The Next Time You Travel, Take Your Kids to Afternoon Tea
A spot of afternoon tea in real china cups, served up with dazzling plates of pastry, can be one of those "grown-up" experiences for your kids on your next vacation -- and you don't have to cross the pond to do it.
Points collectors can easily introduce their kids to this British tradition, complete with the pleasure of scones and finger sandwiches, at a variety of points hotels and boutique properties across the US -- and beyond. If you want to take your kids to tea (and you really should), here's TPG's advice.
Afternoon Tea and Kids: A Good Mix?
These days, afternoon tea at a hotel -- or a tea room -- is more fun than fussy. Sometimes there's even a theme like the Science Afternoon Tea at London's Ampersand Hotel.
Tea can be a terrific occasion to practice "grown-up" manners but children should have enough experiencing dining out to make it through tea service without a meltdown -- perhaps age 7 or older (ages 4-5, is likely the minimum for things to go well). Believe us: It will be more enjoyable for all if your kids are excited about the event.
Not sure if your kids can handle an hour or so at a table with china, fancy food and attentive service? That’s the point, says Cindy Grosso, founder of the Charleston School of Protocol & Etiquette, Inc., which teaches manners to people of all ages. She thinks kids can rise to the occasion. “The secret to a successful tea experience is to let kids know what is expected of them before you arrive," says Grosso. “Let them know the expectation and they can hit the mark,” she says. “They get in trouble when they don’t know what the limits are,” she adds.
Remember that afternoon tea doesn't have to be a drawn-out affair. If you want to give it a try, select the short menu with fewer courses (skip the finger sandwiches and maybe just order the scones followed by pastries). Then, call it a day.
While some tea rooms discourage -- or even don't allow young children -- others welcome them. Some Park Hyatt hotels offer tea but always check ahead, as hours at all hotels vary. “We take time to explain tea service to our young guests, who may be experiencing this special moment for the first time,” says Matthew Garelick, executive chef at the Park Hyatt New York.
Prep Your Kids for Tea
- Explain that they’ll sit for about an hour at a fancy table with fancy food. Talk about how tea works: You get to choose a tea (widely recommended for kids: non-caffeinated herbal teas with a drop of honey) and that it will be poured from a breakable teapot into a fragile china teacup.
- Define "polite:" saying please and thank you; not using electronic devices; offering to serve others at the table before yourself, and being extra careful with hot tea.
- Suggest that tea is a great chance to pay attention to your surroundings. Grosso suggests a visual treasure hunt approach that can help younger children channel their energy toward the end of the tea. “Give them some things to look for and tell them that afterward you’ll want to hear about the one thing they liked best,” Grosso says.
- When you make the reservation, ask if children under age 12 are welcome. Lady Mendl’s, the famed New York tea room at the Inn at Irving Place, discourages children under 12. However, the Balmoral in Edinburgh has an afternoon tea tailored just for children (and some of Harry Potter was actually written in that hotel!).
- Holiday teas book early, so plan accordingly. The “Teddy Bear Tea” at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad, California, includes an appearance by a Peppermint Princess.
- Expect a multi-sensory experience. Hotel tea service nearly always includes choices of tea varietals and much of the experience is shaped by the presentation of fancy food. Many hotels set the stage with live piano or harp performances.
Try Afternoon Tea at These Hotel
Many resorts and luxury hotels serve afternoon tea so be sure to inquire when booking accommodations. Here are a few of TPG's favorite tea spots:
Waldorf-Astoria Orlando: Take a break from the race to ride every attraction at the nearby amusement parks with an old-fashioned, elegant tea at the Waldorf-Astoria Orlando. It's served Sundays from 2–4pm in the resort's elegant Peacock Alley venue. The menu includes choice of tea, finger sandwiches, scones, jellies and custards, mini-pastries and tea cakes. Children pay $30 and adults, $50. (Here's a PDF of the menu.) Staying at the Waldorf will set you back 63k–80k Hilton points per night, or you can stay at Hilton Orlando-Bonnet Creek Resort next door from 50,000 Hilton points per night.
