A Gift for Every Mom

Dear Sweeties and Kids:

While we love the bud vases and flower pots you always generously give us each Mother’s Day, we thought we would make things easy this year by giving you some gift ideas. A unique outing would be a great way to celebrate the day – especially if we do it as a family. However, we realize that some things – like a spa day – we may have to do by ourselves. Since we moms have different tastes and hobbies, here is list of suggestions. If you run out of time, don’t worry. We love gift certificates that can be used after Mother’s Day, as well. So, take a look, and maybe you won’t have to wrack your brain for the perfect gift this year.

Love, Mom


The Gardening Mom

Free: Arrange a visit to Golden Gate Park’s botanical gardens (golden-gate-park.com), Berkeley’s Historic Rose Garden (ci.berkeley.ca.us) or the Morcom Rose Garden in Oakland (oaklandnet.com). Pack a gourmet picnic lunch to enjoy together.


Not too much:  Make reservations for $25 at Filoli Center in Woodside (filoli.org) to enjoy its annual flower show where you can admire the work of more than 70 flower designers. Each day the center hosts an informal flower chat. Listen to live music and stay for lunch at the café. The flower show takes place May 6-9.


Splurge: Give Mom a spa retreat at the meticulously-groomed Japanese Zen garden at the Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, near Bodega Bay. The $295 Ultimate Experience Package includes tea in the garden, a cedar enzyme bath, massage and facial (osmosis.com).


The Home-Decorating Mom

Free: Record episodes from different home-decorating shows on HGTV, make popcorn, and watch them together. Or help mom do a room makeover – without complaining!


Not too much: Treat mom to a decorator’s event, such as the San Francisco Decorator Showcase offered throughout May. Cost: $30 per adult. (decoratorshowcase.org)


Splurge: Send her on a weekend in Sonoma at the Kenwood Inn (kenwoodinn.com). This Tuscan-themed haven features knockout, individually decorated rooms, a private restaurant, spa and more fountains than all of Italy. Rates: $230 and up per night.


The Photography Mom

Free: Go with Mom on a photo shoot to her favorite place. Make sure to bring the tripod, extra charged batteries and memory cards. And if she needs it, show her how to load the photos on the computer to share.


Not too much: Take her to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see exquisite photography and art. Tickets are $15 per adult; kids 12 and under free. First Tuesday of each month free. (sfmoma.org)


Splurge: Give her a gift certificate to one of the upcoming National Geographic Weekend Photography Workshops held July 15-18 and November 4-7 in San Francisco. Cost is $1,685 with hotel and $1,295 for classes only. (nationalgeographicexpeditions.com/expeditions/sanfranciscophoto)


The High-Adventure Mom

Free: Climb Yosemite’s Half Dome with Mom or send someone to climb it with her. (nps.gov/yose)


Not too much: What could be more memorable than trapeze lessons at Trapeze Arts in Oakland (trapezearts.com)? $40 for a single class.


Splurge: Has she always wanted to skydive? This two-hour experience where the student jumps out of the plane with an experienced diver is $199 at NorCal Skydiving in Cloverdale. (skydivesf.com)


Or, if you want to send her on a bigger adventure that’s under the water, there’s Manitoba, Canada, where Mom can snorkel with beluga whales in the summertime with Sea North Tours. The two-hour excursion itself is $170. (seanorthtours.com) A package from Classic Canadian Tours runs about $1,700. (classiccanadiantours.com)


The Low-Adventure Mom

Free: Plan a hiking or bicycling trip to somewhere she has never been, even a local trail.


Not too much: Moonlight kayaking runs $75 for 3 hours with Seatrek in Sausalito. (seatrek.com)


Splurge: Send her to Inn Marin (innmarin.com) for its Hot Air Balloon Package for $195, which includes a one-night stay at the Novato-based inn and a balloon flight with A Balloon Over Sonoma.


Or, if you really want to wow Mom, take her on a four-day, lodge-to-lodge hike in southern Oregon with Rogue River Adventures. (wildrogue.com) This experience is just the ticket to get mom exhilarated and pampered at the same time. The outfitter carries your luggage, provides delicious hot meals, comfortable lodging and raft support in case her feet get tired. What’s not to like? Cost is $949.


The Foodie Mom

Free: Explore a farmers’ market she has never been to before, tasting samples along the way. Go to complimentary cooking and gadget demos at culinary dream stores such as Williams-Sonoma. (williams-sonoma.com)


Not too much: Prepare Mom a home-cooked meal with her favorite salad, main dish and dessert. For recipe ideas for brunch and dinner, see mothersdaycentral.com. Be sure to set the table with your prettiest place settings and decorate with an arrangement of her favorite flowers.


Splurge: Give Mom the latest restaurant book on the market and treat her to a multi-course dinner featuring her favorite cuisine at one of the places mentioned in the book. Or, sign her up for cooking classes at the Culinary Institute of America, Calistoga (ciachef.edu) or at the San Francisco California Culinary Academy (chefs.edu).


The Cultural Mom

Free: Take advantage of the donation-only museums in the Bay Area such as Stanford University’s Cantor Art Center in Palo Alto. (museum.stanford.edu) Another freebie can be enjoyed between May and October in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens. The site hosts its annual festival to present music, theater and dance to the community for free.


Not too much: The Oakland Museum of California is set to reopen this month after an extensive expansion and remodel. The museum will take a new look at the California experience. (museumca.org)


Splurge: Be the first to bring Mom to the newest stage hit to come to San Francisco, Peter Pan the Show. (peterpantheshow.com) Premiering in the United States, the family-oriented musical is the first to feature 360-degree computer-generated images to enhance the audience experience. Tickets run $30-$85. Throw in a behind-the-scenes tour for an additional $15 per adult, $12 per child. The tented performance takes place in Justin Herman Plaza.


The Artsy Mom

Free: Pull out the brushes, easel and paints, and take Mom out to the beach or countryside to give her an opportunity to do some plein air painting.


Not too much: Go together to one of the local do-your-own pottery shops like Color Me Mine (colormemine.com) or Petroglyphs (petroglyph.com) to paint a bowl together to commemorate her special day. Another option is to sign Mom up for a series of clay classes at The Clay Studio in San Francisco (theclaystudio.com) starting at $235 for eight sessions. 


Splurge: Send Mom to camp – art camp, that is. Artista Creative (artistacreative.com) is a three-day women’s workshop set along the white beaches of Carmel. Mom gets to stay in a comfortable hotel, and enjoy meals and yoga classes along with art instruction. Rates start at $1,395 for shared accommodations.


The Global Mom

Free: Take her to visit cultural centers around the Bay Area and sit in on their free programs. The region is home to the Thai Cultural Center, the Croatian Cultural Center, the Arab Cultural and Community Center and more.


Not too much: Go to lunch at a tiny restaurant in an ethnic neighborhood in the Bay Area. Consider locations such as Fremont’s Little Afghanistan; San Francisco’s Chinatown, Japantown, or North Beach; Oakland’s Chinatown or Santa Clara’s Koreatown.


Splurge: Give her a vacation package to her favorite destination for the trip of a lifetime. Go through your favorite travel agent, an organization such as Costco or AAA, or a reputable online travel services.


The Animal-Loving Mom

Free: The third Wednesday of each month is the free day at San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences, home to nearly 40,000 live animals. See calacademy.org for the calendar of events and current exhibits.


Not too much: Would she enjoy wildlife drawing classes at the San Francisco Zoo (sfzoo.org)? Check website for current pricing. Or how about an overnight camp-out with the whole family at the Oakland Zoo (oaklandzoo.org)? Rates are $75 per person for members; $85 non-members.


Splurge: A visit to Safari West (safariwest.com) gives Mom a chance to see African wildlife in a natural habitat on the plains in Santa Rosa. The Friday Girls Getaway Special starts at $480 for two and includes lodging, dinner and a jeep tour to explore more than 400 acres of exotic animals. Check website for other packages.


The Movie Mom

Free: Borrow her favorite DVDs from the library and set up a movie night complete with official movie snacks such as popcorn and ice cream bonbons.


Not too much: Give Mom a subscription to Netflix (netflix.com) or another movie subscription service that costs about $9 a month.


Splurge: Give Mom “The Ultimate Hollywood Experience” for $239 at Universal Studios. The day includes a behind-the-scenes stop at movie sets, a visit to the archive department, a VIP Lounge breakfast and more. (universalstudioshollywood.com)


The Green Mom

Free: Explore San Francisco’s green buildings on a self-guided tour. (mlandman.com/gbuildinginfo/greenbuildingsmap.shtml)


Not too much: Visit Earthbound Farms, an organic farm in Carmel. Check out its organic flowers, produce and selection of gourmet goodies and groceries. An organic kitchen provides yummy foods prepared on the grounds. Another alternative is to take a drive through Half Moon Bay and stop by any of the pesticide-free fruit and produce stands to create your own picnic stash. (earthboundfarm.com)


Splurge: A weekend away to the uber hip and modern Bardessono Hotel in Yountville will make her float in bliss. The whole property is LEED-certified, from its hypoallergenic bedding to its organic garden to its solar panels. Be sure to let Mom ride their lightweight carbon bikes, free for guests to borrow. Rates start at $300. (bardessono.com)


Spa Lovin’ Mom

Free: Grab some lotion and give Mom a hand massage while she gets pampered in her favorite chair. Follow this up with a manicure. Don’t forget to play some of her favorite tunes and present her with a small plate of home-baked goodies.


Not too much: Treat Mom to a tub soaking experience in a private room at Palo Alto’s famed Watercourse Way Bathhouse Spa (watercourseway.com). Rates start at $18 per hour. Ensconced by authentic artwork and Asian sculptures, she will be whisked to paradise. If you have more bucks, gift her with a massage or facial treatment the same day.


Splurge: Get Mom one of these spa packages at an elite getaway: Spa combo package at The Claremont Resort & Spa, Berkeley (claremontresort.com) for $365 for Friday through Sunday and $350 Monday through Thursday means Mom gets a half day of treatments as well as access to the pool and spa lounge. At Auberge du Soleil in Napa (aubergedusoleil.com), she can relax in infinity whirlpools overlooking the grapevined valley before she begins her treatment. The Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa (fairmont.com/sonoma) features a spa experience that includes soaking in natural outdoor mineral pools as well as participating in the signature bathing ritual inside the European bathhouse.


So, loved ones, these are all just suggestions. A vase is nice, too.


Kathy Chin Leong is a mom of two and editor of bayareafamilytravel.com, an online magazine for families who love adventure.

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