The two things your mom loves most in this world are 1) you, and 2) you, doing special stuff that requires spending time with her. Give her what she wants with these above-and-beyond, outside-the-box Mother's Day options.
Eat on a Farm
If your mom is a fan of the farm-to-table dining trend, show her the real thing at Arcadia, an active farm in Alexandria that's about 20 minutes from downtown DC. Vermilion chef Tony Chittum has teamed up with pastry maven Tiffany MacIsaac (Birch & Barley, Buzz Bakery) on a five-course menu sourced from the grounds and other local farms. Dishes--grilled asparagus with Maryland crab remoulade, rabbit with orecchiette and fava beans, and strawberry-rhubarb shortcakes--will all be accompanied by a regional wine. Arrive at 3 for a stroll around the property, accompanied by cocktails and a chance to chat with the farmers who grew the food. Tickets ($185 per person) are available online.
Kids in the mix? Head to Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville, Virginia (a little more than an hour outside Washington). Chef Christopher Edwards is in the process of planning menus based on ingredients from his garden--fresh greens, carrots, radishes, strawberries--as well as meats such as lamb, rib eye, and chicken from local farmers. He'll be cooking up a four-course brunch and dinner ($65 per person). The wee ones can opt for à-la-carte items like organic Ayrshire Farm chicken with buttered noodles.
There are a number of opportunities for cruising along the Potomac River on Mother's Day, with brunch, lunch, and dinner cruises featuring buffet spreads, free roses for Mom, and live music aboard the Odyssey and Spirit of Washington. We can't vouch for the tastiness of the food, but we do know you'll be sipping mimosas while gazing out on water views of the National Monuments.
Active moms will like the idea of renting a kayak or canoe at Jack's Boathouse in Georgetown. Pack ingredients (nearby Dean & DeLuca sells a mean steak) to cook on their gas grills before or after your paddle. It'll run you $7 to $14 to guide yourself around the calm waters for the afternoon (kids under five are free). Join a 90-minute Monument Twilight Tour in the evening to catch the historic sites light up as the sun goes down ($45 per person).
Perry's in Adams Morgan throws its classic Drag Brunch on Mother's Day. For $23.95 you get an all-you-can-eat spread of everything from waffles to sushi, along with the chance to sing and dance with a troupe of drag queens. There are no reservations, and people start lining up early, so the restaurant recommends getting in line around 9:15 AM, or arriving after 11:45 for later slots available until 3.
If you want a guaranteed seat with your saucy entertainment, try Sax in Penn Quarter for brunch. It's about double the cost ($50 for a three-course prix-fixe menu), but that's on par with the over-the-top decor, dishes such as Wagyu beef tartare and lobster hash, and cabaret dancers cavorting on an elevated, glass-enclosed stage. Don't expect anything too racy, but if your mom is shocked by fishnet tights and strategically placed feathers, it's probably not the place for her.
Art It Up
Most moms love an afternoon at the museums, but no one wants to get stuck eating at a subpar food court. To find great food around the museums, check out this roundup. Currently, the best bet may be the Garden Café in the National Gallery of Art, which taps high-profile chefs to create special menus based on rotating art exhibits. Starting May 6 you'll find Spanish offerings from chef/restaurateur/Time 100 star José Andrés at the Garden Café Catalonia. Go for the Joan Miró exhibit, stay for a buffet ($20.25) spread with chilled cherry tomato soup, preserved tuna-Romesco salad, and chicken stew with dried fruits alongside a chilled glass of cava.
Haven't bought a present? Let Mom choose her own at the Global Marketplace in the National Museum of Women in the Arts (open noon to 5). It's stocked with jewelry, ceramics, home goods, and so forth, all crafted by female artists. After you've toured and shopped, you can head to a nearby Penn Quarter eatery like Bibiana, 701, and the aforementioned Sax. Remember to make a reservation in advance, however--these places tend to be crowded even when it's not the most popular brunch holiday of the year (with the possible exception of Easter).
NOVA moms who are into aerospace will find much to love at the expanded National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center by Dulles Airport. A serious minus for moms who like space, aircraft, and good food: Your chow options are limited to McDonald's and astronaut ice cream. The solution: Drive to Chantilly and hit up one of our favorite Cheap Eats spots, Sichuan Village. It isn't fancy, but it's genuinely tasty Chinese. Pass on the buffet for an extensive menu with Szechuan dishes such as spicy ma po tofu with pork, dan-dan noodles, and a tender, gingery pork shank that can feed your whole family.
The recently reopened Howard Theatre is an interesting stop in and of itself--Ella Fitzgerald, the Supremes, and Aretha Franklin played there, among others--but there's more than a historical incentive to visit; there's also Sunday Gospel Brunch, featuring the Harlem Gospel Choir and an all-you-can-eat Southern buffet from New York-based chef/restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson. There are two seatings for Mother's Day, 12:30 and 3:30 PM. Tickets are available online for $35 ($45 for day-of purchases).
Another option for gospel brunch is the Hamilton, which is also serving an all-you-can-eat buffet at 12:30, this time to the tunes of the Howard Gospel Choir. The homestyle menu includes fried chicken, carved brisket and ham, shrimp and grits, and buttermilk biscuits, and is served during the 60-minute set. Again, we can't comment on the buffet itself, but the experience sounds pretty fun. Tickets ($25 each) are available online, and include a mimosa or Bloody Mary.