This year, let mom go where she wants

A rafting trip on the Deerfield River.
Zoar Outdoor
A rafting trip on the Deerfield River.

It’s that time of year to show your mom some hard-earned appreciation. Mother’s Day became an official holiday in 1914, and this year, according to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, more than 84 percent of Americans will celebrate on May 8. In 2015, we spent $21.2 billion dollars on gifts, an average of $172.63 per person.

Most of us (80 percent) bought cards, spending more than $786 million, and more than two-thirds of us (67.2 percent) bought flowers to the tune of $2.4 billion. And, we keep in touch. More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than on any other day of the year.

Flowers are good and cards are nice, and by all means, talk to her. But to really indulge mom this year, focus on her interests.


Is she an avid gardener? Does she love good food? Give her what she wants. You know she deserves it.

For garden lovers

Tower Hill Botanical Gardens
Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the sweeping lawns at the Tower Hill Botanical Garden.
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Spring flowers are in peak bloom during Mother’s Day weekend at the Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston, the first botanical garden in New England. The 132-acre property stretches along a sloping hillside with 10 formal garden areas, including the Entry Garden and Court, the Secret Garden, and the Wildlife Garden and Refuge Pond. Sign up for the special Mother’s Day farm-to-table brunch, or bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the sweeping lawns, overlooking a field of some 25,000 daffodils. There’s also a scenic 1-mile walk through the property’s woodlands and a hike to the top of Tower Hill, with views of Mount Wachusett. Don’t worry if you can’t make it on Mother’s Day; the garden is open year-round, and hosts a variety of special events, including concerts, exhibits, and flower shows. 508-869-6111,, adults $12, ages 6-18 $7

Another option for garden-loving moms: The Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill (, $55, online advance tickets $45) a one-day, annual tour of 10-12 private gardens, will be held May 19. Also, Garden in the Woods in Framingham (508-877-7630,, adults $12, ages 3-17 $6) will celebrate the bloom of 21 species of delicate trilliums, along with hundreds of blooming spring flowers, during its first Trillium Week, May 9-15.

For bibliophiles

Did you know that during the year after the publication of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” her publisher reported that she’d earned more than any other American author that year, over $12,000? Or that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is the only American citizen to be honored with a bust in the Poet’s Corner in London’s Westminster Abbey? These are some of the fun facts you’ll learn on the Hub of Literary America tour, offered by Boston By Foot. If your mother loves books or American history, or you think she’d appreciate a guided walk around Beacon Hill, consider a gift certificate to this 90-minute tour. (Or, better yet, join her!) You’ll learn that Boston was an important center of literature, as you visit the haunts of authors such as Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Poe. Some stops include 4 Pinckney St., where Thoreau lived for a few years and 39 Beacon St., where Longfellow married Fanny Appleton. 617-367-2345,, adults $13, ages 6-12 $8, or in cash at the tour $15/$10

For culinary enthusiasts

Is your Mom a foodie? Does she spend hours watching cooking shows, reading culinary magazines, and browsing gourmet kitchen shops? This year, surprise her with a guided eating excursion with Boston Foodie Tours (617-461-5772,, $75-$85). Year-round tours are offered in Beacon Hill, Back Bay, the North End, and the Market District. The combined five-hour Beacon Hill and Back Bay tour is the most popular, with stops at an award-winning Italian restaurant, a chocolatier, bakery, gourmet food shops (including Julia Child’s favorite neighborhood market), and chowder house. There are plenty of samples along the way, and cooking and shopping tips, with a few Boston history lessons thrown in.


Is your Mom more hands-on? Consider signing her up for a class at Sur La Table (617-236-5197,, offering an amazing variety of hands-on classes at its Copley Square classroom kitchen. Offered several nights a week, classes cover a variety of menus and regional cuisines, like Delicious Dim Sum, A Taste of Paris, Spanish Tapas Party, and Down by the Shore. Most classes run 2 to 2½ hours and cost $69-$79.

Spot birds, turtles, and more at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary.
Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary
Spot birds, turtles, and more at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary.

For outdoor lovers

Celebrate Mom and Mother Nature with a visit to a local preserve. You’ll find 25 miles of trails and boardwalks crisscrossing forests, meadows, swamps, and marshlands at the Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon (781-784-5691, The 1,971-acre preserve is Mass Audubon’s oldest wildlife sanctuary. One-hour guided nature walks, highlighting the signs of spring, will be offered at 8, 9, 10, and 11 a.m. on Mother’s Day, followed by a pancake breakfast. Preregistration is required as space is limited and fills early; visit to sign up. The Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick (508-655-2296, comes alive in spring, with waterfalls and cascades, and the sounds of singing birds. Wander trails along the Indian Brook and the Charles River, or take part in the special “Birds & Breakfast” Mother’s Day event.

Take an adventurous Mom on a rollicking spring rafting trip on the Deerfield River. On May 8, moms get a free ride (with two paying guests) on Zoar Outdoor’s 10-mile Zoar Gap trip, with heart-pumping Class III rapids. If she’d rather stay high and dry, sign her up for the Zoar Canopy Tour, with 11 ziplines, two sky bridges, and three rappels. It’s also free for moms on Mother’s Day, with two paying guests (800-532-7483,

For stressed-out moms

They say laughter is the best medicine. We say, throw away the Prozac and head to the award-winning Improv Asylum’s Main Stage Show in the North End (617-263-6887,, $22-$33), featuring a cast of actors who take suggestions from the audience and run with them. Or, when’s the last time Mom saw “Shear Madness”? Never? She deserves a good belly laugh, so buy her tickets to this hilarious, long-running comedy at the Charles Playhouse (617-426-5225,, $50).

Of course, when all else fails, there’s chocolate. Skip the fancy box of truffles and join her on a sugar-laden walk with Boston Chocolate Tours (617-971-8436,, $48). The 2½-hour tour features stops at some of Back Bay’s finest chocolate shops and bakeries, like Gourmet Boutique, Max Brenner, and Teuscher Chocolates. Mom’s serotonin levels will be sky-high, and she’ll be thankful for raising such a thoughtful child.

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at