Spring officially starts on March 20, but New Englanders know the season really begins when the maple syrup starts flowing. And we know when that is because the region explodes with events, tastings, and tours, which are almost universally family-friendly. Here are some of the best resources to find a sugarhouse or a maple sugaring event near you, or better yet, places further afield that offer the perfect excuse for a day trip or to explore a new destination.
This weekend, March 18 and 19, is Massachusetts Maple Weekend and the Maple Producers Association offers a website filled with details on dozens of sugarhouses and activities around the state. Some places open their doors other dates as well, so make sure to visit the individual website. The Mass Audubon Blue Hills Trailside Museum and Department of Conservation and Recreation always team up each year for Maple Sugar Days at Brookwood Farm, held this year on March 18 and 19. There are a variety of activities, including making maple syrup in the traditional way and of course, sampling it. You can also take a self-guided walking tour before or after.
For a hands-on event head to The Rocks Estate in Bethlehem for its Maple Experience Spring Tour, held this year on March 18, 19, 25, and 26 and April 1. Family-friendly activities include cooking with maple; walks into the sugarbush, where children can tap trees and hang buckets; wagon rides through the 1,400-acre Rocks Estate; and tips on tree identification. You can also check out their collection of sugaring equipment.
Maine Maple Sunday is always the fourth Sunday in March (March 26 this year), with 81 sugarhouses offering everything from free maple syrup samples and demonstrations to games, activities, treats, sugar bush tours, and live music. The Maine Maple Producers Association has an excellent website with a map and listing of each venue, with what activities are planned. Some places also offer activities on the Saturday before (March 25).
The annual Maple Open House Weekend, this year April 2 and 3, is an extravaganza of the sweet stuff, with sugarhouses throughout Vermont opening their doors to visitors. Some of the planned activities for the weekend include tours of the woods and sugarhouses, horse-drawn wagon rides, samples of specialty products, including pancake and waffle breakfasts, maple cream frosted donuts, maple cotton candy and sugar-on-snow, plus maple syrup samples, candy-making demonstrations, and much more. Check out the individual participating sugarhouses to see a complete list of activities and directions to plan your visit.
Also worth a stop is the New England Maple Museum in Pittsford, Vt., which is a great place to learn about the history of maple syrup in America. It offers exhibits, live demonstrations and, of course, delicious samples, but call ahead to make sure it is open.