Christmas Tree Hunting at Hillcrest Farms in Reedley, California

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So last year, for Tessa’s very first Christmas, Jonathan and I visited The Christmas Tree forest in Pensacola, Florida to go all primal American and cut our very own Christmas tree. (Click here to read all about it.) This was my very, very first time cutting my own Christmas tree, and now I’m kind of hooked.
So now that we’re in living in Central California, where my only experience in tree hunting is scouring the local shopping center parking lots, I had to sit down and actual research where the best place to cut your own tree would be. After much Google trolling, it appears that Hillcrest Farms in Reedley seemed to be the place of choice – not just because it’s one of the ONLY places that you can cut your own tree in the Central Valley, but because it has a large number of attractions and excursions, making it a worthwhile day outing. (And, ya know, a little easier to swallow the exorbitant fees asked for a soon to be dead tree..)
The cut your own Christmas trees were around the $50 mark (ouch), which is kind of steep for the trees all being of the local, quick growing Monterey Pine variety.. which is not my favorite (the needles are a little too bushy for someone like myself used to the classic Noble and Douglas varieties), but the shapes, sizes and classic Christmas pine scent of the trees coupled with the “I cut this myself” aspect made me more than happy with their selection and.. well, their prices. Plus, military discount! Woot woot!

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Anyway, this place truly is a hidden gem in the Central Valley and one I am very happy to have found. What’s interesting about Hillcrest is that the farm itself offers some amazing excursions and activities, but the website doesn’t give you ANY of this information. Like, at all. It makes mentions of trains and a train ride, but ddoesn’tfully disclose what, exactly, they offer. So I was EXTREMELY pleasantly surprised to learn that Hillcrest offers:
– Miniature train set models with tiny Disney-esque landscapes, with the tiny puffers running for the kids to watch, chase and ogle over. (And it seems they LOVE to do this.. even our 1 year old was mesmerized!)
– An actual, live steam train that traverses a large scenic route.. a true rarity in this day and age. The only other places I know of to find legit ride-able steam models in California is at Disneyland Park, Griffith Park, and Old Town Sacramento. And this train was on par with all those places.
– Nature trails with scenic stops (like miniature castles, play houses, tire swings, and bridges) that encircle the property, with views of the pine forests.
  – Bonfires next to the live steam train depot stops, where you can sit and sip hot cocoa or complimentary coffee and visit with friends and family while watching the trains go by.
– And, of course, the main event – hunting for the perfect Christmas tree in the pine forests and cutting it down yourself! You can drag your tree to the nearest depot stop to hop the steam train for a ride back to the main checkout area.

Check out some of the photos we took from our visit!

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This is one of the many ride-able trains tucked away at Hillcrest Farms. Powered by steam and driven by an actual conductor, this was a real treat. My inner turn-of-the-century loving geek had me squealing with joy each time the steam whistle blew!

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These passenger gondolas easily seated four per car. They were clean, strong, and offered smooth riding. Not at all what I expected from a “backyard train ride”!

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It was fun watching the kids all fight over who could ride in the caboose. ^_^

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The nature trails were also quite impressive.. you wouldn’t believe you were in the middle of Reedley’s farmland!

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They provided the saws for the great tree hunting excursion… Jonathan picked out the dullest, smallest, most annoyingly unhelpful one of the bunch. Why? Because it was red. And Tessa wanted the red one. 😉
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What happens when we let Tessa pick the tree….
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After picking out your tree, you can wait by these train stops to hitch a ride back to the main area!

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We had an absolute BLAST. I am far from a “railfan”, as railroad and train enthusiasts like to call themselves, but being a true Disney geek, I can’t help but be smitten with the romance of the turn of the century steam powered train era. So I was tickled pink to discover the functional art of this real, live train haven tucking within a Christmas tree farm. We’ll most certainly be back next year!

 

So where did you find your tree this holiday season? Are you a fan of the “cut your own” tradition? Share below!

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Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls.

Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls. Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

20 thoughts on “Christmas Tree Hunting at Hillcrest Farms in Reedley, California

  • 22 December, 2014 at 5:47 am
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    There are so many beautiful trees! You have a lovely family!

    I am inviting you to join my giveaway for a beautiful silver heart locket!
    Details on my blog 😉

    Happy Holidays!
    M
    http://theflowerduet.blogspot.com/

    Reply
    • 22 December, 2014 at 4:18 pm
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      Awww, thank you so much! And I am heading over to your blog right now to check it out, thank you for letting me know! Please do keep in touch!!

      Reply
  • 22 December, 2014 at 6:32 am
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    Oh my gosh! Maybe I’m easy to please but I thought this place looked really really lovely and possibly even better than an amusement park. If I were to visit, I’m pretty sure I would have a great time! Just the part where I can look at pine trees and have one of them cut and brought home sounds exciting already — probably because that’s not the norm here. We just buy plastic christmas trees at the mall and have em reused every year hehe. That answers your question at the end of the post too. 😉 I would be a fan if we had it here.

    Love that there are more things to do in Hillcrest Farms than just tree cutting, too. Sounds like you got more than what you’re expecting you’ll have at the end of the trip.. and most importantly, quality time with the family! 🙂 I see that you do cosplay photography too. I think this place would make an ideal location for one of your shoots in the future.

