If it seems as though this winter will never end, take heart, The sweet scents of maple syrup in the making clearly announce that spring is coming—and they are a good reason to plan a visit to Litchfield and Fairfield counties in Western Connecticut.
Sugar maples are plentiful in these scenic areas and more than a dozen sugarhouses from private farms to nature centers welcome visitors during peak syrup season in March. Guests will view the process from tap to tastes, see how the big bubbling kettles of thin sap boil down to thick fragrant syrup and get to sample the delicious results. Some operations are open every weekend, some have special maple celebration days and some smaller farms request a call to be sure they are ready for company.
For the sap to run, nights below freezing and warm days are required, so dates can vary. A call always is a good idea before visiting.
The Maple Calendar
Lamothe’s Sugar House on 89 Stone Rd. in Burlington starts the season early with the chance to see how syrup is made every weekend from February 9 to March 24 from 1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.. This family owned operation began as a hobby with seven taps and has grown to over 4500 taps and a year-round showroom. Coffee and cider are complimentary to visitors. The shop has a multitude of interesting maple sugar products that includes: maple sugar spice rubs, maple candy, kettlecorn and nuts, and even maple barbeque sauce. Check their website for a special discount on Lamothe’s spices. Along with the maple syrup business the family also raise pigs, and mini-lop bunnies. For more information www.lamothesugarhouse.com.
One of the busiest sugaring spots is the Flanders Sugar House at Van Vleck Farm Sanctuary in Woodbury. Staff and volunteers conduct maple syrup demonstrations on on March 2, & 3 and 9 &10. On March 3 the day begins with a pancake breakfast, topped with Flanders own maple syrup, a treat not to be missed. The maple sugar season ends with the annual grand finale Maple Celebration on March 16. The final festival on March 16 features music, vendors, walks, cooking and maple candy making demonstrations, maple food sampling and special kids’ crafts and activities. www.flandersnaturecenter.org
Audubon Sharon will be holding its annual MapleFest on Saturday, March 16 between 10 am and 4 pm at the Sharon Audubon Center, Route 4, Sharon, CT. On-going guided 40-minute tours will lead visitors through the Center’s sugaring operation, including a working sugarhouse and a re-creation of Native American and early colonial sugaring methods. Participants can watch as pure sugar maple sap is collected from the trees and turned into delicious maple syrup. Admission for the event is $5.00 adults and $3.00 children. This hands-on, sensory-based experience focuses on trees as living organisms and the concept of sustainable agriculture in a forest ecosystem. Our teaching method incorporates forest ecology and cultural history into the joy and excitement of maple syrup production. Fresh syrup will be available for purchase in the Sharon Audubon Center Nature Store while supplies last. For more information on MapleFest or the Audubon Sharon sugaring operation, contact the Audubon Center at (860) 364-0520 or visit www.sharon.audubon.org. Depending on sap flow, the sugarhouse will also be open each weekend in March for visitors. Call ahead to see if Audubon staff will be boiling sap.
At Warrups Farm on 11 John Read Rd. in Redding, visitors are welcome the first three weekends in March to watch the whole process, sap to syrup in the log cabin sugar house, to take a taste of the sap direct from the trees and as well as the almost-ready syrup. Guests can savor all of the harbingers of spring on a farm. The sugaring demonstrations take place from noon to 5 p.m. For more information www.warrupsfarm.com
Special Maple Days
The Institute for American Indian Studies will have a different take on sugaring at its annual festival on the March 2. Demonstrations in the outdoor Algonkian Village will show how local Native Americans traditionally made maple syrup and its importance to their culture. Pancakes made by IAIS staff will be served with local maple syrup. The festival will take place from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Fee: $10 Adults; $8 Children. www.iaismuseum.org.
The Indian Rock Nature Preserve located on 501 Wolcott Rd. in Bristol is hosting a maple sugaring and pancake breakfast on March 2 from 8 a.m. – noon. Along with breakfast, visit with the farm animals and learn how maple syrup is produced from sap to syrup. Sample New England syrup, which will also be available for purchase. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children under 10 years old, and free for children under 2 years old. For more information call (860) 589-8200 or visit www.ELCCT.org.
Maple Sugar Saturday and Sunday at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center, the museum’s traditional family festival, will offer the chance to learn how sap from their own trees is made into syrup, to sample the syrup and to enjoy lots of fun for children including a scavenger hunt, maple-themed crafts, games, storytelling, and music. On Staurday, watch local chefs create delicious dishes using local maple syrup and vote for your favorite. On Sunday, enjoy the populat pancake brunch from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Admission fees: Members $5, non-members $10, kids 3 and under free. www.stamfordmuseum.org.
The Annual Maple Festival at Sweet Wind Farm in East Hartland will be a busy day with a tree tapping demonstration, maple syrup and sugar making with free syrup samples at the sugar house, a narrated slide show and video, a cooking and recipe class story time for kids, and --almost everyone’s favorite activity-- a sugar-on-snow candy making demonstration. The event takes place rain or shine from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. http://www.sweetwindfarm.net
March 2 – 3 and 9-10
At the Open House Maple Festival at the Great Brook Sugar House on Sullivan Farm, located on Rte. 202 in New Milford is a maple sugaring program for families on Saturdays and Sundays March 2,3,9 and 10 from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Participants will learn the natural and cultural history of maple sugar as well as try the bit brace drill, see sap flowing as well as cook and taste the syrup. For more information http://sullivanfarmnm.org.
This busiest March weekend is when the New Canaan Nature Center from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. will hold tree-tapping demos, and a real maple sap boil down at their Sugar Shack, as well as give a look at historic methods of making maple syrup. Families can also enjoy a delicious Pancake Brunch with maple syrup, join naturalists for a hike along "Maple Lane" to learn tree identification tips, warm up around the campfire to share tall tales, make a Maple craft and take home souvenir treats from a Maple Bake Sale. Members $8 and non-Members $12, kids 2 and under free. www.newcanaannature.org