If you’re looking for architectural inspiration for your own holiday gingerbread facility, look no further. Each year, hotels, resorts, and inns across the United States create elaborate gingerbread displays — it would be wildly inaccurate to call them mere gingerbread “houses” — to delight and inspire their guests.
A German creation likely inspired by the fairytale “Hansel and Gretel” in the early 1800s, immigrants brought the tradition of building gingerbread houses to the U.S. Gingerbread houses have since become an art form for pastry chefs and a sweet treat for children, and serve as a centerpiece for elegant lobbies at the world’s most prestigious hotels. These sweet facilities are the result of thousands of hours of culinary, pastry, confectionary, engineering, and carpentry teams working for weeks—and even months—to design, create, mix, bake, build or set up, and, of course, decorate. Collectively, the displays’ ingredients add up to thousands of pounds of sugar, eggs, and flour; hundreds of pounds of spices; more than 10,000 individual candies; and hundreds of gallons of molasses and honey.
In recognition of these herculean confectionary efforts, Historic Hotels of America® has named its 2022 Top 25 Most Magnificent Gingerbread Displays.
“The tradition of gingerbread fairy-tale houses reportedly started in the United States more than 200 years ago with the German immigrants to Pennsylvania. Today, travelers can view life-size historic hotels, national monuments, historic buildings, and historic main streets made of gingerbread. A large party of people can dine in the more-than-life-sized gingerbread house at the Fairmont San Francisco,” said Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Vice President, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. “Congratulations to the hundreds of people that worked to create the 2022 Top 25 Historic Hotels of America Most Magnificent Gingerbread displays. This holiday season, ‘run, run as fast as you can’ and catch the most magnificent gingerbread houses and displays at many Historic Hotels of America.”
2022 Top 25 Most Magnificent Gingerbread Displays
- The Omni Homestead Resort (1766), Hot Springs, VA
- Woodstock Inn & Resort (1793), Woodstock, VT
- Willard InterContinental Washington, DC (1818), Washington, DC
- The DeSoto (1834), Savannah, GA
- French Lick Springs Hotel (1845), French Lick, IN
- Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa (1847), Point Clear, AL
- Wentworth By The Sea Marriott Hotel & Spa (1874), New Castle, NH
- The St. James Hotel MN (1875), Red Wing, MN
- Hotel Colorado (1893), Glenwood Springs, CO
- The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco (1907), San Francisco, CA
- The Otesaga Resort Hotel (1909), Cooperstown, NY
- JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District (1912), Savannah, GA
- The Omni Grove Park Inn (1913), Asheville, NC
- Chatham Bars Inn (1914), Chatham, MA
- The Broadmoor (1918), Colorado Springs, CO
- La Fonda on the Plaza (1922), Santa Fe, NM
- Historic Americus Hotel (1926), Allentown, PA
- Hilton Chicago (1927), Chicago, IL
- Hilton Milwaukee City Center (1928), Milwaukee, WI
- Skytop Lodge (1928), Skytop, PA
- Williamsburg Lodge, Autograph Collection (1939), Williamsburg, VA
- Alisal Ranch (1946), Solvang, CA
- Rancho Bernardo Inn (1963), San Diego, CA
- Hotel Captain Cook (1965), Anchorage, AK
- The Lodge at Nemacolin (1968), Farmington, PA
So, if you’re craving a bit of holiday cheer, feast your eyes on some of these festive facilities below (there’s even a recipe) and check out the rest here.
This year, the official gingerbread display at the Willard InterContinental Washington DC depicts the grand Willard Center. It’s a gingerbread replica of the hotel itself, located in the heart of the U.S. capital, two blocks from The White House. A celebrated historic hotel, the Willard InterContinental Washington, DC has hosted almost every U.S. president since Franklin Pierce in 1853. The hotel’s architecture is memorable among the city’s grand buildings: a brilliant blend of Beaux-Arts-style architecture with a façade of finely cut white Indiana limestone and terra cotta tile. The gingerbread display is a charming edible interpretation of the hotel, from its iconic slate-gray mansard roofs and distinct round windows to its striped blue and white awnings. Each year, the Willard InterContinental’s annual gingerbread display pays tribute to an iconic landmark in or around the capital. The Willard Center was chosen to be featured in gingerbread in 2022 as a testament and a thank you to the hotel’s team. The display will be open to the public through December.
The spicy-sweet confectionary masterpiece at French Lick Springs Hotel is a long-standing tradition that starts taking shape as early as August each year. The resort hotel’s pastry chefs, Brittany Fisher and Princess McCallister, put a fresh spin on the gingerbread house annually. The 2022 gingerbread house is 7 feet wide, 8 feet tall, with a gingerbread brick chimney and gingerbread slate shingles. Special this year is “Ed” the snowman, made from 100 pounds of Rice Krispies Treats. Ed is a tribute to Charles “Ed” Ballard, who sadly died this year after spending many years as a key member of the hotel bakery staff. With nearly 7 pounds of ginger used in baking, the unmistakable holiday aroma greets visitors before they even see the display. The final display—not including the surrounding décor—weighs in at about 750 pounds.
