Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival at Bruce’s Mill

Located a quick 35 minute drive from downtown Toronto in Stouffville, Ontario, Bruce’s Mill Conservation Area is worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of the city. From the moment you arrive at the Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival, the air is tinged with the sweet aroma of boiling syrup and pancakes and you are met by a friendly staff with open arms.

Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival

Friendly staff at the festival are easily recognizable in their red flannel shirts.

The kids and I headed out to the festival this past Sunday, not too sure what to expect but excited to see what it was all about. We were not disappointed. We entered the festival as it opened at 9:30 and saw not only young families but people from all walks of life.  The great thing about the set-up of the Maple Syrup Festival is that the trail is an easy walk and although muddy in spots quite accessible to young and old. As I was alone with my two, I definitely worried about wandering into the bush but quickly discovered that the trail was quite compressed and an easy walk from start to finish.

Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
The Maple Syrup Trail at Bruce’s Mill.

Admission to the festival is $10 per adult and $6.50 per child. Children 4 and under are admitted for free.  My kids wanted to begin the day with a pony ride and I happily obliged. Since I was alone, the staff very kindly helped the kids onto the ponies and went around the ride with them so I could take pictures. Like a few other things at the festival, the ponies are an extra cost and at $6 per child for a one minute ride I did feel like this was the one thing at the festival that was unfairly priced. Still the kids enjoyed the ride and once they were finished did not ask to ride again.

Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
Will and Charlie enjoying a pony ride.

Once we were done riding ponies, we were off an a guided tour through the Maple Syrup Trail. The guided tour is included in the price of the festival and you also have the option of experiencing the trail on your own. The staff is quite helpful along the trail and there are many signs explaining every aspect of maple syrup production. We stayed with the tour for about half of the trail and then ventured ahead on our own.

Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
Guests about to leave on the Maple Syrup Trail tour.

When walking the trail, you get to experience the history of maple syrup collection from the original collection done first by the Native people of Canada, to the collection methods of the pioneers and concluding with how maple sap is collected and made into maple syrup now. My kids definitely enjoyed playing at each station and loved chatting with the friendly staff and pioneer manning the fire at the pioneer station.

Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
Will checking out sap in the bucket.
Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
The kids inside the maple shack used in Native method.
Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
A pioneer teaching the kids how he made maple syrup over a fire.

Currently along the trail there are large mounds of snow that children have made into makeshift slides. These provided a good stopping point and break from the trail. The kids were easily lured back to the trail by the delicious maple syrup samples and the promise of pancakes at the end.

Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
Will and Charlie sliding down snow banks.
Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
Will trying a sample of tasty maple syrup.

When we were done learning about maple syrup production and looking in the buckets for sap, we headed to the pancake house to enjoy a delicious sample of pancakes and syrup. The pancakes are quite good and extremely large. 3 large pancakes with syrup costs $6.50 a plate with smaller plates costing between $3 and $5.

Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
Will excited to dig into the pancakes and syrup.

Once our pancakes had been devoured, we visited the balloon twister and face painting station located in the back of the pancake house. The balloon twister, Dr. Bandoli, is great with kids and kept the entire crowd entertained. Balloons were free to every child. Charlie opted to have her face painted. The line was short and the face painter did an excellent job. Face painting ranged by design between $3 and $10. Charlie opted for a quite nice design which cost $5.

Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
This kids loved the ballon twister station.
Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
Charlie showing off her facepaint.

Before wrapping up our day, we wanted to take a wagon ride. We waited outside for less than five minutes as the horses returned from a previous tour. The wagon ride is $1 per person with children 4 and under riding for free. The kids really enjoyed the tour which takes you into the sugarbush to see more maple trees and sap buckets. Its a short ride but it gives kids an idea of how many maple trees are required to make maple syrup. We learnt at the festival that 1 container of maple syrup requires approximately 40 buckets of sap.

Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
The horses getting ready to pull our wagon.
Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
Will and Charlie enjoying the ride.

We couldn’t leave without stopping by the Sugar Shack which sells real Ontario maple syrup products. I, previous to yesterday, did not know that the colour of maple syrup affected the taste and was surprised to see them selling different shades of syrup. I purchased a large bottle of syrup and of course some maple syrup lollipops for the kids.

Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
Breakfast this morning with our Ontario maple syrup and honey.

On the way out we did a quick stop at the petting zoo which is small but has some very friendly donkeys, a llama, and some goats for the kids to say hello to as well as a smaller pen with friendly bunnies. Packed into the car with their bellies full of pancakes and balloon animals in hand, Will and Charlie both asked if we could return to the festival every spring. So it looks like another family tradition is born.

Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
Checking out the bunnies at the petting zoo.

Due to the cold weather the Toronto Area has been experiencing, the Maple Syrup Festival has been extended to April 13, 2014 as they expect the sap from the trees to still be running. The Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival takes place at two locations this spring, Bruce’s Mill and Kortright Center for Conservation in Maple, Ontario. For more information visit www.maplesyrupfest.com.

Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival
All smiles at the end of the day. See you next year Maple Syrup Festival!

We were granted free admission to the festival. All opinions expressed in this blog are my own.


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