20 fun L.A. things to do on Mother's Day — because all Mom wants is to hang out with you

When my family moved to San Diego from Los Angeles in 1966, my mother never looked back. She was moving to a beautiful peninsula, after all, and was thrilled to leave the traffic and pre-emissions smog of Los Angeles behind.

Still, there were times over the years when she would fondly recall our time spent together at Descanso Gardens and how she felt comforted by the shade of the garden’s statuesque oaks. It was a happy memory, and an L.A. experience she never forgot. I think of her whenever I visit the botanical garden in La Cañada Flintridge and imagine, now that I am a mother myself, how wonderful it must have felt for her to get a break.

Los Angeles has a way of doing that, creating indelible moments amidst hard things — traffic, heat, wildfires, smog. There are so many extraordinary things in L.A. that we never get around to experiencing. This Mother’s Day, why not give moms the best gift of all: an L.A. adventure. Because spending time with you is what most moms really want for Mother’s Day.

1. Get a street-side view of some of L.A.'s most iconic architecture

A home made of patterned and smooth concrete blocks
Frank Lloyd Wright's famed Ennis house, a Los Feliz hilltop masterpiece composed of patterned and smooth concrete blocks. (Los Angeles Times)

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. — Lisa Boone

📍: Throughout L.A.

⏰: Anytime

💰: Free

2. Bike the Venice Electric Light Parade together

A group of cyclists riding illuminated bikes at night.
Cyclists participate in the Venice Electric Light Parade, founded in 2015 by Marcus Gladney, right, in Venice Beach. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

If you'd like something a little adventurous and very out of the ordinary for Mother's Day, pack up Mom and your bikes and head for Windward Plaza Park on the Venice Beach Boardwalk to join the Captain — Marcus Gladney — and hundreds of other wheeled folk who ride in the dazzling Venice Electric Light Parade every Sunday at sunset.

Participation is free, but if you'd like to add a few strands of LEDs to your bike to blend in, get to the boardwalk early and seek out Sebastian "The Light Man" Butler, who sells strings of lights for around $40 and helps add them to your bike. His motto? "Get lit or get hit."

The ride starts as the sun goes down — around 7 p.m. these days — and Gladney cranks up the throbbing lights and music on his giant beach bike, "Big Red." The route takes you west to the Santa Monica Pier, then back up along Abbot Kinney and other streets in Venice, finishing at the end of West Washington Boulevard in Marina del Rey, about a half mile from where it all began. If you don't want to transport bikes, Gladney rents light-bedecked bikes for $99 a night (reserve ahead of time online). The rental includes a special Venice Electric Light Parade keepsake T-shirt. Plan at least three hours for the ride, and if you rent from Gladney, expect to ride to and from the storage area where he keeps his bikes, about 3 miles from the boardwalk. — Jeanette Marantos

📍: Venice

⏰: Every Sunday at sunset, except during heavy rains

💰: Free, unless you rent a bike for $99

3. Spot peachicks at the Los Angeles County Arboretum

Visitors walk on a path near a preening peacock.
A peacock adjusts its feathers as pedestrians pass by at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Gardens. (Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

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

📍: Arcadia

⏰: 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

4. 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.

People walk past a footbridge on the Fern Dell Nature Trail
Visitors walk past a footbridge in Griffith Park on the Fern Dell Nature Trail. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

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

5. 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.


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

📍: Mid-Wilshire

⏰: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays

💰: Advance tickets required online: $10 to $25; members free

6. Toast Mom with a bottle made by a woman winemaker

If your mom is a wine fan (and you’re over 21), take her to Vinovore in Silver Lake or Eagle Rock. Both locations focus on women winemakers. Handwritten tasting notes on white tags help you choose among the variety of reds, whites, oranges, rosés and bubblies.

Have Mom grab a bottle (or two) as you pick up the tab — you can find plenty priced around $20. Vinovore also carries chocolates and cheese if you want something to nibble on (the Tom Bumble peanut butter flake candy is a decadent treat). Take your wine haul and relax in the backyard, on a balcony or on the couch, clink your glasses and ask Mom to regale you with stories from her youth. What did she like to do with her friends when she was a kid? What was she obsessed with as a teen? When did she have her first sip of wine? — Brittany Levine Beckman

📍: Eagle Rock, Silver Lake

⏰: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays

💰: Varies

7. Shop for women-run independent brands at the Unique Markets

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

8. Laugh along with David Sedaris at UCLA

If Mother's Day is a difficult day for you, or for your mother, consider spending the evening at UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance with satirist and writer David Sedaris, who can find humor and heart in life’s darkest, most mundane moments (like his colonoscopy). — Lisa Boone

📍: Westwood

⏰: 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 8

💰: Tickets are $49 to $109

9. Hit the pool to relax and cool off

A woman and her son play with a red ball in a swimming pool.
Inez Esparza plays with son Ezrah Esparza, 10, at Newhall Park Community Pool in Santa Clarita. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

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.

