Since moving to Ottawa and surviving our first winter we have been anxiously awaiting spring. Like much of “spring” so far, there are no flower buds to be seen or blossoms on trees. As I have learned, the sweet smell of a wood stack boiling off maple sap marks the change in season and attitudes around Ottawa. It means things are going to start thawing and sugar shack season has dawned.
Sugar shacks are where the sap of the maple tree is boiled into delicious maple syrup. The maple sap will start flowing when daytime temperatures are above freezing (around 40 degrees) and nighttime temperatures still hover below freezing (around 23 degrees). This usually coincides with late winter/early spring.
Last weekend, one of the last sugar bush weekends, we headed out to explore and find out more about sugar shacks. Long story short: if you are in Ottawa in Spring, a sugar bush is a MUST STOP DESTINATION. We drove to a large one outside the city but there are a variety of sizes and styles to choose from within the Ottawa area.
Our experience was at the Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Shack, an established sugar shack with a more commercial feel. It was large in size and had a good online reputation which held consistent with our experience. There was plenty to do and admission was free, so really, you couldn’t go wrong.
There were four short hiking trails to explore which were appropriate for our small kids (6,4,2). Make sure to wear appropriate gear for the weather and stop by the gift shop or snowshoe hut to pick up a scavenger hunt for the kids to complete. They get a prize when it is returned at the end (hint: it’s a maple lollipop). There are snowshoes, sleds and baby sleds for rent for trail use. I highly suggest a walk on the Heritage Trail for kids and adults alike. Super short and full of educational information on the evolution of maple syrup production. It would be great as an add-on to a homeschool curriculum.
The novelty snack of Maple Taffy (deserves to be capitalized) should be enough of a driving force for anyone to track down a sugar shack. I liked that the portion of taffy at Fulton’s was generous and well rolled. We bought two and there was plenty for all five of us to share. We also tried the maple cotton candy which was my personal favorite. I loved the sweet taste but beware the maple syrup gives the cotton candy itself a brownish hue which one child said “looked like poop.” Charming.
What I say next will be blasphemy, but we did not partake in the pancake breakfast. GASP! The line was long. The kids were not having the wait. We went on a sleigh ride instead. I promised them pancakes at home with syrup we bought at the shack.
In summary, the Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Shack was a wonderful introduction to the world of sugar shacks. I highly recommend adding a sugar shack experience your Canadian bucket list. Make sure to dress appropriately and have enough cash on you and everyone will have a great time. Let me know if you check one out or leave a link to a great one in the comments!