10 Best Afternoon Teas for the Holidays

PHOTO: The Drake Hotel
The Drake Hotel

Old-fashioned English afternoon tea is a beloved tradition, especially during the holidays, and here's good news for everyone who can't get across the pond this season. North America's finest hospitality venues are serving holiday tea in high style. For some, it's a December tradition, and for others, like the Drake Hotel in Chicago, which has its own Tea Lobby, it's a year-round custom that really lights up during this very special season.

PHOTO: St. Regis Hotels and Resorts
St. Regis Hotels and Resorts
St. Regis San Francisco

For West Coast travelers who want to donate to East Coasters still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, the St. Regis has put together a one-time-only special St. Regis Tea Party Dec. 9. Tea will be followed by a 2 p.m. performance of Holiday Magic with The Velveteen Rabbit. Tickets cost $100 per person, and all proceeds go to Hurricane Sandy Relief.

PHOTO: Could anything be more in the Manhattan holiday mix than tea at the Palm Court in the Plaza?
The Plaza Hotel
Fitzgerald Tea | The Plaza, New York

Could anything be more in the Manhattan holiday mix than tea at the Palm Court in the Plaza? This magnificent recently restored space comes alight for Christmas, with a lavish Gatsby-themed Christmas tree (designed by the production designer of the upcoming feature film) setting the mood for this season's special "Fitzgerald Tea."

PHOTO: St. Regis Hotels and Resorts
St. Regis Hotels and Resorts
Tea with Santa | St. Regis Atlanta

December marks the festive finale of a full year of seasonal themed teas at the St. Regis Atlanta. Served daily through Dec. 25, Holiday Teas offer a sumptuous mid-afternoon spread. If you're planning to bring children, reserve a seating either Dec. 1-2, 6-9 or 13-24, because those are the dates Santa and Mrs. Claus will be paying a visit, and giving gifts.

PHOTO: Cypress Inn
Cypress Inn
Afternoon Tea at Cypress Inn | Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

The reclusive Doris Day maintains her Cypress Inn's vintage-chic standards from behind the scenes, so guests can still get a classic Hollywood-inspired cocktail in the evening or a cozy afternoon tea in the mid-afternoon. Surrounded by old-Hollywood movie memorabilia and fabulous 1920s architecture, guests are invited to slip into a more comfortable decade.

PHOTO: Wedgewood Hotel
Wedgewood Hotel
English Tea at Wedgewood Hotel | Vancouver, B.C.

Traditional English tea is a weekend staple at this elegant BC hotel. It's $35 per person for finger sandwiches and the full complement of traditional English sweets: fruit cake, baked scones, fruit tarts and more. If you want something slightly stronger-bubblier than the tea selection, add on a Kir Royale or a glass of local sparkling Brut wine.

PHOTO: The Biltmore
The Biltmore
Holiday Tea Service at The Biltmore | Phoenix

One of the most elegant and traditional hotels in the Western United States, The Biltmore pulls out all the stops for its annual Holiday Tea Service. Special holiday decadences include eggnog-spiced pound cake, "Peppermint Crunch" brulee, peppermint scones with chocolate whipped cream and half a dozen other incredible offerings. Tea service is offered Thursday through Sunday this holiday season, for the 83rd year running.

PHOTO: Fairmont Chateau
Fairmont Chateau
Alpine Tea at Fairmont Chateau | Whistler, B.C.

"Alpine Tea" at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort offers a great break from all those downhill runs. Enjoy a warming beverage, sweet treats and views of the dramatic snowy mountains outside.

PHOTO: Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte
Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte
Chocolate Tea at the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, Va.

Always an innovator in the performance confectionary category, this luxurious Southern hotel offers a beautiful chocolate tea during the holidays. For those who style themselves true chocolate lovers, there's an even more lavish culinary event: the five-course Chocolate and Champagne Dinner offered Friday and Saturday evenings this holiday season.

PHOTO: Grill Room New Orleans
Grill Room New Orleans
Tea in Le Salon, Windsor Court | New Orleans

Afternoon tea in Le Salon in the Grill Room at Windsor Court will transport you to a bygone century, as every detail here is handled with reverence for and understanding of that era. Year-round afternoon tea is, as tradition dictates, somewhat of a "ladies' pastime," with live string or harp entertainment. The special Holiday Tea (through Jan. 6, 2013) has a more robust menu that includes special seasonal cocktails and sweets.

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