Beyond Destin: Strickland’s Christmas Tree Farm
Destin has a lot to offer, and although its beaches are world-famous and its seafood delicious, there are hundreds of hidden treasures in the surrounding area of Northwest Florida that yield for fun adventures, day trips and weekend getaways. This column which will be featured on Wednesdays, will follow the wanderings of reporter, Savannah Vasquez, and explore the many opportunities in Destin’s surrounding area. I invite you to explore with me Beyond Destin.
I love Christmas; I can’t help it I love the lights, the cookies, the music, the decorating and the all-around Christmas cheer. As this year will be my first Christmas with my husband, we decided to splurge a bit and find a place to cut down our own Christmas tree.
Upon researching the area I found the closest Christmas tree farm to Destin is Strickland’s Christmas Tree Farm in DeFuniak Springs. Strickland’s offers three different types of Christmas trees; Southern Red Cedar, Leland Cypress and Arizona Blue Ice Cypress. The farm also offers free saws and measuring sticks to use while hunting, and for a small tip you can get your tree shaken down for bugs, bagged and tied to the roof of your car with twine.
So, excited for the Christmas adventure, we gathered up our warm clothes, hot chocolate and a couple friends and headed out to find the perfect tree. Once we arrived at the farm we found that the 60-acres are split up into sections of different species of trees. We had the option to drive the farm which spanned both sides of the road, or walk through it so of course we chose to walk it.
The first section of trees were tiny Charlie Brown sized Florida and Virginia Pines that were not yet for sale. This cute patch of trees will be available next year, once they have grown to size. In the next patch we found the Arizona Blue Ice Cypress, a very attractive tree variation that appears to have snow-frosted branches. As we walked through the plot we found several potential trees but decided to survey all of our options before making the final decision.
In the next section we found larger, greener and more robust Southern Red Cedars that had been carefully groomed to form the perfect triangular Christmas tree shape. Wandering through the cedars I saw a few that reminded me of trees I had seen in malls and store windows, such perfect trees, and yet the frosted look of the Arizona Blue had won me over.
We ended up back at our original tree, a 5-foot Arizona Blue with just enough imperfection to give it personality. I felt like we had been hunting a deer, and after chopping down our tree we posed holding it high like a trophy catch. I saw other families in the fields, the kids running through the rows, stopping at every tree before the entire group would convene on one tree, pose in front of it then chop it down to take home. The joy of finding the perfect Christmas tree is something I think everyone should experience at least once in their lives because it adds a personal touch to Christmas decorating.
After we had chosen our tree we took it to be shaken down in the funny contraptions that seemed to make the tree dance. The Strickland employees worked quickly first shaking the tree down, then measuring it and finally bagging it and walking it to our car. We were then directed back to the front of the farm to pay for our tree and grab a snack or hot chocolate at the register shack.
In keeping with the Christmas spirit we decided to visit downtown DeFuniak Springs and walk the lake which is now illuminated with millions of lights for the annual Christmas Reflections display. The lights did not disappoint and with fresh hot chocolate in hand we took a leisurely stroll before returning home to decorate our very first Christmas tree.
Strickland’s Christmas Tree Farm is located at 1602 Kidd Road (CR183) in DeFuniak Springs. The farm is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Trees will be available through Dec. 22. Payment is taken in the form of cash or check only at $7 a foot up to eight feet, $8 a foot up to 10-feet with larger trees also available. For more information, call 951-1005.