When it comes to creating massive, one-of-a-kind houses (and more!) for the holidays, pastry chefs, and even architects pull out all the stops at these U.S. hotels pull out all the stops.
Not all homes are made to be lived in. During the holiday season, gingerbread houses, which originated in Germany more than five centuries ago, are a treat for the senses (and, ultimately, stomachs). But pastry chefs at some renowned hotel properties have made it an annual ritual to outdo themselves by creating holiday displays made of gingerbread that are so big and beautiful, you wouldn’t even consider eating them. Check out this elaborate array of displays of some all-time favorites.
WHERE: Colorado Springs, CO
For 33 seasons and counting, The Broadmoor has created a larger-than-life gingerbread display in its lobby. The hotel broke with tradition in 2016 when 10 master pastry chefs and two carpenters constructed a 12-foot-long, 8-foot-high train that took an estimated 288 man-hours to make. The life-size gingerbread engine celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. (A 150-square-foot replica of the property’s Pauline Chapel in 2017 was equally awe-inspiring.)
Wentworth by the Sea, a Marriott Hotel & Spa
WHERE: New Castle, NH
In 2017, the hotel’s culinary team transformed 350 pounds of gingerbread into an 8-foot-tall Victorian house decorated with hundreds of gumdrops, lollipops, and licorice whips. The display also included a train station—and moving locomotive that thrilled young onlookers.
INSIDER TIPMake a point to attend the display’s annual unveiling in early December, when the hotel darkens the lobby and turns on white holiday lights that outline the gingerbread structure and get everyone in the holiday mood.
WHERE: Williamsburg, VA
No detail was overlooked in the 6-foot-tall grandfather clock that the Kingsmill Resort’s executive pastry chef built from scratch in 2015. The level of detail in the towering timepiece was truly extraordinary. Perhaps most memorable were the clock’s inhabitants—a bevy of mischievous marzipan mice that had their own furnished apartment in the clock’s center. (Talk about prime real estate!)
Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel & Spa
WHERE: Bay Lake, FL
This resort pulled out every stop in 2017 when a team of pastry chefs led by Executive Pastry Chef Erich Herbitschek spent more than 400 man-hours baking the gingerbread for a life-size house—make that mansion!—which took an additional 160 hours to construct and decorate. The structure was so large that it was able to house an actual bake shop, where guests could purchase ornaments and cookies made from an Austrian gingerbread recipe.
INSIDER TIPNeed to brush up on your gingerbread house decorating skills? The hotel organizes daily demos in the lobby during the holiday season.
Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center
WHERE: National Harbor, MD
It took 340 hours to build the property’s 2017 display, which featured a replica of D.C. made with hundreds of pounds of candy. Included were a 3.5-foot-tall Washington Monument, a reflecting pool, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the U.S. Capitol.
INSIDER TIPThe hotel is transformed into a winter wonderland before the holidays. Check out the indoor snowfall in the atrium and ICE!, for which 2 million pounds of ice are used to showcase scenes from holiday classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Sheraton Grand Seattle
WHERE: Seattle, WA
Each year, local architecture firms team up with the hotel’s culinary team to custom design, bake, and build jaw-dropping gingerbread villages as a fundraiser for juvenile diabetes. Last year’s display embodied the theme 25 Years of Cheer: A Celebration of Seattle, and reflected on what makes the city special, including its cobblestone streets of yesteryear.
Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island
WHERE: Fernandina Beach, FL
Ahoy, merrymakers! This property’s 2017 display was an impressive 17-foot pirate ship, The S.S. Ginger Amelia. The vessel took a crew of eight pastry chefs more than 350 man-hours (and 600 individual pieces of gingerbread) to create. The ship, manned by 10 nautical characters created with color fondant, paid tribute to the legends and lore of historic Amelia Island.
JW Marriott Los Angeles
WHERE: Los Angeles, CA
Of all the things to make out of gingerbread, a bar probably isn’t the first to come to mind. But that’s just what this property did in 2017. Adults enjoyed Santa’s Tavern, the life-size bar made from 1400 pounds of cookie dough, which served seasonal cocktails including a classic mule spiced up with gingerbread liqueur. The structure required a whopping 624 pounds of flour, 200 pounds of sugar, 144 pounds of brown sugar, and 144 pounds of molasses—enough to make any dentist’s day.
Four Seasons Rancho Encantado
WHERE: Santa Fe, NM
In 2017, a 46-inch-wide gingerbread display mirrored the resort itself—complete with a pool and a teepee. After viewing the resort-within-the-resort, guests could treat themselves to seasonal spa treatments, including the Arctic Berry Peel and Sugar Plum Restorative Oxygen Ritual.
INSIDER TIPThe all-season destination offers snow-ga (yoga in the snow) during the winter months. The Resort provides guests with cozy mittens to keep hands warm during their yoga practice.
WHERE: Chicago, IL
In celebration of the property‘s 90th anniversary in 2017, Executive Chef Mario Garcia created a 6-foot replica of the hotel out of gingerbread along with a Chicago skyline that included edible replicas of the John Hancock building, Willis Tower, and Prudential Plaza, among other landmark buildings.
INSIDER TIPThe hotel’s iconic 24-foot Christmas tree is a sight to behold, as are the 60-foot wreaths throughout the property.