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 crustless finger sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream and lemon curd, and an uplifting, aromatic tea make the trip even better. After all, everyone deserves to indulge in a little tradition around the holidays.
(Courtesy of the Palace Hotel)
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). For over a hundred years, it has also been the site of an elegant tea service. Presented on fine china and silver, the signature tea in the Garden Court ($100/adults, $70/kids 12 and under) includes finger sandwiches and pastries. The Palace also offers tea with Santa ($130/adults, $75/kids) through December 24th. // Tea is served Friday and Saturday afternoons in December; reservations are preferred, 2 New Montgomery St. (SoMa),marriott.com
San Francisco Proper
Patrons of the arts will appreciate this glamorous downtown hotel’s December weekend Nutcracker Tea ($65/adults, $64/kids 12 and under). The repast includes sweet and savory bites ($80 sparkling wine add-on) and raffle tickets for the SF Ballet, SF Broadway, or Proper Hotel properties. Tea is served from 2pm to 5pm in the lounge on Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 5pm at Villon on Sunday. // Reservations required; 1100 Market St., properhotel.com
The Fairmont San Francisco does Christmas right.(Courtesy of Fairmont San Francisco via Facebook)
Fairmont San Francisco
Afternoon tea has been served at the Fairmont San Francisco since 1907, so they've had time to perfect their skills. Presented in the Laurel Court, high tea includes maple scones, buttermilk biscuits, pastries, finger sandwiches, and loose-leaf tea. During the holidays, the lobby is extra festive, with a sparkling display of decorated trees and a massive gingerbread house. You can literally get into the holiday spirit by booking a private dinner inside the Gingerbread House (call for pricing, eight people max). The hotel is also serving Christmas Eve and Christmas Day buffets, reservations required. // Tea is served 2pm to 4pm Saturdays, year-round; 950 Mason St. (Nob Hill), fairmont.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 20 guests. Afternoon tea is $40 per person in the dining room and $45 in the garden. Dessert tea is $30 per person. When you've cleared your plate, take a tour of this beautifully decorated house museum. Teas are private and must be reserved two weeks in advance. // 672 11th St. (Oakland), pardeehome.org
Claremont Hotel & Spa
This rambling ivory 19th century property in the Berkeley Hills hosts high tea with sandwiches and desserts in the Lobby Bar ($125/adults, includes one glass of sparkling wine and $75/kids under 12) as part of its annual Holiday in the Hills celebration. Tea is served Saturdays and Sundays through December 24th, from 1pm to 3:30pm. Reservations are recommended. Be sure to leave time to explore the stunning,, 22-acre grounds or visit the seasonal Five Palms ice skating rink ($24/adults, $12/kids, $4 off if you BYO skates). // 41 Tunnel Rd., Berkeley,fairmont.com