10 Gingerbread Houses That Are Actually Works of Art
Step aside, fruit cake, because gingerbread may be the best holiday treat. Whether it’s a dressed up as a cookie or transformed into an elaborate version of the Downton Abbey homestead, gingerbread is both versatile and delicious.
Gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 16th century—since then, cookie architects across the world have run with the tradition, making them bigger, better, and taller. The current record holder for the largest gingerbread house ever was built in Texas in 2013 and used nearly a ton of butter.
In the U.S., the gingerbread tradition continues with seasonal displays popping up across the country, transforming hotel lobbies and botanical gardens into planned communities of gingerbread homes. When you’re not roasting chestnuts on an open fire or letting Jack Frost nip at your nose, spend your holidays in the enchanting world of gingerbread villages.
Ahead, 10 places to see some of the best gingerbread houses in the country this holiday season.
For the last three years, the gingerbread display at the New York Hall of Science has won the Guinness World Record for the largest gingerbread village. This year, they are going for the record again with a gargantuan holiday display full of sugar, spice, and mind-boggling levels of detail. The gingerbread star-chitect behind the display is John Lovitch, who has been making the gingerbread village for the last 23 years. He bakes all 600 pounds of the gingerbread creations himself, decorating the incredible homes with 4,700 pounds of icing and 800 pounds of candy. The best part is that if you really like the houses, you might be able to take them home with you. When the show ends on January 16th, Lovitch gives all the houses away.
Gingerbread Village, Seattle, Washington
Every year, the lobby of the Sheraton hotel in downtown Seattle is transformed into a Gingerbread Village. As a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, chefs and architects team up to create jaw-dropping edible displays. This year’s theme came from the world of Harry Potter with each team taking inspiration from a book in the beloved series. Highlights of the gingerbread wizarding world include a gargantuan gingerbread Hogwarts, Hippogriff and Dementors made out of candy, and Number 12 Grimmauld Place constructed from cookies with moveable walls.
National Gingerbread Competition, Asheville, North Carolina
Every year around the holidays, Asheville’s Omni Grove Park Inn transforms into a gingerbread wonderland as it hosts the annual National Gingerbread Competition. This year, over 150 gingerbread architects submitted their cookie creations for consideration and the winners are on display throughout the hotel until January 5th. The competition’s winner was Beatriz Müller from Ontario, Canada, who concocted an edible "Dream House" that looked like something Dr. Seuss would have dreamed up if he spent a lot of time in the Alps.
Gingerbread House, San Francisco
For more than 100 years, San Francisco’s Fairmont hotel has turned its beautiful Beaux Arts lobby into a holiday wonderland filled with lights, tinsel, and Christmas trees. The centerpiece of the display is the hotel’s massive Gingerbread House. This year’s design was created by the hotel’s pastry team lead by Executive Pastry Chef Kimberly Tighe who put in over 500 hours of work—needless to say, it’s a jaw dropper. The two-story house is 22-feet high and 23-feet wide, meaning that it’s big enough to throw open its doors to visitors who can wander the candy-lined halls and gawk at the wonder of it all.
Gingerbread Lane, Vancouver, Canada
For the last 26 years, the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver, Canada has allowed their lobby to be taken over by gingerbread castles, cookie houses, fondant ponds, and candy cane buildings, all for a good cause. The annual Gingerbread Lane fundraiser helps raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and you may find yourself wishing that you could move into the beautiful gingerbread homes created by secondary school students, culinary professionals, and amateur artists whose preferred medium is gingerbread.
Gingerbread Mansion, New Orleans
Instead of battling the crowds trying to catch a glimpse of the "wedding cake" house on New Orleans’s St. Charles Avenue, head to the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans to walk through a gingerbread version of the real-life mansion. The stunning life-size confection was created by the hotel’s pastry chef Eliza Abeleda and her team and features a fireplace, gingerbread curio cabinets filled with edible replicas of old-fashioned Christmas toys, and a real Christmas tree. The brilliant, carefully crafted display is a return to tradition for the hotel, which used to host walk-through gingerbread houses.
Gingerbread Wonderland, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Norway House has started a new Minneapolis tradition—a Gingerbread Wonderland. This year’s display features, offers a bird’s eye view of the Twin Cities rendered in gingerbread and icing. Landmarks like the Minnesota State Capitol and the First Avenue night club were transformed into gingerbread houses complete with sugar windows, cookie walls, and, because this is Minnesota in winter, plenty of powdery snowflakes, icicles, and snowmen. The gingerbread city was built by hobbyists and pros alike and will be on display until January 6th.
The Botanical Garden, Cleveland
Botanical gardens are always infused with a certain magic, but each December Cleveland’s Botanical Garden becomes even more enchanting thanks to its annual gingerbread house competition and display. Visiting the show has become a holiday tradition for many Buckeye families who are eager to spend time with their loved ones while wondering at the intricate fondant work, spectacularly detailed designs, and edible fun of the gingerbread homes.
The White House, Washington, D.C.
Each year, the White House decks the halls with boughs of holly, reams of lights, strings of mistletoe, several ornate Christmas trees, and memorable gingerbread houses. The first White House Gingerbread House was created in 1969 and recreating the president’s home office from edible building materials has been a tradition ever since. This year’s display is set up in the State Dining Room and was created by White House Pastry Chef Susie Morrison with 150 pounds of gingerbread, 100 pounds of bread dough, 20 pounds of gum paste, 20 pounds of icing, and 20 pounds of sculpted sugar pieces.
Gingerbread House, Disney World Resort
Come winter, the imaginative chefs at Disney Parks try to outdo themselves creating bigger, wilder, and more dramatic gingerbread creations to spread out across their properties. This year, the lobby in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa houses a life-size gingerbread house that climbs 16 feet into the air. The enormous mouse house required 1,050 pounds of honey and 800 pounds of flour to make. Other edible holiday displays include a life-size gingerbread carousel at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts and an edible re-creation of the United States Capitol Building at Epcot. These gingerbread creations are in addition to Disneyland’s Halloween-themed Haunted Mansion, which this year was inspired by Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and included 200 pounds of gingerbread and 1/3 pound of glitter.