A proper celebration for ladies (and gents).
This time of year some of the Bay Area's most beautiful, historic homes and hotels take on the tradition of afternoon tea. These extravagant architectural beauties are worth a visit in any season but tiny crustless finger sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream and lemon curd and, an eye-opening tea make the trip even better. After all, everyone deserves to indulge in a little tradition around the holidays.
Filoli, the 19th century English manor in Woodside, takes the holidays very seriously—musicians play special engagements, Santa makes a visit, and the property's manicured gardens magically light up. One of their best winter traditions, however, is a holiday high tea, a special version of their year-round tea service where they pull out all the stops. Alongside a special tea blend, guests are served delicate holiday treats alongside their scones and finger sandwiches. When the meal is finished, check out the house's Drawing Room where tea was traditionally presented to honored visitors. High tea is held every Tuesday at 3pm between November 21 and December 19. // 86 Canada Rd. (Woodside), filoli.org
Garden Court at the Palace Hotel
The Palace's sumptuous Garden Court, with its stained glass dome and Austrian crystal chandeliers, was the hotel's crowning jewel when it opened in 1909. Over the years it has hosted Presidents (Warren G. Harding died in a room upstairs) and starred in movies (1997's The Game). It has also been the site, for over a hundred years, of an elegant weekend tea service. Presented on fine china and silver, the Garden Court's Signature Tea ($68) includes finger sandwiches, scones, Devonshire cream, lemon curd and rose petal jam. Prince and Princess Tea ($45), an offering just for Anglophile children, comes complete with a crown and candy scepter for the tiny royal. For those who want a little bubbly along with their tea, try the sparkling wine tea ($75). // Tea is served on Saturdays between 2pm-5pm, reservations are preferred, 2 New Montgomery St. (SoMa), sfpalace.com
Pardee Home Museum
This cream-colored Victorian built in 1869 in Oakland celebrates its roots with oh-so British high teas. Served either in the house's elegant dining room or its manicured garden, the Pardee Home pairs their brew with platters of sweet and savory treats for between six and twelve guests ($30 for high tea, $20 for dessert tea). When you've cleared your plate, take a tour of this beautifully decorated house museum. Teas are private and must be scheduled in advance. // 672 11th St. (Oakland), pardeehome.org
Fairmont San Francisco
Afternoon tea has been served at the Fairmont San Francisco since 1907 so they've had the time to perfect their skills. Presented in the Laurel Court Restaurant and Bar, the centerpiece of the hotel's lobby opens again after waiting six decades to be restored. The Fairmont's tea includes scones, pastries and teas with locally sourced ingredients. Tea here is served on Saturday and Sunday afternoons year-round (between 1:30pm-3:30pm) but during the holidays, the lobby is extra festive—dressed to the nines in trains, trees and a massive gingerbread house. // Reservations recommended, 950 Mason St. (Nob Hill), fairmont.com
Top of the Mark
High above the city, perched on the penthouse level of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, Top of the Mark has been charming guests since 1939. During the holidays, this iconic San Francisco eatery serves two versions of afternoon tea—one for adults, another for kids. At the Children's Magical Tea ($75), finger sandwiches, scones and pastries are served buffet style in a delightful melee of face painting, cookie decorating and balloon animal making. There are two seatings—at 12pm and 12:30pm—Fridays and Saturdays between December 1-23. For the child-free, the Holiday High Tea ($60) served between 2:30pm-5pm on several dates in December, includes sandwiches like lobster, microgreens, grape and caviar and pear caramel tartlets. // Reservations required, 999 California St. (Nob Hill), holidaysatthemark.com