1. Get a street-side view of some of L.A.'s most iconic architecture
When we asked a local panel of experts to name the best houses of all time in L.A. in 2008, many described their choices as an emotional experience. But then, that’s what it feels like when you spot John Lautner’s Chemosphere peeking out from the trees overlooking Mulholland Drive, or Frank Lloyd Wright’s concrete blocks from the streets of Los Angeles. Most of L.A.’s iconic homes aren’t open for tours, unfortunately (the Stahl House is sold out through June), but you can still do a self-driving tour with Mom, especially if she is an architecture buff.
The Los Angeles Conservancy offers detailed tours online so you can map out a fun drive with Mom, including Paul R. Williams’ collection of residences, 1970s Los Angeles, the Homes of View Park and Venice and Eclectic: Modern Architecture From the ’70s and ’80s. For a whimsical look at L.A., there are storybook houses; for a laugh, check out the Brady Bunch house.
📍: Throughout L.A.
2. Spot peachicks at the Los Angeles County Arboretum
Put on your comfiest sneakers and take Mom to the Arboretum for a day filled with plants and peacocks. There are plenty of excellent selfie backgrounds throughout the 127 acres to snap pics, especially at the Queen Anne Cottage, a historic building from 1885 that sits lakeside. You’re also likely to spot some of the 150 peacocks that roam the grounds (and perhaps peachicks, as they tend to hatch in late April and early May). Admire the peacocks from afar — and don’t feed them, no matter how squawky they get near the Arboretum’s Peacock Cafe (you can’t bring food into the Arboretum).
Be warned, though: Mother’s Day is one of the Arboretum’s busiest days, so steel yourself for crowds and difficult parking. You must buy tickets online two weeks ahead of time, but members never need a reservation. Vaccines and masks aren’t required. — Brittany Levine Beckman
⏰: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, but members can enter at 7:30 a.m.
💰: Adults are $15, Students with ID and Seniors 62+ are $11, Children 5-12 are $5 and 4 and under are free
3. Hike to Amir’s Garden and picnic in this hideaway
Griffith Park is full of hidden gems but an especially unique one to experience with a mom who likes the idea of hiking uphill is Amir’s Garden. The 0.4-mile hike, which is steep at the beginning, ends at a shady garden filled with lush greenery. Once you pass Water Tank #73, you’re about halfway there.
Bring a lunch and chill at one of a handful of picnic tables (have a cloth handy to wipe off dust and soak up small water splotches). Then amble through the 5-acre garden first lovingly planted in the 1970s by Amir Dialameh after a brush fire left a landscape of scorched earth and tree stumps. You’ll feel transported out of L.A. into a secret garden, until you snake back to the main trail and spot Glendale’s city skyline, the L.A. Zoo and a driving range. Keep in mind, the sandy trail can feel slippery on the way down at the end.
Park at the Mineral Wells Picnic Area, which is on Mineral Wells Road off of Griffith Park Drive. You’ll see a yellow gate in front of the entrance to the nearby fire road, also called North Trail. That’ll take you to Amir’s Garden. You also can park near the Wilson Harding Driving Range and walk up the Mineral Wells Trail that starts at the intersection of Griffith Park Drive and Camp Road, but that’ll add another 0.4 miles to your hike. You may hear coyotes barking in the distance.
If your mom likes to walk on trails but would prefer a mostly flat pathway covered by tree canopy, head over to the Ferndell Nature Trail, which is about half a mile round-trip and features more than 50 species of fern. The Trails, a cafe offering coffee, sandwiches and pie, is nearby. The rhubarb is a favorite. Street parking along Fern Dell and Black Oak drives. — Brittany Levine Beckman
📍: Griffith Park
⏰: Griffith Park is open 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; unless you want to night hike, go before dusk. The Trails is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays
💰: Free, unless you grab a bite to eat at The Trails
4. Absorb the art, and then get a bite, at LACMA
Walking through the graphic, text-filled walls of the Barbara Kruger retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art can be both exhilarating and infuriating, depending on your worldview.
“YOU KNOW THAT WOMEN HAVE SERVED ALL THESE CENTURIES AS LOOKING GLASSES POSSESSING THE MAGIC AND DELICIOUS POWER OF REFLECTING THE FIGURE OF MAN AT TWICE ITS NATURAL SIZE,” screams the black-and-white installation “YOU.” It’s a powerful experience to share with your mother.
Afterward, you can stop by Ray’s on the plaza for a bite — it has several pizza options if you’re touring with children — or at the Stark Bar, or have a picnic nearby in Hancock Park between LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum. Kids can keep an eye out for seeping tar, or roll down the slanted lawn just outside the museum while Mom soaks up some sun. Proof of vaccination required before entering the exhibition. — Lisa Boone
⏰: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays
💰: Advance tickets required online: $10 to $25; members free
5. Treat her to a relaxing spa day at Den Mother
Our wellness Den on Abbot Kinney hosts a multi-modality mix of slow medicine designed to restore your inner environment to its most natural state. Den Mother is a healing house devoted to a wiser form of wellness. Our services blend healing techniques from ancient cultures - Ayurvedic bodywork, Japanese Acupuncture, Chinese reflexology, Nordic bathing and Asian tea ceremony - into serene social spaces designed to bring you back to yourself.
