Tree hunters make their triumphant return from the fields at Vandervalk Farm & Winery in Mendon, Massachusetts.Photo Credit : Courtesy of Vandervalk Farm & Winery
Christmas, the Grinch learned, “doesn’t come from a store.” Here in New England, it often comes from farms—specifically, Christmas tree farms, which offer an adventure, a gift-shopping spree, a chance to support local producers, and perhaps the start of a cherished holiday tradition.
You know Dasher and Dancer… and you’ll know Belle and Tuukka, too, when you turn off Barber Hill Road at the 15-foot-tall reindeer sign. Seeing live reindeer up close is a rare treat that crystallizes how real holiday wonder can be for tiny believers. The beauty of this choose-and-cut farm isn’t just in the add-ons (visits with Santa, mulled cider in the Rockin’ Reindeer Café). Nor is it in the meticulous care that every blue spruce, balsam, or Fraser fir receives, as if it’s the lone tree and not one of thousands spread over 60-plus acres. It’s sharing the hunt for the perfect pine with loved ones who can’t hike, a gift made possible by roadways that allow for drive-by tree browsing. 860-648-2233; dzentreefarm.com
You haven’t seen Christmas glee until you’ve seen kids react to a tree shaker, which turns fresh-cut firs into animated performers as it dislodges loose needles. Like so much at this 10-acre-plus farm (which is guarded by a gigantic Santa rescued from the now-defunct Rhode Island company Tinsel Town), the shimmying gizmo creates an atmosphere of magic that masks all the trial and error that goes into farming a rocky plot. The Vandervalk family’s niftiest trick, though, is turning their Christmas tree farm into a year-round destination for artisanal wines made with blueberries and other fruits grown on-site and nearby. 508-478-8733; vandervalkfarm.com
Wood smoke and balsam zest tickle your nose in this picture-perfect setting. Bring snowshoes and venture behind the scenes, trekking through 15 acres of neatly groomed Christmas trees and along trails that thread through the sugarbush, which is tapped each spring to fill the farm’s sugarhouse gift shop with signature products like bourbon barrel–aged maple syrup and hickory-maple-smoked cheese. An invigorating walk makes for rosy-cheeked photos with red-jacketed horses and chainsaw-carved props. And it’ll boost your appreciation for the warmth of hot cocoa while you wait for your custom-decorated wreath. 207-655-4474; balsamridgechristmas.com
Load up snow tubes or saucers and rope for securing your tree, and spend an unplugged day zooming downhill and soaking up holiday spirit on the New Hampshire Seacoast. There’s a town-owned sledding slope that sits across Route 4 from Emery Farm, which dates to 1660 and claims to be the country’s oldest agricultural business owned by one family. Decked out in hundreds of Franconia Notch–grown trees lined up for the choosing, and offering goats and bunnies to pat, the farm’s newly built market-café retains the nostalgic feel of the farm stand that preceded it. On the menu: coffee and tea from Portsmouth’s White Heron, sugary cider doughnuts, and harvest-inspired soups and sandwiches. In the shop: New England–made sustainable and gourmet gifts for every stocking, plus a free handmade ornament to go with your tree. 603-742-8495; emeryfarm.com
Hop off the Jolly Trolley or the fire truck in the midst of 60 mountain-sheltered acres of fragrant Fraser firs, and begin your search for “the one.” Here on the fertile banks of the Connecticut River, where Santa’s House looks right at home, the Kurek family nurtures trees that are so healthy the needles seem guaranteed to hold on forever. Bonfires and the Christmas Cottage’s fireplaces ensure toes won’t freeze; food trucks and a bake sale keep appetites sated; and a playground and sledding hill amuse little ones. There’s always a handmade annual ornament to collect, a new larger-than-life photo op for your Christmas cards, and free hot chocolate for everyone. 802-885-9597; christmastreesofvt.comFor more inspiration on where to find the perfect tree, go to newengland.com/tree-farms.