This Christmas season might be the last one where you can pet a reindeer at Applewood Farm, 4435 Prospect Road in Whiteford. The Adelhardt family, which owns the farm, has been educating visitors on all the ways reindeer survive at the North Pole (actually Alaska) each December weekend since 2000. But their website says after this year, they’re going to offer the reindeer — Spruce, Molly Minnie and CJ — to good homes. Since my daughter is a big Rudolph fan, my family headed out to the Adelhardt’s Christmas Tree farm last Saturday. We got to the farm, which straddles the Maryland-Pennsylvania border just in time for Brian Adelhardt’s 2:30 p.m. “reindeer show.” I was surprised to see about 100 people lined up along a fence straining to hear all about how the “click, click, click” we hear up on the housetop is not so much the sound of hooves hitting asphalt shingles, but rather the noise made by the tendons in the animals’ legs so they can find each other in blinding snow. After his talk, Adelhardt brought the reindeer outside the fence so everyone could pet it. He asked folks not to photograph the petting session to keep the line moving, but he did allow photos when the petting was over. He even took all the photos himself so that everyone’s family members could be included in the picture. The Adelhardt’s started out as just a Christmas tree farm, but later added a variety of holiday activities — like the reindeer — to make a visit to the farm more of a holiday destination. They charge $3 admission just to enter the farm, and they warn visitors on their website that if they’re only interested in getting a tree it is probably more economical to visit another tree farm. At Applewood Farm, visitors can saw down their own tree, hear one of three “reindeer shows” (offered at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.) ride a pony, ride a vintage train through the tree fields, get a hot chocolate and a hotdog in a barn decorated for the holidays complete with model trains zipping above everyone’s heads. Santa was there for his once-a-year visit the day we visited. And the place was packed that day. But the women selling tickets say their busiest day is usually Reindeer Day (this year scheduled for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 27). The reindeer shows, hay rides and petting zoo are included in the cost of admission. But just about everything else will cost you an additional $3 per person. It can get a little pricey if you bring several kids along. And, plan what you want to buy tickets for before you get in the ticket line. With crowds the size we saw last Saturday, you’re not going to want to wait in line more than once. (After buying tickets to ride the train, we convinced my daughter it’s best to wait until the weather is warmer to ride a pony.) The farm is open Saturdays and Sundays only 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 17 is their last open weekend until Christmas. Then they re-open on Dec. 27 for Reindeer Day, with reindeer shows scheduled at noon and 2 p.m.
The farm is about a 20 minute ride from Bel Air. They offer these directions on their website:
From Bel Air: Take Route 1 North to Route 136 North. Proceed approximately 5 miles to Prospect Road, turn right and proceed 2.5 miles to the farm on the right.