View of a large gingerbread house with a conveyer belt of gingerbread men being made -  a pile is at the edge of the belt as they are completed. The doors are edged in blue and white frosting with delicate decorations on the walls and the roof which look like copper singles.

photo by: The Jefferson Hotel

December 14, 2023

9 Magnificent Gingerbread Hotels from Historic Hotels of America

In the early 1800s immigrants to the United States brought ginger and gingerbread traditions with them. Over the years, people all across the country have become architects overnight as they've built their own cookie constructions using the edible tools of the trade: gingerbread for walls, icing for glue, and gumdrops and candy canes for decor.

Sometimes gingerbread house making is elevated to an art form, as is the case with these incredible displays that are nine of the 2023 Top 25 Historic Hotels of America Magnificent Gingerbread Displays. These structures are a marvel in design, showing just how versatile and beautiful gingerbread can be.

A delicate Hansel and Gretel like cottage with a designed roof covered in candy and a tree flanking the structure.
Mohonk Mountain House

Mohonk Mountain House
New Paltz, New York

The annual gingerbread display at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, consists of a whimsical and delicious collection of displays selected from the Annual Hudson Valley Gingerbread Competition, hosted by the resort and in its 9th year in 2023. Displayed pieces are chosen by a panel of judges, and up to 15 of the entries are displayed throughout the Mohonk main house during December.

Out of 40 submissions the competition accepts each year, the judges choose first, second, and third place for both adult and junior categories. Creativity is key, and entries depict everything from robots, fairy houses, and dinosaurs, to classic cottages. Each entry, combined with a base, must not be larger than 24 inches high, 24 inches wide, and 24 inches long. Mohonk Mountain House was designated a National Historic Landmark in December 1986, and was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 1991.

The exterior of a detailed  Gingerbread House that is designed as a train depot. Frosting is used to identify sections and to decorate the roof.
St. James Hotel

St. James Hotel MN
Red Wing, Minnesota

For the past three years, the St. James Hotel’s Pastry Chef, Amy Zerwas, has introduced a sweet bit of holiday cheer to the hotel’s lobby in the form of a magnificent gingerbread display. Initially introduced as a pandemic-era pick-me-up for the staff, designing and building the historic hotel’s holiday gingerbread display has emerged as a new tradition for the team, and one that guests can enjoy, too.

This year’s magnificent gingerbread display is a replica of the historic Red Wing Depot, a train station designed by Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad architect J.U. Nettenstrom. The Depot opened to the public in 1905, and while it was later replaced by a modern station, it was restored in 1991, and now serves as a local art gallery. The Red Wing Depot replica measures 3 feet long, 1.5 feet wide, and 2 feet at its tallest point. Zerwas oversaw the planning, mixing, construction, and decorating of the display, which required 22 pounds of flour, 12.5 pounds of molasses, 5.5 pounds of shortening, 4.25 pounds of sugar, and nearly 3 pounds of spices.

The St. James Hotel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 1994.

A view of the intricately detailed gingerbread replica of the Wentworth Mansion complete with arched staircases leading to the entrance.
Wentworth Mansion

Wentworth Mansion
Charleston, South Carolina

The exquisite gingerbread house on display in the lobby of Wentworth Mansion in Charleston, South Carolina, is a detailed replica of the building itself. Crafted with care by the hotel’s passionate pastry team, led by Chef Ashley Cardona, this extraordinary creation captures not just the architectural splendor of the historic hotel, but also the festive spirit of the holiday season. The pastry team, comprised of four dedicated artisans, invested over 100 hours to create this masterpiece.From meticulously designing to-scale templates, to handcrafting and assembling each component, their expertise and passion for culinary artistry was evident in every step of the process. The team adorned the mansion with individually-piped royal icing and hand-cut gingerbread bricks, showcasing exceptional skill and commitment to bringing this enchanting display to life.

Using a palette of edible food colors, Cardona added depth and detail, especially to areas like the roof and brick courtyard. To achieve an authentic touch, she applied edible copper luster dust, imparting a genuine metallic appearance to the roof. This year marks the inaugural debut of a Wentworth Mansion gingerbread display, and the team hopes to make it a cherished tradition for guests and staff alike for years to come. Wentworth Mansion is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2003.

A candy house built not by gingerbread but copious amounts of candy at the Red Lion Inn.
Red Lion Inn

The Red Lion Inn
Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Founded in 1773, the Red Lion Inn has boasted a Holiday Candy house for many years, and in 2023, the inn has built a grand tribute to its 250th holiday season. A charter member of HHA it is featured in Norman Rockwell’s iconic work Home for Christmas. This year’s display (which is an outlier and contains no baked gingerbread) measures 62 inches long, 21.5 inches wide, and 31 inches tall, the candy house weighs roughly 120 pounds. Transportation of the display from the staging area to the main dining room required six men, the removal of a door, an industrial cart, an elevator, and two guides to direct the placement.