    I learned a lot of new things from reading this post too. Price of these trees is the first one. Had no idea $50 would be too much already. And.. argh, first hand account on Christmas tree shopping! 😛 Very rarely I read about things like this in blogs. Thank you for sharing your experience to someone like myself who has not had the same opportunity yet oh-so-curious about it. 😀

    Reply
    • 22 December, 2014 at 4:17 pm
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      Cut your own Christmas trees are very rare here in Central California! My husband grew up in Southern California and he had cut his own tree with his family multiple times as a kid, but the norm here is generally buying plastic trees at the mall, or picking up pre-cut trees in supermarket grocery stores! The prices for a cut tree range from $20 to $50.. $50 usually being the REALLY LARGE, 10 foot tall ones, haha. The longer you wait, and the closer it is to Christmas, the less the trees cost.. sometimes stores practically give them away around Christmas Eve! lol

      Yes, I was very happy with Hillcrest Farms, and as long as we are in the area, I think it’ll be an annual holiday tradition! They have a couple of private parties each weekend, with unlimited train rides at night, and a light show, and cookies by the fire with Santa Claus.. but the tickets for the private parties were all sold out by the time I learned of them! They said to buy the tickets next year in OCTOBER, because they sell out so quickly! Crazy!

      And I hadn’t even thought of this as a location for cosplay photography.. what a great idea! I don’t do much cosplay nowadays, since I’m pregnant right now I don’t feel like I look lovely in pictures, haha. But once I have this baby in March, I’m going to get back into the hobby!

      I’m glad you likes my post!!

      Reply
  • 22 December, 2014 at 8:10 am
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    Well that was amazing!!! We never had that kind of experience because we dont have pine trees here in our place. LOL. But we have makeshift Christmas trees though :)Love the train so much, I havent taken the train before because we also dont have it here in our place.

    Reply
    • 22 December, 2014 at 4:08 pm
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      Ohhhh, you HAVE TO take a train ride someday!! Put it on your bucket list!! If you every find yourself near a Disney park, they ALL have real live steam engine reproductions (and some are actually vintage Baldwin steam engines from the 1800’s that are refurbished!), so if you are ever in a Disney park, go for a train ride!! ^_^

      Reply
      • 23 December, 2014 at 2:43 am
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        I’d really love to visit someday! Although the nearest Disney Park would be outside our country coz I live in the Philippines. Hehe 🙂 But you’re so right, ride a train it is! That would be a nice addition to my bucket list.

        Reply
        • 23 December, 2014 at 2:47 am
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          Hehe, you should see my bucket list.. it is filled with the strangest things! Like “pet a penguin” and “ride an elephant”.. haha…

          Reply
  • 22 December, 2014 at 4:42 pm
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    This place looks like it’s a ton of fun!!

    This year, we have a fake tree… It’s been a crazy busy December and I just didn’t want to hassle with a real tree again (last year was our first year with a REAL tree). Our tree has been up for weeks and we still haven’t even decorated it!! LOL

    Reply
    • 22 December, 2014 at 5:18 pm
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      Oh man, we need to all go in a big group to Hillcrest next year Bree! It really is a lot of fun! Your kids would LOVE IT!!!

      Reply
  • 22 December, 2014 at 5:52 pm
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    Ok, this seriously looked awesome. I admit I have never, ever had a real tree, but now you made me want to find a place like this here in NY to do in the future. Thank you for sharing and again wishing you all a very, Merry Christmas!! 🙂

    Reply
    • 22 December, 2014 at 6:20 pm
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      You HAVE TO do a real tree, at least once! They make the house smell so nice! And cutting your own is just adventurous, hehe! Have a Merry Christmas my friend! And Happy New Year!

      Reply
  • 22 December, 2014 at 10:17 pm
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    So awesome!! Ah, that train ride looks divine. My two-year-old would love it. My five-year-old would too. Heck, so would I!
    I remember when we lived in San Francisco it cost us $75 to get a pretty average sized tree! Crazy! Out here, we can usually find a giant one for $35. I don’t know a lot about the types of trees, though.
    What an awesome photographic journey!

    Reply
    • 22 December, 2014 at 11:39 pm
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      Yeah, it’s crazy how prices fluctuate from place to place within the states.. In Florida, we did the whole cut your own tree thing and it was around $30. And while this place is awesome, it pretty much cost us our entire outing budget for the month, lol.. They upsold everything.. The train ride, netting for the trees, twine for the tie downs, etc.. It was approaching the $100 mark. It was worth it, but still!

      Reply
    • 23 December, 2014 at 2:11 pm
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      Thank you! It was quite lovely! And thank you for stopping by my blog!

      Reply
  • 23 December, 2014 at 5:57 pm
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    Wonderful photos. Looks like the three of you had a blast. Wishing you and your loved ones merry Christmas.
    Happy holidays
    Lenya
    FashionDreams&Lifestyle

    Reply
    • 23 December, 2014 at 6:01 pm
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      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too! ^_^

      Reply
  • 23 December, 2014 at 10:52 pm
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    Wow those are gorgeous photos! Funny, I just got a Christmas card from my cousin with photos of them cutting down and bringing home their own tree. I think they do that every year. Must be a nice tradition! Me, I don’t even go; my husband buys us a tree lol.

    Reply
    • 23 December, 2014 at 10:53 pm
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      You don’t pick out your own Christmas tree?!?! That’s like… holiday blasphemy!!! lol! You really should go next year.. it’s fun!!

      Reply

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