The Palace of Fine Arts at Waterbar

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October 24, 2016

Don't Miss These Spectacular Gingerbread Houses in San Francisco and around the Bay During the Holidays

You may be relieved to hear that it's not actually necessary to run, run as fast as you can. If you want to catch these gingerbread men at home in their spectacular mansions, just take a cable car or a streetcar to some of the Bay Area's most magnificent confectionery masterpieces. A host of gingerbread houses featured in San Francisco will instantly put you in the holiday spirit. Many of these are multi-sensory delights -- as tasty as they are beautiful. Although tasteful visual displays are really what these creations are all about, some of the following gingerbread houses and their associated sweets were meant to be eaten as well.

The House That Gingerbread Built
No one knows when the first gingerbread house was assembled, but there's a recipe for gingerbread that dates back to Ancient Greece, more than 2,000 years ago. Maybe they made gingerbread temples. Starting in the 1500s, gingerbread houses began to pop up (and go down into bellies) in Bavaria, in what's now southern Germany. The gingerbread house built by the witch in "Hansel and Gretel" really got the tradition fired up in the 1800s. Since then, more elaborate and tantalizing gingerbread houses, or entire gingerbread villages, have been a warm Christmas tradition around the world.

The Gingerbread War
In the Bay Area, an elaborate gingerbread house war is waged every year between two of the area's most historic hotels: The Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill and the Westin St. Francis on Union Square, just a few blocks to the south. These two vie every year to out-gingerbread each other in a friendly holiday contest. This year, The Fairmont will unveil their newest creation on Nov. 26. The Westin will show off its grand design during the same week, on Nov. 23.

The Fairmont San Francisco (950 Mason St.)
As it has for more than a century, the Fairmont San Francisco will enchant its guests during the holidays by transforming their lobby into a must-see holiday destination. Led by Executive Chef Oscar Gonzalez and Executive Pastry Chef Kimberly Tighe, the Fairmont San Francisco culinary team will create a 22-foot-tall, 23-foot-wide Victorian mansion made of thousands of gingerbricks. Even the shingles atop the roof are edible! The unveiling of this year's masterpiece will be on Nov. 26 and is accompanied by the Gingerbread Open House. You'll be able to inspect the wonder of it all in the Fairmont lobby through Jan. 1, 2017. Book a room.

The Westin St. Francis (335 Powell St.)
Executive Pastry Chef Jean-Francois Houdré and his team at the Westin S. Francis will unveil not one, but two one-of-a-kind castles in the Landmark Lobby. Back by popular demand is the stunning Sugar Castle, originally created in 2005. Resembling a French Chateau inspired by Chef Houdre’s travels, this life-like magical castle features grand circular towers, individual rooms, colorful illuminated windows, and is surrounded by holiday sugar cakes.  Adding a touch of modernity, the 12-foot St. Francis Enchanted Castle is a rotating winter wonderland of elaborate gift boxes, gingerbread trees and brilliantly colored candies. Elves can be spotted climbing all the way up to a towering sugar castle. This event is open to the public and will feature complimentary coffee and tray-passed cookies. The two gingerbread castles will be on display from Nov. 23 through Jan. 2, 2017. Book a room.

San Francisco Marriott Marquis (780 Mission St.)
While you're in the area, drop by the San Francisco Marriott Marquis on Mission Street to gaze at the multi-story gingerbread house in the main lobby. If the stars align, you may get a chance to judge the gingerbread house competition, with many creative entries from various departments of the hotel. Book a room.

Waterbar (399 Embarcadero)
Which gingerbread house has the best view? That would go to the house in Waterbar, which is on the Embarcadero. This year, the miniature house will be modeled after the farmers market at San Francisco's iconic Ferry Building. Get your holiday cheer with a gingerbread house that does a playful take on local, sustainable produce, a dozen oysters and gorgeous views of the Bay Bridge starting Dec. 6, 2016.

Claremont Hotel Club and Spa (41 Tunnel Rd., Berkeley)
The Claremont Hotel Club and Spa puts together a Winter Wonderland over the holidays, featuring gingerbread houses built of more than 100 pounds of sugar and another 100 pounds of candy. While enjoying the traditional festivities, you can take part in the genuine holiday spirit by contributing to a Giving Tree. This is a less well-known tradition that makes holiday wishes come true for area children in need. Like some of the other area hotels, the Claremont also has a competition for gingerbread houses made by club members. Book a room.

Crafty Options
Why just look when you can make your own gingerbread house? Bring the kids to local craft workshops and stores, like the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Teach the next generation all the rules of tasty architecture with gingerbread house kits and candy decorations.

For Californians who know San Francisco well and want to stay close to home, these unique holiday treasures featuring magical, miniature worlds are just around the corner. Prepare yourself to be transported into a bright, bustling, buzzing urban holiday atmosphere full of gingerbread.

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