Michigan Maple Syrup
Have you ever been to a maple syrup festival in Michigan and seen how pure maple syrup is made? Delicious maple syrup doesn’t come from a log cabin: it comes straight from the maple tree.
March is maple syrup month and with Michigan among the top 10 maple syrup producers in the United States, it’s no surprise that festivities can be found all across the state. From festivals, tours, and interactive demonstrations, March is full of activities fit for anyone who loves to top their pancakes with sweet local maple syrup.
How is Maple Syrup Made?
You might know that maple syrup comes from maple tree sap, but how exactly does that sticky sap turn into our favorite breakfast syrup? The process can be broken down into six different steps that occur over the course of several days during the maple syrup season.
Find the Right Tree
The first step to make maple syrup is to find a maple tree. The best candidates are often marked in the fall, which makes them easy to spot when it’s time to collect the sap in winter, when the trees have no leaves.
Tap the Tree
Maple trees are tapped using tools such as a spile or spout. These are placed on the south side of the tree to maximize the tree’s potential sap yield.
Collect the Sap
Collection containers are hung from spiles to gather up all the dripping sap. Because the sap that falls into these containers is 98% water and 2% sugar, 40 gallons of sap only makes one gallon of syrup, so the key is to collect as much sap as possible.
Boil it Down
Now that the sap has been harvested, the process of transforming the sap into syrup can begin. The sap is cooked over a stovetop or fire where the water from the sap is boiled out, leaving behind the sweet sticky sugary syrup we know and love.
Store it Safely
Maple syrup is packaged while it’s still hot, then stored at room temperature in a cool, dark space. This ensures the syrup will last for as long as possible.
Enjoy maple syrup on any number of breakfast foods, like pancakes, waffles, or French toast. Maple syrup also makes a great additive to salad dressings, marinades, and even drinks for sweetness.
Best Maple Syrup Festivals in Michigan
Maple Day in Bellaire
Grass Lake Natural Area, 6500 Alden Hwy Bellaire, MI 49615
Head to beautiful Bellaire, just south of Charlevoix in northern Michigan nd see how maple syrup is made. Sap collected from the trees will be boiled on the evaporator at the Pavilion at the Grass River Center.
THis is a great opportunity to watch as maple syrup is made; staff will be one hand to answer questions about the process. You can also hike on the trail to see where they tap trees, hang buckets and lines, and collect the sap. The Center will be open indoors from 10am to 4pm. A limited supply of Grass River Maple Syrup may be available for sale.
Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival
Since 1958 the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival has supported the community and provided fun and flavorful entertainment for all ages in the greater Mt. Pleasant area. With pageants, a 5K, a parade, and plenty of maple syrup to go around, this is a central Michigan springtime favorite.
Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival
Annually, during the last full weekend of April, Michigan’s original maple syrup festival invites maple lovers of all kinds to gather in Vermontville. Ever since 1940 this festival has been a community staple, growing to the massive celebration it is today, complete with carnival rides, parades, and plenty of maple products, from candies, crème, cotton candy, and – of course – syrup.
PRO-TIP: Vermontville is less than an hour from Grand Rapids; be sure and plan some time to visit this fun city on the banks of the Grand River.
Kalamazoo Nature Center Maple Sugar Festival
For over 60 years, the Kalamazoo Nature Center has celebrated the arrival of spring with their Maple Sugar Festival. Enjoy the pancake breakfast complete with local maple syrup and take a tour to learn more about how maple sugar is harvested and transformed into your favorite breakfast topper.
PRO-TIP: Kalamazoo is home to Western Michigan, and some fantastic spots to check out including parks, breweries, book stores and more.
Michigan Maple Festival
March 19-20, 26-27
Celebrate your love of maple sugar with the Maple Row Sugarhouse in the town of Jones. Tour the facility to see their process of turning sap into syrup, snack on plenty of maple-infused foods, enjoy the family activities available, and pick up some syrup for your own home.
PRO-TIP: Charming St. Joseph, one of Michigan’s top beach towns and vacation destinations, is located about an hour west of Jones. It’s worth visiting this pretty Lake Michigan beachtown if you are in the area and enjoy the sweeping vistas of Lake Michigan and grab some photos of the St. Joseph lighthouse.
Old-Time Maple Sugar Festival
In Chelsea, tapping maple trees is a traditional rite of spring. Here you can take a tour to see the process and learn how it’s boiled down into syrup and even learn about the way it used to be made with antique equipment on display at Waterloo Farm Museum. Maple products will also be available for purchase for those looking to take something home.
Fenner Nature Center Maple Syrup Festival
2020 E Mt Hope Ave, Lansing, MI 48910
Travel to the Fenner Nature Center in Lansing to find “liquid gold” in the heart of Michigan. Get up close and personal with the process of collecting sap from sugar maple trees on location and learn about how this sap becomes some of our favorite maple products, from syrup to candy and more.
For-Mar Nature Preserve Maple Syrup Festival
March 5, 9
In Burton, the For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum invites maple sugar enthusiasts to join them for a couple of events they have scheduled during March. On the 5th, become a Maple Syrup Scientist and learn about the history behind the Sugar Bush Trail and how syrup is made here. On the 9th, the Outdoor Explorers: Let’s Make Maple Syrup event let’s kids get hands on with the basics of the syrup-making process.
Burgess Shadbush Nature Center Maple Syrup Festival
Join the Burgess Shadbush Nature Center in Shelby Township as they turn their maple sap into syrup through maple sugaring. This educational opportunity will teach you all about how trees make sugar and how people throughout time have harvested it for delicious products like maple syrup.
Hanover Horton Area Historical Society Maple Syrup Festival
Head to Hanover for a day full of all things maple syrup, starting with a pancake breakfast featuring maple syrup harvested and processed in their own Sugar Shack. Afterwards, the festival carries on throughout the day, offering plenty to do from children’s crafts, games, and activities and plenty of maple goodies for purchase.
Huron-Clinton Metroparks Maple Sugaring Month
Throughout March, Huron-Clinton Metroparks are celebrating maple sugaring month. On different days throughout the month, visitors can engage in a number of maple-oriented activities, including Pancakes to Go at both Kensington and Hudson Mills Metroparks.
Maple Syrup Day
At the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Maple Syrup Day is a treat for all ages. Crafts, games, tours, demonstrations and more are available for children and plenty of maple treats will be served, including “sugar on the snow” old fashioned maple syrup taffy. Check out the pancake breakfast as well, but be sure to reserve your spot early if you’re looking to participate.
PRO-TIP: Midland is home to the Tridge, a picturesque three-legged bridge spanning the confluence of three rivers. It’s a perfect spot for a hike!
Maple Syrup Time
March 5, 12, 19
Maple Syrup Time at the Stage Nature Center in Troy is a favorite family-friendly activity throughout March. A hike through the sugar bush will showcase the process of collecting sap from sugar maples, both modern and historic. Learn about the natural and local history of our region and the significance of maple sap for us today and throughout history.