But long before then, over 40 team members at The Red Lion Inn spent 40 hours planning, designing, and shopping for ingredients, and construction and decoration of over 128 hours.The Holiday Candy House also included (amongst other things): 4.75 feet of Ribbon Candy, 5 pounds of Victorian Glass Candies, 4 pounds of Licorice Bites, 2.8 pounds of Mike & Ikes, 1,840 Necco Wafers, 245 Pillow Mints, 226 Gumdrops, 202 Peppermint Candies, 112 Peppermint Sticks.

View of a large gingerbread house with a conveyer belt of gingerbread men being made -  a pile is at the edge of the belt as they are completed. The doors are edged in blue and white frosting with delicate decorations on the walls and the roof which look like copper singles.
The Jefferson Hotel

The Jefferson Hotel
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.

According to the storytellers at the hotel, Santa built his Sweet Shop to show the hard-working elves how much he appreciates them. 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! 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. Adding up the frame, gingerbread, royal icing, and candy, the magnificent gingerbread display weighs over 3,000 pounds (100 pounds of Marshmallows alone). The gingerbread display is a time-honored tradition at The Jefferson Hotel, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and a Charter Member of Historic Hotels of America since 1989.

An incredible gingerbread display featuring Santa clause in a gingerbread boat with a canopy. There are two sans in front and candy passengers standing on the edge of the boat.
The Broadmoor

The Broadmoor
Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Broadmoor’s magnificent 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 gingerbread display is located on the Mezzanine level of the main historic building. 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. 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.

A National Historic Landmark, The Broadmoor is a Charter Member of Historic Hotels of America since 1989.

Watch a Time-lapse video showing the creation of this display.

A one story gingerbread ranch house with trees in the front and delicate icing along the roofline.
Alisal Guest Ranch

Alisal Ranch
Solvang, California

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. 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.

The houses are accompanied by charming Ranch details, such as miniature hay bales, horses, friendly golden retrievers, and barn cats. In addition to an eye-catching festive display, each guest staying at Alisal Ranch over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will also be gifted a personalized gingerbread house decorating kit, providing a fun family activity to do on-site, or to take home as a keepsake of holiday memories made at Alisal Ranch.

Two gingerbread houses with intricate detailing in red and green. The rooflines are edged with red icing, and segments of the gingerbread brick are covered in green shingles.
French Lick Springs Hotel

French Lick Springs Hotel
French Lick, Indiana

Made from sugar (a whopping 673 pounds of regular and powdered sugar) and spice (eight pounds of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg) and everything nice, the gingerbread house at French Lick Springs Hotel is a holiday tradition that guests eagerly anticipate every holiday season. The historic Indiana resort hotel’s bakery chefs Brittany Fisher, Princess McCallister, and Chantilly Tuell (plus several “elves”) concoct a fresh gingerbread house design every holiday season, and this year, the gingerbread neighborhood has expanded to include side-by-side houses. Creating these 8-foot-tall houses starts nine months in advance—the first batches of gingerbread were baked in February, and the bakery staff chips away at this enormous project bit by bit throughout the year. Visitors smell the gingerbread display before they see it, as the warm aroma of gingerbread fills the halls of the hotel, inviting guests to see this culinary masterpiece.

The first magnificent gingerbread display is Santa’s Workshop, with sugar-cookie gears on the chimney, candy wrenches and tools on the shingles, and Christmas presents cascading down two chutes on the side of the house. The second house is Mrs. Claus’s Bakery, with larger-than-life holiday treats, including half-pound chocolate chip cookies. The house is on display now through the first week of January. French Lick Springs Hotel, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, dates back to 1845, and was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2000.

the front of a large gingerbread house designed to mimic the resort. There are a series of windows and faux grass with law decorations. The lining of the candy shingled roof has gumdrops for embellishments.
Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa

Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa
Point Clear, Alabama

Located on 550 acres on Mobile Bay in Point Clear, Alabama, the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa has been known as The Queen of Southern Resorts for over 175 years. In record-time this year—just 23 days—Chef Kimberly Lyons and her team built the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection’s annual gingerbread display in the historic Alabama resort’s lobby. An annual Grand Tradition since 2006, the display offers guests a sweet tour of the Historic Main Building (listed in the National Register of Historic Places) and the surrounding grounds of the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa through this larger-than-life gingerbread village.

The gingerbread display is a replica of the resort’s Historic Main Building that was built in the 1940s, and Bucky’s Lounge, Bayside Grill, the activity lawn, and other features of the resort, which are made out of delectable icing, candy, and spice cake. Lyons and her team used 150 pounds of icing, 75 pounds of flour, 25 pounds of sugar, 14 pounds of shredded coconut, 1,000 gumdrops, and 30 different types of candies. The display measures 18 feet long, 7 feet wide, and 3 feet at its tallest point. Making the tradition a game each year, Lyons and her team hide nuggets of fun throughout the display to see if guests can find them.

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This story was produced by Priya Chhaya, associate content producer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in collaboration with Katherine Orr of Historic Hotels of America.

By: Priya Chhaya and Katherine Orr

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