Disney World Turns Into A Gingerbread Wonderland At Christmas

Walt Disney World Resort hotels display gingerbread replicas of Mickey, Minnie, and more.

There are a lot of reasons to love Walt Disney World at the holidays, and the best one isn't the fake snow (called snoap) on Main Street, or the illuminated "icicles" hanging from Cinderella Castle. It's not the Jungle Cruise makeover into the "Jingle Cruise." It isn't the 65-foot-tall Christmas tree or the evening parade with prancing reindeer. It's that every year, Walt Disney World transforms from the "most magical place on earth" to the gingerbread-iest one.

Funny enough, the gingerbread isn't even technically inside the theme parks at all, but rather at the resort's "deluxe" hotels (that's Disney-speak for most extravagant and expensive). These hotels host gingerbread art installations and pop-up treat kitchens all throughout November and December. But they're not just cute gingerbread houses; some are working models that actually move, like a train, and some are big enough to hold humans inside. The displays are so spectacular and so fun to visit that during the holiday season, many Disney guests will devote and afternoon to resort-hopping just to see all of them.

Disney World’s many impressive gingerbread displays 

The grandest of all of the displays is, fittingly, at Disney's Grand Floridian Hotel, now in its 24th year, where bakers construct within the soaring lobby an entire life-sized gingerbread house with more square footage than some New York apartments.


The house is constructed of more than 10,000 pieces of gingerbread, according to the Disney Parks Blog, and took 500 hours to bake and another 480 to decorate with its white chocolate candy canes, edible snowflakes, and sugar poinsettias. There's a Santa molded from 85 pounds of chocolate, as well as chocolate nutcrackers, toy soldiers, and snowmen. You can't actually go inside, but you can walk up to the window and order treats from the cast members inside. I ordered a gingerbread "shingle" that looked like it came straight from the house's exterior, dipped in chocolate and baked in the German gingerbread style, which is softer and mildly sweet.

Disney’s hidden five-legged goat, explained

Hop on the Monorail and two stops later you'll be at Disney's Contemporary Resort, where a 17' x 25' gingerbread replica of Cinderella Castle is on display for the 12th year. A sign near the castle explains its stats: 4,000 "castle gingerbread bricks" were baked by 40 cast members to create the castle, and they took 1,012 pounds of flour and 612 pounds of sugar to make. In addition to 12 hidden Mickeys—you might be sensing a theme with the 12s—the castle features a hidden creature that has become mythical in Disney nerd lore: a five-legged goat. That goat has become the unofficial mascot of the Contemporary.


When the hotel opened in 1971, Disney artist Mary Blair, who's responsible for the iconic aesthetic of It's a Small World (among many other Disney projects), designed a 90-foot mosaic mural of the Grand Canyon in the center of the hotel's concourse. But one of the animals on the mural has a flaw: there's one little goat who has five legs, which is Blair's representation of the idea that nothing made by man can ever be completely perfect. So many people love the goat that it now appears on cookies—I bought one at the treat kitchen next to the gingerbread castle, where I also bought an outrageously good frozen hot chocolate—and there's a hidden goat tucked away inside the display itself.

Gingerbread at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn

Over by EPCOT, Disney's Boardwalk Inn has a gingerbread replica of the hotel's waterfront boardwalk, including a confectionery version of the Boardwalk Deli where Mickey and Minnie are hard at work baking gingerbread. That kitchen sells gingerbread, but also caramel corn cookies.


Across Crescent Lake, both the Beach Club and Yacht Club have gingerbread displays. Yacht Club features a replica of the hotel's lighthouse, which pastry chef de cuisine Michael Craig constructed by using the lighthouse's actual blueprints. At Beach Club, back for the 22nd year is a working carousel constructed entirely of gingerbread, made with 200 pounds of icing and 25 pounds of spices—and it actually moves. Last year's carousel was princess-themed, and each horse had an elaborate harness inspired by a Disney princess. This year, it's DuckTales-themed. Scrooge McDuck's horse is wearing tartan plaid and has golf clubs.

At Animal Kingdom Lodge, the lobby holds a life-sized baby giraffe and baby zebra. The giraffe (they call it a ginger-affe) is seven feet tall. At that kitchen, you can buy gingeraffe cookies and hot cocoa flights.


Disneyland gingerbread and a $220 cookie shot

The tradition carries on at Disneyland in California, too. Disney's Grand Californian Hotel gets a gingerbread replica of the craftsman-style hotel—but its treat kitchen is the fanciest of them all.

In addition to selling Mickey gingerbread cookies and marshmallow-filled hot cocoa cookies, the kitchen sells "cookie shots." They're shot glasses baked out of cookie, then lined with chocolate so they can hold liquid like milk, or an adult beverage. You can add Bailey's Irish Cream or Rumchata or peppermint schnapps—or you can really go for it and order a $220 pour of Louis XIII cognac in your cookie. I asked the cast member who sold me my regular old Bailey's, and she said that people really do order it. Maybe I'll put it on my Christmas list this year.