No need to traipse from store to store looking for the perfect gift this Mother’s Day when the best gift you can offer is time well spent. We’re helping you out with ideas that appeal no matter what brings a smile to mom. From classic brunches to races and exhibit-seeking, take advantage of what Chicago has to offer and make sweet memories on this special day. Read on and get planning, May 12 will be here before ya know it!

photo: Magnolia Bakery

Get those creative juices flowing: Magnolia's Bakery

Feeling the need for something sweet and creative? Bring mother in for a fun afternoon of learning how to decorate beautiful flower cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery. Not only will you take home six of your creations, but you'll also receive a starter cupcake icing kit to create more sweet magic at home.

May 11; 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Cost: $75
Magnolia Bakery, Block 37, 108 N. State St., The Loop
Purchase tickets online: magnoliabakery.com

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photo: Maria Chambers

Go on a hunt. . . for trolls: Morton Arboretum

Something special has emerged from the woods, meadows and vast open spaces at The Morton Arboretum’s grounds. . . unusual creatures, each made of reclaimed wood and measuring 15- to 20-feet-tall. Danish artist Thomas Dambo and crews of woodworkers and volunteers constructed the mammoth mythical creatures of Troll Hunt. Enjoy a stroll to visit these guardians of the forest, who are trying to make sense of the human world and make us think about our impacts on the planet. Ongoing Morton Arboretum 4100 IL-53, Lisle Cost: Free with admission; $15/adults, $10/ages 2-17 Online: mortonarb.org

photo: Shedd Aquarium

Take the celebration under the sea: Shedd Aquarium

Held on special days throughout the year, Shedd’s Family Festivals include two hours of up-close animal interactions, creative crafts that participants can take home and activities that get guests partying with a purpose. The programs are designed for families with children ages 5-12.

May 12; 10 a.m.-noon
Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., Museum Campus
Cost: $25; $20 for members
Online: sheddaquarium.org

photo: LowCountry

Get your hands deliciously dirty: Lowcountry

Playing on phones at the table is a no-can-do with hands busy digging into a bag of juicy shrimp, crab, sausage, corn and potatoes. Lowcountry welcomes families to savor low-key authentic Southern-inspired seafood boils, complete with menu options to please the whole group—even vegans can enjoy!

Lowcountry, 3343 N. Clark St., Lakeview & 1132 S. Wabash, South Loop
Online: lowcountrychicago.com

 

photo: I|O Godfrey

Have a rooftop dine: I|O Godfrey

This Mother’s Day, I|O Godfrey encourages guests to treat their moms, grandmothers, and mother figures to a rooftop brunch buffet. In rain or shine – thanks to the space’s retractable glass roof – moms and their families can enjoy decadent eats such as Baked Huevos Rancheros with mango salsa, Lobster Mac & Cheese, Truffle Poutine, Ice Cream Tacos, and pancake, waffle, omelet, and carving stations, among other dishes.

May 12; 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
I|O Godfrey, 127 W. Huron St., River North
Cost: $39/adult; $12/child
Online: iogodfrey.com

Keep the fun top secret: SafeHouse

Let mom know she's appreciated with drinks on the house and a family outing she won't soon forget. Enjoy the spy experience at SafeHouse with complimentary bottomless mimosas for moms. After families make their way past Agent M’s clearance test, Junior Spies and Adult Spies can embark on a mission for midday lunching. Moms can bond with their spy squad by scoping out clues hidden around the restaurant, solving the unique table mission, or interacting with the restaurant’s puzzles and Agent intel. Once the mysteriously delicious meal is cleared, spies can find their way out through the laser maze and take their souvenir spy cup and activity book with them. May 12; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. SafeHouse, 60 E. Ontario, River North Online: safehousechicago.com

photo: Garfield Park Conservatory

Make it a colorful day: Garfield Park Conservatory

Got a flower-loving mom? She'll love the Spring Flower Show at Garfield Park Conservatory. The Show House is filled with a dizzying array of colors that will fill your view and blanket you with aromatic blooms. Take time to reflect and experience the wonder of nature at Garfield Park Conservatory, unfiltered, with this year's theme being Understory: Layers of Light.

Now thru May 12, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Free
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N. Central Park Ave., Garfield Park
Online: garfieldconservatory.org

photo: LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Appease mom's inner builder: LEGOLAND Discovery Center

True Story: Moms like to build LEGOs almost as much as (in some cases, more than) kids. So why not spend a bit of Mother’s Day immersed in a world of LEGOs?  LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago is celebrating all moms with free admission on Mother’s Day when moms are accompanied by a child. To add to the fun, the first 50 children to attend a flower building workshop will get a free flower build for their mom. 

