My latest piece on FoxNews.com just went live! Here’s a snippet:
This week the wait is over for Tolkien fans eagerly awaiting the Dec. 14 debut of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
But if seeing it on the silver screen isn’t enough (at the new format of 48 frames per second, no less), a trip to New Zealand is the closest thing to being transported into Middle-earth itself.
Hobbit-fever is running high in the country. Special stamps and coins have been produced, there are numerous Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings tours to go on, even Air New Zealand‘s inflight safety video is full of characters from the movies – including a cameo from Jackson himself.
But Wellington, the country’s second largest city, is where journey begins.
Arguably, there’s no city more beautiful or exciting in all of New Zealand—a country hardly short on stunning scenery and fun things to do—than its capital. A hilly Victorian jewel wrapping around Oriental Bay on New Zealand’s North Island, Wellington has an artsy Pacific Northwest flair rivaling Portland and Seattle, greenery for days, and a passionate coffee culture, with more cafes per capita than any other city on the planet.
Kiwis expected that Wellington would experience a tourism boon after Jackson filmed “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy in his hometown; little did they know just how significantly. Since debut in 2001, Wellington has experienced a 700 percent tourism increase, with the film studio suburb of Miramar—known locally as Wellywood—particularly blossoming.
Suddenly, there’s Roxy Cinema (an art-deco 3D movie theater), a myriad of cafes, restaurants and shops, and a new school to accommodate the (often American) children of film people. James Cameron is making Wellington his permanent residence. Celebrities like Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr regularly pop up in the laid-back Seatoun-area cafes, baby Flynn in tow.
With great food, epic cocktail bar, and endless entertainment options Wellington is so much more than just hobbits. Here are a few places not to be missed.