Canadians are known for their love for maple syrup, which is a no-brainer considering our flag even has a maple leaf. We even refer to it as liquid gold! While the majority of our maple syrup is produced in eastern Quebec, Ontarians also have a love for it. There’s really no reason NOT to visit at least one of the maple syrup festivals in Ontario, but in case you need some… here are eight reasons to go!
Why Visit an Ontario Maple Syrup Festival?
Is there anything more quintessentially Canadian than a maple syrup festival? Before we dive into the reasons why you should visit, maple syrup is a Canadian staple – and for good reason. Canada is the leading global producer of maple syrup as we export 71% of it worldwide. That amounted to 12.5 million gallons in 2017 alone. As a result, we pride ourselves on our maple and that can be seen in Ontario. Many school trips consist of a trip to learn about maple and other maple-themed activities when the season comes!
But I digress, you’re not in school anymore. So why should you visit an Ontario maple syrup festival? Here are eight reasons why!
1. Because… maple.
The real stuff, not that table syrup sh!t. Don’t get me wrong, I used to be a table syrup kind of gal but I’ve slowly come to my senses. Or maybe I’ve become more Canadian? Let’s go with a bit of both.
Seriously though if you’re not a fan of maple syrup – GO. There are actually 4 different classifications – golden, amber, dark and very dark. The darker the syrup is, the stronger the taste and they all have their own distinct flavour. I personally enjoy an amber syrup, but you might enjoy a different one!
2. It’s a perfect outing with friends and/or family!
Whether it’s chilly outside or a nice spring day, it’s a great excuse to get outside. Grab your pals or round up the family for a fabulous day of fun! There are plenty of activities for kids of all ages – even the adult ones.
3. There are plenty of festivals to visit.
From about the middle of February until the end of April, you’ll find a number of festivals celebrating maple syrup. This means not only do you have a bunch of time to visit them but you’ve got lots of options! Each festival is unique with its own quirks and perks. It means you won’t have the same experience twice!
There is actually an overwhelming number of maple syrup festivals in Ontario so chances are there’s one not too far away from your destination. I highly recommend taking a day trip to enjoy the maple fun or make time to visit one in your vacation plans!
4. It’s educational – in a fun way.
Did you know that it takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of maple syrup? Remember, we exported 12.5 billion gallons of syrup in 2017… I’ll let you do the math on that one!
Visiting a local sugar bush can help with this as you learn about the process as well. You’ll get to see the buckets collecting sap, some of the equipment which makes the sap into syrup, and more! If you have any questions about the process, this is the time to ask them. These are the people who make maple syrup for a living!
Additional Fun Facts about Maple Syrup
▪ Not every tree can be tapped as they need to be at least 100 years old in order for sap production to start.
▪ 100 years old normally equates to 12 inches in diameter.
▪ Tree sap actually runs from the roots upwards as it heads for the leaves!
▪ During tapping season, you’ll see spouts (either made of metal or plastic) which allows the sap to escape into buckets which hang beneath it.
▪ The colour of maple syrup depends on a number of factors, including the age of the tree, the amount of sugar, the soil compounds and the time in the season.
5. The samples!
I have yet to visit a maple syrup festival that didn’t have at least a few vendors offering samples. Whether it’s different kinds of maple syrup, maple treats, or other savoury delights, you can walk around and enjoy the local delights. Be warned though! They give out samples for a reason – many are so delicious you’ll have to buy some to take home!
6. It supports the local community.
While maple syrup is the main theme of the festival, that’s not the only thing you’ll find. You’ll also find great restaurants, food trucks, local businesses and more! This is seriously an amazing way to support the community and have your tourism dollars go right to a local establishment.
7. It gets you outside.
The majority of maple syrup festivals are held outdoors, meaning you’ll get some good old fashioned fresh air. Chances are by mid-February when these festivals start to take off, we’re already feeling some of the cabin fever. Plus there are a number of health benefits to spending time outside. Layer up with your mitts and boots (or wait until the warmer springtime months) and enjoy some quality time outdoors!
8. It’s FUN!
Above all, going to a maple syrup festival is so much fun. I bet you’ll have so much fun that you’ll be visiting multiple festivals in a season! They’re kind of like Pringles… betcha can’t have just one. Or in this case, betcha can’t attend just one event!
Things to Know When Visiting a Maple Syrup Festival
Most of the vendors you’ll find are small farms or local businesses, meaning credit or debit isn’t readily available. Be sure to have cash otherwise you’ll be hunting for a bank or ATM! This way you can also limit how much you spend as cash really can disappear quickly on you. Yes, I’m talking from experience!
