Picking a fresh-cut Christmas tree isn't about crossing an item off your holiday to-do list. It's about breathing in the scents, sipping hot cocoa in an old barn, listening to fires crackle, hearing horses shake sleigh bells and remembering Christmases gone by. The Midwest farms on the next 8 slides (including Dull's Tree Farm, pictured) cultivate as many memories as trees.
Have a favorite farm we didn't mention? Add your ideas below in the Comments section!
Friendly golden retrievers and Bernese mountain dogs welcome visitors to this Rockton, Illinois, farm (15 miles north of Rockford). Clydesdales pull wagons out to the fields, and families pet reindeer on the children's farm. When you want to warm up, the Cabin Cafe serves lunch and the Candy Corner sells fudge near a crackling fireplace. (815) 624-7579; williamstreefarm.com -- Barb Sanford
In Hamlet, Indiana (22 miles southeast of Michigan City), Hensler's has Belgian draft horses pulling wagons out to the ready-to-cut trees on 300 acres. Kids can climb on big toy trains, and a shop sells creches, wreaths, kissing balls and Hensler's maple syrup. Sing along to Christmas carols while sipping cocoa and sampling snacks. (574) 867-4192; henslernurseryindiana.com  -- Kim Ranegar
Homesteaded in the mid-1800s, Dull's 25-acre farm in Thorntown, Indiana, celebrates sights, sounds and scents that have defined the holiday for generations. The farm sells six kinds of pine and fir trees, but a visit here also includes slides in the hayloft, the chance to cut your tree if you'd like, handfuls of peanuts, a cozy Wreath Barn for shopping and visits with the family's animals. (765) 325-2418; dullstreefarm.com  -- Danny Lee
The fresh cider doughnuts at this Maple Park farm alone are worth the 60-mile trip west of Chicago, but most people come to pick out their Christmas tree. On weekends, kids can get pictures with Santa (call to see if he'll be there!), and parents can design gift baskets at the Orchard Shop. (815) 827-5200; kuipersfamilyfarm.com  -- Amy Bizzari
Santa and Mrs. Claus pose for pictures at this Oregon, Wisconsin, farm known for its hot cider, fresh popcorn and Holiday Haystack playground (11 miles south of Madison). Check the website for special events such as woodworkers making home decor items, and stop in the Christmas Store for ornaments, candles, tree stands, toppers and more. (608) 835-5464; hannschristmasfarm.com  -- Melanie Radzicki McManus
With 38 acres, this Rio, Wisconsin, spot (30 miles north of Madison) is smaller than its competitors, but promises a similar kind of magic. A diorama shows visitors the locations of the Christmas tree groves, ponds and woodlands. Santa listens to kids' wish lists, and a dachshund lords over the gift shop. (608) 206-6239; treerex.com  -- Barb Sanford
A wooded lane leads to a white farmhouse in Middleton, Wisconsin (10 miles northwest of Madison). A little stand run by neighboring Appleberry Farm sells hot cider and brats topped with apple-onion relish. (608) 831-4414; summerschristmastreefarm.com  -- Mary Ellen Gabriel
Just outside Plainfield in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Anderson's has been toting visitors out to fields on a tractor-drawn wagon for more than 40 years. A tiny log cabin decked in twinkle lights greets families who stop to pet ponies in the petting zoo and shop in the store for jewelry, ornaments, and homemade jams and jellies (815/436-2140). -- Karen Sorensen