8 popular sugar shacks
We've highlighted eight family-friendly sugaring off locations near Montreal that will hopefully please the whole family.
Ready or not, here it comes: the annual “sweet” buzz that settles over this province during the sugaring off season. Families flock to rustic sugar shacks to fill up on food we health-conscious folks rarely eat anymore: sausages gleaming with fat, tasty baked beans and fluffy scrambled eggs — all covered with a generous coating of sticky-sweet maple syrup. To finish off the day, everyone piles outside where someone pours boiling-hot syrup onto packed snow, so it hardens into a delicious taffy or “tire” that can be gobbled up.
The sugar shack experience, which often includes traditional music played during the meal and a much-needed walk through the maple forest afterwards, offers families a wonderful diversion from the winter doldrums. The meals are usually served in a casual setting at long tables and little ones don’t have to worry about sitting still for long. And the generous quantities of sweet things will please everyone! As well, many sugar shacks have added extra activities, including sleigh rides, petting farms and outdoor play areas for children.
The sugaring off season changes every year (it coincides with the winter thaw) but usually starts at the end of February. The weather cannot be too hot or too cold or the taste changes and the syrup is no longer edible.
To help families find places that offer family-friendly activities, Montreal Families has put together this sampling of popular sugar shacks that aren’t too far from the city.
Chalet des Érables (Ste. Anne des Plaines)
It’s almost impossible to be bored at this sugar shack, located about 35 minutes north of Montreal. In addition to eating hearty food and taffy, families can take a train ride, check out an old-fashioned fire truck, jump on giant inflatable toys, zoom around in miniature cars as well as visit the petting zoo, take a pony ride and watch how maple syrup is made. Prices for adults vary throughout the week $14-$20. The price is $11-$12 for children ages 6-12 and $7-$8 for ages 2-5. It’s free for kids under 2. For reservations, call (450) 478-0822. For more information, visit www.chaletdeserables.com.
Cabane à sucre la Branche (Ste. Isidore)
Located near Chateauguay, about a 25-minute drive south, this sugar shack has three large eating areas where they serve an elaborate traditional meal on wooden tables. Kids can dance and listen to music during the meal. Sugar taffy is offered and then families can take a sleigh ride, see farm animals or take a walk through the maple forest. Prices vary throughout the week from $22 to $23.50 for adults, $18-$19 for children ages 13-15, $12-$13 for ages 6-12 and $8.50-$9 for ages 3-5. It is free for kids under 3. You need to reserve in advance by calling (450) 454-2045. For more information, go to www.labranche.ca.
L’Hermine Maître Sucrerie (Near Havelock)
Located about an hour’s drive southwest of the city, this cozy sugar shack has a small, but kid-friendly eating area. Musicians play traditional songs and kids can watch the sugar taffy being made. There are free sleigh rides, farm animals and a tour of the maple syrup production area. On the weekends, there are pony rides for children. Prices vary depending on the time of the visit. Adults pay between $17.50 and $23 while it costs $10.35 to $11.50 for children ages 6-12, $6.90 for ages 2-5 and $2.30 for ages 2 and under. There are three set-times for meals so you must call to reserve (450) 826-3358. For more information, go to www.hermine.ca.
Cabane à sucre Bouvrette(St. Jerome)
Located about 35 minutes north of Montreal, this sugar shack has been producing syrup for 64 years and is extremely popular with families as well as daycares and schools. For many kids, the most exciting aspect of this place is the train ride through the forest. Although there isn’t too much to see, many young kids just get a kick out of riding on locomotives. There is also a farm with a petting zoo and live music on Friday and Saturday evenings as well as a traditional meal for up to 350 people. There is the requisite making of taffy and then kids can take a sleigh ride ($3) or play in the park. Prices vary throughout the week, ranging from $15 to $21 for adults and $6.50 to $9.50 for children under 5. You need to reserve in advance by calling (450) 438-4659. For more information, go to www.bouvrette.ca.
Érablière Charbonneau (Mont St. Bruno)
Located about 30 minutes south of Montreal, the sugar shack serves its meal on large wooden tables in a spacious eating area that also includes a stage where musicians keep everyone’s toes tapping with traditional music. At the end of the meal, there is a taffy-making demonstration. There are plenty of other activities for children, including pony and sleigh rides as well as outdoor games. Families can also visit farm animals, go snowshoeing or take a walk through the maple forest. The prices vary throughout the week from $21.55 to $29.20 for adults, $12.93 for children ages 11-15 and $9.48 for ages 3-10. It is free for children under age 3. People can also buy homemade maple syrup products. You need to reserve in advance by calling (450) 347-9090. For more information, go to www.erablierecharbonneau.qc.ca.
Cabane à sucre Paquette (Near St. Sauveur)
About a 45-minute drive north of Montreal, this sugar shack offers a plentiful meal with music provided (nice for the little ones who might want to get up and dance). Children can watch how sugar taffy is made and then enjoy a horse or sleigh ride. They can pet the farm animals and stroll through the maple forest. There is also a maple syrup museum where people can purchase various products and learn about the history of the sugar shack. The prices vary throughout the week from $16 to $20 for adults and $8 for children ages 4-12. It is free for children under 3. You need to reserve in advance by calling (450) 478-1074. For more information, go to www.cabaneasucre.ca.
Érablière au Sous-Bois (Mont St. Grégoire)
A 25-minute drive south of Montreal, this sugar shack offers copious meals in a kid-friendly dining room with plenty of room for little ones to move around or dance to the live music. Kids can watch the sugar taffy being made and then enjoy eating it. There are free sleigh rides as well as a chance to pet farm animals, play on the outdoor jungle gym or take a walk in the maple forest. Cost is $17-$20 for adults and between $7 to $10 for children, depending on their ages. It is free for children under 3. You need to reserve in advance by calling (450) 460-4069. For more information, go to www.cabaneasucre.com.
Sucrerie de la Montagne (Rigaud)
Located about a 45-minute drive west of Montreal, this large sugar shack (it holds up to 350 people) is situated on a Quebec Heritage site where three generations of maple syrup producers lived before selling it to another family. There is live music in the dining hall and sugar taffy offered after the meal. Families can take a sleigh ride or walk through the maple forest. There is also a shop selling pastries and various maple syrup products. Prices vary throughout the week from $32.19 to $36.79 for adults, $20.70 to $21.85 for children ages 7-12 and $13.80 to 14.95 for ages 3-6. You need to reserve in advance by calling (450) 451-0831. For more information, go to www.sucreriedelamontagne.com
Sugar shack websites
There are two helpful sites for finding a sugar shack: www.laroutedessucres.com and www.cabaneasucre.org.
You can search by region and then the sites provide information such as opening hours, prices, activities offered, as well as addresses and phone numbers
Montreal Families also has an extensive list of sugar shacks. Click here to see the full list.