Things to Do

Best Holiday Teas in the DC Area

15 festive afternoon teas, including both longtime favorites and new options.

Photograph courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria.

The holiday season is all about embracing traditions. And one tradition that continues to flourish in the Washington area is holiday afternoon tea. The ritual, which typically features petite sandwiches and scones set amid a festive backdrop (as opposed to “high tea,” which is a heartier meal), is returning to some of DC’s most legendary hotels, historic homes, and restaurants, as well as kicking off at some new spots.

As Angela Renals, founder of Destination Tea, a directory of afternoon tea in America, says, “It is a popular holiday tradition for many friends and families because it’s the perfect time to slow down to catch up with one another, which is why generations often gather at annual holiday teas. And taking someone to tea is also a perfect holiday gift.”

Whether you book a tea experience for yourself or a group of friends, or gift teatime to a loved one, here are 16 terrific places in the DC area to take a cuppa and enjoy some holiday cheer.

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Forrest Hills

From December 1 though January 7, Hillwood, the former estate of businesswoman, heiress, hostess, and collector extraordinaire Marjorie Merriweather Post, will be opening the door of its Merriweather Café for groups of four or more for holiday afternoon tea. Assorted petit fours and tea sandwiches, as well as nods to the estate’s mid-century heyday (sweet potato tart, anyone?) round out the menu. Reservations (which will be available on Resy beginning November 21) must be made at least 48 hours in advance. Hillwood, and its magnificent gardens, are beautiful year-round, but at the holidays, they’re particularly magical. $38 a person.


Opaline Bar and Brasserie

Penn Quarter

Every Saturday afternoon from 2 to 4 PM, from November 25 through January 6, Opaline will be serving a holiday tea inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic book, Le Petit Prince.  The French bistro’s charmingly dubbed “Le Goûter du Petit Prince” will celebrate the book’s beloved characters through pastries and savory bites named for each of the book’s characters. The tea is designed to be enjoyed as much by children as by adults, and guests can choose from a selection of teas and coffees or hot chocolates and fruit juices. Reservations much be made at least one day in advance. $78 for adults and $55 for children 12 and under.


Montpelier House Museum


Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, which dates to the 1780s and is a National Historic Landmark, will offer its holiday tea on December 9 and 17. Held in the mansion’s festively decorated East Wing, the afternoon affair will include finger sandwiches, desserts, and scones with clotted cream, lemon curd, and jam. Proceeds from the tea benefit the house museum’s programs. $42 a person.


The Hay-Adams

Downtown DC

The Hay-Adams, one DC’s most storied hotels, hosts an afternoon tea every Sunday at 3 PM. From now until the end of the year (except Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve), the hotel’s teatime ritual will transform into a holiday event. Held in the Hay-Adams’ luxe and old-school Lafayette Dining Room, afternoon tea will include tea and hot chocolate selections, as well as sandwiches, house-made gingerbread cookies, and Viennese-style pastries. $75 for adults ($100 with champagne), $45 for children aged 4-12.


Willard InterContinental

Penn Quarter

Photo courtesy the Willard InterContinental Washington.

Perhaps nowhere presents tea more elegantly than the Willard Hotel which, legend has it, was where the first mint julep outside of Kentucky was served and where the term lobbying was born. The Willard has earned a following for its tea, but particularly its holiday tea which is served alongside a harpist, in the festively decorated Peacock Alley. The hotel even has a Spotify playlist inspired by their resident harpist, so you can add some of the Willard’s festive ambiance to your own holiday table. Due to its storied reputation, the Willard’s holiday tea—which will be offered Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in December (excluding Christmas Eve)—books up quickly, so make your reservation early or add your name to the waitlist. $90 a person, or $102 with a glass of champagne.


Fairmont Hotel

West End

Photograph courtesy of the Fairmont

Frozen is the theme of the Fairmont Hotel’s holiday tea. The beloved Disney story is playing at the Kennedy Center this winter, and the hotel’s Frozen Festive Afternoon Tea will feature plenty of Frozen-inspired decor—and children are encouraged to come in their favorite Frozen costume. The tea will be served on Saturday afternoons from 1 to 3 PM throughout December and will include tea sandwiches, scones, and Frozen-themed desserts to please even the pickiest eaters. $90 for adults (includes a flute of champagne) and $39 for children.


