We’re not going to lie: there’s nothing better than living in a place where you can chop down your own Christmas tree without dressing your vehicle in chains and making sure there’s an ice scraper on hand! While the San Diego area may not be home to a ton of tree farms, we’ve found three that are well worth the trip east (including one located next to a winery!). Read on to find out where to find your home’s new green centerpiece.

Highland Valley Christmas Tree Farmphoto: Highland Valley Christmas Tree Farm

Highland Valley Christmas Tree Farm
Tree cutting + wine = yes, please! Instead of going to a Temecula winery in Dec., check out this Ramona farm where its owners also claim stake to a whimsical winery, the Principe di Tricase Winery. Families can come for the wonder of the property or for their very special Italian wishing tree. This tradition that crossed the Atlantic with the farm’s family will delight your holiday guests: the tree’s piney limbs becme host to the written wishes. You’ll find Monterey Pine or Leyland Cypress, but you supply the wishes. Choose your tree and they’ll come cut, shake, net and even drill a hole in the trunk for your stand at no additional cost.

Open: Nov.25-Dec. 18, Thurs. & Fri., 3-5 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Mon.-Wed.
18425 Highland Valley Rd.
Ramona, Ca
858-336-0663
Online: pineandwine.com

Family Christmas Tree Farm - Grandpa & mephoto: Family Christmas Tree Farm

Family Christmas Tree Farm
Mark your calendars for opening day: this El Cajon farm kicks of the season on Nov. 25. Families can look participate in the Facebook Decorated Tree Contest where customers are invited to share photos of their decorated trees for a chance to win $50 towards a future season. In addition to the u-chop experience, there’s an abundance of potted trees and wreaths to choose from. Though the folks at the farm recommend cutting your tree during daylight hours, they suggest bringing a flashlight if you’ll arrive after dark. Your freshly cut tree may be flocked and picked up after it has had time to dry, which shouldn’t be a problem since the tractor rides, farm animals and hay pool most definitely merit a second visit. Saws and twine are provided, while shaking, netting and stands are available for a small fee.

Open 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m., 7 days a week (starting Nov. 25)
300 Pepper Dr.
El Cajon, Ca
619-448-5331
Online: familychristmastreefarm.com

christmastrees-cc-u-s-departmentofagriculture-via-flickr

Rancho Noel Christmas Tree Farm
This farm’s Monterey Pines are fresh for the picking every day after Thanksgiving. Although only a few onsite activities add to the experience, the focus here is on trees, trees, trees. Which means your little forest-dwellers will love weaving in and out of the evergreens. With a more straight-forward approach, you’ll find the price is usually right. This year, there max tree height is 9 ft. Pack your own holiday cookies and cider for sipping on nearby at the adjacent Potrero County Park.

Open weekends in Nov. for reservations, open every day after Thanksgiving.
25655 Potrero Park Dr.
Potrero, Ca
760-583-5287
Online: Rancho Noel Facebook Page

Tips For a Successful U-Chop Experience
If you usualy get your tree from a lot but are ready to head out into the field, we’ve got a few tips for you.

1. If it’s an option, leave the compact car at home and instead bring the family truck or SUV to accommodate your freshly chopped tree. Bring a tarp, old sheet or blanket to put in the trunk to catch the needles and sap. You can also use this on the roof of your car if you are going to tie it down.

2. Most farms have some rope or twine but it never hurts to bring your own to make sure you can tie it down securely before you head home. Even if it costs extra, spring for the wrapping on-site if the farm has it.

3. Bring snacks. Cutting down your own tree is some serious business, so be sure to bring snacks to keep those little tummies going.

4. The farms usually provide a small hand saw for your use. If you have a better tool at home, bring it.

5. Don’t forget to charge your phones and cameras because you are going to want to snap a family photo or several!

Where do you go for your Christmas trees? Do you have any tips for a successful tree buying excursion? Let us know in the comments below!

— Jeannette Swanson