By Janet Serra

Posted: 03/04/2018 14:14:44

It's a sweet New England tradition—toasting old man winter out the door with delicious new maple syrup. As soon as days are above freezing and the sap begins to run, the annual spring ritual begins. Turning thin sap into thick, fragrant syrup is a fascinating process and Western Connecticut, where sugar maple trees abound, is one of the best places to see it in action. More than a dozen sugar houses in Fairfield County and the Litchfield Hills invite visitors to see how it is done, from tapping the maple trees to collecting the sap to boiling down the thin watery sap until it turns to the thick, fragrant syrup.

A variety of settings, from farms and nature centers to museums are among the maple possibilities, most offering tastes as well as show and tell, and many have take-home syrup for purchase as a sweet souvenir. While many sugarhouses invite visitors anytime during the first three weekends in March (see list below), some locations plan one festive day to celebrate the season.

The MAPLE Calendar

Visit Any Weekend

The sugaring season starts early at large facilities like Lamothe's Sugar House in Burlington, where the public is invited to see how syrup is made every weekend through March 30. This family-owned operation began as a hobby with seven taps and has grown to over 4500 taps and a year-round showroom. Their shop offers a tempting array of unusual foods like maple mustard and maple apple butter plus original maple-themed items from embroidered aprons, decorating sets, and cupcake-shaped rubber spatulas to a cupcake carrier in the shape of a big cupcake.

Another sugarhouse open to the public on weekends is Brookside Farm on 79 East Chestnut Hill Road in Litchfield. Started in 1999 as the second act to corporate careers, the owners' overall goal is to promote the resurgence of sustainable agriculture in Connecticut. On their 30 acres farm, they produce hay (for horses) and maple syrup (for people). Their maple syrup won 3 rd place in the 2014 International Maple Syrup tasting contest. Call (860) 567-3890 before setting out to confirm the syrup operation. They are open for visits through March 30.

Feb. 24

The Greenwich Landtrust is hosting Maple Day Feb. 24 from 11 am - 2 pm. learn how to tap trees and make your own syrup. We will have hands-on demonstrations and stations throughout the Louise Mueller Preserve, crafts, maple candy samples, Dough Girl wood fire pizza truck and more! Crafting Candy – Make your own maple sugar candies and create beautiful forest-themed crafts from natural materials.

March 1-31

New Milford's Sullivan Farm is hosting maple syrup tours beginning on Jan. 10 and running through March, organizers announced. Cost is $5 per participant with chaperones for groups of 10 or more receiving free admission. In addition to syrup tastings and demonstrations, participants will also learn about processing techniques. Also syrup will be available for sale. The tour runs for about 45 minutes. Sullivan Farm is located at 140 Park Lane in New Milford. Click here for more information, or email or call 860-210-2030.

March 3-5

The Plymouth Maple Fest takes place this year on March 3 on the Plymouth Green, 10 Park St, on Rte. 6 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be maple syrup boiling on an outdoor fire, live music with Fiddlin' with Down Home Frolic, crafts for kids, maple ham and baked beans to snack on and even horse-drawn hay rides. Best of all admission is free.

The Stamford Museum & Nature Centers starts the month in gala fashion with its annual Maple Sugar Festival slated for March 3 and 4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Every year, the Museum places buckets on more than 200 maple trees on its 118-acre site, collecting sap to produce maple syrup in the little red sugarhouse on its Heckscher Farm. Visitors will see firsthand the process of tapping and collecting the sap. Kids can make a maple-themed craft, go on a scavenger hunt, have their face painted and join in the fun on Saturday for the Chef's Challenge, using maple syrup to make delicious treats. On Sunday everyone can join in the popular pancake brunch.

March 10 – 11

For those who can't make the first weekend, March offers many other special events. The Greenwich Land Trust is hosting two maple sugar events.

The Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington will have a different take on sugaring at its annual Pancake Festival on March 10 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Demonstrations will show how local Native Americans traditionally made maple syrup and its importance to their culture. Pancakes will be served with local maple syrup and there will be special activities for children. New this year is the Connecticut Valley Siberian Husky Club's dog sledding and mushing demonstration.

Flanders Nature Center is also hosting maple sugaring demonstrations at the Sugar House located on 5 Church Hill Rd. in Woodbury on March 10 and 11 and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The Annual Maple Festival at Sweet Wind Farm takes place in East Hartland on March 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The busy day will include tree tapping, maple syrup and maple sugar making demonstrations with free syrup samples, a narrated slide show and video, tours, live music, and --almost everyone's favorite activity-- a sugar-on-snow candy making demonstration.

Syrup Saturday at the New Canaan Nature Center on March 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 11 am. is always a festive day. Bring the whole family and join them for the annual end of syrup season celebration – you won't want to miss the center's famously delicious Pancakes & PJ's party, complete with TONS of fun syrup-related activities! They'll be serving up flapjacks, syrup, and an array of tasty toppings in the Visitor Center, while leading tree tapping demos, a real maple sap "boil down," campfire with marshmallows, real v. fake syrup taste test, and NEW maple syrup Instagram scavenger hunt. All are welcome and encouraged to dress in their PJ's!

March 17

March 17 is the date of the annual Maplefest! at the Sharon Audubon Center. From 12 noon. to 4 p.m. guided tours of the center's sugaring operation that includes at working sugarhouse and a re-creation of Native American and early colonial sugaring methods. Watch as pure sugar maple sap is collected from the trees and turned into delicious maple syrup. Fresh, homemade maple baked goods and coffee will also be available for purchase during the day as part of the Maple Bake Sale. Each treat will be made with the Center's very own maple syrup! Fresh syrup will be available for purchase, while supplies last, as well as locally made maple candy.