Sweet Signs of Spring
You know spring is in the air when talk turns to sugar bushes and maple syrup. While the sap may not be quite running yet – if it isn’t, it soon will be – now’s a great time to start planning your outing for this quintessentially Canadian tradition.
There are plenty of sugar bush options in the capital area, and none closer than our own urban forest in Vanier. Here’s a sampling of some sweet offerings in the region.
Vanier boasts what’s billed as North America’s only urban sugar bush at Richelieu Park and offers you a great way to get the sugar bush experience without leaving the city. There is usually a Sugar Festival at the end of March/beginning of April, although the website does not list details for this year.
When: The sugar shack is open weekends in March and April from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; otherwise by reservation
Where: 300 Pères-Blancs Ave., Vanier
What: Pancakes and more, walking trails, sleigh rides (during the festival)
Prices: From about $3 for maple taffy to about $20 for a full meal
Le Domaine de l’Ange Gardien
Just 40 minutes from downtown Ottawa, tradition is key at Le Domaine. Typical of many sugar bushes, there are activities for the kids, but a main feature here are the links to the past, like the antique-filled shack and traditional evaporator, which is used to boil the sap.
When: Reservations are required for meals; days and times vary. Tubing is available, weather permitting, at certain times. Check the site for details.
Where: 1031 Pierre-Laporte St., L’Ange-Gardien, Quebec
What: Enjoy an all-you-can-eat French-Canadian meal while entertainment is provided. Activities include a playground, walking/skiing/snowshoeing trails and – weather permitting and for a price – sleigh rides and snow tubing.
Prices: Meals range from $6.50 for children 5 and under to $19.75 for those 12 and over (Saturday evenings there is a premium); tubing is $10-$12; sleigh rides are $3.50-$4.50.
Fulton’s Pancake House & Sugar Bush
Fulton’s is one of the most popular sugar bushes in the area and it comes with a long history. Legend has it that the first of the family to settle in the area – three Fulton brothers who emigrated from Scotland in the 1840s – learned the art of maple syrup making from First Nations people, as well as other early settlers. The sugar-making tradition continues today, with the fifth generation involved in the family business.
When: Open now until April 15. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends.
Where: 399 Sugar Bush Rd., Pakenham
What: Tour the bush and sugar camp to learn how syrup was and is made; hike or snowshoe the trails (adult rentals available); and try the toboggan hill for free. On weekends, holidays and March Break, other activities such as horse-drawn sleigh/wagon rides, face painting and maple treats are also available for $10 or less.
Prices: At the pancake house, from $2 for a cookie or muffin to $15.50 for a gluten-free waffle meal.
Stanley’s Old Maple Lane Farm
South of the city, Stanley’s is another family farm with deep roots, where the syrup making has been done since the 1850s. Geared towards families, the sugar bush includes free activities as well as the typical sleigh rides and pancake brunch.
When: Weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. to Apr. 8, plus Ontario March Break from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (brunch available starting at 8:30 a.m.)
Where: 2452 Yorks Corners Rd., Edwards
What: Enjoy sleigh rides, visit the sugar shack, and watch the sap-to-syrup process unfold while enjoying taffy on the snow and a pancake brunch. There’s also a petting farm and children’s play area. And on the weekends leading up to Easter, you can sign up for an Easter egg hunt (book early; it sells out quickly).
Prices: All-you-can-eat brunch ranges from $8.75 for toddlers to $19 for adults; taffy is $3
Proulx Maple & Berry Farm
The Proulx family has been running the farm and producing maple syrup since 1920. Take a maple tour, stay for brunch, visit the farm and enjoy its activities.
When: To Apr. 15 – weekends 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with no reservations; weekdays by reservation only except during March Break
Where: 1865 O'Toole Rd., Cumberland
What: All-you-can-eat brunch, horse-drawn hay rides, tours and more
Prices: Farm admission/tour/hay ride is $5.53 (free for children under 3); brunch can be had for about $5 to $12.