Every spring across the nation, sugar shacks begin the age-old process of getting delicious maple syrup from the tree to your breakfast plate. Each state has its own maple sugaring season, sap flows as early as January or as late as May, but generally the first weeks of warmer weather mark the start of the season for that sweet treat we call syrup. From Ohio to Maine, we've scoured the country to find the best places to make, watch and most importantly taste maple syrup as it journeys from tree to table.
1. Red Bucket Sugar Shack, Massachusetts
The Red Bucket, nestled in the hills of Worthington, Mass. is a spring season staple for locals and visitors alike. After watching sap as it's boiled into syrup, treat yourself to a heaping pancake breakfast in the family-run restaurant overlooking the maple trees. The highlight of the restaurant is Tommy-the-Tree, the resident sugar maple that grows right through the middle of the dining room.
2. Swine Creek Reservation, Ohio
Situated in the countryside among Amish farms, the Swine Creek Reservation is a 412-acre park located in the southeast corner of Ohio's Middlefield Township. Every spring, the reservation holds events to celebrate the syruping season. Visitors can participate in the entire process, from drilling metal taps into maple trees to gather sap to boiling the watery sap into thick golden syrup.
3. Cartwright's Maple Tree Inn, New York
Some relative of the Cartwright family has been making maple syrup at The Maple Tree Inn since the 1850’s. Back then, the maple syrup was made into sugar cakes and peddled into larger upstate New York cities like Geneseo, Mount Morris, Nunda and Dalton. Now, Ronald Cartwright and his wife Virginia run a breakfast restaurant and use approximately 8,000 taps each year to gather sap and continue on the family trade, making syrup.
4. Kinney's Sugar House, Maine
This year the Kinney Family of Kinney's Sugar House is doing something a little different with the proceeds from their syrup sales. They will donate $3.50 from every pint of maple syrup to disaster recovery efforts from Superstorm Sandy. For them, the cause is personal, as their cousins lost their home on Staten Island on Oct. 29, 2012. The best time to visit the sugar house is the fourth weekend in March, which is when they hold a giant syrupy celebration in honor of Maine Maple Sunday.
5. Funks Grove, Illinois
There is a long standing syrup-making tradition in the Funks family of Funks Grove, Ill. The family credits Native Americans as the first maple syrup producers of Funks Grove. Legend has it that an Iroquois chief named Woksis first tapped the grove's sugar maple trees by accident when he drove a hatchet into a tree for safe keeping.
6. Sticky Bucket Maple, Pennsylvania
Sticky Bucket Maple, deep in the mountains of Potter County, Penn. is owned and operated by Brian and Wanda Warwick and their two dogs. The best time to visit the sugar shack is during Maple Weekend, which takes place March 23 to 24 at the boiling room. Just look for the large pillar of steam.
7. Burton's Maplewood Farm, Indiana
Burton’s Maplewood Farm lies just two miles north of Medora, Ind. Owner Tim Burton has an innovative strategy for making syrup. He is famous for his artisan rum and brandy barrel aged maple syrup. His syrup has been aged in 14 year old Tennessee rum kegs from Prichard's Distillery.
8. Brandon's West View Maples, Vermont
Brandon's West View Maples has been a family-run business for seven generations. All together, the Brandon family has been sugaring there for more than a century. While they used to collect sap with buckets and horses, the family has modernized the business over the years. Even with high tech sap lines and evaporators, the Brandon family still greets visitors as they always have, happy to share their passion for maple syrup.
9. Ben's Sugar Shack, New Hampshire
Ben's Sugar Shack owner Ben Fisk, has decided to make is syrup more than just a sweet delicacy. He has partnered with the National Breast Cancer Foundation to sell batches of syrup to help fund diagnostic breast care services for those in need. "This is a cause dear to my heart," says Fisk. "Because some of my immediate family and close friends are breast cancer survivors."
10. Glenna Farms Country Store & Sugarhouse, Wisconsin
Located less than an hour from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, Glenna Farms is a family owned and operated business that has been producing and selling pure maple syrup since 1995. Every year the family holds Maple Fest (this year it will be held on March 23 and 24), in which they give away stacks of pancakes loaded with fresh maple syrup, along with loads of other treats.