May 12; 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago
601 N. Martingale Rd., Schaumburg
Online: chicago.legolanddiscoverycenter.com

photo: Hilton Oak Brook Hills

Show your gratitude: The Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills’ Mother’s Day Brunch

The Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort is showing its gratitude to moms by hosting an extravagant community event in their honor. Mothers will be feted at a jubilant brunch with a chef-driven brunch, a fashion show, kids activities and complimentary mimosas for the ladies.

May 12; seatings at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m.
Cost: $53.95/adults; $19.95/ages 5-12; free for ages 4 & under
The Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills, 3500 Midwest Rd., Oakbrook
630-850-5555
Online: hilton.com

photo: Susan G. Komen Chicago

Feel great about racing for a cure: Susan G. Komen

The annual Komen Mother's Day Race for the Cure has become a tradition, because 1 out of 8 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. This family-fun event on Mother's Day simply makes the celebration more meaningful because participants are united for good cause. Beloved Chicago Cub and cancer survivor Anthony Rizzo has been named honorary chair, and he and his mom, Laurie Rizzo, will spend part of their Mother's Day morning leading the survivors/thrivers parade to kick off the event. 

May 12; 7:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
601 W. Montrose Ave., Montrose Harbor
Register online: komenchicago.org

photo: Morton Arboretum

Dine amongst the blooms: The Morton Arboretum

You could spend your whole day (or week, even) at Morton Arboretum and never run out of fun things to see and do. For Mother's Day, they're serving up a classic buffet brunch and dinner in the Ginko Restaurant—think omelette, pasta and dessert stations, yummy!

May 12; seatings at 9 a.m., noon & 3 p.m.
Cost: $61/adult, $34/ages 4-12; free for ages 3 & under (discounts for members)
Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL Rte 53, Lisle
Online: mortonarb.org

photo: The Kids' Table

DIY tea party: The Kids’ Table

Roll up your sleeves and build your own tea party with the family at The Kids' Table. What's on the menu? Tea Sandwiches, Fruit Kabobs, Mini Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting and Strawberry Lemonade. Yum!

May 12; 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
The Kids' Table, 2864 N. Lincoln Ave., Lakeview & 2337 W. North Ave., Wicker Park
Online: kids-table.com

photo: Lincoln Park Zoo

Brunch amongst the animals: Lincoln Park Zoo

Treat mom to something especially wild at Lincoln Park Zoo’s historic Cafe Brauer. Each seating will feature live music, an incredible breakfast brunch buffet as well as coffee, juice and soft drinks. Mothers in attendance will receive one complimentary mimosa in celebration of the day.

May 12; Seatings at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon
Cafe Brauer, 2021 N. Stockton Dr., Lincoln Park
Online: lpzoo.org

photo: 360 CHICAGO

Have a Sunday funday: 360 CHICAGO

Sure, sleeping ’til noon on a Sunday is swell, but what’s even better is 360 CHICAGO’s Sunday Funday. Infuse a little excitement into your life by taking the family to the observation deck on the 94th floor for a little magic, a little music and a whole lot of amazing Chicago views.

May 12; 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
360 CHICAGO Observation Deck, 875 N. Michigan Ave., Mag Mile
Online: 360chicago.com

photo: Punch Bowl Social via Maria Chambers

Strike it big: Punch Bowl Social

Moms are in for a treat at Chicago’s hit “eatertainment” spot Punch Bowl Social! Families are invited to chow down on a selection of scratch kitchen specialties and partake in free arcade games, while moms are spoiled with a Mom-mosa (featuring a selection of juices, peach nectar, fruits and herbs) and Bloody Mary bars. Punch Bowl Social’s array of arcade games are completely free in honor of moms near and far.  Whether a distraction for the kids while she enjoys her “Mom”-mosa or a nostalgic twist on the holiday, the Fulton Market spot features classics including skee ball, pong and shuffleboard.

May 12; 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Punch Bowl Social, 310 N. Green St., West Loop
Online: punchbowlsocial.com

photo: Michael Jordan's Steak House

Brunch like MJ would: Michael Jordan's Steak House

Do it like Mike with a special Mother's Day brunch at Michael Jordan's Steakhouse. Diners will enjoy decadent dishes like a Homemade Belgium Waffle with fresh berries and housemade whip mascarpone or Steak House Benedict with filet medallions, poached eggs, hollandaise and asparagus. Hungry yet? Good. Mom is invited to sit back and relax while sipping on a signature cocktails or wine to wash down all of this sweet and savory goodness.

May 12; 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Michael Jordan's Steak House, 505 N. Michigan Ave., Mag Mile
Online: mjshchicago.com

— Maria Chambers

Featured photo: free-photos via Pixabay

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