Tea time: 5 places for an afternoon break

This holiday season, what better way to beat cabin fever and keep warm than by enjoying afternoon tea with your family? A relaxing break from the chaos of the holidays, afternoon tea is quickly becoming an annual tradition for many families in the Chicago area.

Originating in Britain, afternoon tea can replace lunch or dinner, and includes finger sandwiches, scones and pastries along with a steaming pot of your choice of tea (or coffee if you don’t drink tea). For caffeine-free alternatives, ask for herbal teas, steamed milk, hot chocolate or hot apple cider.

The Peninsula Hotel offers a quiet refuge from North Michigan Avenue shopping. Understated yet elegant, the airy lobby is modeled after the original Peninsula in Hong Kong and serves afternoon tea daily ($36 per person or $18 per person for the children’s menu).

Down the street, the stately Drake Hotel is another family-friendly venue for afternoon tea ($29 per person or $15 per person for the children’s menu). During the holidays, a Christmas tree and model train offer a nice distraction for kids who need to get up and stretch. What better way to enjoy five star hotels without paying five star prices?

If you don’t want the pomp and circumstance of the hotels, head over to one of several Julius Meinl locations in the city-in Lakeview, Lincoln Square and on Irving Park Boulevard-for à la carte afternoon tea. Be sure to check out the special holiday pastry menu. In the suburbs, Jolane’s (in the Abt shopping plaza in Glenview) is owned by Julius Meinl and offers the same kid-friendly, Viennese café setting and extensive loose-leaf tea and pastry selection.

Farther north, in Antioch, infini-tea is offering a special tea ($12 per person), including sweets and savories, with Mrs. Potts and other characters from Beauty and the Beast Sunday, Nov. 8, 15 and 22 at 5:30 p.m., after they perform at the PM& L Theatre. Reservations are required for tea with Mrs. Potts and strongly suggested for afternoon tea at other venues.

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