So maybe you’re still in the stuffing-and-pumpkin-pie zone, but no sooner have you put away that silver turkey platter than it will be time to switch gears and get into serious bauble-buying mode.
But before you head to some big-box store for the usual tree and trimmings, check out our roundup of Greater Baltimore’s hottest sources of holiday trinkets. Whether you’re looking for a towering tree, offbeat seasonal bric-a-brac, or even a sparkly new place to take your family holiday photo, we’ve got you covered for Christmas.
The main attraction here are the 80-plus acres of roamable, cut-your-own tree farm, which offer up Douglas and concolor firs, as well as Norway and blue spruce. Grab a saw and get your own, or, if you’re not in a Paul Bunyan mood, head to the precut section for trees of all sizes. The farm, open since 1984, is operated by the Sewell family, which runs four other tree farms in the Mid-Atlantic. There, the family grows trees up to 18 feet, which means if you’re in the market for a mega tree—two-story foyer anyone?—you’ll likely find it here. You’ll also find lots of country-style holiday tchotchkes and home-crafted ornaments in the gift shop, plus free hot cider to warm you up while you browse.
3400 Harney Rd., Taneytown, 410-756-4397, sewellsfarm.com. Open November 20 through December 22.
One of the largest independent garden centers in the country, Homestead Gardens has, over the past 20 years, developed its Christmas Shop into much more than mere trees. Part of Homestead’s allure is the one-of-a-kind ornaments and decorations—about 70 percent of the store’s Christmas wares are exclusive—which Homestead’s buyers pick up from around the world. But it’s also all about the wow factor here.
Outside, one third of a mile of lit trees—it takes two crews six weeks to string the 250,000 lights—line the drive. Inside are more than 60 themed decorated Christmas trees and a three-level, G-scale model train display. The store also hosts holiday events and classes and won’t mind if you plunk your family down for a cutesy photo in front of its twinkling trees. Bonus: If you’re a poinsettia fan, you’re in luck. Homestead Gardens grows and sells more than 75 poinsettia varieties.
743 W. Central Ave., Davidsonville, 410-798-5000, homesteadgardens.com.
If you have little ones, you probably already know that picking out a Christmas tree is really exciting for the under-10 set. But you also know that seeking and sawing will only keep their attention for so long. Fortunately for you, Applewood Farms has a few tricks up its sleeve. Head over to the petting zoo to let your little animals make friends with the mini donkey, pigmy goats, sheep, and horse. Or, park your patootie on the hayride for a fun trip around the farm. Better still, for $3, spring for a spin on the miniature steam train. And as for the (alleged) reason you came? The 100-acre farm has blue spruce, white spruce, Douglas firs, and scotch pines, plus fresh-cut Fraser firs up to nine feet, as well as wreaths, holly, and ornaments in its gift shop.
4435 Prospect Road, Whiteford, 410-836-1140, applewoodfarm.org. Weekends only, November 27 to December 23.
If you’re looking for a Hanukkah ornament—to hang on your, ahem, Hanukkah bush?—you’ll find it here, along with a host of Baltimore-themed “Hon Balls” made by local artist Debbi Howard. The balls, which sell for $12 each, all feature some sort of Hon-related photo or image (think sparkly ’60s eyeglasses and beehive hairdos). And the Federal Hill boutique, which sells gifts, home designs, and jewelry year-round, also stocks up this time of year with other holiday décor, including a crab-themed ornament—with crab dip recipe—from local artist Linda Amtmann. And for the discerning sniffer, Zelda Zen does a booming business in the Frasier fir Thymes Candle—for that Christmas tree smell, sans needles—which sells well all year long.
46 E .Cross St., 410-625-2424.
Valley View Farms
Did you think we were going to skip over Valley View Farms—which transforms itself once a year into a dazzling winter wonderland with more than 125 decorated trees—just because everybody already knows about it?
Sure, it has everything you’d expect for the unrecovered holiday decorator. What you might not know, though, is that the garden center’s International Shop is home to a wunderbar assortment of German holiday products. If you’re in the market for a cuckoo clock, you’ll find it here. The store stocks about 20 styles imported from the Black Forest region. Ditto for pyramids, nutcrackers, and more than 100 styles of smokers, from cute to sophisticated.
11035 York Rd., Cockeysville, 410-527-0700, valleyviewfarms.com.
TLV Tree Farm
Officially, the Christmas trees at this 100-year-old family farm are the main attraction, but let’s be honest; you can’t go wrong by serving up Santa. Visitors can roam 40 acres and choose from Douglas firs, scotch pines, white pines, and blue spruce or buy fresh cut Fraser firs. But for the past decade, the Brown family has also hosted St. Nick, who holds court on an antique sleigh, gamely posing for photos (for free).
“We have people who have been coming to see Santa every year for 10 years to take their family portrait,” says farm co-owner Linda Brown. Better still, leashed pets are welcome, so this may be a good place to get Fido in on the family photo. And when you’re done, you can pick out your tree, get up close with the farm animals, or pick up homemade wreaths or crafts in the gift shop. And if you don’t expect to find any steak in your stocking on Christmas morning, fret not; this farm also sells fresh meat.
15155 Triadelphia Mill Rd., Glenelg, 410-489-4460, tlvtreefarm.com. Pre-opening November 20 and 21, then open daily November 26 through December 19.
You won’t find anything mass-produced or plasticized in Harold and Anna Goodman’s craft-packed Main Street store. What you will find is a funky collection of intricately carved wooden Santas and handmade goods that range from deftly painted gourds to country-style furniture. Over the past 15 years, the Goodmans’ old-world style elves—he carves; she paints—have developed a following big enough to keep Goodman carving yearround. But at Christmastime, Harold—who boasts a Santa-like beard and physique—kicks into high gear, opening the shop for extended hours and often settling in to carve in the store’s front window. Get a lesson in the craft by watching him work, pick up a pre-made Santa, or tell Goodman what you want, and he’ll custom-carve it for you.
5725 Main St., Elkridge, 410-796-1990, goodysfolkart.com. Open limited hours.
No credit cards.
Watson’s Garden Center
When she first saw the delicately blown glass ornaments made by exotic gift company Egyptian Museum, Watson’s gift shop buyer manager Mary Ruble knew she loved them. But she had no idea how well the ornaments—many of which feature gold piping and rose-colored glass and come in styles and shapes that range from teapot to camel—would sell. In the five years since she first stocked them, they’ve more than proven themselves, says Ruble. This year, the Egyptian Museum ornament offering takes up a four-by-six-foot chunk of Watson’s ever-popular Christmas shop. And since this is the only Egyptian Museum retailer locally, your Christmas tree won’t have to worry that it’s wearing what everyone else is wearing. Of course, Watson’s, a mainstay in the local Christmas retail offering, also serves up the usual assortment of holiday trees and decorations. A family-friendly bonus: The store brings in alpacas for the little ones to pet.
1620 York Rd., Lutherville, 410-321-7300, watsonsgarden.com.