For the charm of an afternoon tea without the stuffiness, head to this casual Loop restaurant for sandwiches, scones, sugar cookies, strawberries and (of course) teas. 1 W Washington St (312-368-1900). 1:30–4pm daily. Through Dec 31. $25, kids $18.
CAFÉ DES ARCHITECTES
Teatime is elegant but playful at the French restaurant at the Sofitel, where treats such as cranberry lollipops and passion fruit éclairs are offered withHarney & Sons teas. Housemade marshmallows and hot chocolate appeal to those still developing their sophisticated palates. Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, 20 E Chestnut St (312-324-4063). Saturdays and Sundays from 2–5pm through the winter. $30, kids $10.
A real-life demonstration of the principle that “giving is getting,” the Holiday Afternoon Giving Tea at the Four Seasons rewards kids who bring a toy to donate to the hotel’s Toys for Tots Drive with a complimentary afternoon tea of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, gummy bears and a choice of milk or hot chocolate. 120 E Delaware Pl (312-649-2363). Holiday Afternoon Giving Tea is offered Monday through Friday, Nov 28–Dec 16. Seatings begin at 3pm. $38, kids $15 or free with toy donation.
PALM COURT AT THEDRAKE HOTEL
Caroling, sipping and feasting on roast-beef finger sandwiches and scones with lemon curd are what’s in store at one of the city’s most Old World teatime spots. Live harp music is played daily; carolers peform Dec 13–24, and Santa appears on Dec 14 and 21 from noon–4pm. 140 E Walton Pl (312-932-4619). 11am–5pm daily. Nov 25–Jan 1. $36, ages 4–12 $18.
Proving that sophisticated teatime can exist outside of downtown, this Bucktown bakery offers an afternoon tea of scones with clotted cream, cucumber-and-goat-cheese finger sandwiches and an assortment of sweets made by the Australian pastry-chef owner, Naomi Levine. 1944 N Damen Ave (773-384-4418). noon–6pm daily. $22, kids ages 8 and under $12.
PALMER HOUSE HILTON
At the hotel’s Joffrey Ballet Tea , guests can interact with Nutcracker ballet students during weekend afternoon tea service in the lobby. At weekday tea, cookie decorating and gingerbread-flavored tea keeps kids occupied while adults sip unusual teas like the Emperor’s Dragonwell (picked only two days of the year) from Rare Tea Cellar. 17 E Monroe St (312-917-3404). Joffrey Tea held Saturdays and Sundays through Dec 31. 2–4pm. $35, kids $18 ($10 for cookie decorating only).