Winter in Ontario has been a long, drawn out affair. Endless days and weeks (turned into months) of bone-chilling cold and heavy snowfalls conspired to keep kids and their weary parents and teachers inside far more than they would have liked. But spring is coming. It’s coming. Birds are chirping, snow is melting and the scent of maple syrup is in the air. With that in mind this past weekend, Cat and I decided to go to one of our favourite spots in Halton Region, Bronte Creek Provincial Park, to check out their Maple Syrup Festival.
For the uninitiated, Bronte Creek is a beautiful, natural oasis of 6.4 square kilometer parkland, ravines, campgrounds, a massive outdoor swimming pool, skating rink, children’s farm and historical buildings, buffered by one of the fastest growing urban/suburban areas in the country. As a “gateway park” to the Ontario provincial park system, it serves as an accessible, convenient destination for urban dwellers to explore nature, become familiarized with park programs and regulations, and learn to camp. For parents like me, experienced adventurers who aren’t quite ready to go portaging up in Algonquin Park with two small children in tow, a trip to the park serves as a perfect introduction for our kids to learn about nature and conservation, animals and local history, with the freedom to play in a natural setting. Events such as the Maple Syrup Festival just add to the fun!
Saturday dawned grey and drizzly, hovering barely above the freezing mark, but no matter. In my opinion, learning to enjoy nature means embracing it in all its forms (polar vortexes and extreme blizzards not withstanding). Cat and I both donned proper winter gear, including snow pants and winter boots. I said it before in my review of Bronte Creek’s Homestead Christmas– dress for the weather! Not just the kids, but you too.You’ll enjoy it more if your pants aren’t covered in mud from a toddler’s errant kick with mucky boots. Promise.
Our first stop after we disembarked the wagon ride (so fun) was the blacksmith. Cat was quite impressed with the “old fashioned stamp” on the sawed off wood and was even more thrilled that she got to keep the little circle of wood as a souvenir. It’s been added to her fairy garden at home.
As we were heading to Maple Syrup Lane, Cat was distracted by the most beautiful sight in a clearing beyond the woods. Deer! There must have been ten of them at one point. Watching them as they grazed on the newly exposed grass in the morning mist, we were enchanted.
After we finally tore our eyes away from the deer, we resumed our maple syrup tour. Cat inspected the taps and listened seriously as one of the Victorian-garbed volunteers explained the maple syrup making process. I think her four-year old mind was blown that the maple syrup that she eats with waffles in the morning comes from a tree!
After we saw how maple syrup is made, we of course had to try some of the treats. Maple taffy and sugar candy? Yes please!
No visit to Bronte Creek would be complete without a stop to say hello to some of our barnyard friends. The big red children’s playbarn is in another section of the park, but the cows and a turkey were out to greet visitors at the Spruce Lane homestead.
Our visit was rounded out by a tour of the Spruce Lane Victorian-era farmhouse, a pony ride and some games. I’ve never visited the farmhouse without kids, but I’d like to come back sometime and take the time to properly examine the artifacts and talk to the tour guides. It really is a beautifully preserved home and quite interesting to explore.
We headed back on the wagon to the Pancake House to cap off our visit with what else…pancakes and maple syrup. Four bucks for a fresh made pancake, sausage and drink. Worth it for the practically drinkable maple syrup alone!
Thank you, Bronte Creek, for another pleasurable visit!
- Bring extra shoes and plastic bags to put mucky boots in so that you can change out your footwear and keep your car clean when you’re ready to go home.
- the Pancake House and Spruce Lane (where most of the activities take place) are in separate locations and each has its own parking lot. You can get between the two spots by wagon ride or by walking dirt roads. Bring a stroller with a good tread on it if walking. It’s a bit of a trek. If you don’t want to do the Pancake House, tell the gate attendant when you enter the park so that they can direct you to the proper lot.
- There are washrooms! Proper, as-clean-as-can-be-expected washrooms. I did bring a pack of baby wipes with me for cleaning off sticky fingers though.
- Taffy is not permitted in the farmhouse. Buy it AFTER the tour, not before.
- There is well-stocked gift shop on the premise, selling lots of maple goodies. Cash and credit accepted. We got maple fudge and maple lollipops (and a free Bronte Creek calendar!)
- Pony rides are $5
- Lines can get quite long for the wagon rides going back to the Pancake House (lot D). Arrive early as they will cut you off once the number of passengers is reached.
For more information, visit Bronte Creek’s event page. The Maple Syrup Festival is open weekends in March from 9:30am- 3pm and daily during March Break from 9:30am- 3pm.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored review, as I received compensation in the form of a complimentary access to this event for media purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.