Gifts of New England travel for Mother’s Day

Topnotch Resort’s spa offers many options to pamper mom.
Topnotch Resort’s spa offers many options to pamper mom.Topnotch

Not that you need an excuse, but Mother’s Day is a great time to plan a special day-trip or fun weekend getaway to show the world’s best mom just how much she’s appreciated. Whether your mother is a sophisticated city slicker, culture maven, or outdoor diva, New England can deliver the goods. Here are four close-to-home getaway gifts your mom will treasure any time of year. If you’re lucky, she may take you along.

Stay-cay in Cambridge

There’s no need to venture far for a perfect getaway; nearby Cambridge has it all. Start by booking a room at the Charles Hotel, because nothing but the best will do for Mom (www.charleshotel.com). The folks at the longstanding luxe hotel in Harvard Square will take good care of her.


Fuel up with coffee and scones at award-winning Flour Bakery + Café (www.flourbakery.com), and then walk to the Harvard Art Museums to see the renowned collection of Western European and North American art, art from German-speaking Europe, and Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean art (www.harvardartmuseums.org). The current Bauhaus and Harvard exhibition is also impressive, showcasing nearly 200 works by 74 artists (on exhibit until July 28). Next, take a fascinating tour of the Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site (www.nps.gov/long/index.htm). The house served as headquarters for General George Washington during the Siege of Boston, from July 1775 to April 1776, and later was the family home of American poet Henry W. Longfellow. Much has happened in this beautiful, historic mansion!

Of course, your mom loves to learn, so sign her up for a fun-filled class at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (www.ccae.org). How about a four-hour afternoon class on Thai street food or dim sum for beginners? There are more than 400 classes offered each quarter covering a wide-range of subjects.


For lunch, elegant Harvest is a popular go-to restaurant (www.harvestcambridge.com), serving homemade dishes with fresh, local ingredients. Try the brown butter parsnip soup and the arugula and speck salad with blood oranges. Or, head to north Cambridge for lunch at under-the-radar, but local fave Christopher’s (www.christopherscambridge.com). The friendly, family-owned restaurant has 24 beers on tap and a something-for-everyone menu, and the food is way beyond average pub grub.

While we’re talking food: you must get your mother a reservation at Pammy’s for dinner (www.pammyscambridge.com). The buzzing, cozy eatery was a Boston Globe Restaurant of the Year and a Bon Appetit Top 50 Nominee for America’s Best New Restaurants 2018. For good reason. Order anything; it’s all delicious. Also, causing a buzz is The Table at Season to Taste (www.cambridgetable.com), a cozy, unpretentious 20-seat eatery where Chef Carl Dooley and his team prepare prix fixe four-course dinners.

To complete Mom’s stay-cay, surprise her with a treatment at Pyara Spa and Salon, a top spot in the city for pampering (www.pyaraaveda.com).

Sip and Sup in Providence

This capital city, home to Johnson & Wales University, one of the top culinary schools in the country, has a thriving culinary scene. In 2012, it was named the No. 1 Food City in the country by Travel + Leisure magazine. Since, it’s only gotten better.

Reserve a room for mom at the newly-opened Graduate, located in the former Biltmore Hotel (www.graduatehotels.com/providence). Much of the building’s 1920s beauty remains, but rooms have been refurbished, with bright colors and a retro, college theme. It’s right downtown, where new restaurants continue to pop up.


Locals argue over which is better: Knead Donuts (www.kneaddonuts.com) or PVDonuts (www.pvdonuts.com). We say you can’t go wrong; both serve up handmade, fluffy, and filling donuts. Or, for healthier options, like smashed avocado toast and smoothies, visit contemporary, light-filled Sydney coffee house (www.sydneypvd.com).

The perennially popular Nick’s on Broadway (www.nicksonbroadway.com) is open for brunch and dinner, where James Beard-nominated chef Derek Wagner adds creative flourish to locally sourced dishes, like a roasted locally caught dogfish sandwich on pesto-grilled, house-made multigrain bread. Note: Nick’s on Westminster will open soon downtown.