⏰: By appointment
6. Shop for women-run independent brands at the Unique Markets
Unique Markets returns to the California Market Center May 7-8.(Unique L.A. )
She escorted you on all those excruciating trips to the mall over the years, so treat Mom to a shopping experience she’ll actually enjoy. L.A.’s Unique Markets, which returns to the California Market Center May 7-8, features 150 small, independent brands, a majority of them owned by women and people of color. This year’s spring market offers some nice perks for Mother’s Day: a cafe featuring food from Uncle Paulie’s Deli, Chifa, Todo Verde (plant-based food) and Civil Coffee, as well as a complimentary tote bag, photo studio with free portraits and a DIY Zone where you can make-your-own watercolor and block-printed greeting cards, courtesy of Shippo. -Lisa Boone
📍: Downtown Los Angeles
⏰: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 7-8
💰: Tickets are $15 to $35
7. Hit the pool to relax and cool off
Pamper mom by renting a pool on Swimply, an app that’s been dubbed the Airbnb for pools, and invite other family members to splash around too. As of this writing, there are about 30 pools to rent across Los Angeles and Orange counties on May 8. Prices on Mother’s Day tend to range between $50 and $100 an hour (guest caps vary) so consider asking a group to chip in. Many pool rentals offer grills and pool toys. Make sure to check the fine print for information about restroom access, cancellation policies and pet friendliness before booking.
Not ready to pony up that much for a pool rental? Consider visiting one of Los Angeles’ municipal pools, where entry costs $4 for adults and $1 for children and seniors — just be prepared for crowds seeking to beat the heat. Alternatively, you can get a swim pass at one of several hotels, but those are selling out quickly for Mother’s Day. — Brittany Levine Beckman
📍: Throughout L.A.
💰: $50 to $100 per hour for a pool rental on Swimply; $4 for adults at municipal pools
8. Experience spring at Descanso Gardens
Spring is a beguiling time at Descanso Gardens when the lilacs, cherry blossoms and tulips are in bloom. The lilacs will be gone by Mother’s Day, but that’s the beauty of the 150-acre botanical garden — something new is always in bloom, which makes every visit unique.
“Your (Un)natural Garden,” an art installation by Adam Schwerner, director of horticulture and resort enhancement for Disney, is another new experience, featuring archways and artworks made from found materials, including rooms filled with hundreds of bells playing to feather boas hanging from the ceiling. If Mom enjoys “please touch this” artworks, reserve tickets in advance, and don’t forget to check out the roses — which will be in bloom on Mother’s Day.
There will be a full bar on Mother’s Day at the Boddy House and you can purchase food from the Kitchen at Descanso and eat in the gardens. — Lisa Boone
📍: La Cañada Flintridge
⏰: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays
💰: Tickets are $5 to $15
9. Accept an Oscar at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Take a mom-themed visit to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures that includes a spin through the costume exhibits (this is where you tell her how much you loved the Halloween and school-play costumes she made for you); a quick round of “Guess Who Thanked Their Mother” in the showcase of significant Academy Award acceptance speeches; and then, if you’ve planned ahead and paid the extra $15 (you planned ahead, didn’t you?), treat her like the star she is by giving her the Oscars Experience, where she will virtually accept her Oscar for being the world’s best mom.
End the visit in the gift shop, where you can literally buy her a piece of a historic building to wear — in the form of jewelry made from the original gold glass mosaic tiles that once covered part of the May Co. building’s exterior (the pieces are a collaboration between Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter and jewelry designer Dourien Fletcher), or take her to brunch at Fanny’s Cafe. (The restaurant is closed on Sundays but the cafe is open; it doesn’t take reservations). — Adam Tschorn
⏰: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Sundays
💰: Tickets are $5 to $25
10. Bask in modern art followed by lunch at Grand Central Market
If your mother is a fan of contemporary art (and you’re the type to set a reminder to buy tickets two weeks in advance), spend the day in downtown Los Angeles admiring Roy Lichtenstein’s pixel art and Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room” at the Broad. Admission is free, but you’ll have to reserve tickets for May 8 online starting at 10 a.m. on April 27, for general admission and separately for the Kusama exhibit. There currently is no standby line. If you’re bringing young kids along, the Broad has a curated guide that includes questions to engage children with Jeff Koons’ balloon dog and Robert Therrien’s massive table.
