During our kids' Spring Break from school, we went to St. Jacobs Farmers Market in Ontario and took a Maple Sugar Bush Tour by St. Jacobs Horse Drawn Tours. It was such a fun experience and I am so happy that we did it! I took quite a few photos while we were there and thought it would be fun to share our experience with you.
We started by meeting the driver at St. Jacobs Market where we paid for our tickets and had a chance to say hello to the horses. (Tours run every Saturday from March 7th to April 11th from 9am-3:30pm, every half hour.)
Here are the girls, excited to start the tour! :)
Our driver was great- he invited the girls to sit up at the front with him (which they were thrilled about) and even let them make "kiss sounds" to tell the horses to go when our red light turned to green. :) He also shared with us some history about the Mennonites who live in that area.
When we arrived at the sugar bush, we rode around to look at the trees first and then we were dropped off and met by our tour guide (who did an excellent job with the tour!).
He started the tour by showing us where the sap comes from and let us taste it to see that the sap starts out quite different than the syrup we're used to- it doesn't just drip out like syrup!
We got a close look at how they tap the trees these days- there are tubes coming right out of the trees and the sap runs through them to a collecting point (which we visited later in the tour). You can see in the photo below, on the right, that you could actually watch the sap and bubbles flowing through the tubes.
I loved the history shared with the tour- there were three little stations where they demonstrated the different methods from the past, for collecting sap and making syrup. The three photos below show the progression in how they tapped the trees:
The first station was the "Native American Sugar Camp".
Here our tour guide demonstrated how they would heat a stone in the fire and put it into a hollowed out log with the sap in it. They would boil it until there was less water, making the more concentrated syrup.
Our second stop was at the "Settlers Sugar Camp" where we could see some changes in the way that they would collect sap and how they were able to speed up the process of heating the sap to syrup:
Our tour guide was great with the group and kept everything interesting for the kids and adults alike as we went over the history of maple syrup making.
The last stop on our tour was to see what happens with the sap now. We saw where they collect the sap and we saw the machine used to heat it. We lingered a little while after the tour ended, to talk with the farmer and were lucky to be there when the syrup was finished, so we got to see it flowing out of the machine.
After the tour, you get to go and sample three types of syrup on large pancakes- one of our favourite parts of the experience! We are big fans of real maple syrup, so it was fun to taste each of the types and decide what everyone's favourites were. It was also nice to be inside that building with a stove to heat it and to get a cup of warm apple cider before heading back outside!
After the official tour and pancakes, you're free to stay as long as you like (and go back on one of the horse drawn shuttles that show up each half hour). We had fun with some old fashioned log sawing!
Below, the girls are posing with their piece of wood that they managed to cut :)
Next they tried tapping a maple tree with a hand drill (which they both did pretty well!)
There was an old tractor that they could climb up on and pose for photos, so we had to fit that in, too!
There was also a petting zoo and they had the most adorable baby lamb! (among other animals which the girls loved petting).
And the last thing we did before leaving was to try maple toffee on snow. This was the only thing we did that wasn't included in the price of the tour. The girls each got to roll their own stick. (We actually tried making maple candy ourselves at home once- which worked pretty well, too :)
And here they are on the last ride home from the farm (we were the last ones to leave.. we really enjoyed our time there and stayed until the last moment!)
I wasn't sure what to expect from this tour, but I knew I wanted the girls to see the process of how maple syrup is made. We got so much more than I was expecting on this tour- we were very impressed and I would definitely recommend it!
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. As always, all opinions shared are honest & my own.