Sophisticated Gracie’s (www.graciesprov.com), with white linen-topped tables and a sleek contemporary design, offers creatively crafted plates, like hen egg with grits and pork belly, or sea scallops with lentils, charred cabbage and bacon lardons. Adventurous diners can also order a chef-selected (surprise!) tasting menu.

There are plenty of authentic Italian restaurants in Providence; we love Trattoria Zooma for its handmade pastas and deeply flavored sauces (www.trattoriazooma.com). The thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas are great, too, and prices are reasonable.

For cocktails, beautiful Dorrance (www.thedorrance.com), housed in an ornate Gilded Age building, has a long, marvelous bar, and offers some of the most creative concoctions in town. It’s a great choice for dinner, too. Or, try the sexy little Courtland Club, a modern-day speakeasy serving inspired cocktails and tasty small plates (www.facebook.com/courtlandclub).


Before leaving town, Mom can pick up a bottle of E-LA-WON olive oil, voted the “world’s best,” at Yoleni’s (www.yolenis.com), and something special from Eno Fine Wines (www.enofinewines.com), so she can continue to sip and sup at home.

Walk and Wrap at Topnotch Resort & Spa

A little fresh air, a little exercise, and a whole lot of pampering is what your mom wants, and what Topnotch Resort (www.topnotchresort.com) delivers. Set on 120 acres in the shadows of Vermont’s highest mountain, this quietly classy resort offers a stress-free experience, with everything Mom needs at her fingertips.

The perfect plan for Mom? Start with lunch at The Roost, a buzzing bistro and bar located off the open lobby. Of course, it’s not too early to order a Vermont micro-brew to go with dishes like smoked duck and truffle mushroom flatbread, homemade falafel platter, and the gigantic bowl of buffalo chicken mac and cheese. If it’s warm, grab a table on the outdoor patio, with a firepit and in-your-face views of Mount Mansfield.

Next, go to the spa for a treatment — say, the herbal fusion body wrap, with hot linens soaked in Vermont-grown herbs and flowers, or a Vermont maple sugar body scrub and polish. The 35,000-square-foot Topnotch Spa, considered one of the finest in the country, offers more than 120 therapies, and has 33 treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, and women’s and men’s steam rooms, saunas and whirlpools.

The next morning is full of choices, including group and private fitness classes, horseback riding at the Topnotch Equestrian Center, and tennis. The resort has four indoor and six outdoor courts, and some of the best instructors around. If Mom is looking to improve her game, or to learn a new sport, this is the place to do it. Or, walk the picturesque Stowe Recreation Path into town. After shopping one-of-a-kind boutiques, simply call Topnotch to request the free shuttle back to the resort. And, another treatment at the spa?


Culture and cocktails in Salem

The Peabody Essex Museum, dating back to 1799, has come a long way from its humble beginnings (www.pem.org). It was founded by the East India Marine Society, a group of Salem sea captains, who needed a place to house and display the “curiosities” they brought back from their travels.

Today, it’s one of the top art museums in the country, with the sixth largest endowment, and a collection that includes 1.8 million works. In September, the museum will unveil an additional 40,000-square-foot expansion, with 13 new galleries, a light-filled atrium, and outdoor garden.

Start with a tour of the Yin Yu Tang, the only complete Qing Dynasty house outside China, containing many original furnishings. Roam the galleries showcasing American art, spanning 300 years; internationally-known Maritime art, dating back to 1799; Indian art, with one of the country’s most important collections of Tibetan and Nepalese works; along with Japanese, Korean, Asian art, and more.

For dinner, dine at lively Ledger Restaurant & Bar (www.ledgersalem.org), housed in former bank building, with high ceilings, exposed beams and brick walls. The menu showcases executive chef Daniel Gursha’s contemporary American cuisine, with dishes like tuna tartare with green harissa; spicy pork belly with miso lime vinaigrette, and pork ragu over rye fettucine. Then, head to The Roof, Salem’s only rooftop bar, for views and cocktails (www.theroofsalem.com), before slipping under lush linens in your room at The Merchant (www.themerchantsalem.com). The ultra-comfortable, chic boutique hotel, housed in a merchant’s mansion (George Washington slept here, too!) blends upscale, contemporary design elements with historic details.

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@gmail.com.