* This article was originally written by Cindy Smith for Little Lake County
I have lived in the Lake County for 40 years, minus college and the three years we moved to Ohio. Can you believe I had no idea that in our very own neck of the woods there are events to celebrate the sweet nectar of the maples? Below you’ll find multiple learning opportunities and lots of outdoor fun as the maple syrup harvest begins in the late winter/early spring. Aunt Jemima has nothing on the information you’ll learn and the fresh maple syrup you’ll taste during these events!
Get your taste buds, eyes, and ears ready for some sappy sweet outdoor and educational fun for the whole family!
Maple Syrup Harvest in Lake County
Sap’s Rising – River Trail Nature Center
3120 Milwaukee Avenue, Northbrook | (847) 824-8360
Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Walk in the sugar maple forest as winter comes to an end and learn about the sweet history of maple syrup making before the big festival in March.
McHenry County’s Festival of the Sugar Maples – Coral Woods Conservation Area
7400 Somerset, Marengo | (815) 479-5779
March 4, 5, 11 and 12, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Learn everything there is to know about maple syrup–the trees, collection, production, you name it! You can even try to tap a tree yourself! Dress for the weather as this is an outdoor event. It’s free and open to all ages, no pets.
Maple Sugaring – Kline Creek Farm
1N600 County Farm Rd, West Chicago | (630) 876-5900
Saturday, March 3 and Sunday, March 4, 10:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.
Learn how sap becomes syrup and take a crack at tapping a tree with tools from the 1890s! You can watch the sap thicken and have a taste. All ages. Free. No registration.
Maple Syrup Hikes – Ryerson Woods
21950 North Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods | (847) 968-3321
Saturday and Sunday March 10, 11, 17, 18, 24 & 25, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Take a Maple Syrup Hike with a Lake County Forest Preserve naturalist and learn how sap from the sugar maple trees is turned into sweet maple syrup. Everyone gets a taste. Registration is required; please call 847-968-3321. Hikes are $6 per person and are open to all ages. Hikes run every 30 minutes. There are also special sessions available that are designed for large parties or Scout groups. Read Melissa’s review of her Maple Syrup Hike Experience, including a video.
Syrup Tree and Silver Dollar Brunch – The Morton Arboretum
4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle | (630) 968-0074
Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18, 10:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Take a guided hike to learn the history of maple tapping and see how it’s done! Complete your experience with maple syrup sampling and family-style brunch. A portion of this program will be outdoors, so dress for the weather. Brunch includes pancakes, sausage, fruit, maple treat, and beverages. See event website for details on registration, including session times.
Maple Syrup Day – Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center
3609 Spring Road, Oak Brook, IL | (630) 850-8110
Saturday, March 17, 2018, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
This 75-minute guided tour will teach you about turning tree sap into syrup. Sweet samples are included! Tours begin every 20 minutes. All ages. $10 per person. Register online or at 630-850-8110.
46th Annual Maple Syrup Festival – River Trail Nature Center
3120 Milwaukee Ave., Northbrook | (847) 824-8360
March 20, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Celebrate the arrival of spring with a special day of free activities including maple syrup history, tree tapping hikes, maple syrup making and more. Call (847) 824-8360 for more information or check out the event website.
Maple Syrup Festival at North Park Village – North Park Village Nature Center
5801 N. Pulaski Rd., Chicago | (312) 744-5472
Saturday, March 24, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Come and see the entire maple syrup-making process from tapping the tree and collecting the sap, to boiling it down into syrup. Take a walk through the sugar bush, enjoy storytelling, make a maple craft, warm yourself by the fire, and taste real maple syrup fresh off the fire. The Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet and warm tradition that is free and fun for all ages. No registration required.
Have you ever taken part in a maple syrup harvest? What are some of your family’s favorite recipes using maple syrup (outside of on pancakes and waffles)? Share your stories and links in the comments section.