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Taking the Kids: Gawking at giant gingerbread creations

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

In San Francisco, it's a local tradition for families to come to the top of Nob Hill to the Fairmont San Francisco to see its two-story gingerbread house -- this year the hotel's biggest ever at 25-feet-high, 35-feet-wide. Some lucky families enjoy a special Gingerbread Holiday Tea inside (fees start at $200, plus food). Call the Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar at 415-772-5411 for more information. Show the kids that the holidays are about giving as well as getting by making a donation to Do it for the Love, a nonprofit organization that brings children and adults with severe challenges to live concerts.

When you opt for a meal inside the life-sized gingerbread house at a Great Wolf Lodge -- each resort's house has a different theme -- the dining-in fee, typically $10 to $20, plus food, is donated to the Ronald McDonald House. During the holidays, as part of the resorts' complimentary Snowland activities, kids can also decorate "cookies with Mrs. Claus."

Check out the entries at the Omni Grove Park Inn’s 25th annual National Gingerbread House Competition in Asheville, North Carolina -- with prizes for the winners totaling more than $25,000. The contest began in 1992 with a small group of gingerbread houses built by community members as a way to celebrate the holiday season and now showcases 170 edible masterpieces.

Pull up a stool at Santa's Tavern, the first-ever life-sized gingerbread bar (1,300 pounds) complete with barstools and spirit bottles made out of candy and cookie dough at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE. Though there may be mocktails, this is for those traveling with adult kids. (Come for a holiday mixology class; have your name engraved in icing by making a donation through the hotel to the Children's Miracle Network.)

At the Broadmoor, meanwhile, the house-made chocolates featured on the Gingerbread Chapel are so popular that an entire shop to showcase the chocolatier at work will open early next year. And discussions are already underway for what next season's gingerbread house will look like as the resort celebrates its 100th birthday to great fanfare.

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"We'll definitely have to top this one," said Chef McIllwane.

Happy eating -- and baking!


(For more Taking the Kids, visit and also follow "taking the kids" on, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.)



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