During the holidays, hotels everywhere transform into winter wonderlands, with décor intended to dazzle. Some of the most festive spots feature gingerbread houses, or more accurately, gingerbread sculptures, with life-size houses, limousines and pirate ships. Dedicated pastry chefs craft each architectural marvel with love and hefty doses of whimsy and holiday cheer.
The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs
The Five-Star hotel’s creative creation — a true-to-life gingerbread rendering of a 1937 Flathead V-8 Cadillac — pays homage to The Broadmoor’s original fleet of limousines, kept on hand to escort guests. It rivals Santa’s sleigh. While there, explore the hotel’s inedible inspiration: the collection of vintage vehicles on display at the Penrose Heritage Museum.
The Ritz-Carlton’s gingerbread Canal Street Streetcar made its annual stop in the hotel lobby, dropping off some of Louisiana’s most famous residents along with it. Peek into the streetcar’s windows to find gingerbread replicas of hometown heroes like musicians Jon Batiste and Allen Toussaint, DJ Khaled, voodoo queen Marie Laveau, Britney Spears and rapper Big Freedia all onboard.
The Lodge at Turning Stone Resort Casino, Verona, New York
The Lodge at Turning Stone Resort’s annual 75-foot-long gingerbread showstopper proves that it does, in fact, take a village, one with a hotel, barn, bakery, Victorian-style home and train station, complete with a moving train. Despite the novelty of the nine edible structures’ size, the candy components — Necco wafers, pinwheel mints and Spree tart candy — nostalgically nod to the traditional gingerbread house.
Hotel Bennett, Charleston
The lobby’s real-life gingerbread house makes the sweetest venue for sipping on hot chocolate and festive cocktails, served with spirit by a team of elves. Stroll outside to the nightly North Pole erected in the Charleston hotel’s plaza for screenings of holiday classics and s’mores around the fire pit.
Pastry chef Michael Gaddy did not have to look far for gingerbread design inspiration. He and his talented team used 1,000 gingerbread bricks, a whopping 1,146 pounds of icing and 900 pounds of powdered sugar to re-create the resort’s luxurious cottages.
Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego
A massive 2,800 total pounds of sweet ingredients — 1,000 pounds of sugar and flour, 400 pounds of candy, 128 pounds of molasses and 240 pounds of eggs — months of arduous work and the talent of executive pastry chef Margaret Nolan Carvallo helped bring the hotel’s extraordinary gingerbread house to life.
Learn from the gingerbread-baking pros at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando’s Gingerbread Pastry School. The lobby’s life-size gingerbread houses the pastry professors’ classroom and offers the requisite school supplies, including pre-baked gingerbread panels and piles of decorative candy.
Coco Chanel inspired pastry chef Jose Antonio De Jesus Sanchez’s stylish Coco Waldorf Sleigh, fashioned using 100 pounds of gingerbread cookies, 50 pounds of candy and 60 pounds of fondant. It comes accessorized with the fashion icon’s signature pearls in black and white candy form.
Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, Puerto Rico
Executive pastry chef Nasha Fondeur drew upon her cookie expertise to make the hotel’s first life-size gingerbread house for a sweet and festive greeting to guests walking into the lobby. It took the team three weeks to construct this sweet, nostalgic abode.
The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida
The beachfront getaway’s SS Amelia — the world’s largest gingerbread pirate ship, manned by a Rice Krispies Treats crew — has set sail, thanks to an impressive team of pastry chefs hard at work since October. You can also make a gingerbread masterpiece of your own at the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended hotel with hosted workshops throughout December.