If you’re anything like me, you look forward to the end of winter. And not just because it means the snow and cold weather move along, but because the sap starts running up the trees. As a gardener, I love the idea of spring and new growth, but what I really love when winter starts to recede is Maple Syrup season!
I will admit, as a parent I have failed at exposing my children to the wonders of maple sugar bushes. Both my girls have been to Little Cataraqui Creek with school, to learn about spring, sap, and how maple syrup production has evolved over the years, but that’s the extent of their visits to local sugar bushes. I want to remedy that!
Here are some local sugar bushes, and maple syrup producers, I am learning about myself.
Let me know if you have visited them, and which one is your favourite!
Did you know Lanark County is the maple syrup capital of Ontario? Visit the Lanark & District Syrup Producers Association to learn more about maple syrup producers in eastern Ontario. I lived in Smiths Falls for all my teenaged years, and visited many sugar bushes in the area. Perth, Ontario holds a Maple Syrup festival in April – check out my last item below for more information on that!
Located in Sunbury, just a 20 minute drive from Kingston, is Sugar Hill Farm. During the sugaring season they welcome visitors to come and learn about making maple syrup. If you are interested in visiting this organic, family run farm, they recommend giving them a call to set up an appointment, and to see if the sap is running!
Every year Little Cat has Maple Madness! The conservation area has it’s own sugar bush and pancake days. My daughters have been twice each, in both Kindergarten years, with school. They have stations set up with ways syrup was made in the past. The big kettle over a fire, a wooden trough where hot rocks are used to heat the sap, and of course their evaporator.
As I haven’t been as a parent outside of school events, I’m not quite sure how the event goes on the weekends. I know there are puppet shows, pancakes to be eaten, and of course the tractor drawn wagons to get you back to the sugar bush. You can walk – it’s not that far – but small children may appreciate the ride. There is a cost involved, and you can read all about it on their website.
Wheeler’s was our go-to Saturday out during Maple Syrup season. I’ve eaten there a few times (sometimes it’s been too busy to get a seat before we kids starved to death(!) at peak sap running time!) and strolled the forest, barn and museum. It’s a lovely set up, and there are hiking/skiing/snowshoeing trails, as well as some farm animals and lots of maple products for sale.
Wheeler’s is a bit off the beaten track, but there is plenty of signage to help you find your way. Located in McDonald’s Corners, it’s a lovely 1.5 hour drive from Kingston.
For those of you up for a further drive, Fulton’s is located in Pakenham. Maybe you could bundle a visit into your ski weekend at Mount Pakenham! It’s about 2 hours from Kingston. And similar to Wheeler’s, you may not be able to rely on your GPS to navigate the smaller roads into the sugar bush. The websites all have excellent directions you can print out, and there is always signage along the way to help you out!
Fulton’s has a pancake house; ski/snowshoe/hiking trails; a heritage maple path – complete with a roaring fire on weekends and holidays; a sugar camp where you can learn, and help out with, maple syrup making; trail games for the kids; and a toboggan hill! Sounds like a full day of fun to me!
The Rideau Heritage Route has a list of syrup producers and maple festivals on their website. If you’re looking to plan a trip with a few stops, visit this website and pick a few locations to stop at.
If you’d rather head into Prince Edward County, I’ve learned there are many sugar bushes in that direction as well. In fact some of the wineries that are so popular in the warmer months also boast a sugar bush! In March, Maple in the County has Sugarbush Festivities. Visit the Maple in the County website to learn where and when all the festivities will be taking place this year.
Held in late April each year, the Festival of the Maples allows all local maple syrup producers to showcase their products. The chamber of commerce hosts the event and it shuts down some streets in Perth ON. I haven’t been in years, but it’s almost always a nice day – and I’m pretty sure you can sample some syrup from some of the vendors!
Do you go to a sugar bush every year? Or have you visited any of the ones I mentioned above? Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite place for those amazing pancake breakfasts!
I think as good Canadians, it’s important to sample some delicious maple syrup at this time of year. Before you know it the snow will be gone, and flowers will be blooming. Then we will have missed all the fun of maple syrup season in Eastern Ontario!
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