Family life

This might be the most Canadian family getaway ever

You might think that summer is the best time to visit Muskoka–but the gorgeous (and delicious) Maple Trail will entice you to visit in the spring.

By Valerie Howes

This might be the most Canadian family getaway ever

Photo: Valerie Howes

Maple season is that time of year we all wait for - when the winter snow starts to melt (finally) and we can feast on syrup-drenched pancakes, sticky butter tarts and steaming mugs of maple-laced hot drinks and dream of warm days to come.

Muskoka, Ont., has fully embraced this time of year by creating a Maple Trail that runs throughout the maple harvest, until April 20, 2018. The highlight is a Maple Festival on April 21, on Main Street in downtown Huntsville, where you can try maple baked goods and other treats, listen to live performances, buy handcrafted items, drink maple hot and cold drinks and stuff your faces, as a family, at an all-day pancake breakfast.

While many families reserve Muskoka for summer or winter, there's tons to do with kids here in spring. And with so many outdoors activities to try and so much nature to discover, it doesn't all have to revolve around gorging on syrupy treats.

My daughter and I made the family resort JW Marriott the Rosseau Muskoka our home base--it's an official stop on the Maple Trail and a place with a games room, heated indoor-outdoor swimming pool, and s'mores kits on demand, for toasting on a protected fire on the grounds. There's a real cottage vibe, as kids rock in chairs by the hearth indoors, do jigsaws and play cards all over the lounge, or join their parents for trivia night, where the questions are geared as much towards little ones as adults (an example from the food round: What restaurant does Sponge Bob work at?).

We loved our Muskoka weekend away---check out the photo gallery below for our sweetest highlights.

This Might Be the Most Canadian Family Getaway Ever

The Maple Syrup Experience

“Maple syrup is like liquid gold,” says our guide, on a walk through the woods at the start of the Marriott’s Maple Syrup Experience. “But what IS liquid gold?” asks one little boy, as all the kids peer closer at the tapped trees.

A group of kids and older male touching a maple tree.Photo: Valerie Howes

The Maple Challenge

In a Pepsi Challenge-inspired wrap-up by the Prospector’s tent, we blind taste pure maple syrup (tapped on the property) and artificially flavoured pancake syrup. Most of the pint-sized connoisseurs prefer pure!

A girl trying maple syrupPhoto: Valerie Howes

A Woodpecker’s Paradise

On a nature walk, we learn about Canadian fauna and flora. “Who knows what happened to that tree?,” our interpreter asks. “A woodpecker pecked it!” pipes up one preschooler.

A tree with holes in itPhoto: Valerie Howes

Nature Hike

The kids look for animal tracks (there are deer and rabbits on the property) and gather fluffy cat tails and chunky pine cones. We learn that the bears are still sleeping but mice and voles are still scurrying under the snow.

Little girl holding a pine cone.Photo: Valerie Howes

The Maple Menu

During maple season, in the Lakes restaurant, guests can order from a special Muskoka Maple Menu. This maple bourbon BBQ burger was my Happy Meal.

Open faced burger with side salad.Photo: Valerie Howes

Leafy Latte

Moms and dads can sip a maple latte, while the kids make whipped cream moustaches from their hot chocolate, at the Country Market coffeeshop and bakehouse.

Hot drinksPhoto: Aimée Howes

Maple Galore

What could be more Canadian than campfire pancakes?

A man with pancake batter in a cup and kids watching.Photo: Valerie Howes

Flip for Pancakes

Need to burn off the pancake calories? You can borrow fatbikes or snowshoes (if the weather calls for them) and explore the forest and lakeside trail systems.

Pancakes on a fire.Photo: Valerie Howes

Beasts of the Deep

Under the icy surface lurks the muskellunge, a native pike that can grow well over 1 metre long. “Don’t worry, it’s a harmless, big, lazy fish that just hangs around in the bottom of the lake,” says our guide, to the wide-eyed kids, as they picture this aquatic monster.

Little home on the water with trees around it.Photo: Aimée Howes

Horsing Around

It wouldn’t be sugar-shack season without a wagon ride in the woods. Meet Junior and Rascal, the Percherons from Twin Maples Farm who pull us past maple trees, dripping sap into buckets.

Two white horses.Photo: Aimée Howes

Wagon Riders

All the kids get chatty on the ride, as we pass oak trees clinging onto their last few shrivelled leaves and beech trees, as smooth as elephants legs. “Too bad we don’t get around like this every day,” one kid remarks to his big sister, with a contented sigh.

Four children smiling in a photoPhoto: Valerie Howes

Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh

Grab a warm cranberry cider and a gourmet grill cheese sandwich (made with local cheddar) at Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh, a third-generation family farm in Bala, before exploring the Superberry or the Pioneer trail around the wildlife-rich bog. (On warmer days kids can net and release frogs).

Chalkboard with the winter menu.Photo: Valerie Howes

Fam Jam

There are goodies for the whole family at the

Jam stacked on a shelf.Photo: Valerie Howes

Muskoka Chair Chill

There are Muskoka chairs set up for resting your weary (two or four) legs post-hike. Leashed furry friends allowed!

Girl and dog sitting on a chair.Photo: Valerie Howes

Sugar Tart

You can make a day of it comparing maple butter tarts from every bakery on the trail—there are eight in total. We loved these (I-can’t-believe-it’s) gluten-free tarts from the Pasta Shoppe Bakery.

A bitten maple butter tartPhoto: Tourism Muskoka

Skies on Fire

It wouldn’t be spring in Muskoka without a heart-stopping sunset to finish off the day’s adventures. Oh, Canada!

A orange-red sunsetPhoto: Aimée Howes

Read more:
12 cheap and free things to do in Toronto with kids 50 fun family spring activities

This article was originally published on Apr 02, 2018
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