Pair your art outing with a stop at Grand Central Market, which is about half a mile away. Wander the stalls torn over whether you should get pupusas from Sarita’s, khao soi from Sticky Rice, a finger-licking reuben from Wexler’s Deli or oysters at the Oyster Gourmet. There are plenty of snackable options, like McConnell’s Ice Cream, if your visit doesn’t align with lunch. Pick up a baguette from Clark Street Bread on your way out for Mom to enjoy at home. — Brittany Levine Beckman
📍: Downtown Los Angeles
⏰: The Broad: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays; Grand Central market: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays
💰: Tickets for The Broad are free; Grand Central Market prices vary
11. See the Tony Award-winning musical ‘Hadestown’ at the Ahmanson
There’s something special about the plaza of the Music Center, where you can watch Angelenos in formal wear head to the opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion or simply enjoy a drink at one of the tables overlooking the water fountain. If Mom is a musical theater fan, the national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical “Hadestown” at the Ahmanson seems like a sure bet, based on The Times’ theater critic Charles McNulty’s assessment: “Simply one of the most exquisite works of musical storytelling I’ve seen in my more than 25 years as a theater critic.” — Lisa Boone
📍: Downtown Los Angeles
⏰: 1 and 6:30 p.m. May 8
💰: Tickets are $40 to $179
12. Shop for new, vintage and just plain funny items at the Melrose Trading Post
Bring the one who brought you into the world to this flea market-meets-people-watching spectacular that occupies the Fairfax High School parking lot at the corner of Melrose and Fairfax every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to a curated selection of old and new apparel, accessories, arts and crafts and furnishings that skews heavily toward the Y2K-meets-L.A.-streetwear aesthetic, there’s a fleet of food trucks and a live music stage that gives the whole affair a festive feel.
There are plenty of opportunities to commemorate your day together, from finding the perfect iron-on patch (we suggest the one that says “Super Mom”) or “Plant Parenthood” T-shirt (“Plants. No Matter What.”) or even an area rug shaped like Ryan Gosling’s head. If you want to give her something a little more special (but, really, what’s more special than letting her wipe her feet on Ryan Gosling’s grinning visage?), keep your eyes peeled for the stall where you can have a beautiful custom faceless watercolor portrait of you both hand-painted in about 15 minutes by Jewel Sales Art, or have one of your eyeball irises photographed on the spot for her by Cosmic Eye L.A. so she’ll be able to gaze lovingly into (at least one of your) eyes when you’re far apart. — Adam Tschorn
⏰: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays
13. Cook brunch at home after shopping at a farmers market
If your mom loves experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, take her to the Hollywood Farmers Market. For my mom and me, breakfast is our favorite meal of the day. We make it a point to get together, when we can, to catch up over coffee and buttery pastries. So sourcing local ingredients to cook a delicious brunch at home is the perfect idea for a Sunday well spent with Mom.
The Hollywood Farmers Market gets started at 8 a.m. and runs until 1 p.m. You can pick up your morning brew at the Collage Coffee stand. Together you can sip your drinks, catch up on life and soak in the colorful produce of the spring season. Come prepared with an easy brunch recipe to cook once you get home. Opt for avocado toast and pick up fresh bread from Bub and Grandma’s. Or if you have more of a sweet tooth, lemon ricotta pancakes with fresh berries from Harry’s Berries will satisfy your craving. Before you leave, don’t forget to grab some fresh flowers for your mom from one of the vendors. — Jacqueline Pinedo
📍: Hollywood, but there are farmers markets throughout L.A.
⏰: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays
💰: No admission fee
14. Eat your way through Smorgasburg Los Angeles at Row DTLA
If your mom loves to eat but is COVID-cautious and not quite ready to dine indoors, take her to Smorgasburg L.A., the largest weekly outdoor food market in the country, located behind Row DTLA. The event features more than 80 local vendors offering everything from oysters to tacos, vegan donuts to Ethiopian food, as well as design and crafts vendors. After lunch, you can peruse the shops at the Row DTLA, including A+R, Pantora, Jonny Cota, Flask & Field wine shop, Shades of Grey, LVIR and Powder Beauty, a nail salon. First two hours of on-site parking are free. — Lisa Boone
📍: Downtown Los Angeles
⏰: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays
💰: Free entry
15. Picnic at the Silver Lake Meadow
The 2.5-acre meadow on the east side of the Silver Lake Reservoir has the look of a French Impressionist painting on Sundays (so does Echo Park) as families, friends and children picnic on the lawn overlooking the lake. It’s a wonderful — and free — place to relax, with easy access for wheelchairs and strollers, free parking nearby and, on some Sundays, a live jazz combo.
If Mom likes to walk, you can hike the 2.2-mile pathway around the reservoir together and check out the dazzling array of poppies, purple sage and artemisia that lines the California native garden. But mostly it’s a nice place to just relax on a blanket — especially for moms who are sleep-deprived — watching the people and taking in the views. You can spot John Lautner’s famed Silvertop in the distance on the hillside and behind you, across Silver Lake Boulevard, you can get an exterior look at Richard Neutra’s VDL House. — Lisa Boone
📍: Silver Lake
⏰: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
16. Whale watching from the Point Vicente Interpretive Center
In spring, gray whales that wintered in Mexico are completing a 10,000-mile round-trip journey home to Alaska. Nowhere else on the planet does this migration unfold, so make the most of your front-row seat with Mom.
Watch for a spout and chat with volunteer whale-spotters from the American Cetacean Society’s L.A. chapter, who keep careful count of the behemoths, and have done so since 1984. Volunteers will be at their posts through late May and may help point out the whales. — Mary Forgione
📍: Rancho Palos Verdes
⏰: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays