I have been a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work since early middle school — specifically, The Hobbit. The book always held a special place in my heart, but when I realized I share a birthday with the titular hobbit Bilbo Baggins, that love grew. Conveniently Bilbo Baggins’ birthday (Sept. 22) is also Hobbit Day — so plan your family trip to celebrate.
While it’s obviously impossible to travel to the fictional world of Middle Earth, it is possible to visit the land where both trilogies filmed, New Zealand.
Options for flying to New Zealand are plentiful, thanks to the more than 20 major carriers serving the island. While a non-stop flight to New Zealand can typically take 12 hours from most places in the world, flying from Europe can take 24 hours. If such a long flight isn’t for your family, consider cruising to New Zealand instead. No matter how you end up getting to the islands, there is plenty of Middle Earth goodness to go around.
New Zealand tourism authorities are not novices to the huge crowds vying to see the closest approximation to Middle Earth. As a result, there are a ton of Tolkien-inspired tour opportunities available.
If you want to specifically tour The Hobbit locations, set your sights on Matamata. This real-world home of the Shire allows visitors to take in all 44 Hobbit holes that made up the scenes. This area also has a restaurant, perfect for a light lunch and drink while touring.
Mangaotaki Valley is another destination in New Zealand central to filming The Hobbit. Anyone familiar with the film will recognize this spot as the set for much of the first one, An Unexpected Journey. This is where the troll campfire scene was filmed and, according to Tourism New Zealand, is the single biggest filming location used in the movie.
If you’re more of an audiophile, make sure to check out Waitomo Caves. These caves were used to record much of the trilogy’s audio. There are walking and rafting tours offered through the caves.
For a look into the Lord of the Rings as well, check out the Weta Cave and Studio, a production company behind much of the trilogies. Although The Hobbit film is more family-friendly, all tours and Lord of the Rings locations are perfect for fantasy-minded families.
However you view Niagara Falls, it’s an unforgettable sight. That being said, on the Canadian side, you’ll get a panoramic view of both the American Falls and the magnificent Horseshoe Falls, as well as more chances to get up close and experience the falls. Families traveling to Niagara Falls find more activities to engage children on the Canadian side.
United Airlines officially became the only major U.S. airline to own a flight training school with the opening of United Aviate Academy on Jan. 27. The moment was made even more historic with its inaugural class, which is 80 percent women and people of color.
It’s not too early to plan holiday family travel, and those bound for the Grand Canyon region might want to consider booking tickets now for Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel’s popular Polar Express. Tickets are going fast!
Family travelers spending time in Riviera Maya, Mexico, cannot miss Xel-Há, a park offering an extensive list of activities, all surrounded by the pure natural beauty of the region. The beginning of fall marks the perfect time to visit the park, with more than 20 unique experiences.
Embark on a family journey through The Last Frontier with Celebrity Cruises® and experience an unforgettable luxury vacation in the untouched natural beauty of Alaska. The breathtaking landscape of this pristine wilderness sets the stage for every memorable moment from up-close, awe-inspiring views of glaciers to observing native wildlife, including whales, bears, bald eagles, and moose. This corner of the world offers not only spectacular scenery, but also opportunities to learn about the history and culture of Alaska — from the native people who’ve lived here for centuries to the adventurers seeking their fortunes during the gold rush. No matter which sailing you choose, you’ll journey through the ever-popular Inside Passage — one of the most popular experiences on any Alaska vacation — and visit Hubbard Glacier or Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier.
Qatar may not seem like your typical wintertime family travel destination. After all, you won’t find many snow-capped peaks or ski resorts in the world’s desert nations, but the country’s newest winter attraction will make sure you have so much fun you won’t even think about snow. From roller coasters and merry-go-rounds to cotton candy and ice cream, there will be something for everyone at this nightly, winter-themed entertainment park.