Green Spring Gardens


For two days only—December 2 and 3—Green Spring Gardens, the historic home and public park, is hosting a “Christmas Tea” that will include the usual afternoon tea trimmings as well as a lecture on the story and meaning behind Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.” The tea will be held in Green Spring Gardens’ 18th-century house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. $48 a person.


Waldorf Astoria

Penn Quarter

Held in the hotel’s soaring atrium, the Waldorf Astoria’s holiday tea is stretching across three months’ worth of weekends: now through January 31. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday seatings at noon and 2 PM and will feature delicacies like duck prosciutto mini sandwiches, lobster and black truffle quiches, blinis with caviar, and a rich assortment of cakes, from madeleines to shortbreads. $90 a person, or $105 with a flute of champagne.


The St. Regis

Downtown DC

A short stroll from the White House, the St. Regis Hotel will host afternoon tea in its elegant lobby November 24 through January 7. The lobby itself is a treat during the holidays, with a Christmas tree decorated in partnership with the White House Historical Association and a front desk area transformed into a floor-to-ceiling gingerbread house façade, complete with an aroma of spices, gingerbread bricks, fondant and royal icing, and candies. Expect a selection of Dammann Frères tea, along with sandwiches, pastries, and an optional Champagne pairing. All afternoon tea guests are gifted an official 2023 White House Christmas Ornament to bring home. $109 a person.


The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner


Photograph courtesy of the Ritz Carlton

Come for tea, stay for ballet. The Ritz-Carlton is serving up two of the finer things in life December 8, 9, and 10. The hotel’s Nutcracker Tea will be served in the Ritz’s festive Old Dominion Room and feature a full afternoon tea menu alongside ballet dancers and a pianist performing favorite selections from Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece. $160 a person.


Four Seasons


The Four Seasons’ beloved “Teddy Bear Tea” is returning to Georgetown on December 2, 9, 16 and 23 from 12 noon to 3:30 PM. This family-friendly afternoon event will, in part, benefit the Children’s National Hospital. This year’s tea will feature a selection of Regency Era, royalty-inspired pastries, like Battenburg cake, as well as scones and petit fours. Live music from carolers and a string ensemble, as well as a visit from Santa himself, round out the festivities. All children will be gifted a holiday teddy bear to bring home. $110 for adults and $55 for children under 12.


Salamander Washington DC

Southwest DC

The Salamander Hotel near the Wharf is welcoming guests with its second annual holiday tea each Friday through Monday from the day after Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Two daily seatings—1 PM and 3:30 PM—will be held in the Salamander’s lounge and accompanied by live piano music. The Salamander’s tea features champagne, house-made scones, tea sandwiches, and loose-leaf teas. A special Children’s Tea on December 17 will include a cooking decorating station, cotton candy, ice cream, and face painting. $95 for adults and $80 for children.



Penn Quarter

Chef Amy Brandwein is presenting a one-day holiday tea at her acclaimed Italian restaurant, Centrolina. The Palmer Alley restaurant’s December 9 tea will feature an assortment of mini quiches, macaroons, biscuits and jam, and tea sandwiches handmade by Brandwein, Centrolina’s pastry chef Yesenia Jarquin, and Buttercream Bakeshop pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac.* A cellist will serenade diners, and champagne and mimosas will be available as add-ons. $75 for adults and $55 for children.



West End*

Known as an intimate cocktail bar and lounge, Quadrant, which is located in the Ritz-Carlton, is also a lovely place for tea. Their holiday afternoon tea features twists on the classics like a passion fruit mousse, dulce de leche mini rolls, and scones with pumpkin spice jam. Tea will be served at 1:30 and 3:30 each Saturday and Sunday afternoon (including Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve). $80 per person, or $105 with a flute of champagne.




The Mediterranean-inspired restaurant is opening its doors for a holiday afternoon tea designed for both adults and children. Expect house-made tea sandwiches, scones, pastries, and looseleaf teas for adults, and child-sized nibbles, hot chocolate, and take-home teddy bears for kids. The two-hour tea, which requires advance reservations, will be offered November 25 and 26, November 30  through December 3, and December 7 through January 1 (excluding Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve). $76 for adults and $45 for children.


* An earlier version of this article identified Tiffany MacIsaac as being with Centrolina; she is the pastry chef at Buttercream Bakeshop. We also identified Quadrant as being in Georgetown; it is in the Ritz-Carlton in the West End.