The weather at this time of the year is really up in the air. It can be warm spring weather or frigid winter temperatures so be sure to dress accordingly. Layers are always a good idea in Canada, that way you’ll still be comfortable if it does warm up!
You may not realize just how long you’ll be on your feet but when there are so many vendors, activities and yummy goodies to enjoy – your feet will get tired. Be sure to wear a comfortable pair of boots or sneakers so your aching feet don’t distract from your festival fun! However, if you do plan to go into the sugar bush, a pair of boots is a good idea as it can be muddy!
What Maple Syrup Festivals in Ontario Should You Visit?
As I mentioned, there are a number of maple syrup festivals that it can be overwhelming to know where to go. I’ve only been to a handful myself but here are some options where you can get your maple on!
Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
As the largest single-day maple syrup festival according to the Guinness World Book of Records, Elmira’s Maple Syrup Festival is a must-experience at least once. Elmira may be a quaint little town just north of Kitchener but on this day each year, thousands flock to the town for some maple-y goodness. For over 50 years, flapjacks have been flipped as visitors from all over the world come to enjoy the festival – even as far as the north pole!
Starting at the crack of dawn, explore the grounds and enjoy the variety of maple-themed activities. Grab some pancakes, indulge in maple taffy and other treats. If you’ve had enough sugar, you can enjoy a number of incredible eats at the half-mile long outdoor mall. From vegetarian poutine to smoked turkey legs, I’m certain you’ll find something to enjoy! My personal favourite is hands down the Fritter Haus. You may recognize if you’ve been to Kitchener’s Christkindl Market, one of the many great Christmas markets in Ontario!
Once you’ve indulged as well as done a bit of shopping, I recommend heading out to a local sugar bush for a glimpse of how it’s made! Buses leave from the grounds in Elmira and take you right to one of the local locations like Weberlaur Farm. Hop on the tractor for a wagon ride as it takes you to the sugar shack. Here you’ll see tapped trees and learn how the sap is processed. It really is fascinating and fun for the whole family!
Festival of the Maples
Elmira may have the largest one-day festival but how about visiting the Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario? Look no further than Lanark County and their Festival of the Maples. Make your way to downtown Perth to celebrate the culmination of a month-long maple celebration.
RELATED: Looking to make it a weekend adventure? Check out this great guide of things to do in Lanark County!
Delight your taste buds with maple taffy, your eyes with the classic car display and more on Gore Street. If you’re feeling competitive, bring your friend and sign up for the annual cross-cut saw competition! See how quickly your team can cut a log in half then race to hang your bucket first by drilling a sap spigot hole. The adrenaline will be pumping as you work fast, but at least you can reward yourself with some delicious maple treats afterwards for your trouble!
With plenty of other family-friendly attractions like rock climbing, obstacle course and even an appearance by the Perth Fire Dawgs, this is one sweet festival!
Paris Maple Syrup Festival
The heart of town is transformed into a day of syrupy fun at the Paris Maple Syrup Festival. Organized by the local Lions Club in conjunction with the County of Brant, this volunteer event raises money for local projects in the town of Paris.
RELATED: Since you’re in town, be sure to check out all of these great things to do in Paris Ontario!
Grand River Street is closed down for pedestrian-only fun as you walk the blocks of vendors and eateries. It’s incredibly picturesque which isn’t a shock considering Paris has been voted ‘the Prettiest Little Town in Canada’! As if that wasn’t enough, how about the fact that it’s the cobblestone capital of Canada? Yep, you’ll wanna bring your camera for this one!
If you’re all maple-d out (not sure how that’s possible!) and looking for more to do, be sure to stop in at the Paris Agricultural Society. Their Spring Craft Show and Market is a great way to support local vendors and the local community. From woodworking to spring decor to jewellery and much more, you’ll want to bring some extra cash in case you spy something you like!
Muskoka Maple Festival
What better way to enjoy maple goodness than a whole trail dedicated to the sweet syrup? Enjoy over 25 stops across the Muskoka region with the Muskoka Maple Festival’s Maple Trail. Running for over a month, you’ll have lots of time to enjoy their maple goodies from breakfast to gelato and even maple beer!
However, the actual Muskoka Maple Festival is just one day but is jam-packed with plenty of great activities. Head to Huntsville to celebrate the culmination of the maple harvest. Get the kids to burn off some of that sugar with the Kiwanis Sap Run and then partake in the festivities. With buskers, live music and plenty of maple to go around, it’s guaranteed to be a sweet treat!
…and Many More!
This is just the top of the sap bucket. I seriously can’t tell you enough just how many Ontario maple syrup festivals there are. Take a look at your local tourism board’s events or search for maple festivals in your local area. I guarantee it won’t be long until you find more maple festivities than you can shake a stick at!