The holidays are quickly approaching, and that means one thing in Chicago. No, not sub-zero temps (at least not yet) — SHOPPING!! We live in one of the best cities in the world for working your way through the holiday wish lists. But all that shopping can be exhausting. Take a much needed time out for afternoon tea to rest and recharge. Our fair city offers the time-old tradition that will turn a day of shopping with the kids into a cherished memory. Here are our picks for getting in touch with your inner Brit with a spot o’ tea.
The Four Seasons: Allium Restaurant and Bar
Allium is giving you two ways to enjoy your tea this year. Every Saturday beginning November 3 and then daily from November 23-December 30, stop in for a holiday tea from 2:30 p.m.-4 p.m. If you go December 2 or 16 (1 p.m.-5 p.m.), you can also build gingerbread houses with the family. The house comes pre-assembled and pastry team members will be present to assist with the decorating. For an additional $50, you can decorate a special deluxe gingerbread house created by Pastry Chef Scott Gerken as a family.
If you prefer to throw back your tea with the man of the hour, Allium has a special Santa Claus Gingerbread tea on December 22. Besides the obvious tea service, you’ll decorate holiday cookies and have a special visit with Santa the kids will never forget.
120 E. Delaware Place, Near North Side
Dates: Holiday Tea, Nov. 4-Dec. 31; Gingerbread Santa Tea, Dec. 22
Seatings: Holiday Tea, 2:30 p.m.-4 p.m.; Santa Tea, 1 p.m.-2 p.m.
Cost: Holiday Tea, $58/adults, $30/kids, $22 for free-flowing Prosecco; Gingerbread Santa Tea, $75/adults, $45/kids ($50 for deluxe gingerbread house)
Palmer House Hilton: Lockwood Restaurant & Bar
If spending the day on Michigan Avenue is the holiday outing equivalent of getting coal in your stocking, spend the day ice skating in Millennium Park and refuel with afternoon tea at the nearby Palmer House Hilton hotel. A separate kids’ menu is also available at Lockwood, with foolproof finger sandwiches and sweets for even the pickiest eaters on your “nice” list.
17 E. Monroe, The Loop
Seatings: 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
Cost: Regular tea, $45/adults; $22/kids
Reservations: 312-917-3404 (requires at least 24 hours notice)
The Peninsula: The Lobby
Santa gets all the attention this time of year, but Mrs. Claus knows how to make the holidays extra special, too. The Peninsula is setting kids up for a tea date with this special lady where they’ll hear stories, decorate holiday cookies and enjoy a special afternoon tea menu with their favorite grown-ups.
108 E. Superior St., Near North Side
Dates: Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 & 17
Seatings: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
The Langham Hotel: Pavilion
For the die-hard holiday shopper who starts on State Street and treks to North Michigan Ave, the Langham hotel is the perfect place for a shopping halftime. Pavilion is hosting Wonderland Tea which includes cucumber sandwiches, orange cranberry and gingerbread scones and desserts. Guests can choose from a variety of teas such as The Langham Blend, a sophisticated twist on a classic English breakfast and Palm Court Blend, a unique blend of the finest quality Chinese white tea, with hibiscus flowers, rosehip, and pink rose petals.
330 N. Wabash, Near North Side
Dates: Starting Nov. 19, details to be announced soon
The Drake: Palm Court
If you want to feel like royalty, afternoon tea at the Drake is for you. After all, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana and the Empress of Japan — each of whom has enjoyed tea at the famous hotel — wouldn’t settle for just any cuppa. During the holiday season Palm Court will transform into a winter wonderland complete with festive decorations, seasonal pastries, a harpist and even a merry band of carolers on select days in November and December and throughout the “12 days of Christmas.”
140 E. Walton Place, Near North Side
Dates: Nov. 1-9, Nov. 12-16 & Nov. 19-22, seatings available every half hour 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m.; Nov. 10, 11, 17, 18 & Nov. 23-Jan. 13, seatings every half hour 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Seatings: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: $52/adults; $25/ages 3-12
Vanille Patisserie’s French-inspired holiday afternoon tea experience will transport you and your bébés to the city of lights. Enjoy Vanille signature pastries, scones, finger sandwiches and French macarons while sipping on the finest of Benjamin’s Tea and Hot Chocolate with house-made marshmallows.
2108 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park
3243 N. Broadway, Lakeview
—Maria Chambers & MaryKate Hickey