Maple Sugar, maple sugaring, where to go in Massachusetts for maple sugaring

Maple Sugaring Adventures!

Maple Sugaring in Massachusetts

I can’t believe that I’ve never taken the kids maple sugaring! And they really want to go so I researched places near and far in Massachusetts to make it happen this year! Right now I am leaning towards The Warren Farm.  

I am glad that they charge admission. This means that they take their tour seriously and I love that they incorporate the history of Native Americans’ who first tapped the sugar maple.  I am also partial to Drumlin Farm. We have been going there for years for visits and school field trips and they do an amazing job of engaging kids. Have you been maple sugaring?  What is your favorite place? Please leave a comment.

From Sap to Sweet—The Art of Maple Sugaring (from Mass Audubon)

Historical Roots

Native Americans were perhaps the first to discover that sap from maple trees could be processed into maple syrup. One popular oral legend is that a Native American chief hit a sugar maple tree with his tomahawk and the sap began to flow. The clear liquid that dripped from the split in the tree collected in a container on the ground. His wife used the liquid to cook venison and discovered that the meat and the sweet liquid that remained were delicious. Another theory: the Native people observed squirrels, sapsuckers, spring moths, and butterflies drinking from open wounds in trees.

From Sap to Tap

Maple Syrup in the MakingNew England maple syrup is produced during a short four- to six-week sugar window typically from early February into April. Conditions are optimum when the temperature rises above freezing during the day and then drops below freezing at night. This fluctuation in air temperature is vital, causing pressure to develop in the tree, which allows the sap to flow. As the maple sap flows up from the roots of the tree during the day, the maple syrup producer, or “sugarmaker,” taps the tree. Tapping involves boring a hole into the tree and placing a spout inside the tap hole. The sap runs out of the tree and lands in a bucket connected to the spout. Does this process harm the tree? When guidelines are followed and only healthy trees are tapped, no damage to the trees results. It’s estimated that tapping removes only 10 percent of a tree’s sugar—an amount too small to harm a healthy tree under normal conditions.

Traditional maple syrup buckets or a complex piping system can deliver up to hundreds of gallons of fresh sap to a large gathering tank. From the gathering tank, the sap flows into a sugarhouse through a filter to an evaporator, where it is boiled, removing water from the sap.

As the sap continues to boil the liquid becomes sweeter, i.e. it’s sugaring content increases and changes to an amber color. Before the sap starts to evaporate, it has about 2 to 2 1/2 percent sugar content. (The sugar content in trees changes as the season progresses; sugar maple trees have the highest concentration of sugar).

After the boiling process, the sugar content is about 66 percent. Next the maple syrup is put through another filter to remove “sugar sand,” which develops during the boiling and evaporation process. The maple syrup is then stored in stainless-steel drums for hot packaging into retail containers.

Where to Go

North Hadley Sugar Shack: open Wednesday through Sunday from Feb. 17th – April 18th for their pancake breakfast and sugaring tours.

South Face Farm, Ashfield, MA: Come visit us during maple sugaring season in March and early April. Our sugarhouse is always open for visitors, and on weekends our sugarhouse restaurant serves homemade pancakes, waffles, corn fritters, and many other special maple goodies. Try a stack of French Toast made with fresh homemade bread, topped with justmade maple syrup. Because maple sap flow depends on just the right weather conditions, you may want to call ahead and see if we are boiling when you plan to visit.

Harwick Sugar Shack: Join us for an Open house at Hardwick Sugar Shack every Sunday in March from 11-4 pm. Follow the process of making maple syrup from tree to tasting. During the open house you can sample the finished product, visit the horses, see the old-fashioned way of making syrup and enjoy hot mulled maple cider.

The Warren Farm, North Brookfield, MA: Open for guided sugaring tours Sat. & Sun. February 26th through March 27th, 2011, 11:30 and 2:00

The whole family will enjoy this fascinating visit to a New England sugaring operation.

We’ll share stories about the Native Americans’ role in the early history of sugaring, then continue by demonstrating colonial methods and tools for collecting and boiling.  During a quick trip to our woods you’ll explore two different systems used today, and will have an opportunity to see new technology.  Aspects of nature, science, meteorology, and math will be woven into the presentation. The tour heads to the sugar house, where a large evaporator stands ready to receive sap from collection tanks outside.  Here, everyone will learn how sap is boiled into syrup, and see the equipment and gauges needed for this process.  We’ll end back at the picnic table area for more stories and sampling.  Boiling is weather dependent, so the tours are not based on our ability to boil.   This is certainly a tradition that has something of interest for all ages!

New this year! You may also choose to just come and walk around the farm on your own at no charge and without reservations.  The Sweet Traditionsmovie will be playing throughout the day in the greenhouse, and you can poke around the tour areas when groups are not using them. $5 Admission for ages 4 and up.

