Archive for December, 2012

 

Photography by Chiara Marinai

Hiking boots and swimsuits are de rigueur accessories when you explore Landmannalaugar in the highlands of Iceland, near the Hekla volcano. More »

While it was snubbed from a Golden Globe nomination today, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wins our award for the movie that inspired the most travel in 2012. Opening in theaters worldwide this weekend, this latest installment in filmmaker Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy is creating a surge of tourism in New Zealand, with fans from all over the world raring to see the filming locations.

Hobbit fever is sweeping New Zealand, where about 150 locations were used for Lord of the Rings films scenery. From their Hobbit-themed plane to their unexpected safety video featuring the epic’s mythical creatures, Air New Zealand is now dubbed the “airline of Middle-earth.” And Auckland’s Wellington Airport welcomes throngs of fans with a giant sculpture of Gollum and a sign that reads, “The Middle of Middle-earth.”

New Zealand is certainly embracing Hobbit mania and reveling in their otherworldly status. The mecca of all this mania is Hobbiton, the movie-set-turned-tourist-attraction. You can tour the 44 hobbit holes set in the picturesque rolling hills of Matamata’s countryside to see how the furry-footed creatures live. You can even drink like a hobbit at Green Dragon, a Hobbit-themed pub that recently opened in Hobbiton. We do wonder, however, if this bar skips the “no shirt, no shoes, no service” rule so barefoot “little folk” can join the party.

But it’s not only the man-made wonders that are getting fan traffic. New Zealand’s natural wonders that provided the dramatic backdrops in the films are also getting a spotlight. One of the most-visited geological marvels in New Zealand is the mystical Milford Sound, which Rudyard Kipling called the “8th wonder of the world”. This fjord on the South Island is part of the protected Fiordland National Park. Now it’s even more popular due to its cameos in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Can’t get enough of the enchanting haflings? See more locations from the films in our Follow the Hobbit trail slideshow.  And even if you’re not part of the fandom, don’t fear; there’s a lot more to New Zealand then Hobbit treks. Even without a Hobbit sighting, the natural beauty here is simply magical.

Warm, cold, cold, warm. Make up your mind already!

It’s safe to say that’s what a whole lot of people are thinking across the country, as they don fall jackets one day, winter coats the next. Winter, it seems, has become a little moody, and no one is feeling the brunt of its mood swings more than ski resorts.

“Rising Temperatures Threaten Fundamental Change for Ski Slopes,” reported yesterday’s New York Times. “Study Shows Warming’s Threat to Skiing,” said The Aspen Times, just a few days earlier. And this equally sobering take from Bloomberg: “Ski Areas Face $1 Billion Risk From Warming Climate, Groups Say.”

But Wait, There’s Hope!

Before you reach for your Xanax, take a deep breath and repeat: “There’s still hope for fun on the slopes this year.”

Sure, we’re all feeling a little nervous, especially with still-fresh memories of last year’s unseasonably warm winter — the fourth warmest on record since 1896 — that caused half of the nation’s ski areas to open late and nearly as many to close early. This year is seeing more unpredictable temperature shifts in areas from Mount Sunapee in Vermont, where warmer temps have turned some usually snow white trails dirt brown, to several ski resorts in Colorado that have been forced to push back their opening dates.

A Pro Colorado Skier’s Opinion

Lou Dawson — no, not a climate guy, but he is the first person to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks — seems pretty optimistic about the whole thing. From what we can tell over at Lou’s popular Wild Snow blog, he’s got strong opinions on how ski resorts can withstand climate change.

Here’s what Lou’s saying: “If ski resorts want to deal with global warming and continue skiing as we know it, they need to figure out where we can ski as the climate warms, and build or extend ski areas into those zones.”

Snowiest Ski Resorts — Where Are They?

So where are those “zones”? Leave it to our friends over at weathertrends360 to gather the goods. Recently, these weather gurus compiled their list of the world’s snowiest ski resorts, with their selection based upon long-term weather trends forecasts.

And the slopes with the most guaranteed powder? Places such as Alta, UT, make weathertrends360’s list – and as the NYT confirmed this week, this famed ski area, now in its 75th year, is seeing trails with a base depth of 48 inches. (Translation: Anything above 15 inches is sufficient for skiing.)

What other ski resorts made the list? For the full forecast, check out the World’s Snowiest Ski Resorts.

