The 12 Best Hotel Gingerbread Houses
Hotels around the world have upped the ante on spirit this holiday season, creating over-the-top gingerbread houses that entice guests with the scent of warm spices and oversize Christmas cheer. With more people traveling than ever this year, they all needed to do something to get travelers in the spirit. Whether you’re seeking some much-needed alone time or heading to one of our best towns for the holidays, a stop at one of these cheery creations is sure to elevate your trip.
From candy-coated bars complete with seasonal craft beers to multi-story dine-in gingerbread restaurants, replicas of existing buildings to fantastical sunny escapes for world-weary penguins, here are some of our favorites this year from around the globe.
Krista Simmons is a culinary travel writer and native Angeleno; she covers the Southern California beat for Travel + Leisure. You can follow her adventures bite-by-bite on Instagram.
Fairmont San Francisco, California
The two-story gingerbread home inside the hotel’s grand lobby in San Francisco is enough to give any city-dweller apartment envy. Executive Chef Andrew Court and Executive Pastry Chef Kimberly Tighe crafted the completely edible exterior to stand 22 feet high and 23 feet wide, with thousands of home-baked gingerbread bricks and more than a ton of royal icing and candy décor. The candy striped picket fence and elegant picture windows are the icing on the cake, and may well have you reconsidering a move to suburbia.
OMNI Grove Park Inn, Asheville, North Carolina
Gingerbread restaurants sound lovely, but a gingerbread bar? Now that’s a game changer. Each year, the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville hosts the National Gingerbread House Competition, and this year they brought their A-game. Their giant gingerbread bar serves pours of their private label Ol’ Snap craft beer straight from the tap, offering a distinctly festive and very on-trend sip. The brew—a collaboration with Oskar Blues Brewery—boats toasty winter flavors like oak, nutmeg, cinnamon, molasses, and a touch of allspice. If that doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, you’re a bona fide grinch.
Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Carlsbad, CA
It took more than 650 pounds of sugar icing, 200 pounds of dough, and 75 pounds of fondant to make Park Hyatt Aviara’s Peppermint Valley Village come to life. The massive Matterhorn-esque structure is dotted with 16 unique gingerbread houses, including a firehouse, a pub, and an inn. Pastry chef Franck Riffaud and his team’s mountain town will be on display through December 27.
The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, Arizona
Meanwhile in Arizona, the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond—and T+L World’s Best winner—resort at Dove Mountain is taking things to new levels. It built a life-size gingerbread private dining room—with its own operating fireplace—that seats up to six guests. It can be booked for $150 (not including cost of food). Your gingerbread holiday candles officially have been trumped.
Great Wolf Lodge, North America
Several Great Wolf Lodge properties have created dine-in gingerbread houses in collaboration with the candy maker behind Peeps, Mike and Ikes, and Hot Tamales. Featuring more than 5,000 candies, 600 pounds of gingerbread dough, and 1,320 pounds of sugar, each bedazzled house looks like something pulled from the set of Willy Wonka. The resort’s 12 properties across North America each have their own unique gingerbread homes, and families can dine inside, noshing on eats from the hotel properties’ on site restaurants.
The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C.
The pastry team at this property created a gingerbread house modeled after one of the District’s most iconic buildings: the Smithsonian Castle. The lifelike recreation of the edifice located on the National Mall was made using 50 pounds of gingerbread and gum paste, and 25 pounds of delicious royal icing.
The Dorchester, London
Not a single detail was spared for The Dorchester’s five-year-running gingerbread house. The iconic London property creates an exact replica of the hotel over time, complete with the intricate façade and a backside that opens up to a doll-house, revealing miniature versions of each area within the hotel, including the penthouse and pavilion, as well as the promenade where their signature tea service takes place. It’s currently on display at the promenade through the holiday season.
Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles, California
Ricky Webster, executive pastry chef at the Ace in downtown L.A., made a replica of the brand’s Pittsburgh property, which opened earlier this month (it’s a good sign your city has arrived when The Ace sets up shop, so the undertaking celebrates Steel City’s coming of coolness.) Webster’s unique steampunk gingerbread replica is glued with hot caramel, giving it that dark, uniform color. To recreate the look at home, Webster recommends bakers make a batch of traditional royal icing and tint it with food coloring matched to the hue of your gingerbread, so that you can patch up, repair, or even pipe an embossed look to your house.
The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, Florida
The squee factor is high at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, where their gingerbread display includes oodles of sunbathing penguins lounging poolside at the sunny Florida property. The details and accessories are darling, including boogie boards, popsicles, and even a lifeguard blowing his whistle and holding a safety ring. We can’t blame them for fleeing the chill of Antarctica for this adorable, sunny scene.
Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego
Chef Margaret Carvallo didn’t take any shortcuts making her Christmastime creation at the Rancho Bernardo, which is made entirely of edible elements, forgoing the reinforcements that many massive gingerbread houses use. Her trippy, techni-colored gingerbread home required a ton (literally) of powdered sugar to hold it all together.
Palmer House, A Hilton Hotel, Chicago
The pastry chefs at the Palmer House in Chicago figured out a surefire way to lure Santa in—by building a chimney made entirely of cookies. Executive Chef Fabrice Francois Bouet and his team labored over the hearth for 150 hours, working with 250 pounds of freshly made gingerbread, 200 pounds of royal icing, and 90 pounds of Belgian chocolate. We can only imagine the inviting smell of warming gingerbread when walking though the front doors.
Chatham Bars Inn, Massachusetts
This Cape Cod hotel (a T+L World’s Best winner) has artfully constructed a gingerbread village complete with a five-foot-long replica of the century-old Chatham Bars Inn and its surrounding landmarks, topped off with a model train that runs throughout. It was no afternoon craft project either: the sugared town located inside the resort’s Main Inn took 360 hours to complete, and made use of some 95 pounds of butter in the recipe. Take that, Paula Deen.