Where to find old-fashioned Christmas trees?

Christmas decorating is my JAM. I get to bust out  my home's "fancy jewelry" if you will and really do it up. I collect vintage ornaments year round. I'm the person at the tree lot that's there for an hour or two (much to the annoyance of my husband and son - sorry!) while obsessively searching for the "perfect" tree.

I've been searching high and low for years now looking for a 1940s-ish Christmas tree. Less bushy, space between branches, wide. I've emailed two farms in the midwest that ship trees but shipping to CA is tricky due to agricultural rules. I'll drive a few hours, cut my own, whatever it takes. Usually I get Noble firs but even they're bushier/branchier than I'd prefer. Links below is more or less what I'm looking for - anything close to this would be appreciated. Thank you!



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We've gotten them more than once (not necessarily by design!) from Brent's near the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland. They carry a lot of varieties of fir and pine, and some have sparser branches than others. We do usually get smaller (4')  trees, though, and they may just tend to be less bushy. I'd give them a try and describe what you're looking for--they may be able to keep an eye out and hold one for you if something comes in that fits the bill.

We go to Delancey Street's lot on San Pablo in El Cerrito every year. They have a lot of variety and are a great organization to support.

We recently discovered The Guardsman in SF. Fantastic selection of trees. https://sftreelot.guardsmen.org

One year we got a tree from the Forestry Club at UCBerkeley that my kids called the Charlie Brown Christmas tree (they hated it). It was definitely more rustic than the Christmas tree lot trees. If you preorder a tree from them you can tell them what size you want and get a nice tree. We just went to the sale on campus and got what was left. https://nature.berkeley.edu/forestryclub/treesale

We’ve also been to a cut your own in Castro Valley that’s fun but I’m not sure they have what you’re looking for — they do grow a few different varieties though. 

I, too, don’t care for these west coast trees with no room to hang ornaments! What I do every year is pick the tree with the perfect height and width for my home. After the tree is set up I remove whole branches so there is plenty of room for ornaments. I basically “thin” the tree, sawing the branches off at the trunk.  I may remove as much as 30% of the branches but I get the exact spacious look that I want. (I never knew it was a 1940’s look!)
I use the removed branches by trimming them into “boughs” for the fireplace mantle and dining room centerpiece. 
Good Luck and Merry Christmas

If the trees at Cal's Forestry Dept. sale fits your specifications, you won't have to go far: https://nature.berkeley.edu/forestryclub/treesale 

They don't sell the usual Doug Firs... 

Yes! I know exactly what you are talking about because I am into the same kind of tree. In past years, I have found the largest selection of those at:


Crystal River Trees

1655 Park St, Alameda

I haven't been there yet this year, but hopefully they have what you want!

Happy decorating!

same here… tho maybe not quite as particular. i love space between the branches so my glass icicle ornaments can shine. for years now we head to truckee/tahoe and go cut our own. yes we tromp around looking for the perfect tree. sometimes no snow like this weekend, sometimes we’re post holing it for a few hours. we bring the dog and friends who live in truckee for yearly excursion. total fun. BONUS: the trees we cut make lovely xmas trees but when they grow tall they are essentially trash trees in the forest. not indigenous and create dangerous fire ladder. so it’s a noble deed to help the forest as well. best of luck! 


That’s exactly the kind of tree I always look for, with wide spaces between branches for ornaments, and decorate it the same as you I think. I have my grandmother’s glass ornaments, screw in lights, and tinsel. Same ones we used every year when I was growing up 66 years ago… The only exception is that I don’t look for especially wide trees since my space is small. I’ve always managed to find something, usually a tree no one else wants! But if you don’t want to roll the dice, I’d advise calling around to the many Christmas tree farms in the area. They can surely find you something suitable or maybe even grow for you! Here’s a run down: https://sf.funcheap.com/city-guide/sf-bay-area-christmas-tree-farms/

I used to drive to Half Moon Bay for a blue spruce tree in early December.  that variety has lots of space between branches for the ornaments to really shine.  from the east bay, drive to hwy 92 and then drive west towards the coast.  just before you reach the town of Half Moon Bay, you'll see a great number of farms selling Christmas trees. These trees are "fresh" and will smell and last longer than anything you buy at a traditional "tree lot". Best of luck!

Alameda tends to have a good silver tip selection thanks to the many Victorians in the area. Check out the tree lot at the corner of Park St and Buena Vista, or consider the larger tree lots near the model airplane field (off the island) and/or Encinal Nursery.   

Hi! I think you want a Silver Tip (aka silver tip fir). My sister gets one every year and decorates them with beautiful vintage glass ornaments - they’re magical. She lives in SF and most reliably finds them at Clancy’s lot on 7th in the Inner Sunset. And she says it’s hit or miss but often the lot on 19th and Sloat. Maybe call around and see who might have them in the East Bay? Not sure you want to strap one to the roof of the car and hop on the Bay Bridge. Be ready for sticker shock! They’re expensive! But so beautiful. 

I recommend a “silvertip” (red fir). There is much more space between the branches. They are strong, so you can hang a lot of ornaments on each one. Since they grow in OR and CA you should be able to find them out here. 

You can drive to Tahoe and cut down your own silver tipped fir with a permit. There are specific areas you can cut down trees in the national forest. I've never done this myself, but I've heard the permits are only $10.

Probably too late for this year, but next year you might check out national forest Christmas tree permits.  They sell inexpensive permits to the public that allow you to cut your own tree in the national forest.  It helps them keep the small trees thinned out to decrease fire risk and the trees are obviously completely wild grown with no shaping so you might have more luck.


I recommend checking out the UC Berkeley Forestry Club's Christmas tree sale. Since they are typically culling trees from wilderness areas, or at least not from traditional tree farms, the trees tend to be less bushy, I'd even say spindly, depending on the species of tree. The sale is coming up this weekend (December 2-6?): https://nature.berkeley.edu/forestryclub/treesale

Looks like there is a form for you to indicate the type of tree you want in advance, not sure if any on the list would fit your requirements, but you should take a look.

Have you tried Pronzini's?  Lots at the Civic Center in San Rafael, Bon Air shopping center in Greenbrae (this one is smaller but sometimes less crowded), and in Petaluma.  They offer a large variety of trees that you don't see most places, including Fraser Fir, which is hard to find on the West Coast and has the upturned branches like your second pic, and Silvertip Fir which has lots of open space between branches.  My own preference is for the fattest, most full Noble I can find of the right height, and I often spend plenty of time on the lot rejecting the sparser ones. :) 

There are a few other cut-your-own places in Petaluma, but I don't know of a tree variety likely to suit you that grows locally.  The trees you can actually cut down yourself are almost all bushy Monterey Pine and Cypress, and then they have pre-cut Nobles and other firs.

Thank you so much everyone for your helpful tips and recommendations! I appreciate you all! No grinches in this thread!