The Ballantyne Hotel: This large suburban hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina, offers a classic tea in a sunny room overlooking the lawn every Thursday–Sunday from 1–4pm (adults are $40, children 5–12 are $20 and kids 4 and under are free). Staff goes out of its way to welcome children and the tea selection is curated by the Rare Tea Company of London. The Ballantyne is a Category 6 (50k Marriott points per night for a room with two queen beds).
Boston Harbor Hotel: Huge windows overlook the harbor with plenty of bustling boats and water taxis for the kids to watch. The contemporary space in the hotel's Rowes Wharf Sea Grille can accommodate large family groups. On the daily afternoon tea menu ($50 per person) are several unique finger sandwiches, including the tasty beet, goat cheese and micro basil on whole wheat, and yummy sweets like the orange-pomegranate French macarons. For adults, tea-infused cocktails are served for an extra fee.
The Drake Hotel Chicago: Palm Court is a destination deep within this vintage hotel on Chicago's North Michigan Avenue, the perfect change of pace from shopping and shows. Ask ahead about the cream puff swans. Your kids will thank you. The hotel offers a special Prince and Princess Afternoon tea service that's appropriate for kids ages 4–12 ($23 per person); older kids can order from the regular menu ($49 per person) that includes tea plus a three-tier tray with finger sandwiches, scones and breads, petit fours and condiments like house-made preserves, lemon curd and English double Devon cream. Tea is served Wednesday–Sunday from 1–4:30pm and takes about 90 minutes. (Vegetarian and gluten-free tea service is available upon request in advance.) Overnight stays are available from 24k–70K Hilton points.
Park Hyatt New York: Let your kids recover from a day at exploring NYC with a fun children’s menu ($25 per child) that includes Nutella and strawberry finger sandwiches, grilled cheese, berry kabobs, hummus and a variety of sweets. The adult menu, served daily from 2–4:30pm, includes finger sandwiches (can you say Maine lobster and caviar?), house-made scones, cookies and pastries for $45 per person. (Here's a PDF of the menu.) Use your World of Hyatt points to stay at this world-renowned property (from 30,000 points per night).
Fairmont San Francisco: Sink into luxury in the deep booths of Laurel Court at the Fairmont San Francisco. Tea is served on weekends from 1:30–3pm, and it's such an event that you can buy tea souvenirs -- tea, coffee and Empress Royal China -- at the hotel shop. The menu ($39 per person) features classic finger sandwiches and scones (served with pear compote, Devon cream and Meyer lemon curd) as well as pastries. A children's menu, with more simple flavors is available too. The chef can accommodate vegan, gluten-free, diabetic and other special diets. Inquire in advance. Ask the concierge in advance for a tour of the hotel’s honeybee hives, which supply its tables. The Fairmont is part of Accor Hotels Group, which is rolling out a new loyalty program -- Accor Live Limitless -- in 2019.
Fairmont Banff Springs: The Rocky Mountain Tea is designed with children in mind, with a menu that includes a "berry garden" tea and rice crispy treats among the pastries. Fans of the British royal family rejoice. The hotel is currently serving a special amped-up Royal Afternoon Tea from now until the birth of Prince Harry's first child. It's offered on weekends from 11am-3pm ($65 for adults and $32 for children).
Disney's Grand Floridian: Disney isn't all Mickey ice cream bars and chicken fingers. You and your children can enjoy afternoon tea at the Garden View Tea Room within Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa each day from 12-4pm. There are different packages available, but children can enjoy the Mrs. Potts Tea with child-friendly approaches to traditional sandwiches and desserts (and a chocolate milk option!) from about $24 each. Reservations can be made through Disney Dining and are recommended. If you time your tea carefully, you can enjoy a live piano performance at 3pm.
Major hotel brands, including Intercontinental, Kimpton, Park Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton, often offer tea at some of their properties. However, it is imperative to confirm in advance that tea will, in fact, be served, as availability depends on the season, special events and holiday schedules. Tea is not always mentioned under the "dining" tab at hotel websites. As well, tea offerings vary among hotels in the same chain, so do not assume that the children’s tea menu offered at one hotel is also available at another under the same brand. And finally, be sure along with manners and a cute outfit, you pack the best credit card for dining as you and your crew head out for tea.
Have you taken your kids to afternoon tea? Did they enjoy it?