm

Frosty Mountain Tree Farm
Best for: Adding Animals to Your Farm Experience  

You’ll find the traditional selection of trees at this Sebastapol farm, but the true holiday fun comes in the form of hayrides, the old red barn, Santa’s workshop and Mrs. Claus’ kitchen. On weekends, there are always animals to visit, though the variety changes from year to year. Will it be sheep, lambs, llamas or mini horses this year? The surprise is part of the fun.

Good to Know:

  • Head to Mrs. Claus’ kitchen for some delicious popcorn and apple fritters.
  • Print the coupon from their site for $5 off any tree.
  • They sell trees by the foot (a better deal if you’re looking for a smaller tree)

3600 Mariola Rd.
Sebastopol, CA
707-829-2351
Hours: Weekdays noon–5 p.m., Weekends and the Friday after Thanksgiving, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Online: frostymountaintreefarm.com

reindeersantachildontrainphoto: Santa’s Tree Farm

Peninsula

Santa’s Tree Farm
Best for: Getting into the Whole Kitschy “Santa’s Workshop” Vibe

If your ideal Christmas tree family outing includes train rides, life-sized Reindeer mascots, an imitation Santa’s Village and putt-putt golf with Frosty, then head straight to the love-it-or-hate-it Santa’s Tree Farm and Village in Half Moon Bay. In addition to 487 acres of trees to choose from, the village offers $3 train rides, carolers, handmade goodies in the Elves’ Workshop and visits from Santa and Mrs, Claus on weekends. Also on weekend they have story time, stocking decorating, a treasure hunt and that Christmas-y putt-putt experience (all at additional costs)—you can register for all activities prior to your visit on their website.

Good to Know:

  • It’s kitschy (you’ve been warned).
  • The bathrooms are port-o-pottys (you’ve been warned).
  • Many of the activities cost extra (you’ve been warned).
  • Most people go to Santa’s for the experience, not necessarily the trees (and, you’ve been warned).

78 Pilarcitos Creek Rd. (Hwy 92)
Half Moon Bay, CA
650-726-2246
Hours: Weekdays, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Saturdays & Sundays, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.; Nov. 18-Dec. 24
Online: santastreefarm.com

Christmas-pony-Ridesphoto: Lemos Farm

Lemos Farm
Best for: Entertaining the Under-3 Set

If you’re up for a mini-amusement park experience (with a slightly lower price tag), Lemos Farm, also in Half Moon Bay, is more than just a Christmas tree farm. It’s been called a “festive holiday destination” and the site offers hay rides, pony rides, a Playtown, petting zoo and a train that winds through fields upon fields of Christmas trees for your choosing. Each experience will run you $1-8, or $20 for an unlimited pass.

Good to know:

  • Because they are only open on weekends, they are always busy—plan accordingly.
  • Parking is free
  • Yup, it’s touristy (that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun).

12320 San Mateo Rd. (Hwy 92)
Half Moon Bay, CA
650-726-2342
Hours: Saturdays & Sundays and the Friday after Thanksgiving, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. (only weekends from Nov. 25–Christmas Eve)
Online: lemosfarm.coms

girl in treesphoto: Black Road Christmas Tree Farm

South Bay

Black Road Christmas Tree Farm
Best for: Chemical-Free Trees at a Good Price

Black Road Christmas Tree Farms consist of three different farms, all in Los Gatos. Each farm grows a specific type of tree, which is matched to the environment they will grow best. All trees are cultured and free of chemicals, which means that your home will not be blanketed with any sort of unhealthy off-gassing. All trees are $55 and your family will have no problem finding the perfect one because there are 40,000 to choose from!

Good to know:

  • All three locations on the same road. Lot #3 has the biggest trees, features a picnic area, and feels most “forest-y”.
  • All trees are $55, whether you’re picking a three-foot or 17-foot tree.
  • Cash and checks only.

Black Rd. (see map)
Los Gatos, CA
408-354-8472
Hours: Open weekends, 7 a.m.–Dusk plus Lot #3 is open the same hours during the weekdays; Nov. 23-Dec. 24 or until trees sell out.
Online: christmas-tree-farms.com

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Battaglia Ranch Christmas Tree Farm
Best For: Non-Commital Cutters 

Located about 15 minutes south of San Jose, the farm has been in the Christmas tree biz for more than 40 years. They offer both choose-and-cut trees, and a wide selection of pre-cut trees that come from their farm in Oregon. Look for the huge 35-foot-tall Santa Claus that greets motorists on the west side of the freeway as you travel on U.S. 101. Stop by on a weekend when Santa visits the farm (see Santa’s travel schedule here). But any time you come, enjoy a Christmas train ride through the farm, or make like Saint Nick on their signature reindeer ride. Food vendors set up on site as well.

Good to Know:

  • The 10-minute, narrated train ride is free for under 3 lap children, and $4 for all others.
  • Sign up for their newsletter for coupons
  • There’s also a gift shop and a custom wreath shop.

Find directions here (as there is no street address)
Hours: Nov. 24–Dec. 17, 9 a.m.–7 p.m.; Dec. 18-23, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. 
Online: battagliaranch.com

christmas_tree_farm

Rancho Siempre Verde
Best for: A Truly California Low-Key Vibe

If you’re looking for an intimate family experience, head over to Rancho Siempre Verde, this hidden gem just south of Half Moon Bay in Pescadero. For 45 years, this family-owned farm opens for only 9 or 10 days a year (Pssst, get on the mailing list), sharing their magnificent u-cut Christmas trees, eclectic collection of swings and xylophones scattered throughout the property (not to mention all-you-can-eat toasted marshmallows) and sweeping Pacific Ocean views with a few lucky, in-the-know visitors.

Good to know:

  • Cash only.
  • Dogs are welcome.
  • Pick up a pear galette or walnut pie at neighboring Pie Ranch on your way in or out.

2250 Cabrillo Highway (Highway 1)
Año Nuevo State Reserve, CA
650-326-9103
Hours: Friday after Thanksgiving, and the weekends of Nov. 25-26, Dec. 2-3, 9-10, 16-17 & 22-23; 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Online: rsvtrees.com

castro valley treesphoto: Castro Valley Christmas Tree Farm

East Bay

Castro Valley Christmas Tree Farm
Best for: No Frills Experience but Great Quality Trees

Enjoy an outdoor experience in the East Bay hills at the Castro Valley Christmas Tree Farm, where the whole family, including the kids, are invited to help saw down the perfect tree. The farm has been open since 1969 for families looking for a “woodsy” experience in the East Bay.

Good to know:

  • Cash only, and set prices from $45–65 depending on type.
  • A little tricky to find (don’t rely on the gps directions).
  • No frills but very good quality and selection of trees.

Redwood Rd. at Miller Rd.
Castro Valley, CA
510-889-1992
Hours:
Nov. 24-Dec. 17. Wed.-Thu. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Fri.-Sun. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Online: 
cvchristmastreefarm.com

We want to hear from you—will your family visit one of the above farms to cut down a tree? If so, which one?

—Kate Loweth, Renee Rutledge & Erin Feher