For over a century, The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco has enchanted guests with its joyful holiday festivities and seasonal ambiance in the “The City by the Bay.” One of the hotel’s most-spectacular annual traditions is its stunning gingerbread house. At the end of November each year, the hotel lobby transforms into one of the world’s most beloved holiday destinations, where cherished memories for locals and visitors alike are created. The highlight of this awe-inspiring exhibit is the glowing, two-story Victorian-style gingerbread house, adorned in hundreds of pounds of See’s Candies® iconic sweets, located in the hotel’s grand lobby. Lovingly built with a completely edible exterior, the delectable abode was constructed by the Fairmont Hotel San Francisco’s talented culinary team, led by Executive Chef Michael Quigley. The house stands at over 22 feet high and 23 feet wide and includes thousands of baked gingerbread bricks. The hotel partnered with See’s Candies to decorate its gingerbread house and holiday displays this year. Hundreds of pounds of See’s Candies—including lollypops, sour candies, and chocolate confections—were artfully placed on the breathtaking build, creating a true work of art. The house itself contains more than 7,750 pieces of gingerbread, 1,500 pounds of royal icing, and hundreds of pounds of candy. The culinary team spent approximately 375 hours creating the gingerbread house and the engineering department worked 520 hours to construct its framework. The hotel, which was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2001, maintains its commitment to the environment each year by ensuring the display’s framework is recycled and the edible ingredients are composted. Guests and visitors are invited to come experience the aroma and vision until New Year’s Day 2023.
The Omni Grove Park Inn not only displays a magnificent gingerbread display in its lobby this December; it also hosts The 30th Annual National Gingerbread House Competition™ in November 2022. The hotel’s singular magnificent display is The Great Gingerbread House, which is modeled after the historic resort’s exterior and reaches from floor to ceiling in the hotel’s Great Hall. It consists of 400 pounds of powdered sugar, 64 pounds of egg whites, and 160 pounds of bread flour. The display is the result of a team of 15, including executive chefs and a carpentry expert, working a combined 500 scheduled hours over the course of 25 days. Guests can walk through the Inn to admire the intricate details of the life-size display, as well as browse the displays of entries from The 30th Annual National Gingerbread House Competition, including winning creations. The displays will continue through January 2, 2023.
Magnificent gingerbread displays have been a grand holiday tradition at The Broadmoor since 1964. This year, instead of a traditional gingerbread house or building, the 2022 display has wheels: a vintage car made of gingerbread and chocolate that might make Santa want to reconsider his sleigh. Visitors can find the display parked in the resort’s main building mezzanine. The headlights and windows are all sugar, and, except for the car frame, tree topping, and Santa, this gingerbread display is completely edible. This year’s life-sized gingerbread display drew inspiration from The Broadmoor’s founder Spencer Penrose and his 1937 Flathead V-8 Cadillac Touring Car. The automobile was initially purchased as a part of the hotel’s separate fleet of limousines and served two purposes: transporting Broadmoor guests to and from the hotel and sightseeing excursions.
Ingredients Spotlight: The Broadmoor
(A breakdown of parts.)
- 958 lbs. of powdered sugar
- 475 lbs. of flour
- 1,801 eggs
- 3 “ho’ ho’ ho’s!”
- 19 lbs. of holiday spices
- 200 lbs. of granulated sugar
- 128 lbs. of molasses
- 2 “shakes of a nutcracker!”
- 164 lbs. of dark chocolate
- 89 lbs. of butter
- 6 “uh ohs!”
- 10 lbs. of heavy cream
- 160 chocolate bars
- 40 lbs. of silver chocolate
- 1 dark chocolate steering wheel
- 6 sugar hubcaps
Today’s sugary-sweet version of the car will remain parked at the resort for all to enjoy through New Year’s Day. Previous gingerbread displays have included edible versions of the resort’s intricate Pauline Chapel, a giant train car (the “Cog Railway”), and The Broadmoor Special, a 1918 Pierce Arrow Touring Car.
The Hilton Chicago welcomed guests and locals to the unveiling of its magnificent holiday gingerbread hotel on November 18, an event that was part of the hotel’s annual lighting ceremony of the majestic holiday tree in its Grand Hall. Crafted by Executive Chef Mario Garcia and Pastry Chef Wing Au, the holiday gingerbread display pays homage to the city of Chicago and incorporates a stunning gingerbread replica of Hilton Chicago, Soldier Field, and more. Standing over 6 feet high, it took three pastry chefs nearly 300 hours to create and includes 380 pounds of flour, 16 pounds of ginger, 16 pounds of cinnamon, and 16,000 gingerbread bricks. The sweet historic hotel is placed near the lobby’s 24-foot holiday tree, which is decorated annually with thousands of metallic ornaments, and which both together are the centerpieces for the lobby’s floor-to-ceiling décor with 2,000 inches of decorated garland, a 2.5-foot poinsettia “kissing ball,” and 60-foot wreaths.