Natalie Preddie is a travel and lifestyle writer, speaker and guest expert on Cityline, Your Morning and Global’s The Morning Show.
When I was young, my family always cut our own Christmas tree. We would trudge through the snow until we all agreed on the perfect tree and watch my dad struggle with the “too small saw” he always brought. He would eventually drag it back to the car, cold, annoyed and covered in pine needles. We watched my dad struggle to strap the tree to the top of the car while my mum shouted unhelpful instructions from the ground. Inevitably, the tree would fly off the car the moment we reversed. Regardless of the annual holiday lampoon, we all looked forward to our family Christmas tree adventure.
Since then, the cut-your-own Christmas tree experience has evolved — it is less of a trek through the tundra and more of a winter wonderland getaway. Christmas tree farms offer wagon rides, hot chocolate to warm your hands, a place to buy gifts and even unique accommodations. Although COVID-19 restrictions have forced many of these farms to adapt or even cancel some of their interactive activities, there are still a few Ontario Christmas tree farms offering guests a truly original holiday adventure.
Whether you are looking to pick your own apples, pumpkins or attempt the corn maze, this Caledon family-friendly farm is popular all year round. When it comes to Christmas trees, Downey’s offers firs, balsams or pines from Nov. 21 onward. The farm is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in November and every day in December. In addition to trees, Downey’s also sells free-range turkeys, garlands, holiday decorations and gift baskets full of fresh jams, jellies, honey and maple syrup in its market. Downey’s also operates a winery with traditional reds and whites, fruit wines, dessert and ice wines, all available for purchase on-site.
New this year, Downey’s will be offering a Santa on the farm experience for little ones which includes visiting farm animals, cookie decorating, crafts and meeting Santa himself. This will replace the indoor Santa experience that Downey’s offered for the past 18 years.
Elliot Tree Farm
Elliott Tree Farm was built in 1890 in Hillsburgh, Ont. Daily from Nov. 18 to Dec. 23, the farm offers fir, spruce or pine trees from six feet up to a towering 14 feet tall. With either fresh cut or cut-your-own trees available, the farm offers curbside pickup or delivery and set up. Weekday visitors will also get a 10 per cent discount.
For those looking for a full day at the farm, there are many festive celebrations ready and waiting. Warm up with gourmet hot chocolate from the custom hot chocolate bar and offers Christmas cookies from Holtom’s Bakery. Sip your decadent drink next to the bonfire and have a chat with the farm horses. If you visit on a weekend, Miller’s Meats Food Truck is on site serving both breakfast and lunch. Explore Heritage Barn, a gift shop that highlights local holiday decor and treats such as farm fresh wreaths, greens and pure maple syrup and local handmade gifts.
Elliott Farm also offers two rustic getaways should you want to extend your stay all weekend long. The circa 1850s settler’s cabin (wood-burning stove and all) and rustic beach house (outhouse included), offer the perfect social distancing private mini-break away from the day trippers. Both can be booked on Airbnb.
Cricket Creek Farm
Located in Hockley Valley, Cricket Creek Farm looks to provide guests with a quiet and peaceful holiday experience on their Christmas tree farm. The farm primarily offers firs up to 12 feet in height but also has a few spruces for those who are particular. The farm takes great care in nurturing its land and crops, every year planting hundreds of trees and new species, all certified organic.
The farm sits on a large wooded property with a number of trails for families to explore either before or after they’ve chosen their tree. Due to COVID-19, the farm is unable to offer its apple cider and hot chocolate service, but they are looking into safe alternatives. Cricket Creek prides itself on offering families a fun and relaxing day out and real, natural trees that will brighten homes over the holidays.
Regardless of the farm you head to, always call ahead. With COVID-19 restrictions changing daily, farms may have to change their offerings, and you don’t want to be disappointed.