Mother’s Day is just around the corner and whether it’s your first or your 20th, it’s an important day for a lot of mom’s, which is why I’ve dedicated an entire blog post to gift ideas AND activity ideas for Mother’s Day.

Gift ideas

My best advice if you’re looking for a meaningful gift for the mom(s) in your life is to ask their closest friends for ideas. Thanks to social media its easier than ever to get in touch with acquaintances and if you’re not sure what your partner wants on Mother’s Day or you’ve asked her and you didn’t get any hints or ideas, the best source is the people closest to her.

If you still come up empty-handed, I’m happy to help! After 13 years of Mother’s Days I have a few favourite gift ideas that your partner will hopefully love as much as I did.

  1. Made with love

My husband is not a crafty or artistic guy, which is why any craft-related gifts he’s helped the kids to make have always been meaningful. To help you out I’ve created a Pinterest board with different ideas from the ‘super simple, just need paper’ to the ‘wow her with your artistry’!

pinterest image with craft ideas for mother's day

2. The never-ending to do list

It feels like the to-do list for our home never ends. As fast as we can cross one thing off, three more take it’s place. The loose tile in the kitchen? It’s been on the list for four years. The broken fridge door? Over a year now. For several years for Mother’s day my husband has undertaken major projects that were wayyyyy down the priority list but he completed them because he knew how happy I’d be with the end result. Two years ago it was a completely re-decorated front entrance way. Another year he painted and re-organized my entire studio. Most recently: he helped move my office and set up the brand new space.

It doesn’t have to be a major renovation: any item on the list that you know your partner looks at daily and goes ‘grrrr I wish this was done!’. Painting your front door is usually less of a priority than a broken appliance BUT if she’ll be thrilled with the result, then it’s definitely gift worthy.

home office

3. Flowers

I know, I know, not everyone likes flowers. I’m not a big fan of flowers on Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day BUT I love to receive flowers as a surprise or in the weeks leading up to a special day, especially if they’re my favourite flowers (tulips). If you’re not sure what her favourite flowers are, this is the perfect time to ask family members and friends. Or have your kids pick out the bouquet themselves, which means she will love the colour and type of flower no matter what.

boy looking at tuplips

4. A class or workshop

What’s the one thing mom’s never have enough of?


What would your partner love to learn? Did she used to love to dance? Has she mentioned wanting to learn to paint or use her camera? Has she always wanted to learn how to do her make up properly? Rock climb? Throw axes? A gift certificate to a “I wish I had time for that!” activity makes a perfect gift. Especially if it’s accompanied by dates you can be available to take over at home so she doesn’t even need to worry about the planning.

photo of cameras

5. A day off

You don’t have to send her to New York, although it is lovely at this time of year, even a day off (or half a day) in Ottawa is a fantastic treat. First find out what she would want to do (head out for the day, stay home alone) and then figure out two to three dates that would work with everyone’s calendar so when you present her with the gift all she has to do is pick the date that she wants to escape. If your schedules err on the side of chaos, aim for 2-3 hours a week for a month. There’s nothing lovelier than knowing you have a block of time coming up in your schedule where you can escape for dinner with a friend, an exercise class, or to sit in silence in your car with chocolate.

sara mcconnell in new york city

6. Photos

Every year my boys gift me with 10-15 minutes of patience so that I can take updated photos of them together. If you don’t love having your photo taken but it’s something that’s really important to your partner, consider gifting her a gift certificate “for a photography session with the photographer of your choice”.

young boy having his photo taken among blossoms

What to do on Mother’s Day in Ottawa

  1. Tulip Festival

One of our favourite activities on Mother’s Day weekend is to visit the Tulip festival. Even if the tulips are just starting to bloom, we love to get outside and walk and, lets be honest, my boys aren’t fussed if the flowers aren’t in bloom and are just happy to be out running around.

If you’re keen to avoid the crowds, head out first thing in the morning or later in the day. If you head over to Commissioners Park make sure that you also set aside time to visit the Arboretum, which is beautiful year round but especially in the Spring with all the buds on the trees. If there are a lot of crowds at the Tulip festival, it’s a great alternative for time outside and seeing if you can find the first flowers of the season (tulips, crocuses, magnolia blooms).

We also like to park at Landsdowne and take the kids to the playground before walking along the canal to see the tulips. Parking is more readily available than at Commissioners Park and there are plenty of restaurants and cafes nearby.

close up of a tulip

2. National Gallery of Canada

One of our new favourite weekend destinations, the gallery is a beautiful destination whether its raining or sunny. After you’ve participated in some of their Mother’s day themed events you can head into the market for a walk to see the local vendors or for lunch or brunch. Not only are there activities for toddlers and older children, we find it much less crowded than the other museums on the weekend.

family creating at the national gallery of canada

3. A Museum

The Canadian Museum of Nature has a Mother’s Day brunch and their Butterflies in Flight exhibit has been extended until October. Just make sure you purchase tickets in advance.

family visiting the nature museum

4. Garden Centre

Even if your partner isn’t an avid gardener, there’s no better place to be than the greenhouses in early Spring. With Winter lasting so long this year, Mother’s Day weekend is a great time to visit a greenhouse. You can pick up plants for inside your home or even a potted plant in lieu of flowers for outside. Our favourite is Laporte Gardens, which is locally owned and operated and has the largest variety of plants and flowers that I’ve ever seen! If you end up at Laporte’s, make sure you head down the road into Cumberland: the Black Walnut Bakery is worth the trip.

little girl in a green house

5. Discover a new park

Grab a coffee and some baked goods and visit a park you’ve never been to before. The Canada 150 Park at Mooney’s Bay is one of our favourites. Just make sure to bring sunscreen and a change of clothes: the grass surrounding all the local parks is still really wet this year.

boy jumping at the Canada 150 park in Ottawa

6. Comiccon

My boys would be incredibly disappointed in me if I didn’t include Ottawa Comiccon on my list of Mother’s Day activities in Ottawa. If superheroes and sci-fi are on your list of favourite things, then you won’t want to miss out. Or if you want to make the people who made you a mom incredibly happy, this is also an event you don’t want to miss.

young boy dressed like batman

7. Ottawa Children’s Festival

I can’t believe that we have yet to attend the Ottawa Children’s Festival as a family! I’ll be there on May 8th with one of my son’s and his class and I’m excited to check it out. If you’re thinking about heading there on Mother’s Day weekend feel free to send me an email and I can let you know any suggestions I have after my visit on the 8th.