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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Late February is a great time to experience the wonder of maple sugaring. (Credit: Reeves-Reed Arboretum)

As we approach the end of February, it often starts to feel like winter might never end. Chanukah is a distant memory, you’ve already maxed out on hot cocoa for the season, and that pesky groundhog certainly didn’t help. While it feels like the calendar isn’t moving, spring will be here before we know it. Here are some activities to enjoy this month because—like winter—they won’t last forever.

Maple Sugaring

You might think that maple syrup only comes from Vermont and the forests of Canada, but there are actually several locations in our area where visitors can experience the wonder of turning maple tree sap into real maple syrup. Each step of this process can only be done at certain times of the year; between late January and early March, the trees are tapped to collect sap, which can then be boiled down to syrup.

At the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham (www.morrisparks.net), maple sugaring demonstrations are taking place every weekend through the end of February at 1 and 2:30 p.m. Participants have the chance to identify and tap maple trees, collect the flowing sap, and witness syrup being made over a wood-fired evaporator. Admission is $3 per person age 3 and up. No registration is required, but sessions are first come, first served.

Maple Sugaring Fest at Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit (www.reeves-reedarboretum.org) is on Sunday, February 26, from 1 to 4 p.m. and includes a family scavenger hunt and “Maple Syrup Challenge.” Pre-registration is not required for this event, which is free for RRA members. The cost for non-members ages 3 and up is $5 per person, $25 maximum per family.

At the Tenafly Nature Center (www.tenaflynaturecenter.org), hour-long maple sugaring sessions take place at 12:30, 2, and 3:30 p.m. every Sunday through the end of March. Pre-registration is required and prices vary for members and adults accompanying children; strollers are not permitted.

Morris Museum

If you’re more interested in spending time indoors, the Morris Museum (www.morrismuseum.org) has three special family exhibitions that will be on display only through Sunday, February 26. “Engineering Brick Art” is an homage to the Lego building block, featuring a collection of more than 30 brick works of art, including replicas of famous works of art, architectural models and more. The exhibition also features hands-on play stations and fun facts about Lego history. The exhibit also features works created by local students from the Academy 360 Upper School in Livingston, a school for students on the autism spectrum and with behavioral and related disabilities.

“Mega Model Trains” features trains on three separate tracks spanning more than 280 square feet. Even the youngest railroad enthusiasts can push buttons along the outside of the track to operate more than 40 interactive features, including turning lights on and off and lowering rail gates. In the museum’s permanent Model Railway Gallery, children can also participate in hands-on activities that allow them to explore the sights and sounds of train travel, play with wooden tracks and train cars or browse train storybooks.

And finally, the museum’s “Story Book Puzzle” display features oversized puzzle pieces that were decorated by local school children, from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. Each class decorated a puzzle piece centered on a beloved children’s story.

By Rachel Jager