Before we started venturing beyond New York City every weekend, for a long time Denny and I’s Christmas tree tradition was something that held little joy, because as much as we–okay, I–love putting it up, decorating it, and enjoying it for a month, there was no getting around a 30 minute walk in the freezing cold, through Brooklyn, carrying a sappy tree. Since Denny is much stronger than I am, he did the brunt of the work, carrying the thing from the nearest tree lot, which was far, only to have to carry it up our forth floor walkup. Needless to say, it put a bit of a damper on Denny’s holiday spirit.
Since we started traveling, though, we’ve started a new tradition of visiting Bell’s Christmas Trees in Accord, NY. Just 100 miles from New York City, Bell’s is located in Accord in the foothills of both the Shawangunk and Catskill Mountains. Though the dairy farm has been in the family for four generations, Christmas trees are a relatively new addition, beginning in 1991. Since then, they’ve been providing fresh-cut trees to happy New Yorkers. All trees–any size or variety– are $48 and come with the experience of chopping it yourself. (Handsaws are provided.) For those less adventurous folks, pre-cut trees are also available and individually priced. For some of the ridiculous prices we’ve seen in Manhattan–upwards of $200–it costs less to rent a car and cut your own!
We recently stopped at Bell’s to cut down this year’s tree, and documented the experience.
The story begins as Denny and I were coming off Thanksgiving weekend, where we’d just spent Friday through Sunday as vendors at Basilica Farm & Flea. Our car was (hilariously) full of antiques and even had moose antlers strapped to the top of our car–so it probably wasn’t the best time to strap even more stuff to our car, but we didn’t want to miss our chance to get a tree!
As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw a couple familiar faces–Ashley and Daniel of Geronimo James, who were just finishing up with their tree. We caught up on life stuff, then they posed for a quick family portrait with their newborn and adorable dog before we headed in.
We spent almost an hour wandering the property before our toes began to freeze and Denny’s patience began to wear thin. (Be sure to wear comfortable, well-lined shoes!) It’s easy to lose track of time wandering row upon row, taking in the scent of the fresh air, the pine trees, and the occasional waft from the chimney. Make sure to climb the big hill on the north side of the property for a fabulous view of the Shawangunk Mountains–it’s also a great place to watch the sunset.
Admittedly, we don’t know much about trees and couldn’t tell you with any detail about the nuances between one variety or another. But no matter what tree you prefer, Bell’s has you covered, offering many varieties: Douglas Fir, Caanan Fir, Concolor Fir, Serbian Spruce, Colorado Blue Spruce, Basalm Fir, Grand Fit, Korean Fir, Meyer Spruce, and Fraser Fir. Though we were first drawn to the Colorado Blue Spruce for its unique, silvery-blue coloration, the needles were quite prickly. We opted instead for the traditional Basalm Fir, which is very fragrant with much softer needles.
Once we’d chosen our tree, we dragged it to the gift shop on our sled, where it was shaken and baled by Brian, the nicest guy ever. While Denny was wrapped up with Brian, I popped into the gift shop to warm up by the woodfire stove. (The gift shop looks exactly how I pictured Santa’s Workshop as a child. And speaking of Santa, if you have kids, he’s going to be visiting on December 12–check their website for details.) Stop in to warm up before strapping the tree to the top of your car!
If you go: Bell’s Christmas Trees is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Accord, New York, until December 24. Whether you’re planning a daytrip, or tacking it onto the end of a weekend in the Catskills, you’ll more than likely end up driving through New Paltz, a great place to stop and eat or grab a beer. New Paltz is a fairly small town, but it has really great food options, thanks to the Culinary Institute of America being right there. Try our favorite food in town at the Village Tea Room for a hearty meal in a historic landmark, or A Tavola Trattoria for amazing Italian fare–call ahead for reservations. For something easier on-the-go, try Main Street Bistro for American comfort food or Mexicali Blue for takeout tacos.