By Charlotte Savino
December 15, 2010

While the tree at New York City’s Rockefeller Center typically gets top billing when it comes to conspicuous displays of holiday cheer, the lobby at the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, North Carolina has something else entirely: a 1500-pound, 140 square-foot gingerbread house, complete with flickering lights (and real moss!). Baked in-house by executive chef Jon Farace and the staff at the BLT Steak restaurant, the 100% organic display hopes to bring some warmth and attention to this LEED-certified luxury hotel—the first of the Ritz-Carlton brand.

As parents check-in, little ones can write letters to Santa (pre-addressed by the service-minded hotel) and sip Jacques Torres hot chocolate with all of the fixings at the front desk. Later, guests listen to live jazz in the fire-lit lobby-lounge and gawk at visiting NBA players or local celebrities who might be ordering artisanal drinks made with herbs and honey from the green roof.

The hotel also brings a bit of the season to its 13,000-foot spa, where they're offering a 75-minute hot stone massage with your choice of peppermint, frankincense, or cinnamon-clove oils ($175).

Once the holidays are over, celebrate a job well-done at the hotel's 15th-floor Urban Sip wine bar, which soft-opens on December 29th. Featuring a by-the-glass menu of 90 wines (starting at $9) and 35 whiskey and scotch offerings, the bar has put together 10 different tasting flights for oenophiles and beginner-tasters alike with easy-to-pair local charcuterie and 21 cheeses (including North Carolina varieties).

Talk about Christmas your spirits.

Charlotte Savino is Travel + Leisure's Listings Editor.

Photo courtesy of the author.