While Midwesterners delight at the first sighting of Robin Red Breast flying across the morning sky, New Englanders look for white clouds of smoke rising from sugar shack chimneys to signify winter's end. Beginning in late February, fragrant plumes of steam rise throughout Western Connecticut, heralding the arrival of maple syrup season. Group travelers interested in the longstanding maple syrup making process have many opportunities to experience it in Western Connecticut.
Soon, temperatures will consistently rise above freezing and the sweet maple sap will begin to run. The trees will be tapped and the sap collected. The thin, watery sap will then be boiled and transformed into the thick, fragrant syrup we all love.
Many Western Connecticut sugarhouses welcome visitors each weekend from late February to late March. Some area museums and nature centers plan festivities to celebrate maple syrup season.
Harvest the Syrup
The Institute for American Indian Studies will show examples of early maple syrup harvesting techniques at the Flanders Nature Center Sugar House at Van Vleck Farm Sanctuary, February 25 and 26, as well as March 4, 5, 11 and 12, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Demonstrations will also take place at the New Canaan Nature Sanctuary on March 18 and at the annual open house at the Great Brook Sugar House on March 19.
Taste the Syrup
An annual Maple Sugar Festival is held the first weekend of March at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center. The museum's Heckscher Farm will hold maple syrup demonstrations and other family-friendly activities. The weekend will culminate in a delicious pancake brunch!
Pancakes and syrup will also be served March 18 at the New Canaan Nature Sanctuary.
On March 11, attend the 11th annual Maple Festival at Sweet Wind Farm.
Tour the Sugarhouses
Lamothe's Sugar House is Connecticut's largest sugarhouse. Free tours are offered on weekends, mid-February through March, from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Many local sugarhouses welcome visitors on any weekend "when the smoke from the chimneys is rising!" Always call ahead to verify openings. We are approaching prime maple syrup time: Remind your travelers now, or make plans for next year! To learn more, visit www.visitwesternct.com.
Written by Lisa Stickler, staff writer for Groups Today magazine.