Years ago, on our excursions to choose our Christmas trees, my Aunt Gloria would strategically place my cousins next to "possible" evergreens while she kept looking. Meanwhile, my mom would pick the first, gangliest tree she found.
While I don't recall every decorated tree, memories of the "cousin car ride," tackling the Santa question, slogging through snow and giggling at our dads struggling (swearing) while maneuvering the trees are what truly remain in our hearts.
Here are two Christmas tree journeys that just might become a new tradition for you. One is with children, the other without, but nothing says you can't mix and match a little of each in your weekend outing.
Stokoe Farms, 656 County Road 141, Scottsville, is exactly what its motto says: good, old-fashioned fun.
More than 80 acres are covered with beautiful U-cut Christmas trees. A giant tractor-wagon operation takes tree-fellers out, supplying saws and sleds. Once you've cut your tree, the tractor returns you both to home base, where your tree then gets some shaking, bailing and drilling. It couldn't be easier. A handy display (Fraser, Concolor and Douglas firs; Blue and Serbian spruces) takes the guesswork out of what to select. For those unable to trek, a nearby barn has precut trees ready to cart away.
But fun doesn't end once the tree is cut. The silly Hillbilly Hen House serenades guests with holiday song favorites. The kids can climb a huge straw fort, then take a slide down the hay chute on a burlap bag. A real reindeer and bonfire add to the festive atmosphere. Stokoe also serves free hot cocoa and cookies. (A nearby heated restroom also has a changing station for the wee ones.)
For a more substantial meal, the Reindeer Restaurant serves perfect kid food (hot dogs, burgers, chicken fingers, fried dough, etc.). At the gift shop we purchased handmade wooden ornaments (a gingerbread man and star) made from the base of a Christmas tree. The farm also sells lovely wreaths (decorated or plain) and stunning front door and mantel arrangements. And because the holidays are about giving, Stokoe Farms participates in Trees for Troops (www.treesfortroops.org). Ask in the gift shop about donation options.
Stokoe Farms (www.stokoefarms.com; 585-889-0770) is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. From the Batavia Thruway exit, take Route 5 East to Route 36 North to Mumford. Continue on to Route 383. Go right on Union Street (look for a stone antique store) to South Road and turn left. This route cuts through some neat towns like LeRoy, Caledonia and Mumford.
>Along the way
Mumford: Visit Christmas past on a Yuletide tour (reservations required) at Genesee County Village Museum. Children can learn where holiday traditions come from. Dress warmly and wear comfortable walking shoes.
The gift shop is open to everyone. Pick up some unique gift items made in the village (www.gcv.org, 585-538-6822). Genesee Country Village Yuletide in the Country weekends, today, then Dec. 10-12 and 17-19. Tours depart every 15 minutes. Museum Shop open Yuletide weekends 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Also in Mumford is the Primitive Country Gift Store (1014 Main St., 585-538-6560). Holiday hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Nearby is the Red Cottage Wares antiques store; open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.
LeRoy: Stop at the Jell-O Museum and gift shop for funky Jell-O gifts and T-shirts. Take the tour. Open daily through Dec. 31; 23 East Main St. Call or visit www.jellogallery.org or call (585) 768-7433.
>Places to eat
Keep going past the turn-off to Stokoe Farms on Route 383 to Scottsville to the darling Scottsville Diner, open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Or, on the way home, Batavia's legendary Pontillo's Pizza (500 E. Main St.) is a popular stop. Open daily at 11 a.m.
For a sweeter break, you could hit up Oliver's Candies (211 W. Main St., www.oliverscandies.com) for ice cream and candy gifts. Open daily at 9 a.m.
Christmas isn't just for kids. Near Conesus Lake there are two tree farms where you can cut your own. Both have saws and sleds and provide netting wraps for easy transportation. Both are easily accessed from Route 20A.
*Grzenda Farm, 3222 Poplar Hill Road, Livonia, (585) 346-6356, noon to 4:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Fraser fir, Douglas fir, Canaan fir (similar to balsam) and other long-needle trees.
*Baughman's Tree Farm, 5048 Lima Road, Geneseo, (585) 243-3663, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to Sunday. More than 10 kinds of trees including Douglas and Fraser fir, Scotch and white pine.
Who isn't up for a little holiday cheer after lumberjacking? Along Conesus Lake is Deer Run Winery, where you can stock up on holiday wines and gourmet food items (pineapple reisling jam, strawberries and champagne jam), Luke's Pickled Scapes (garlic stems) and Nunda mustard. And, of course, wine. You can taste Finger Lakes favorites like Runway Red and Max's Black, or Pebble Beach Blush and Cayuga White. Get a six-pack of wine at a 10 percent discount, or 15 percent off cases. Visit Deer Run, 3772 West Lake Road, www.deerrunwinery.com, (585) 346-0850. Open noon to 6 p.m. daily.
Not into wine? About 15 miles away from the winery is Custom BrewCrafters in the darling town of Honeoye Falls. This microbrewery creates custom and seasonal beers. Tastings are $4 to try six kinds. Located at 300 Village Square Blvd. (turn at road near Rite Aid), (www.custombrewcrafters.com; 585-624-4386). Retail hours are noon to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Tours run Saturdays and Sundays.
Near Deer Run Winery, the North Shore Grill, Routes 20 and 15, (www.northshoregrillny.com, 585-346-2200) is open daily at 11:30 a.m. (Sunday brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and serves meals with a view of Lake Conesus.
In Honeoye Falls, the Rabbit Room at Lower Mill Restaurant and Galleries looked intriguing (www.thelowermill.com, 585-582-1830). Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
In Geneseo, the Big Tree Inn (46 Main St., www.bigtreeinn.com, 585-243-5220) is a swanky place that has great rooms if you are interested in an overnight trip. The Tavern is perfect for a lunch and drinks. Open Monday-Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Closed Sunday.
Across the street the cozy Muddy Waters Coffee House (www.mwcoffeehouse.com, 585-243-9111) offers light fare and sandwiches. Open daily at 6:30 a.m., Saturday and Sunday at 8 a.m.