Some folks look for returning birds, crocus or bathing suits as the first signs of spring. Our stomachs, however, rumble in anticipation of New York State’s Maple Weekend 2018 — March 17 & 18 and March 24 & 25. The highly popular annual event has evolved to cover two weekends now.
A sweet celebration of spring
Each spring, sap moves up and down the tree as the temperature warms during the day and goes down at night. During this time, it’s collected for making maple syrup. Some maple syrup producers still use buckets hanging from tree, but more and more you might notice plastic tubing strung among trees. It takes around 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. We'd be remiss for not thanking the Native Americans for showing early settlers how to collect and boil the sap to make syrup, a tradition that goes back some 300 years. Our pancakes just wouldn’t be the same.
From a simple pancake breakfast to heading into the sugar bush, seeing the tapped trees and watching sap boil in an evaporator, there is a Maple Weekend experience for everyone. The event is statewide, so planning a weekend road trip isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.
Where to go
Here are some tried and true places we love. Note some locations are open through April, so if you miss the weekends, you can still head out for pancakes at another date:
- Arcade Center Farm Pancake House (7298 Route 98, Arcade) open Saturday and Sundays 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. now through April. All-you-can-eat pancakes; see a wood burning evaporator in action.
- Beaver Meadow Audubon (1610 Welch Road, North Java) Sugar shanty open March 10, 24 and 31. See maple syrup made the Native American way. Maple Harvest Festival March 17 and 18 only, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. All you can eat pancake breakfast, “sugar snow,” maple cotton candy and maple snacks.
- Buffalo Niagara Heritage Museum (3755 Tonawanda Creek Road, Amherst) will host an event March 24-25, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. only. Hands-on family-friendly activities. “Lumberjack” breakfast served both days 9:30 a.m. to noon. Large tables can be reserved only at 9:30 a.m. for parties 8+.
- Carwright’s Maple Tree Inn (4321 Country Road 15A, Angelica) will serve its all-you-can-eat buckwheat pancakes that are well worth the ride. Open now through April 15, you can also buy maple products and see sap boiled.
- Genesee Country Village Museum (1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford) hosts a Maple Sugar Festival & Pancake Breakfast both weekends. The museum has partnered with 195 year old New Hope Mills for its pancake mix. Head in the woods where kids can see maple syrup simmering in giant pots over the wood fire. (We are imagining Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in The Big Woods). Festival tickets are $10 adults, kids 17 and under are free. Unlimited pancake and sausage breakfast ($9/$7 youth ages 2-10) served 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., event runs to 4 p.m. On April 6, the museum will host a Sugaring Off Party from 6 to 9 p.m, with music, spirits food, games and more. Cost is $30 per person, special four tickets for $100. Must be 21 to attend.
- Johnson Estate Winery (8419 West Route 20, Westfield) will once again serve Julia Child’s recipe for French crepes with the winery’s maple infused liqueur for an adult maple weekend experience from 1 to 4 p.m.
- Lodge at Hidden Valley (2887 Royce Road, Varysburg) will host all you can eat pancake breakfasts starting at 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Reservations recommended.
- Maple Glen Sugar House (2266 Gowanda Zoar Road, Gowanda) is home to the maple boiled hot dog as well as pancakes breakfasts both weekends, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Gowanda Fire Hall a short drive away. Adults $9/$5 children.
- Moore’s Maple Shack & Pancake House (10444 Galen Hill Road, Freedom) will serve pancakes through April 15. Open Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed Mondays and Easter Sunday).
- Sprague’s Maple Farm (1048 Portville Road, Portville) is a bit of a ride but worth it because you can get pancakes and turkey — two of our all-time favorite food groups. Open year round, Sprague’s is a destination restaurant that features maple all over the menu, from pancakes and waffles to maple bourbon sirloins and maple milkshakes. We are partial to a turkey and biscuits dinner with a side of pancakes. Tours and activities keep the kids busy indoors and out.
- Sweet Time Maple & Honey (5680 Webster Road, Wyoming) will serve all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast both weekends 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.. Buffet style includes pancakes, sausage, home fries, eggs, ham and coffee, tea, milk and juice. Cost $11 adult; $5 kids under 8. Purchase maple syrup as well as honey from the hives. Kids can also participate in an Easter egg hunt all four days of Maple Weekend starting at 2 p.m.
If you’re interested in heading to Canada, the White Meadow Farm (2519 Effingham St., St. Catharines, ON, L2R6P7) is a cute excursion. They offer a sugar bush trek every weekend in March, and April 7 & 8. Test your hand at cutting a log like a pioneer and enjoy a tractor wagon ride. Tours run every half hour starting at 10 a.m., last tour departs at 3 p.m. $15 adult; $10 youth 7-16; $5 kids 3-6 (prices Canadian).
The store sells everything maple, from syrup in different “colour classes” — golden, amber, dark and very dark — to gourmet maple items like wild smoked maple salmon, maple granola, maple mustard, maple barbecue sauce and maple vinegar. Of course find maple candies and maple fudge, along with quirky things like maple lip balm.
Pancakes not your thing?
Head to Schunk’s West Hill Grill (4274 Keller Rd., Eden) for maple chicken wings. Slug down Genny Cream Ale with wings that made with a combination of maple syrup and hot sauce. Ask for an extra side of maple syrup to drizzle on top before you eat them.