Guest Blog: Join the Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival at the Kortright Centre

Maple season has begun so round up the family and head to the Kortright Centre for Conservation for the annual Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival!

The month of March is the time for maple tree tapping, so I headed to the Kortright Centre with my friend and her family to bring you this guide of what to expect at this year’s celebration of our favourite Canadian food.

The Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival isn’t just about education. From magical acts to wagon rides and, of course, maple syrup samplings, the conservation centre is offering a host of activities to keep you and your family entertained — and your stomachs happy.

The journey begins with tree trivia at the Visitor’s Centre where you’ll learn how to identify sugar maple trees and test your knowledge.

kortright centre maple tree trivia

Tree trivia.

Then it’s time to head outdoors into the Sugarbush, a trail through 325 hectares of woodlands where you’ll gain even more insights into the maple syrup production process. You’ll find fun facts along the way, like how old Grandpa Maple (one of the oldest maple trees in the forest) is, as well as maple syrup-making demonstrations.

kortright centre maple syrup festival

The beginning of the Sugarbush trail.

sugarbush trail at the kortright centre for conservation

The Sugarbush trail takes visitors through 325 hectares of woodlands.

checking for sap during the sugarbush maple syrup festival at the kortright centre

Checking for sap from a maple tree.

At the Discovery of Sweet Water station, learn how the indigenous peoples of North America were the first to recognize sap as a source of food and energy. This sweet fluid is produced by trees as winter thaws, collected then boiled to create the liquid gold we all know and love. Historically, making maple syrup was an arduous process involving hollowed out logs and heated rocks.

kortright centre discovery of sweet water demonstration

A demonstration at the Discovery of Sweet Water station.

Continue your journey through history at the Pioneer Demonstration, a reproduced sugar camp where you can watch with fascination how maple syrup was produced with buckets, firewood and cauldrons in the 19th century. Before you leave, don’t forget to taste the finished brew while it’s still warm!

sugarbush maple syrup festival at the kortright centre

The Pioneer Demonstration.

fresh maple syrup at the kortright centre

A sampling of fresh maple syrup.

Times have certainly changed since the early days though. In the Sugar Shack, you’ll find out how maple syrup is made today with storage tanks and wood-burning evaporators. If you’re lucky, your children may even get invited to participate in the process themselves!

sugar shack at the kortright centre

The Sugar Shack.

maple syrup-making demonstration in the sugar shack at the kortright centre

Things get interactive inside the Sugar Shack.

When your stomachs start growling, head back to the Visitor’s Centre for a whole maple-themed menu of delicious eats. If pancakes drizzled with maple syrup alone don’t appeal to you, perhaps a topping of maple back bacon, succulent farmer’s sausages or roasted pulled pork with maple BBQ sauce will… or funnel cake fries tossed in maple sugar.

pancakes with sausages and funnel cake fries at the kortright centre

Funnel cake fries with maple sugar and pancakes with farmer’s sausages.

pancakes with pulled pork at the kortright centre maple syrup festival

The HOG: a pancake with pulled pork in maple BBQ sauce and spiced peach chutney.

Or, if your little ones are already in a maple coma, maybe pancakes with strawberries and fresh whipped cream.

pancakes with strawberries and cream at the kortright centre

Strawberry Dream: a pancake with strawberries, strawberry sauce and fresh whipped cream.

With this diverse array of offerings (plus an outdoor beer garden), you’ll find something to tickle everyone’s taste buds.

Once you’ve all filled up, step back outside and get up close and personal with horses Holly and Flo, and catch a ride on their cherry-red wagon before returning inside for family-friendly crafts and face painting.

wagon ride at the kortright centre

Meet Holly and Flo.

face painting at the kortright centre of the maple syrup festival

Face painting is just one of many children’s activities offered at the Kortright Centre for the Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival.

And what’s a maple syrup festival without maple products? At the Sugar Bush Shop and Gift Shop, you’ll find everything from candles to candy and different grades of maple syrup to take home and cook up your own favourite maple-themed meals for the family.

maple candy at the kortright centre

Maple candy in the Sugar Bush Shop.

bottles of maple syrup at the kortright centre

100% maple syrup (no Aunt Jemima allowed!).

kortright centre gift shop

The Gift Shop.

If all of this isn’t enough, the Kortright Centre is offering even more family-friendly entertainment, including live music (Saturdays only), games, a strolling magician, an Easter egg hunt during Easter weekend and Maple Syrup by Lamplight, a guided evening hike with campfire maple syrup tastings (March 12 and 19 only by advance booking).

The Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival at the Kortright Centre doesn’t last long, so don’t miss this ultimate Canadian experience! You don’t want to wait until next year, do you?

Dates: March 5 to April 3, 2016, weekends and March Break.

How to purchase tickets: onsite or online.

Fees: $8.85 for adults; $5.75 for children, students and seniors; free for children 4 years and under (meals and some activities like wagon rides are excluded).

Tip: Plan your day in advance by checking the full schedule of activities online, and arrive early to avoid line-ups.

Helen Suk is a Toronto-based travel writer and photographer. Read more about her travels on her blog, Not Without My Passport. She can also be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.