Holiday Tea at The Drake Hotel in Chicago

There are hotels that are instantly recognizable as iconic. The Drake Hotel on Chicago’s Gold Coast is one of them. And then there are things that instantly say “holidays in Chicago” and the Holiday Tea service at the iconic Drake is one of those. In fact, for many Chicagoans, as well as visitors-in-the know, Holiday Tea at the Palm Court of The Drake Hotel is simply an institution and an event that should not be missed during the holiday season.

The Drake Hotel
The Drake, a member of both Historic Hotels of America and TripAdvisor Hall of Fame, is situated at the north end of Michigan Avenue, or the Magnificent Mile as the Chicagoans like to refer to it, where it runs into Lake Shore Drive. Its location puts it steps away from Oak Street Beach and Lake Michigan and literally next door to some of the world’s best shopping, restaurants and entertainment. The Drake is one street away from Chicago’s famous Hancock Tower and only a few blocks from the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The history of The Drake Hotel is long and distinguished. Its famous Palm Court, designed by renowned architect Ben Marshall was once a hub of activity for affluent Chicagoans and known for its splendor. If you’ve heard about that famous charity ball in the 1920s when a large elephant paraded through the Fountain Court (former name of the Palm Court)… it really did happen! Drake’s century-old guest list includes prominent names such as Winston Churchill, Princess Diana, Empress of Japan, Walt Disney, Aretha Franklin, Mohammad Ali and Clint Eastwood. The hotel’s legendary restaurant Cape Cod has a world-famous wooden bar with carved initials of newlyweds Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, said to be giggling over their drinks, smitten by each other when they left their marks.

Afternoon Tea Service
According to The Drake Hotel website, the Afternoon Tea tradition dates back to 1840 when the Seventh Duchess of Bedford requested a snack in the afternoon to tide her over until dinner, a need I can very much relate to. Her staff delighted her with some bread, butter, cake and tea and in no time she became accustomed to this habit, inviting friends to partake in her new daily ritual. I’m guessing the Duchess’ friends liked and adopted it too since afternoon tea is now a well known affair, enjoyed not only in England, where it originated, but all over the world.

Tea at The Drake Hotel, Chicago
The Drake has a long history of Afternoon Tea service, but it is especially popular during the holidays.

Holiday Tea at The Drake
Afternoon tea is a also long standing tradition at The Drake Hotel, but the holidays make it ever more special. Ah, the splendor of The Drake, the lavish Christmas decorations throughout the property, the elegance of the Palm Court, the graceful harpist, the joyful Twelve Days of Christmas Carolers and, of course, the irresistible holiday pastries. Need I say more?

Holiday tea at The Drake Hotel Chicago - Twelve Days of Christmas Carolers
“Twelve Days of Christmas” Carolers help spread the holiday cheer for the guest of Palm Court Holiday Tea.

Despite the grandeur of the hotel and its Palm Court where the tea is served, let me assure you the tea service is not a stuffy affair and is, in fact, very family friendly. Everybody we encountered during our recent visit, showed genuine appreciation for young guests and there is even a special Little Prince and Princess tea menu. Speaking of the menu, the food accompanying tea (you can also choose mimosas, sparking wine or something even more bubbly) was lovely. My personal favorites were the just-baked scones, with English double Devon cream (I may have had one or two too many, but who cares, it’s the holidays!) while our kids loved the cake lollipop and puff pastry shaped like swans. (No surprise there.)

Holiday tea at The Drake Hotel Chicago - Gingerbread Village
Gingerbread Village, crafted by The Drake’s culinary and engineering teams, is just one of many beautiful decorations guests can enjoy at this iconic Chicago hotel during the holidays.

The premium teas by the Palais des Thés, recognized as one of the top tea companies worldwide and served at the Palm Court, are exceptional. I chose Montagne Bleue, because it sounded cool and because of its description, a “blend of black tea, honey, lavender, berries and rhubarb.” It was exactly what the menu promised…“relaxing and indulging” and I loved it. Finally, the overall service was impeccable. Classy, yet warm and personable, adding to our joy and the smiles on our faces.

This year, The Drake offers its Holiday Tea every day from November 20 through January 3, with seatings available from 11 am until 5 pm.

Afternoon Tea and the Loyal-Tea Club
For those who like to indulge in tea service anytime, not just during the holidays, the Palm Court serves Afternoon Tea every day between the hours of 1 pm and 5 pm. There is a live harpist Wednesday through Sunday. New this year, for tea and tea service aficionados, is the Loyal-Tea Club, The Drake’s own tea club. Members enjoy preferred seating, events such as special tastings or tea etiquette by the tea sommelier and get a welcome gift along with a complimentary afternoon tea service during their birthday month.

Other Must-Do Holiday Things in Chicago
Aside from the Holiday Tea at The Drake during the months of November and December, the city of Chicago is a very magical place to visit. From beautifully decorated buildings and streets, ice skating in Millennium Park just steps away from the famous Bean, to the traditional German Christmas market and our famous holiday “L” train with elves and Santa…Chicago is sure to make your spirits bright.

For more ideas on things to do in our magnificent city during the holidays, read my list of reasons to visit Chicago during the holidays.

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Know Before You Go

  • Chicago’s nickname is “The Windy City.”
  • Make sure to visit Millennium Park so that you can see the world-famous Bean!
  • Avoid visiting in the winter if you aren’t a fan of cold weather! The weather warms up around May.

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Vera H. Are you interested in traveling to Chicago? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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