Feast Your Eyes On These Gingerbread Displays!

Craving a bit of holiday cheer? Check out the Historic Hotels of America's picks for the Top 25 Magnificent Gingerbread Displays of 2023.

If you’re seeking inspiration on how to deck the halls at your facility this holiday season, look no further. Each year, hotels, resorts, and inns across the United States create elaborate gingerbread displays to delight and inspire their guests.

According to The History of Gingerbread by Tori Avey for PBS, “Gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 16th century. The elaborate cookie-walled houses, decorated with foil in addition to gold leaf, became associated with Christmas tradition. Their popularity rose when the Brothers Grimm wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the main characters stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest. It is unclear whether or not gingerbread houses were a result of the popular fairy tale, or vice versa.”

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 2023 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 2023 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.”

Feast your eyes on some of these festive facilities below (there’s even a recipe) and check out the rest here.

Historic Hotels of America

2023 Top 25 Most Magnificent Gingerbread Displays

  • The Omni Homestead Resort (1766) Hot Springs, VA
  • The Red Lion Inn (1773) Stockbridge, MA
  • Omni Bedford Springs Resort (1806) Bedford, PA
  • French Lick Springs Hotel (1845) French Lick, IN
  • Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa (1847) Point Clear, AL
  • Mohonk Mountain House (1869) New Paltz, NY
  • St. James Hotel MN (1875) Red Wing, MN
  • 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa (1886) Eureka Springs, AR
  • Wentworth Mansion (1886) Charleston, SC
  • Hotel Colorado (1893) Glenwood Springs, CO
  • The Jefferson Hotel (1895) Richmond, VA
  • Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa (1901) Honolulu, HI
  • The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco (1907) San Francisco, CA
  • The Otesaga Hotel (1909) Cooperstown, NY
  • JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District (1912) Savannah, GA
  • Omni Grove Park Inn (1913) Asheville, NC
  • HOTEL DU PONT (1913) Wilmington, DE
  • Chatham Bars Inn (1914) Chatham, MA
  • The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Springs, CO
  • La Fonda on the Plaza (1922) Santa Fe, NM
  • Hilton Chicago (1927) Chicago, IL
  • The Settlers Inn at Bingham Park (1927) Hawley, PA
  • Skytop Lodge (1928) Skytop, PA
  • Alisal Ranch (1946) Solvang, CA
  • Rancho Bernardo Inn (1963) San Diego, CA

The Jefferson Hotel (1895) Richmond, Virginia

“What if Santa Claus enjoyed cookies, candy, and sweet confections not just one night of the year, but year-round?” This bit of lore-questioning by the staff at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia, led to the design and construction of a magnificent gingerbread display in this historic hotel’s Palm Court lobby this December. Santa’s Sweet Shop is a colorful, magical scene depicting the jolly old elf’s sweet shop, complete with a conveyor belt of gingerbread cookies, jars filled with candy, and an area for making and decorating gingerbread cookies.

Jefferson Hotel Gingerbread Display
The Jefferson Hotel (1895) Richmond, Virginia. (Credit: RVA Imaging)

According to the storytellers at the hotel, Santa built his Sweet Shop to show the industrious elves how much he appreciates them. Behind the scenes, however, a team of 10 people—including current hotel staff and former staff who returned to celebrate the hotel’s holiday season—worked closely for almost three weeks to complete the project, led by Executive Pastry Chef Sara Ayyash. The Jefferson Hotel’s Santa’s Sweet Shop is 10 feet tall, 15 feet long, and 5 feet deep. It required 260 pounds of flour, 86 pounds of shortening, 72 pounds of brown sugar, 10 gallons of molasses, 12 pounds of ginger, and 6 pounds of cinnamon—and that’s just to make the gingerbread! Adding up the frame, gingerbread, royal icing, and candy, the magnificent gingerbread display weighs over 3,000 pounds.

Candy Spotlight: Santa’s Sweet Shop Ingredients

  • 100 pounds of Marshmallows
  • 375 ft. of Nerds Rope
  • 20 pounds of Jellybeans
  • 20 pounds of Chocolate Sixlet Candies
  • 15 pounds of Gumballs
  • 10 pounds of Red Hot Cinnamon Drops
  • 10 pounds of Christmas Candy Corn
  • 10 pounds of Crushed Peppermint
  • 15 pounds of Gummy Candies
  • 5 pounds of Chocolate Mint Drops
  • 5 pounds of Gumdrops

The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco (1907) San Francisco, California

Fairmont Hotel Gingerbread Display
The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco (1907) San Francisco, California. (Credit: Historic Hotels of America and The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco)

 

For over a century, The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco has enchanted guests with its joyful holiday festivities and seasonal ambiance in the City by the Bay. One of the hotel’s 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 are made by locals and visitors alike. The highlight of the 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.

The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco’s culinary team, led by Executive Chef Eric Marting, meticulously planned the construction of this year’s enormous gingerbread house, which is even larger than in past years. The 2023 gingerbread house stands at more than 22 feet high and 23 feet wide, and includes thousands of homemade gingerbread bricks, and more than a ton of royal icing and candy decorations. 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 gingerbread house, creating a true work of art.


JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District (1912) Savannah, Georgia

JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District (1912) Savannah, Georgia. (Credit: Historic Hotels of America and JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District)

 

Located in a fabulously repurposed power plant in Savannah, Georgia, dating back to 1912, the historic JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District is a contemporary riverside retreat. In December, visitors can get into the holiday spirit while taking in the hotel’s gingerbread display, as well as its Savannah Christmas Market®, holiday dinners, and cookie decorating. The hotel’s gingerbread display is an annual tradition, with a fresh design selected each year. This year’s display is a replica of the historic hotel’s front entrance, capturing the essence of its iconic façade, complete with intricate details, such as windows and brickwork. The gingerbread replica is meticulously created to scale, highlighting the grandeur of the historic Savannah Power Plant. This delicious display not only mirrors the exterior—it also showcases the reimagined interior, adorned with exquisite crystals and geodes that grace the Generator Hall lobby. Crafting this culinary marvel required the collaborative efforts of a talented team of 10 pastry chefs, who began work in October. The display, standing over 13 feet long and 10 feet tall, is composed of over 10,000 gingerbread bricks, 300 pounds of candy, 650 pounds of gingerbread, and 200 pounds of icing.


The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Credit: Historic Hotels of America and The Broadmoor)

 

The Broadmoor’s gingerbread display has been a grand holiday tradition at the Colorado Springs, Colorado, resort since 1964. This year, the gingerbread display is a replica of a Lightning Bug Canopy Boat, in honor of an upcoming 2024 resort amenity. For years, guests of The Broadmoor have enjoyed paddle boats on the resort’s very own Cheyenne Lake. However, when the hotel opened in 1918, there were canopy boats that cruised silently across the placid waters. In the summer of 2024, two beautiful new electric canopy boats will once again grace the lake, harkening back to the early days of the resort. The confectionary replica was crafted with over 958 pounds of powdered sugar, 475 pounds of flour, 1,801 eggs, plus a canopy adorned with candies and sweet treats, including candy canes, gumdrops, macarons, meringues, peppermints, and jellybeans. The gingerbread display is on the Mezzanine level of the main historic building. Previous gingerbread displays have included the resort’s intricate Pauline Chapel and The Broadmoor Special – a 1918 Pierce Arrow Touring Car that was converted by Broadmoor Founder, Spencer Penrose, into an iconic race car. In 2020, Chef Adam Thomas and his team of chocolatiers and bakers installed a giant train car known as the “Cog Railway.” Since 2013, the historic resort’s gingerbread creations have been life-size, and played a vital role in the resort’s holiday celebrations, going up at Thanksgiving, and remaining on display until the new year.

Watch: Time-lapse video showing creation of the Lightning Bug Canopy Boat Gingerbread Display


Alisal Ranch (1946) Solvang, California

Alisal Ranch (1946) Solvang, California. (Credit: Historic Hotels of America and Alisal Ranch)

 

Alisal Ranch in Solvang, California, partners each year with the Solvang Bakery to create charming gingerbread replicas of the luxury Dude Ranch’s barn, front office, library, boathouse, and guest cottage. The gingerbread houses are each about a foot wide, and they are arranged in a display of fluffy “snow,” illuminated with fairy lights, and embellished with sparkling baubles and fir boughs. The houses are accompanied by charming Ranch details, such as miniature hay bales, horses, friendly golden retrievers, and barn cats. These ranch-inspired gingerbread houses are on display in the resort’s dining room from the beginning of December. During the construction, the Solvang Bakery used approximately 100 pounds of gingerbread dough, and 75 pounds of icing, to produce the display, which involved the labor of six people, who worked for about three weeks to produce the sweet, miniature dude ranch.


Rancho Bernardo Inn (1963) San Diego, California

Rancho Bernardo Inn (1963) San Diego, California. (Credit: Historic Hotels of America and Rancho Bernardo Inn)

 

This year marks Rancho Bernardo Inn’s 14th holiday season decked with a gingerbread display, and the historic resort is upping its decor game in 2023 with its largest display yet. Complete with a gingerbread village, the display is more immersive for guests than previously, with intricately crafted life-sized gingerbread houses and various other whimsical structures. While it does not portray a real place, the design aims to evoke a festive and enchanting atmosphere. The inn itself was designed in 1963 in the Mediterranean Revival-style, but the Neoclassical style-inspired gingerbread house is complete with two wings attached to the central structure, gable roofs, and portico—all formed by sweet gingerbread and bright candy décor. To create Rancho Bernardo Inn’s Gingerbread House Experience, a team of bakers, pastry cooks, and engineers came together over four days to set up this edible house of candy. However, the entire process, from mixing the ingredients to baking and assembling the full display, spans over a month. The Gingerbread House Experience construction required 1,000 pounds of flour, 1,000 pounds of sugar, 128 pounds of molasses, 240 pounds of eggs, and 400 pounds of candy.

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