In 2020 when our oldest daughter was just one, we started a new family tradition – cutting down our own Christmas tree! Both Kevin and I grew up celebrating the season with real trees so that is something we wanted to carry forward and this activity seemed like a fun way to involve the whole family. However I must say, in the spirit of being honest, the idea is a little more joyous in theory than practice though I’m hopeful the experience will become less stressful as our kids get older and the dogs mellow. Wishful thinking??
We’ve now tried three different Christmas tree farms in the Chicagoland area in an attempt to find one with good quality trees and all the bells and whistles to put you in the holiday spirit. I don’t know if any are “the one” but I’m happy to share what we liked and didn’t like about each and will continue to update this post each year as we try new spots out.
One important note if you’re considering going and cutting your own Christmas tree down. Most tree farms in Chicagoland open for cutting the weekend after Thanksgiving and only stay open through the first weekend in December. That’s only two weekends to go cut your tree before most close for the season. And even then, it’s usually slim pickings by the second weekend so plan accordingly and be sure to call ahead to ensure they have the variety and size you want. As with most farm crops, the weather and other uncontrollable factors play a huge role in inventory and harvest each year!
Richardson Cut-Your-Own Christmas Tree Farm (Spring Grove, IL)
Richardson Cut-Your-Own Christmas Tree Farm was our first tree farm back in 2020 and we had a nice time! They have a large selection of trees to choose from on their 75 acre farm and offer free wagon rides to/from the farm. They provide cutting saws and transport your tree back to the barn where they shake and bale it complimentary. They also allow leashed dogs on the farm! Inside their heated barn is free hot chocolate, bathrooms and a plethora of Christmas treats, wreaths and decorative items to indulge in.
We went the second weekend they were open [first weekend in Dec] and weren’t thrilled with the tree options. We specifically wanted a frasier fir and they didn’t have any over 6 ft. so we ended up with a shorter tree but it was nice and full. Outside of that, we loved everything else about our experience here. It was pretty crowded the weekend we went but the farm is super spacious so you’re not on top of other families or competing for trees.
Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm (Harvard, IL)
We visited Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm in 2021 and it’s probably our favorite all around spot to-date [or at least a close tie with Richardsons]! By far, Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm has the best quality trees of the three farms we’ve visited. They offer 8 varieties of firs and pines between 6 and 12 ft. tall on a 55 acre farm and use organic farming practices. Similar to Richardson’s they are dog friendly and also come by on a tractor, pick up your cut tree and drop it off for shaking and baling. They will even assist in getting it properly strapped to the roof of your car.
In terms of family friendly activities, they have horse drawn carriages, Santa available for photos, select farm animals you can visit with and a small selection of live wreaths and donuts for sale. This farm is a bit less commercialized and much less crowded than Richardson’s and doesn’t have quite the same festive ambiance but in a way, I prefer this type of intimate, authentic farm experience.
Valley View Tree Farm (Burlington, WI)
Valley View Tree Farm is just over the Illinois border in Wisconsin and still a manageable drive from Chicago, all things considered. This was our most recent Christmas tree farm experience and I’ve got to say, it was a little disappointing. It lacked both the ambiance and tree quality I was hoping for. For starters, it feels a little like you’re cutting down a tree in someone’s front yard vs. a farm which I didn’t love.
Their website boats a nice variety of firs up to 9 ft. tall with complimentary shaking and baling, fresh wreaths and an updated gift shop. With the Christmas tree shortage this year, I called ahead of time to confirm they had Frasier Firs above 6 ft. and were told there were plenty but when we arrived there certainly were but most were pretty sparse through the body so instead we came home with a Norway Spruce [which looks great but assaults our hands anytime we get too close or try to water it].
Overall, Valley View Tree Farm is definitely a no frills type of experience. The folks working there are friendly but selection seemed limited and there is no hot chocolate, tractor rides or festive kids activities. We probably won’t be going back here again.
I’ll be sure to update this post each year with new spots we try and report back on any new found gems!