Tap that maple
Spring has finally arrived in Canada. But while the snow on the ski hills melts ever so slowly and the subzero temperatures are really starting to become a nuisance, these warm days and frigid nights mean one good thing: maple syrup season. A visit to a sugar shack might be the wholesome pick-me-up you need as we are finally starting to see the end of this never-ending winter. There are tons of destinations to satisfy your sweet tooth within a short drive of most major cities in Ontario and Quebec, so pack up the kids, grab your best buds, or bring some friends from out of town to experience this purely Canadian excursion.
Whether you’re looking to attend a maple syrup festival, or just grab weekend brunch at a pancake house, you’ll need wheels to get there.
Toronto day trip
For those in Ontario, Rauan’s Hyundai is easily accessible by TTC and a perfect option for a group of city dwellers looking for a day trip to get a taste of the good stuff. The Purple Woods Maple Syrup Festival, located in the ‘shwa, an easy 1.5 hour drive from Toronto, has everything you need for the full maple experience, including (most importantly), two serving options for your pancake breakfast. When the chill really starts to get to you, you’ll be thankful that you get to enjoy the ride home with the Hyundai’s heated seats.
If you’re looking more for family fun, the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association is hosting their Maple Weekend on April 1-2. Neil’s Dodge Grand Caravan has more than enough room for you, the kids, and even their friends — just make sure to clean off any sticky hands before getting back in! Maple Weekend is an interactive event where the production of maple syrup is explained and showcased at sugar shacks all across Ontario. Each station has variations on the activities they are running, but no matter which one you go to, you get some syrupy souvenirs to bring back home.
In Quebec, the cabanes à sucre tradition is even older than our country. Much like every other activity you can choose to do in the province, you have the option of a traditional or a very alternative maple syrup-themed experience. If you’re old school, look no further than Sucrerie Jean-Louis Massicotte et filles, which has been in operation about an hour outside of Quebec City since 1710. Make sure to reserve your spot in advance, then hop into Alain’s Ford Explorer for a fantastic view into the past. Watch the sap from the trees get collected into barrels, eat traditional Quebecois food cooked on a wood stove, and experience the magic of tire sur la neige, when fresh maple syrup is poured onto snow and wrapped up on a wooden stick, a snack between popsicle and taffy. Make sure to bundle up though — much like it was in the 1700s, there’s no electricity here.
But let’s say you’re different. You’d like to go against the norm and try a very different kind of sugar shack experience. In that case, may we recommend booking Ion’s Tesla Model S and driving it out to Au Pied de Cochon’s Cabane à Sucre outside of Montreal? This spin-off of the famous downtown restaurant reinvents the typical sugar shack experience, with a menu that adds extremely decadent food such as foie gras to time-honoured Quebecois classics like pea soup, with an overarching maple syrup theme. The cabane and chef Martin Picard are so well-known that Anthony Bourdain visited the restaurant for the filming of his 2013 show Parts Unknown. You might be out of luck for this year, though: reservations for this spot open up months in advance and go quickly. Oh well, there’s always the original Au Pied du Cochon and a visit to the tires sur neige stands in the Old Port to satisfy your cravings until next year.