⏰: Varies

💰: $50 to $100 per hour for a pool rental on Swimply; $4 for adults at municipal pools

10. Experience spring at Descanso Gardens

A young girl in heart-shaped glasses walks past tulips of various colors in bloom at a garden.
Tulips are in bloom at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, for now. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

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

11. Accept an Oscar at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

A woman holds an Oscar statuette.
Barbara Cooper of Seattle holds the Oscar in the "Oscar Experience" at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

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

📍: Mid-Wilshire

⏰: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Sundays

💰: Tickets are $5 to $25

12. 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

13. 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

14. Shop for new, vintage and just plain funny items at the Melrose Trading Post

Kimonos at an outdoor flea market
The Melrose Trading Post at Fairfax High School. (Adam Tschorn)

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

📍: Fairfax

⏰: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays

💰: $5

15. Cook brunch at home after shopping at a farmers market

Chef and author David Tanis picks up turnips at Hollywood Farmers Market.
Chef and author David Tanis picks up turnips at Hollywood Farmers Market. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

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

16. Stroll through Studio City, followed by a massage

When my kids were young, I used to love to take them to the Studio City Farmers Market, where they could ride ponies, let off steam in a bounce house and get their faces painted while I shopped and gawked at all the celebrities who were doing the same thing.

Luckily, the kid-friendly market is within walking distance of lots of grown-up stuff like Joan’s on Third, which opens at 9 a.m. on Sundays, and the Now Massage studio, where exhausted moms can book a post-shopping massage starting at $50. If Mom's a plant lover, definitely stop by Greenwood Shop, a friendly neighborhood plant and gifts store for a plant and a pot. Afterward you can take it home and pot it together, creating a living reminder for Mom of a lovely Mother's Day spent with you. — Lisa Boone

📍: Studio City

⏰: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays

💰: No admission fee for the market; The Now massages start at $50

17. Eat your way through Smorgasburg Los Angeles at Row DTLA

A woman receives a plate of food from a person inside an Ethiopian food truck
Keiosha Alexander gets tacos at Berbere at Smorgasburg L.A. (Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

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

18. Picnic at the Silver Lake Meadow

People sitting on the grass near a decomposed granite path with large trees in the background.
The Meadow at the Silver Lake Reservoir on a recent Sunday. (Lisa Boone / Los Angeles Times )

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.

💰: Free

19. Visit Watts Towers then grab a burger

A cluster of people stands outside Watts Towers.
Watts Towers celebrated its 100th anniversary in December. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

This tall, rough-hewn landmark, built by compulsion by a devoted Italian American laborer and surrounded by a blue-collar community , has become one of the most emblematic works of art in the state. Sabato (Simon) Rodia, an immigrant from Italy, started this backyard project in 1921 and spent 33 years putting up Watts Towers (up to 99 feet high), using rebar, concrete, cast-off tiles, bottle caps and bits of colored glass (especially blue Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia bottles). He walked away in 1954 and died in 1965. Yet he built so well that his work has survived; it inspired many local children to pursue creative careers (including celebrated assemblage artist Betye Saar and jazz great Charles Mingus). It’s now protected as a state historic park and neighbored by a community arts center. The area inside the triangular property’s walls is closed indefinitely for restoration work, but you can see plenty from outside the fence. After taking a look, head to Hawkins House of Burgers, one of the 101 best restaurants in L.A.— Christopher Reynolds

📍: Watts

⏰: View Watts Towers anytime; Hawkins House of Burgers is open 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sundays

💰: Checking out Watts Towers is free; burgers start at $5.99 or you and Mom can split the Leaning Tower of Watts burger that includes multiple patties, pastrami, bacon and more for $49.99

20. Whale watching from the Point Vicente Interpretive Center

Whale spotters on a lookout point at Point Vicente Interpretive Center, with the Pacific Ocean and mountains in the distance.
Whale spotters at Point Vicente Interpretive Center in Rancho Palos Verdes. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

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

💰: Free

For the record:
2:26 p.m. April 20, 2022: An earlier version of this story misspelled Jonny Cota as Johnny Cota.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.