Some of my fondest Christmas memories growing up took place in Asheville NC, where my parents would often take our family to see the awesome gingerbread houses at the Omni Grove Park Inn.
One of America’s largest Christmas competitions, this annual Grove Park Inn Christmas tradition features remarkable artwork, craftsmanship, and creativity from contestants of all ages.
Now in its 30th year, the National Gingerbread House Competition draws bakers from around the nation, each of whom spend countless hours sculpting their imaginative pieces out of edible ingredients.
This Omni Grove Park Inn Christmas celebration gives guests a chance to stroll through the beautifully decorated hotel, which offers jaw-dropping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains all year round.
The Asheville gingerbread competition is arguably one of the best places to celebrate Christmas with kids, with all the brightly colored gingerbread house displays and numerous gingerbread activities on offer.
While the winner of the 2022 competition was announced on November 21, visitors can stroll through the historic inn to witness the extravagant gingerbread houses throughout the Christmas season.
Read on for our guide to the annual Grove Park Inn Gingerbread Competition in Asheville NC, including info on the history of the event, viewing the gingerbread house displays, and parking and driving directions.
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Grove Park Inn Gingerbread House Competition Guide
- Grove Park Inn Gingerbread Houses Info
- National Gingerbread House Competition History
- Categories of Grove Park Inn Gingerbread Houses
- Viewing Grove Park Inn Gingerbread House Displays
- Parking Info for the Gingerbread Houses at Grove Park Inn
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Grove Park Inn Gingerbread Houses Info
ADDRESS: 290 Macon Ave, Asheville NC
COST OF ENTRY: Free (Parking for non-guests is $25)
DATES: November 28 through January 2
HOURS: Guests who are not staying at the hotel are invited to view the gingerbread houses after 6PM on Sundays, or anytime Monday to Thursday.
Only registered guests or those with confirmed restaurant reservations are allowed on Fridays and Saturdays. The same goes for special holiday dates, including December 23-25, Dec 30-31, and January 1.
Driving Directions from Downtown Asheville
From Downtown Asheville, head southwest on Haywood St toward Patton Ave. Turn left on Patton Ave and continue onto N Pack Square.
Continue for about 400 ft, then turn left onto Market Square. Proceed and then turn right onto College St. At the traffic circle, continue straight to stay on College St, then turn left onto Charlotte St.
Continue for 0.8 miles, then turn right onto Macon Ave. In 0.8 miles, keep left until you see the Omni Grove Park Inn entrance on your right.
Driving Directions from Asheville Regional Airport
Take I-240 into Asheville and take exit 5B/Charlotte Street. From I-240 East, turn left on Charlotte Street and proceed north for approximately 0.7 miles. Turn right on Macon Avenue and continue for 0.8 miles. The Omni Grove Park Inn entrance will be on your left.
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National Gingerbread House Competition History
The history of the Grove Park Inn dates back to 1909, when pharmaceutical inventor Edwin Wiley Grove and business partner Seely purchased 408 acres of land in Asheville.
They concentrated on developing residential neighborhoods first, but by 1911 Grove (who also owned the Battery Park Hotel) had begun planning a massive secluded health and wellness retreat.
Seely’s design for the mountainside hotel was influenced by Arts and Crafts-style architecture, and its doors were opened for the first time on July 12, 1913.
The Inn was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and became a member of Historic Hotels of America in 2007.
What is now known as the Omni Grove Park Inn National Gingerbread House Competition started with decidedly humble beginnings in 1992.
A small group of local community members decided to have a gingerbread house competition as a way to celebrate the Christmas season.
But the original organizers of the popular Christmas event had no intentions of it becoming an annual holiday tradition, especially at the level it has now reached 30 years later.
Today, the Omni Grove Park Inn gingerbread houses are judged by nationally renowned food, arts, and media professionals, with numerous prizes awarded across the four different age categories.
The gingerbread house contest has deservedly received national recognition by major outlets such as The Food Network, The Today Show, and Good Morning America, just to name a few.
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Categories of Grove Park Inn Gingerbread Houses
Because each original gingerbread creation contains such an array of creative design choices, judging for the competition is done with multiple variables in mind.
All the gingerbread house contest competitors are divided according to age, with four different categories (Child, Youth, Teen, and Adult) ranging from ages 5 to 18+ and a total of $40,000 in prizes.
While there is no specific theme of the National Gingerbread Competition, participants are encouraged not to be constrained by the typical idea of what a gingerbread house looks like.
However, their creations are limited in terms of size to a 24-inch cube, and the majority of them do have some sort of a Christmas element.
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One important rule is that everything but the base must be edible, and only 40% of their components can be “mechanically produced.” The other 60% must be handmade.
Their creations must also be comprised of at least 75% gingerbread.
Judging of the entries is based on the criteria of 1) Overall Appearance, 2) Originality and Creativity, 3) Difficulty, 4) Precision, and 5) Consistency of Theme.
The title (and prize package) of Grand Prize Winner will be selected from the Adult Top Ten category.
Prizes will also be awarded to 2nd and 3rd place winners in the Adult category, as well as the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in the Teen, Youth, and Child categories.
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For 2022, there’s also the brand-new People’s Choice: Best in Show Award.
One lucky recipient will win a $2,000 check and a ribbon, based on votes from all the registered participants in the Gove Park Inn Gingerbread House Competition.
There are also 6 new Specialty Awards this year, including 1) Best Use of Color, 2) Best Use of Sprinkles, 3) Longest Standing Competitor, 4) Most Unique Ingredient, 5) Pop Culture Star, and 6) Most Innovative Structure.
Winners for these new categories will be chosen from all across the four main age groups.
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Viewing the Gingerbread House Displays
Now that we’ve talked about (and shared photos of) these amazing gingerbread houses, I’m sure you’re wondering how you can see them for yourself!
Viewing of the Grove Park Inn Gingerbread House displays begins on November 28, 2022, and continues through January 2, 2023.
If you’re not planning on staying at the historic North Carolina resort, viewing is limited to Sundays after 6PM and anytime from Monday through Thursday. Guests of the resort may view the displays anytime during their stay.
Viewings on Fridays and Saturdays are exclusively reserved for overnight guests and those with confirmed reservations at the Grove Park Inn restaurants.
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The Inn is a beautiful place for guests to explore, with lovely Christmas decorations around every corner. But you can also pick up a Grove Park Inn map in the main lobby to find all the spots for gingerbread viewing.
In general, the winners of the gingerbread competition are displayed on the main floor of the Inn, while other competitors’ displays are on different floors.
If you’re not planning on spending Christmas in Asheville this year, The Grove Park Inn will be hosting “The 12 Days of Gingerbread,” which offers a virtual way to join in on the festivities.
From December 1st through 12th, the Inn will be posting one of the finalists on their social media platforms daily, so that everyone has a chance to see some of the most spectacular gingerbread creations.
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Parking Info for the Grove Park Inn
Parking is available based on occupancy levels for those not staying at the Inn.
If non-hotel guests arrive during high occupancy times, they may be asked to leave and return at a later time.
The Grove Park Inn has been a partner in the Holiday Parking Partner Program since 2013, making contributions of over $680,000 to various non-profit organizations in Western North Carolina.
As a result, there is no complimentary parking during the Fall/Winter season, but all visitors can choose between valet parking and self-parking.
Day visitors can choose valet parking for $35 or self-parking for $25, while overnight hotel guests will receive a discounted price. -by Molly Frazier; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett