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FeedithNOLA: Teddy Bear Tea at the Royal Sonesta

Saturday morning I dressed Edith in another holiday ensemble fit for a porcelain doll and said, “Are you ready for another teddy bear tea today?” She grinned from ear to ear and chanted, “Santa! Santa! Santa!” with a voice so sweet she could be mistaken for Cindy Lou Who. Recalling our Santa photo from the Teddy Bear Tea at the Roosevelt Hotel, I was a little surprised at the enthusiasm, but who am I to question the mind of a toddler. The smiles and Santa-chanting continued as we listened to Christmas music in the car on the way to Teddy Bear Tea #2 at the Royal Sonesta.

The Royal Sonesta is off my radar because of its location. We parked in the CBD to avoid a weekend parking fiasco in the Quarter. This, however, meant a three-block walk on Bourbon Street. It shames me to say it, but Edith loved Bourbon Street. Before you take the detour onto Royal or call Child Protective Services, hear me out. The open-air bars blasting Journey were perfect for a tiny person with music ADD, and if you walk on the riverside of the street, you don’t even have to avoid pictures of scantily clad women! That being said, I still kept a quick pace and carried her in my arms for fear of toxic matter touching my precious baby. (The god-awful toddler trend of licking the bottom of shoes ended a few months ago at daycare, but I’m still not taking any chances.)

Luckily, the Teddy Bear Tea at the Royal Sonesta was well worth the biohazard. Edith’s eyes lit up at the sight of the Sugar Plum Fairy, who greeted guests in line, and then promptly filled with tears when she turned to say hello. This was the start of the emotional roller coaster that was Edith’s teddy bear tea experience. The following is a reconstruction of Edith’s internal dialogue:

  • Mrs. Claus greets a table about ten feet from ours: “I love Mrs. Claus! She seems so nice, and it must be really cool to be married to Santa.”
  • Mrs. Claus approaches our table because she sees Edith pointing and smiling: “Oh god, why is Mrs. Claus coming over here?!?! Teddy, just look straight ahead and she won’t see us.”

Edith then attempted to jump out of her highchair and into my lap. This cycle repeated for every character: Sugar Plum Fairy, Rudolf, Toy Soldier, and even Santa himself. Edith’s only solace was in the endless supply of cookies, and the Saintsations who were apparently not terrifying, and brought her a tiara and a teddy bear, which she carried for the rest of the day. Once we finally convinced her that she would not be forced to interact with any walking, talking fictional character, she relaxed and enjoyed the show.

We enjoyed the show too, especially Santa. I’m a bit of a Santa snob. The right combination of an authentic look and a jolly spirit is critical, and a booming “ho ho ho” is also very important. Teddy Bear Tea is a show—it requires more than a standard mall-Santa. This Santa delivered. When he was offstage during story time, he mingled with the crowd rather than hiding backstage. He hugged a server as if she had just made the nice-list for the first time. He talked to individual children as if they were the most important people in the world. This was a great Santa. He was also a hoot for the parents in the room. Think of him as “fun” Uncle Santa at a wedding. He’s not having so much “fun” that he’ll give an embarrassing or inappropriate toast on stage, but damn is it amusing to watch him on the dance floor. Even with my fondness for this particular Santa, we did not subject Edith to another Santa photo, torture is banned by international law… But next year, we have our new Santa.

Helpful Tips for Teddy Bear Tea at the Royal Sonesta:

  • Logistics: The line for check-in was very long. Plan for a wait. The beautifully flocked trees lining the hall and the Santa hats we brought from home were enough entertainment for our little one.
  • Food: This is on the light side for adults and on the heavier side for kids. Plan to have a snack afterwards. Everything was adequate, but it was really more about the show and experience. We left with a box full of sweets and leftovers for Edith. VIP tickets include champagne for adults. (There is also a cash bar because nothing says teddy bear tea like hard liquor!)
  • Photos: All formal Santa photos occur after teatime so you won’t have to miss any of the programming. A photo is included with VIP tickets. The stage is simply dressed and available for pictures before and after the program. The courtyard also provides nice natural light and beautiful, though not seasonal, backdrop.
  • Lagniappe: The Royal Sonesta gives back to its guests and community. Edith left with a cup, tiara, teddy bear, and commemorative teacup & saucer. The Royal Sonesta toy drive and sale of the Royal Teddy Bear ornaments benefit the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans.

Kim Frusciante is an educator, Tulane alumna, and new mom who loves all things New Orleans. Though she wishes she could claim to be a native New Orleanian, she will happily settle for raising one instead. Kim is passionate about enjoying the culture of our city with her daughter, Edith, and helping others to do the same with their little ones. Let Edith be your test-baby: Email Kim at kim@nolavie.com. Follow Kim (well, Edith…) on Instagram @feedithnola.