The St. Louis area has many places to buy real Christmas trees, but none offer quite the Christmas experience you get from a visit to Pea Ridge Forest. Located off of Hwy 94, about 20 minutes west of Washington, Mo., the trip to Pea Ridge requires at least a half day's commitment.
If Pea Ridge is a little too far to go, check out some other Christmas Tree farms in the St. Louis area.
Make the Drive a Holiday Adventure
The drive to Pea Ridge takes you through rolling hills, beneath towering river bluffs and past small towns that don't even have a 4-way stop.
In early December, the countryside does its part to give the trip a wintry, holiday feel, especially if the weather's cold or snow's on the ground. And, when you arrive at Pea Ridge, you'll wind your way through hillsides full of Christmas trees toward the farm's festive and bustling Christmas village.
Find the Perfect Tree
Picking out a tree at Pea Ridge is an adventure in its own right. It starts with a hayride out to a field full of trees ready for cutting. You'll be provided a saw and then sent out to find your perfect tree. But make sure to take your time. If half the fun is driving to Pea Ridge, the other half is certainly walking (or running) through the trees, comparing each, looking for one that's just the right shape, height, and color. If your field's selection seems a bit "picked over," employees will happily take you to another field.
Cut and Carry
Once you've found your tree, the process of getting it home is fairly easy.
The saws provided are sharp and easily cut through the soft pine wood. Be sure to cut as low to the ground as possible, leaving plenty of trunk for trimming after you get home, as well as enough to place into a Christmas tree stand. You'll also find the trees are lighter than you'd expect and can be easily dragged back to the hayride pickup point.
There, employees will thoroughly shake off excess needles, bail your tree and load it up to go back to the main barn. Take the hayride back to be reunited with your tree.
Santa and the Christmas Store
When you get back to the main barn, you'll present your claim ticket to pay for and pick up your tree. But there's no rush to do so. Pea Ridge operates a cozy Christmas store, complete with a roaring warm fire, hot cocoa and hundreds of handmade Christmas ornaments, wreaths and other holiday decorations. In the adjacent barn, Santa's waiting to hear your kids' Christmas wish lists and to pose for pictures with kids and adults alike. The barn also serves basic food, such as chili and hot dogs, and there are often local merchants selling jams, cookies and even Missouri wines.
Tree Types and Prices
Most of the trees in Pea Ridge's fields are Scotch and white pines. The farm also has a smaller selection of spruce trees. Pine trees cut from the fields are $9 per foot, and heights range from five to 12 feet. Spruce trees are $9 to $13 per foot. Back at the barn, Pea Ridge also sells pre-cut Fraser and Balsam firs, although these are more expensive and don't provide the satisfaction of cutting down your own tree.
When properly watered and cared for, fresh cut trees will stay green, fragrant and relatively moist for three weeks or more. Ask a Pea Ridge employee for tips on Christmas tree care.
Hours and Directions
Pea Ridge is open every day from the weekend before Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve. Hours are 9 a.m. until dark. Naturally, the farm is busiest on weekends.
To get to Pea Ridge, take I-44 west to the Washington, Mo. exit (exit 251). From the exit, go west on Hwy 100 into Washington. Once in town, turn right on Hwy 47, just after passing Wal-Mart. Hwy 47 will take you across the Missouri River and past the small town of Marthasville, where you'll turn left (west) on Hwy 94. Continue on Hwy 94 for just under 20 miles, until you see the sign for Pea Ridge Forest on the right. If you reach Hwy B, you've gone too far.
Although not quite as scenic, you can also take I-70 west, past Warrenton, to Hwy B, exit 188. Take Hwy B south for 12 miles to Hwy 94. Turn left (east) on Hwy 94 and go approximately one mile to the entrance to Pea Ridge on the left.
Stop Along the Way
If the drive seems daunting, break it up with a stop in Washington, Mo. Washington's historic downtown is full of unique stores that offer a nice alternative to shopping in department stores or malls. Local restaurants also offer a great reason to stop, especially Cowan's, which has been serving great food and its famous homemade pies for more than 75 years.
Start a Holiday Tradition
A trip to Pea Ridge every year is a great holiday tradition that shouldn't be missed. With so much of the modern Christmas season revolving around shopping malls and buying presents, take a day with family or friends to revive a classic and relaxing holiday experience.
For more information, visit Pea Ridge's website, or call the farm at (636) 932-4687.
For more ways to celebrate this time of year, check out top holiday events in the St. Louis area or the best Christmas light displays in the St. Louis area. For those of you who don't want to spend any more money, see the best free holiday celebrations in St. Louis.