It wouldn’t be the holiday season without the smell of fresh gingerbread baking. These high-end hotels take the traditional cookie to a new level, offering up oversized gingerbread men, creative contests, festive villages and much, much more for you to enjoy this month.
Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta
For this Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel’s vision of a life-size gingerbread pagoda to become a reality, it had to find a few extra hands in the kitchen. Luckily, the hotel’s pastry staff was able to enlist the talents of local Atlanta dessert favorites Macaron Queen, Pie Shop, CamiCakes Cupcakes and Sprinkles to line the rooftops of the tiered tower with their respected sweet treats. You can find this masterpiece, along with complimentary hot cocoa and daily samples of holiday goodies such as Christmas cream pie, in the hotel’s impressive lobby through December 31.
Celebrate the season in style at this Five-Star property in the heart of Colorado Springs. In addition to lavish dining — don’t miss the seven-course black truffle tribute — you’ll find a full-on gingerbread village, featuring a life-size dwelling on the resort’s mezzanine level. For an extra dose of holiday cheer, the hotel also offers a special Christmas house, offering various decorated trees and small giftables for everyone on your list, as well as weekend photo ops with Santa. It’s a tradition more than 25 years in the making.
The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte
This Queen City entry makes a splash with its Holiday Sweet Scenes, a collection of childhood fantasies re-created in digestible form. Start at Santa’s Sleigh, led by four chocolate reindeer. Parade by a life-size gingerbread house with a 10-foot-high clock tower, the world’s largest croquembouche pastry tree (1,700 creamy profiteroles), a 12-foot tree made of 8,000 hand-crafted macarons and much more. Want to get your hands on some of the decadence? The Four-Star hotel’s Bar Cocoa dessert boutique features a holiday candy land, which includes dishes such as peppermint candy gelato and flavored hot chocolates.
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
Gingerbread isn’t just for landlubbers. Appropriately, the rich display at this Four-Star resort overlooking the Pacific pays homage to the ocean, re-imagining a gingerbread world filled with turtles, sea otters, sharks and a whale, all frolicking in the 6-foot-tall royal icing “sea.” But the wintry fun doesn’t stop there. A surfboard auction (through Dec. 31) is fun, while IlluminOcean (nightly through Jan. 4) keeps spirits bright by dazzling guests with nautical-themed lights, moving tunnels and underwater creatures. Holiday buffets and art shows help fill out the Orange County hotel’s busy calendar this month.
The Jefferson Hotel
Because of elegant touches like its grand rotunda and Palm Court Lobby, this Richmond Five-Star hotel has a glow about it throughout the year. Still, it’s not until the calendar reaches December that The Jefferson takes things to almost unparalleled heights. One of the ways that the property consistently does this is through an annual gingerbread display presented by pastry chef Sara Ayyash. Santa’s Workshop is this year’s confectionary concept, and the elaborate exhibition of gingerbread, candy and icing promises to wow locals and hotel guests through January 4.
The Fairmont San Francisco
This Bay Area favorite has delighted holiday guests for more than a century, and it continues that legacy. Each Christmas season, the hotel reproduces a nearly life-size gingerbread house in the lobby. Once complete, the home will stand more than 22 feet high and 23 feet wide, and will be made of thousands of gingerbread “bricks,” royal icing mortar and candy décor. Our favorite way to enjoy the sweet structure? The hotel’s posh gingerbread holiday tea (through December 31) that comes complete with live piano music for adults, and jovial Christmas characters and a cookie to keep young ones busy.
The Lodge at Turning Stone Resort Casino
Visit the Verona, New York, hotel’s Gingerbread Village to marvel at a two-story home whose snow-dusted cookie roof is lined with icicles and yard shows off a snowman (Olaf from Frozen) and to peer into a bakery’s glowing windows to see the tiny treats. Executive pastry chef Dennis Miller and team spent more than 1,200 hours making this scene, the largest such display in Central New York. They used 7,000 gingerbread pieces, 1,500 pounds of gingerbread dough, 1,000 pounds of candy and 700 pounds of frosting to craft the nearly 60-foot-long village.
Omni Grove Park Inn
For more than two decades, crafty pastry experts have turned out inventive gingerbread houses for Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, as part of the National Gingerbread House Competition. This year, take in the edible arrangements every Sunday through Thursday through New Year’s Day in the main lobby. Viewing the creations is technically free, but proceeds from the $10 parking fee go to a local non-profit. After you’ve seen all of these goodies, take a peek around the property for others — the hotel also features more than 80 decorated trees.
Inn at Laurel Point
Each year, bakers from all over Canada send their finest works of edible art to Victoria’s luxe inn for a charitable competition. This year, each entry will match a theme — “Where Things Live” — in a fund-raising effort for Habitat for Humanity Victoria. Book the Gingerbread Overnight package and you’ll enjoy more than just a feast for the eyes — the rate includes parking and a tasty welcome amenity from hotel pastry chef April Iverson. The gingerbread showcase displays through January 4.