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Did you ever consider, while pouring maple syrup over a buttery stack of pancakes, that it takes about 10 gallons of sap to produce just one quart of pure maple syrup? Families in Western Pennsylvania can learn all about the science of maple sugaring, sample maple treats and see the sap being boiled down into that sweet, sweet syrup. Lots of cool maple syrup events are happening in and around Pittsburgh this time of year — and nearly all of them are free.

Some activities will fill their spaces early, so be sure to register in advance to prevent disappointment. Also, dress for the weather. And be sure to pack your masks and visit each organization’s website and/or social media to stay updated about safety protocols and guidelines.

Here are 10 great maple syrup events on tap throughout our region:

1. Feb. 5: Maple Tree Tapping Service Day, North Park

Allegheny County Park Rangers are seeking volunteers ages 16 and older to help tap trees in the sugar bush around Latodami Nature Center in North Park. This activity takes place rain or shine. Registration is required.

Photo courtesy of Jennings Environmental Education Center.

2. Feb 12: Get Started with Backyard Maple Sugaring, Jennings Environmental Education Center

Curious about tapping your backyard trees? Enquiring minds can head to Jennings Environmental Education Center on Feb. 12 to learn how to get started. The session will cover finding appropriate trees, tapping, collecting and evaporating maple sap. Observation and hands-on instruction on the sugar processing steps will take place outdoors. Some equipment will be available for purchase in the Jennings Nature Shop. This program is designed for ages 16 to adult. Registration is free but required. The deadline to sign up is Feb. 7. Register online or call 724-794-6011.

Photo courtesy of Jennings Environmental Education Center.

3. Feb. 22, 24 and 27Family Science Outside: Maple Sugaring, Jennings Environmental Education Center

Jennings’ Family Science Outside series turns to the science and math behind maple sugaring. More than just a fun outing away from screens, the program is aligned with math and science taught at many schools and with state and national education standards. Your group of 12 or fewer can sign up for one of the timeslots offered on each date. The program is intended for kids ages 2 to 5, but older siblings are welcome to attend. Registration is required for this free activity.

4. Feb. 26:  How Sweet It Is: Maple Syrup Making, North Park

Kids can learn how to identify and tap maple trees at the Latodami Nature Center. Rangers will lead kids through home-style methods to collect and boil the sap, eventually making it worthy of pouring over a warm plate of waffles. Kids must be registered with their grownups for this free program. Two sessions are available: 10-11:30 a.m. and 1-2:30 p.m.

5. March 5: Maple Sugar Moon with a Park Naturalist, Harrison Hills Park

Explore the Native American culture surrounding maple sap in the sugar bush at Harrison Hills Environmental Center. All ages are invited to hear tales and methods passed on through Native American heritage to keep the sap flowing. Registration is free but required.

Photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Maple Festival.

6. March 6: A Sweet Stroll Through Maple History, Jennings Environmental Education Center

Kids will receive an introduction to the mystery of how trees function — especially the magic of maple trees. Follow along on a guided walk that covers the history of maple sugaring. Participants will see a working evaporator and sample a taste of real maple syrup. Then stop by the Nature Shop where a variety of local maple products will be on sale. Multiple time slots are available for this free program. The deadline to register is March 4.

7. March 12 and 13: Maple Weekend Taste and Tour, Somerset County

It could be your sweetest road trip ever! The Somerset County Maple Producers Association has grown to 15 sugar camps, all of which are open to visitors on March 12 and 13. Download the brochure for a self-guided tour to learn about maple syrup production firsthand and sample a variety of products like maple barbecue sauce, maple balsamic vinaigrette and maple taffy. There are so many maple syrup events planned: Hillegas Sugar Camp will offer samples of maple cotton candy and maple syrup beer from Whitehorse Brewing. Emerick’s Maple includes horse-drawn carriage rides and Wagner’s Sugar Camp will demonstrate the art of coopering. And plan a stop at Somerset Alliance Church, where Listie Volunteer Fire Dept. will serve up sourdough buckwheat cakes, pancakes and local sausage served with pure maple syrup. Find all the details here.

Photo courtesy of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.

8. March 12, 19 and 26: Maple Madness, Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania

Tour through age-old maple sugaring history with the Audubon Society at one of the three Maple Madness locations: Buffalo Creek Nature Park on March 12, Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve on March 19 and Succop Nature Park on March 26. Follow the maple demonstration trail to learn the science behind making maple syrup and maple sugar. Maple syrup and maple candy will be on sale in the Nature Shops to continue the fun at home. Registration is $12. Choose a timeslot between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

9. March 12: Maple Sugaring Festival with a Park Naturalist, Boyce Park

All ages are invited to this seasonal treat that promises to be therapy for the senses. A park naturalist will lead participants at Boyce Park Nature Center Arboretum through the techniques used by Native Americans and pioneers, as well as modern methods of tapping, collecting and cooking. Learn how moon cycles with names like Maple, Crow and Worm describe spring’s awakening in nature. Free, but registration is required.

10. April 23-34 and April 27-May 1: Pennsylvania Maple Festival, Meyersdale

Extend your maple sugar rush to spring with the 75th annual Pennsylvania Maple Festival that runs over two weekends in April. Meyersdale, which bills itself as Maple City USA, packs the schedule with activities to entertain visitors of all ages. Reenactors and interpreters dramatize the discovery of maple syrup in the “Legend of the Magic Water.” Kids can enjoy hands-on crafts and face painting. Living History exhibits include a cobbler shop and an antique doctor’s office. And of course, all the maple fun you’d expect is at the heart of the festival. Admission to the Maple Festival Park is free for ages 5 and younger, $1 for ages 6-12, $5 for grownups. Catch all the details here.

For more things to do in Pittsburgh, go here.

Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn is a Pittsburgh-based editor and writer who writes about food, entertainment, kid stuff, pop culture, cocktails!