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maple-sugar-making-QUOI-media-620Get excited, sweet tooths of America: It’s maple sugaring season in New England. Here are some places to indulge in both Vermont and New Hampshire – two of the region’s most popular maple getaways – plus affordable places to stay nearby.

Vermont

What to Do
More than 70 sugar houses in Vermont open their doors to the public with special events during the Maple House Open Weekend, which takes place March 22-23. Many houses and farms take visitors behind the scenes with boiling demonstrations and candy making sessions. Some, like the beloved Sugarbush Farm, lead maple trail walks so you can see how sap is tapped from trees, while others like Smith Maple Crest Farm host pancake breakfasts featuring their award-winning syrup. And don’t miss maple cream coffee and donuts at Green Mountain Sugar House; maple syrup-blended cider and cream liqueur at Boyden Valley Winery; and vodka made with maple sap at Vermont Spirits.


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In the town of St. Albans, the weekend-long Maple Festival celebrates all things sappy from April 25-27. Here, you can taste various grades of maple syrup, catch a cooking demo – with samples – from local chefs and innkeepers, and take a complimentary bus to two sugar houses. Hungry, crafty travelers can also check out some free-to-enter craft and specialty food shows, which also offers live music. Paid events include a fiddle show ($7); a pancake breakfast ($8); and a barbecue dinner ($12).

Where to Stay
For a classic Victorian B&B experience, Fitch Hill Inn offers spacious, bright rooms with thoughtful extras like free soda and water – and free wifi. Always included is a delicious breakfast featuring homemade muffins and coffee, tea, or juice, followed by a fruity course and yogurt, before a filling entrée. Over festival weekend, guests also enjoy a complimentary gift basket with syrup and local vendor products. Rooms are $99, $109, and $149 per person nightly.

The innkeepers at Liberty Hill Farm, a fully functioning dairy farm, are as accommodating as can be. Beyond the typical demonstrations, you can try your hand at sap tapping or milking the cows if you call ahead and ask. A stay here comes with a full breakfast as well as dinner daily, at $120 for adults, $75 for teens, and $60 for children 2 and over. Through April 8, rates for a group of four start at $376 (about $94 per person) and, of course, includes a treat of maple goodies.

Love history or traveling in a large group? The Amos Brown House from 1802 sits on a peaceful pasture in Whitingham, VT and combines 17th century, Federal, and New American architectural styles into one charming lodge. Through March 31, guests can book the entire house and get a third night free – as well as a gift certificate for a half-gallon of local syrup. We found rates for $275 per night, and since the house sleeps 6, that comes out to be as low as $31 per person nightly.

New Hampshire

What to Do
Through the first weekend of April, more than 100 sugar houses in New Hampshire come alive with boiling demos and tastings. You’ll find everything from maple specialties like cotton candy, fudge, and popcorn, to local favorites like maple snow on a sour pickle.

While The Rocks Estate charges $15 for its three- to four-hour New Hampshire Maple Experience, we like that it’s an all-inclusive upfront fee, so you can enjoy the day without extra expenses. Hop on a horse-drawn carriage, take a tractor ride to the sugar house for a tour (reservations recommended), and try your hand at tapping a tree. Maple tastings, donuts, and chef demos will also be on offer. Also recommended: stopping for a free tour at Fuller’s Sugarhouse, whose syrup was dubbed “Best in the World” by the North American Maple Syrup Council, and perhaps picking up a pint to take home. (They produce 4,000 gallons annually, so there’s plenty to go around.)

On March 22-23, many sugar houses host special events for Maple Weekend. Get a hands-on experience at Fillion Maple Farm, which gives visitors the rare chance tap trees, gather sap, and actually make maple sugar. Want a meatier time? Try Tucker Mountain Maple, which is hosting a free cookout on Saturday, or Clark’s Sugar House, a buffalo farm that whips up delicious buffalo burgers and chili. For something a little different, Silver Mountain Farm is a one-person backyard operation that uses recycled equipment to produce its syrup. And if you miss Maple Weekend, you can always call ahead to set up tours at other times.

Where to Stay
The 175-year-old Wayside Inn is proof that packages can be a great deal. We typically prefer straightforward discounts without all the extras, but so long as you’re interested in having a “Maple Experience,” the inn’s $290 special for two includes two nights’ lodging, a three-course dinner, a two-hour program on the history and production of maple sugar, and all taxes and gratuities. Or, if you prefer to make your own dinner plans, standard rates of $98-$128 are still lower than prices at other nearby inns.

If Victorian frills aren’t your thing, Glynn House offers all the coziness of the area’s typical bed and breakfasts with a cleaner, more contemporary aesthetic. During low season, a one bedroom suite with a private bath goes for $149-$159. But just in March and April, a splurge becomes affordable with a three-night stay in a fireplace suite, which gets you an additional 20% off the low season rate that comes out to $190 per night.

For the super-saver, the rooms at Comfort Inn & Suites are cookie-cutter but among the cheapest in the pretty town of Lincoln. Rooms during maple festival weekends start in the $75-$105 range at the advance purchase rate (otherwise $94), nearly half the price of many B&Bs. For further comparison, rooms at this property go up to $139 – $174 in July.

More maple festivals in New England and beyond…

New York State
Maple Weekend: March 22-23, and 28-29

Massachusetts
Maple Weekend: March 22-23

Maine
Maple Sunday: March 23

Connecticut
Various

Montreal
Sugaring Off Festival: April 12 and 13
Nova Scotia Maple Festival: April 12
Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival: Through April 13
Various area sugar shacks

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