Maple Sugaring Events at Mass Audubon Sanctuaries

It’s sugaring time at Brookwood Farm! Join the staff of Blue Hills Trailside Museum and the Department of Conservation and Recreation as we make syrup in the traditional way. Travel along beautiful Maple Lane, where characters from New England’s past will guide you through the historic changes in sap collection techniques. Visit the sugar shack to see the sap boiled to become yummy syrup! Warm up by the campfire, or try your hand at wood splitting. And, of course, test your taste buds; can you tell the difference between real and imitation syrup? Why travel hours away when we’re making maple syrup in your own back yard? Free for children 2 and under.Saturday & Sunday, March 8 & 9 / 10 am-4 pm

Blue Hills Trailside Museum
1904 Canton Avenue
Milton, MA 02186

Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife SanctuaryThursday, March 6 / 1-3pm
Cosponsor: Blackstone Valley Sugaring Association
Location: River Bend Farm, Uxbridge

Broad Meadow Brook is partnering with the Blackstone Valley Sugaring Association in this special program designed to teach homeschool families an old New England tradition. From watery sap to sweet treat, we’ll take you through the steps of maple sugaring. Handle sugaring equipment, tap a tree, see an evaporator and sample maple candy and tea. Dress for the weather. All ages welcome! $4 per child.

Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary
414 Massasoit Road
Worcester, MA 01604

Drumlin Farm Wildlife SanctuarySaturday & Sunday, March 15 & 16 / 9 am-1 pm

$13 adults, $10 children, kids under 3 free

Enjoy a breakfast of hearty pancakes with maple syrup, Drumlin’s own all natural farm-raised roasted potatoes and sausage, as well as breakfast beverages. See how sap is collected from our majestic maple trees. Explore the natural history of maples trees as you learn about the distinctly north woods product of syrup. Learn about Native American sap to syrup techniques.

Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary
208 South Great Road
Lincoln, MA 01773

Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary
Sunday, March 9

Saturday, March 15
Sunday, March 16
Tours: every 15 minutes from 11 am-3 pm

Preregistration fee: $7 per person
Day-of fee: $8 per person
Children age three and younger are free

Travel back in time and discover the history of maple sugaring during this special 90-minute outdoor, guided tour. Discover why this is the time to sugar and how it is done. Learn about Native American and Colonial sugaring techniques from people portraying characters from the past. End your travels in the present day at our operational sugar house where we are turning sap into syrup. A taste of the final product will conclude your program. Dress for the weather, but plan to come inside for additional sugaring fun after your tour.

Pancakes with real maple syrup, “sap dogs,” and maple-sugared popcorn will be available for a small additional fee at the Nature Center. Make a simple project to remind you of your maple sugaring experience at our free children’s craft table, test your sugaring memory on our quiz board, and more after your tour.

Preregistration is recommended, as it guarantees your space and saves you money. There are no refunds or exchanges on event fees. If you have questions, please contact Patti Shaver at 781-784-5691.
293 Moose Hill Street
Sharon, MA 02067

Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary

Wednesday, February 27 / 3:30-5 pm

Children $12 member / $15 non-member

The maple sap is running! Come and join us as we go on a scavenger hunt around our property to find the sugar maple trees. We will learn how people make sweet syrup from the sap (and maybe get to have a little taste).

Sugaring Celebration
Sunday, March 9 / 1-3 pm
Saturday, March 15 / 10 am-12 pm
Adults $8 member, $10 non-member / Children $8 member , $10 non-member

A Habitat tradition! Bring the kids and grandparents and learn how maple syrup is made from sugar maple trees. We’ll try our hand at a few sugaring activities, hear stories, and visit a few places on the property including our tapped sugar trees. We’ll boil down a little of our sap and see how we did.

How Sweet It Is
Friday, March 14 / 1-2:30 pm
Adults $6 member / $7.50 nonmember, Children $6 member / $7.50 nonmember

The rising of the maple sap is the sweetest sign of spring! Join us as we learn, through hands-on activities and a special puppet show, how people have tapped trees and used the sap. We will also visit our sanctuary’s sugar maple trees.

Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary
10 Juniper Road
Belmont, MA 02478

Ipswich River Wildlife SanctuaryTours: Saturdays and Sundays: March 1 & 2

March 8 & 9 and March 15 & 16 / 10 am, 12:30 & 2:30 pm

Spring celebrations begin early at the sanctuary with the age-old tradition of maple sugaring. The warm days of late winter awaken the flow of sap in the maples, causing buds to swell and resulting in sweet smells coming from the sugarhouse. Learn how to identify a sugar maple, observe tapping and sap collection methods, and watch the sap being boiled down in the sugarhouse, where everyone gets a sweet taste of the final product. Afterwards, warm up in the Barn by our woodstove, indulge in a hot dog cooked in maple sap, sample our delicious soup and desserts made by sanctuary volunteers, or browse through our gift shop. Our syrup is available for sale (quantities may be limited). Tours last about an hour and run rain or shine.

We also offer tours for schools and scout/youth groups, Tuesday through Friday, February 26 through March 14. Complete information on these programs can be found in our Winter 2008 School and Scout brochures. These can be downloaded from our website or call the sanctuary at 978-887-9264 to request a copy.

Cost: $7.50 adults member; $6.50 children member / $8.50 adults non-member; $7.50 children non-member / Children under 3 are free and should be in a backpack.
Preregistration required. For more information or to register for these events,

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
87 Perkins Row
Topsfield, MA 01983

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. BC

    We’ve been to the Blue Hills and Broad Meadow Brook for maple sugar events with our children. Both are very good and family-friendly. They charge a fair price and don’t require admission; two things that I appreciate. The places that have been doing this for awhile don’t need pre-registration because they know what they are doing.

    • To BC,
      Thank you so much for your feedback on Blue Hills and Broad Meadow Brook for maple sugar events. I want to take the family this year and it’s hard to decide where to go!

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