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 in Burlington starts the season early with the chance to see how syrup is made every weekend from February 12 to March 26. 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. Along with the maple syrup business the family also raise pigs, and mini-lop bunnies.
One of the busiest sugaring spots is the Flanders Nature Center Sugar House at Van Vleck Farm Sanctuary in Woodbury. Demonstrations are conducted by staff and volunteers on March 5, 6, 12 and 13th and the season ends with an annual grand finale Maple Celebration on March 19. On March 6 the day begins with a pancake breakfast, topped with Flanders' own maple syrup. The final winter festival on March 19 features music, bird talks and walks, cooking and wood bowl turning demonstrations, maple food sampling, cooking demonstrations and special kids' crafts and activities.
At Warrups Farm in Redding, visitors also 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.
Special Maple Days
Maple Sugar 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 air bounces, maple-themed crafts, games, storytelling, and music.
The Fifth 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.
March 12, 13
At the Open House Maple Festival at the Great Brook Sugar House on Sullivan Farm, guides will escort visitors around the farm to various sites to see demonstrations reflecting a 300-year history of maple sugaring. Syrup and other maple products will be available for purchase.
This busiest March weekend is when the New Canaan Nature Center will hold tree-tapping demos, and a 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.
The Institute for American Indian Studies will have a different take on sugaring at its annual festival on the 19th. Demonstrations will show how local Native Americans traditionally made maple syrup and its importance to their culture and pancakes made by IAIS staff will be served with local maple syrup.
The sweet aroma of boiling sap and syrup will fill the air and samples of fresh syrup will be handed out to guests at the annual Maplefest! at the Sharon Audubon Center on March 19th. Tours throughout the day will show how maple syrup is produced at the Center and samples will be available for purchase.
For more information on maple syrup making and a guide to all Connecticut sugarhouses, see ctmaple.org. For more information on spring activities in the area and guides to lodging and dining in Litchfield and Fairfield counties, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, www.visitwesternct.com.
Maple Sugar Contacts:
To be sure sugarhouses are in operation, always phone ahead.
Flanders Nature Center Maple Sugar House, Church Hill Rd., Woodbury Phone: 203-263-3711, flandersnaturecenter.org. March 5, 6, 12, 13, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Free.
Pancake breakfast fundraiser, March 6, 8 a.m.-noon, adults $7, children ages 5 – 11, $5; under 5 free. Maple Celebration, March 19. 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., $5 per person or $15 per family.
Great Brook Sugarhouse at Sullivan Farm, 140 Park Lane, Route 202, New Milford, 860-354-0047, March12, 13, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free.
Institute for American Indian Studies, 38 Curtis Road off Route 199, Washington, 860-868-0518, March 19, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Advance Tickets, Adults $8, Children, $6; At the door: Adults $10, Children, $8
Lamothe's Sugar House, 89 Stone Road, Burlington, 860-675-5043, lamothesugarhouse.com. Saturday and Sunday p.m. February 12 to March 26. 1 to 4:30 p.m. Free
New Canaan Nature Center, 144 Oenoke Ridge, New Canaan, Phone: 203- 966-9577, newcanaannature.org. March 19, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Members, $8, non-member $12
Sharon Audubon Center, 325 Route 4, Sharon, 860-364-0520,Sharon.audubon.org March 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Adults, $5, children, $3.
Stamford Museum and Nature Center, 39 Scofieldtown Road, Phone: Stamford, 203-322-1646, stamfordmuseum.org, March 6 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Members $5, non-members, $10
Sweet Wind Farm, 339 South Road, East Hartland, 860-653-2038. Sweetwindfarm.net March 12, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free
Warrup's Farm, John Reed Road off Route 107, Redding, Phone: 203- 938-9403, warrupsfarm.com, March 5,6, 11,12, 18,19, noon to 5 p.m. Free
These farms also welcome visitors, but an advance appointment is necessary.
Brookside Farm, 79 East Chestnut Hill Road, Litchfield, 860-567-3805
Brothers and Sons Sugarhouse, 998 Saw Mill Road, Torrington, 860-489-2719
Dutton's Sugarhouse, 28 Sunny Ridge Road, Washington, 860-868-0345
Kasulaiis Farm and Sugarhouse, 69 Goose Green Road, Barkhamsted, 860-379-8787
West Hill Sugarhouse, 525 West Hill Road, New Hartford, 860-379-9672
Woodbury Sugarshed, 41 Washington Road, Woodbury, 203-263-4550