Where To Participate In Maple March Madness

Everything you need to know about sugaring this season

This month is all about March Madness, when basketball fans get together and fill out their brackets while cheering on their favorite NCAA teams. But some New Englanders think of it in other terms: maple syrup. Maple Madness, which started this month, is when you can tap the maple trees for their delicious sap in areas like Vermont and Upstate New York.

"Vermont maple sugaring has always been a magical time of year," John Burnham, general manager at Kimpton Taconic in Manchester, Vermont, says. "What makes it special is timing. The elements have to be perfect for the trees to release sap, which in turn is boiled down to the liquid gold. Below-freezing nights coupled with warm days allows for this to occur."

Typically lasting between four and six weeks in cities throughout New England, Maple Madness is rife with experiences that let travelers participate in this unique tradition. For example, the Kimpton Taconic offers a special nightly rate of $150 and helps schedule tours at nearby sugaring shacks, like Dutton Berry Farm and Merck Forest. Here, guests can learn about the sugaring process from start to finish.

Maple Syrup Processing at Dutton Farms

"My family and I have been sugaring at this location for almost 20 years, and lots of customers love our syrup and look forward to it every year," Wendy Dutton, owner of Dutton Berry Farm, says. "We have a sugar house located on the main road, and I love showing people who aren't familiar with the sugaring process how it works."

Maple Syrup Tap in Cooperstown, New York | Photo: NJF Public Relations

Cooperstown, New York, may be most famous for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but it's also a maple hot spot, with annual Sugaring Off Sundays taking place throughout the month at The Farmers' Museum. Visitors can learn the traditions of the maple and tap for sap themselves—a very skilled endeavor. Luckily, there are experts are on hand to walk you through the process, leaving you to—what else?!—the sweet fruits of their labor.

Sampling the syrup, or the "liquid gold" as it's known, in food form is a highlight of any Maple Madness excursion. "There are many great things made from maple sap: delicious syrup, maple candies, cream and sugar," Burnham says. "Locals don't just use maple syrup on pancakes—they incorporate it into all sorts of things, including savory dishes, sauces, dressings, beverages and desserts."

Sugaring Off Sundays in Cooperstown

The Cooperstown festival is home to ongoing demonstrations and tastings, including "jack wax" (hot maple syrup poured over snow) and a pancake breakfast with maple syrup straight from the source. And for a full maple experience, head to The Copper Grouse in Manchester, Vermont, which serves up a seasonal menu featuring maple syrup: grilled maple-mustard scallops over forbidden rice, a maple-glazed Vermont chicken breast, grilled pork chops with a maple chutney and, for dessert, a maple cinnamon cookie. There's nothing sappy about syrup!

For more information on Maple Madness, check out Cooperstown's and Vermont's official websites, which lay out how to get your hands on the sweet stuff this month.