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Gingerbread House Tour

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Just when you thought the holidays were all glitz and glimmer, one tradition ignites something warmer in your soul—or should I say stomach? Gingerbread Houses are a quaint reminder of simpler Christmases past. But in New York, these little homes made of aromatic cookies, dotted with gumdrops, and covered with ivory icing are made spectacular—because nothing is built small in this city.

For proof, head to Le Parker Meridien hotel where you'll find towering structures of sugar and dough baked and built by some of the city's best, including Magnolia, Buttercup, and Treats Truck bakeries. This annual competition is themed this year around movies set in New York City. Gingerbread constructions show scenes from King Kong, West Side Story, Big, Ghostbusters, and A Night at the Museum. For $1 you can vote on your favorite. The money goes to City Harvest which feeds New York's hungry.

At the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), the annual Holiday Train Show gets a sweet side plate of Gingerbread Adventures. Step into a sensory gingerbread experience in the Everett Children's Adventure Garden where a kid-size gingerbread town wraps you in the scents of cinnamon and ginger. You'll see the plants that make these tasty spices growing along the route to one giant gingerbread house made with real frosting and candy, like a Willy Wonka dream come true. Bakers from Balthazar Bakery, Cake Power, and Cake Alchemy have created creations for a smaller display around the theme Gingerbreads on Vacation. Look for Santa on the beach and robots in space.

After gaining inspiration from the masters, learn to make your own gingerbread home. The Institute of Culinary Education lets parents and kids (5 and up) learn the craft from scratch. You'll mix, roll, and bake the dough before assembling and constructing your own masterpiece.
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Why? Because they city's skyscrapers aren't nearly as sweet.
When: Le Parker Meridien: through January 9, 7 am - midnight; New York Botanical Garden: through Jan. 9, 2011,Monday - Friday 10am - 6pm, Saturday & Sunday 10am - 7pm; The Institute of Culinary Education: through December 23, times vary.
Where: Le Parker Meridien, 119 W. 56th Street, NYC; New York Botanical Garden, Bronx River Parkway, Bronx; The Institute of Culinary Education, 50 West 23rd Street, NYC.
Cost: Le Parker Meridien: Free, optional $1 donation; NYBG: Adults $25, Children $15; Institute of Culinary Education: $65.
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