Mother’s Day (May 14 in the US) often evokes a range of emotion. For those whose moms are alive and well, and with whom they have a close relationship, it is a celebratory day marked by flowers, cards, phone calls, and outings. For others, who’ve lost their mothers, especially recently, the day may be marked by sadness, reflection, and nostalgia. When Anna Reeves Jarvis founded American Mother’s Day (in 1908), it was an attempt to honor her own mother (Ann) who, during the Civil War, had made a concerted effort to foster friendship and community between the mothers on both sides of the war. The holiday was first implemented by Jarvis’ home state of West Virginia, and a few years after, was made a national holiday by President Woodrow Wilson. Interestingly, as the holiday caught on and became more commercialized, Jarvis expressed regret over ‘the spectacle’ she’d created, noting the day had lost its true meaning — of honoring and showing gratitude to mothers — and spent the remainder of her life trying to thwart its commercialism.
In appreciation of Jarvis’ original intention, and to pay tribute to the many types of mothers and relationships — biological, adopted, mothers-in-laws, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and friends — we have curated a list of low-key (for Anna) and splashy (because Mom deserves it) ways to mark the holiday.
Honor Mom With Flowers
Certainly Jarvis herself would approve of this simple gesture — giving mom hand-selected flowers or bringing some home in her honor. In creating Mother’s Day, Jarvis designated that a red carnation meant your mother was living; a white, that she had passed. Here are our favorite flower markets to customize your own bouquet.
New York City Flower Market: This bright, colorful, flower-filled area is tucked away in Chelsea on West 28th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues). The flower shops open at 5:30 am and closes between 10:30 am and noon. Note: only professionals are allowed access in the wee early hours, so plan your arrival around 8 a.m.
The Original Los Angeles Flower Market: Founded in 1919 by a group of European-American growers; you’ll find every flower imaginable (more than 125 different varieties of cut flowers), including carnations.
Marché aux fleurs, Paris: This 200-year-old flower market is located in Place Louis Lépine between the Notre-Dame Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle chapel. Open daily except Sunday when flowers give way to feathers (bird market).
Toast Her With Champagne
Nothing speaks of celebration quite like Champagne. Take mom out for a glass (or two), or toast in her honor at one of our favorite Champagne bars.
Camellia’s, Hotel Bennett, Charleston: Pink in hue, this glittery bar is designed to look like a Fabergé Egg. Colorful murals of its namesake flower bedeck the walls, and the small tables of pink marble were reclaimed from the public library that once occupied the site. There’s caviar and dessert too.
The Champagne Bar at The Plaza, New York: The Plaza’s Champagne Bar opened originally as the Champagne Porch, with just 10 tables. Its modern-day incarnation, adjacent to the hotel’s lobby and Fifth Avenue foyer, also serves divine snacks: luxe caviar, sandwiches, and desserts.
Take a Cooking Class
Cook one of your mother’s favorite Italian recipes with fresh ingredients from Italy’s Amalfi Coast. From her home in Ravello, Italy’s favorite grandmother, Mama Agata, has cooked for celebrities from Humphrey Bogart, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Elizabeth Taylor, to more recently, Woody Harrelson and Pierce Brosnan. Order her cookbook and beautifully wrapped boxed ingredients (her homemade pastas, sauces, even fresh lemons from her trees), then make a plan to travel next year to the onsite cooking school with Mama, her daughter, Chiara, and Gennaro.
New Orleans School of Cooking: If Southern cuisine is more your palate, take a mother-son (or daughter) cooking class on classics like barbecue shrimp and grits, chicken andouille gumbo, and banana foster crepes at this French Quarter cooking school.
Share High Tea
For mother-daughter time (or even grandmother, mother, daughter), there’s nothing like an elegant afternoon tea. Especially at these iconic hotels.
St. Regis San Francisco: “The Art of Tea” experience begins with a presentation of a wooden box filled with glass vials of tea. Your selection is then paired with specialties from the pastry chef.
The Drake Hotel, Chicago: The late Princess Diana, Her Majesty, The Queen Elizabeth, and the Empress of Japan have all famously partaken in The Drake Hotel’s long-standing afternoon tea tradition, serving Palais des Thes teas from France.
The Beverly Hills Hotel: Afternoon tea served on the terrace and inside the hotel’s iconic Polo Lounge (complete with candy-striped ceiling) comes with lavish teas, decadent pastries, and guaranteed celebrity sightings.
Relax in the Spa
While Anna Reeves Jarvis would not likely approve, spa treatments — from side-by-side manis and pedis, to customized massages and facials — are definitely a Mother’s Day win. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spend $2 billion on personal services (like spa treatments) for their mothers on Mother’s Day.
One of our favorite spa experiences comes from Rancho LaPuerta in Mexico. This spa’s legendary founder Deborah Szekeley (who also opened the original Golden Door spa in California) turns 101 in May, and obviously has wellness nuggets to share. She continues to oversee her world-renowned destination spa, now with her daughter, Sarah. Stays are seven nights and the experience includes early-morning hikes, mind/body classes, yoga, fitness, and spa treatments, of course.
Miiamo, Sedona Arizona: This long-favorite Zen retreat is fresh off the heels of a $40 million renovation and expansion. Casitas have been renovated, treatments expanded to 75 minutes, and a 10-night journey has been added to the spa menu. Also new: a sensory garden, new restaurant, a reflexology path, and a new two-story fitness and movement studio.
If a spa day versus week is preferred (and you’re close to New York City), head to Caudalie Spa in the Meatpacking District. The original Les Sources de Caudalie opened at Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Bordeaux, France, where owners Maltilde and Bertrand Thomas, pioneered the brand’s signature vinotherapie treatments. Treat mom to the ultimate facial: the 80-minute Caudalie Grand Facial which includes a long relaxing facial massage accelerating cellular renewal and improving skin texture, and choice of vinotherapie products.
A Simple Coffee Date
A simple coffee date will also work wonders, especially when paired with extraordinary design and ambiance.
Try Felix Roasting Co. Aspen. Located in Aspen’s dreamy Hotel Jerome. Renowned interior designer Ken Fulk pulled all the stops with his jewel-toned velvet seating, Murano glass, and glowy ceiling. Of course, all of the signature specialty drinks are here, meticulously infused with Felix’s house-made non-dairy milks, proprietary syrups, and custom spice blends.
For European coffee and flaky Parisian croissants, it doesn’t get better than Hôtel Barrière Fouquet’s New York in Tribeca. Mom will feel like royalty as modern Chanson plays softly and the waitstaff — sharp in all black — discreetly pour coffee from gleaming silver pots.