This last weekend, my husband and I had the pleasure of picking up a Christmas tree from Dappen Tree Farm here in Council Bluffs.

It was a pretty exciting moment as it was my first time visiting a real Christmas tree farm. Growing up in Southern California, my family usually got our tree from a tree lot where all of the trees had to be shipped in from elsewhere. Eventually, we got a fake tree and stopped tree shopping altogether.

My husband and I also used a miniature fake tree for the first two Christmases we were married. Last year, we had finally moved to an apartment suitable for a real Christmas tree; I was so excited.

We drove 15 minutes down the road to a makeshift tree lot in Orange County, California and paid somewhere around $80 for an eight-foot tree that had been shipped from somewhere in Oregon or Washington. With average December high temperatures of 71 degrees, we broke a sweat getting the tree to the car. It wasn’t quite the magical experience I thought it would be.

This is definitely not similar to the average Christmas tree shopping experience in Southern California.

Flash forward to this year, my husband and I loaded up the dog—yes, Dappen Tree Farm is pet friendly!—and drove about the same distance as we did last year, but this time to an actual farm. How great is it to have a tree farm within city limits?

Dappen’s friendly staff greeted us—patiently waiting for me to coax our dog out of the car—and explained how the tree farm worked. He gave us a measuring stick and offered us a tractor ride to the top of the farm’s hill, but we were set on walking, and so off we went into rows and rows of trees.

The best part of the day was just walking among the trees in the snow. That alone was worth the trip.

Cooper (the dog) loved the experience so much that the tree we brought home is now her favorite thing to try to eat!

After some inspecting, we found our tree and flagged down some staff members. They—with surprising speed—cut down the tree and drove it back to the storefront for us as we walked back, enjoying the snow as we went.

As an added bonus, when customers return with their chosen trees, the farm offers complimentary hot chocolate. May I say, that cup of hot chocolate tasted far superior to normal hot chocolate. I strongly believe it’s due to it being from an honest to goodness Christmas tree farm rather than my pantry or a coffee shop inside a grocery store.

We ended up paying about the same price per foot for this year’s tree as we did last year in Southern California, but we got more for our money this year with a grand experience and a freshly cut tree that will live longer.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are places in Southern California where you can visit real Christmas tree farms. My husband actually grew up near one. But, trying to drive to those places amongst Southern California traffic kind of makes it not worth the trip, sadly. Plus, you certainly don’t have snow at those farms short of a trip up to the mountains!

There are many things I love about Christmas in my home state—mostly family and loved ones being there—but it seems to me that between the snow and actual Christmas tree farms, the Midwest has the type of traditional Christmases that people in California can only dream about.


This post was originally published on December 13, 2018 on the Unleash Council Bluffs blog.