Once a simple holiday decoration, the tiny tradition of building gingerbread houses has been supersized at locations across the US.

At the Fairmont San Francisco in California, pastry chefs spent more than 600 hours baking more than 7,500 gingerbread bricks to create a two-storey, 500sqft gingerbread house in the hotel’s lobby. To complete the cheerful display, chefs also added about 2,000lb of hard-drying icing and colourful candy. On display through 1 January, the house contains an interior nook where children can write a letter to Santa.

For a chance to dine inside a gingerbread house Hansel and Gretel style, the River City Casino and the Lumiere Place Casino and Hotel in St Louis, Missouri have both built 140sqft gingerbread houses in their restaurants. Each house, one at each casino, seats four guests and can be reserved for a $20 fee, which goes to benefit the Center for Hearing and Speech. Once inside, guests are served a three-course $25 prix-fixe menu, which does not include the chance to nibble on the walls for dessert. (It includes eggnog flan instead.) Reservations end 26 December.

The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota also has a life-sized gingerbread house, though it’s not made of real gingerbread. The 400sqft HGTV-sponsored house in the mall’s rotunda will feature free design demonstrations, autograph sessions by HGTV network stars and daily holiday light shows at 1pm, 5pm and 8pm through 1 January.