We asked our fans to Instagram their favorite holiday lights photos using the hashtag #TCHolidayLights. Our first pick comes from Instagram user bostonthek. Despite the Starbucks Coffee sign, we instantly knew that this photo was taken in Germany. In fact, it was taken in the city of Esslingen, a small city on the Neckar River in Southern Germany. Come back tomorrow for another Day of Sparkle, and keep sending us your holiday lights photos!

A high-density, vertical city with tourists and locals from everywhere on the planet, New York delivers — no matter who you are or when you visit. But the holidays are a particularly nice time to head to the Big Apple, when the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the holiday shops at Union Square, and the ice-skating rink in Central Park put the city in the holiday spirit. Lined with iconic museums, Central Park draws class field trips, jogging locals, and Hollywood film crews all year long. At Union Square, students take to the streets on skateboards and New York’s premier chefs seek out locally grown produce from the farmers’ market. Shoppers can splurge on Chanel, Prada, and Gucci along 5th Avenue, or venture deep into SoHo, the West Village, or the Lower East Side for insider boutiques, where one might glimpse New York’s acting elite. Meanwhile, art lovers can bask in the grand museums of the Upper East Side or preview up-and-coming imagery at Chelsea galleries.

Throughout the city, expect to pay a premium for cramped rooms — a cozy 200 square feet is about the norm. But remember that in New York, it’s not so much about the room as the location, location, location, instead. For old-world grandeur, Midtown East and the Upper East Side are home to the Waldorf-Astoria, the Peninsula, and the Pierre, an elegant, historic hotel across the street from Central Park, which offers a taste of grand old New York to those staying in any of its 189 small — but freshly renovated — guest rooms. Hip downtown spots include such notables as the Gramercy Park Hotel and the Soho Grand, where guests can find an authentic but accessible taste of the trendy downtown scene. And the hotel still attracts its fair share of celebrities. Of course, you’ll also find outposts of every major hotel franchise — from the Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental up by Central Park to the more down-to-earth Hilton,Westin, and Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

- Oyster.com Staff

More on the Holidays in New York City:
Best Holiday Shopping in New York
Best New York Hotel Holiday Decorations
Christmas in New York City

Photography by Thinkstock

Fine food, strong drinks and a glitzy nightlife are the hallmark of this islet, just off Nassau’s north shore in the Bahamas. More »

This week, Walt Disney World officially opened the largest expansion in the history of the Magic Kingdom. New Fantasyland is an extension of regular Fantasyland (home of classic Disney rides and many, many strollers). When guests enter the Enchanted Forest, they arrive at Maurice’s Cottage — a cozy stone and shingle structure that houses Enchanted Tales With Belle. Here, a “tale as old as time” is told with the help of an impressively lifelike Lumiere, Belle herself and a few volunteers from the audience.

Just through the grove of shady trees and past the gurgling stream is a bridge that leads to the new Be Our Guest Restaurant, which is set inside Beast’s castle. The castle itself is an imposing structure situated in the nearby mountains – which are a testament to Disney’s Imagineers and their skill with forced perspective! By day, Be Our Guest is a quick-service lunch spot, while by night it transforms into a table-service dinner restaurant. Around the corner is Gaston’s Tavern — just look for the statue of the “Beauty and the Beast” villain. Here you can try a meaty pork shank, a gooey cinnamon roll or sip on some of LaFou’s Brew — a sweet concoction of frozen apple juice and toasted marshmallow topped with mango foam.

The Storybook Circus section of New Fantasyland hosts the Barnstormer roller coaster, the Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. There are now 2 of these soaring spinners, and time waiting for your flight into the big blue yonder can now be passed inside an air-conditioned circus tent. Parents are issued a pager that lets them know when it’s time to climb on board.

While these new additions are cause for celebration, the gem of New Fantasyland remains behind construction walls. The Seven Dwarves Mine Train — an innovative new coaster — is scheduled to open sometime next year. Sidle up to the walls and hear the clinking and clanging of the Dwarves hard at work on this new attraction.

- Bill Burke

Bill Burke is an award-winning humor columnist and writer with 20 years experience in the newspaper and magazine industry. He is the author ofMousejunkies (Travelers’ Tales 2009) and Mousejunkies: Second Edition (Travelers’ Tales 2011) –a humorous look at Walt Disney World addiction.

Photography by Cavallo Point

Welcome to Cavallo Point, not your average national park lodge. With airy rooms, modern art, spa treatments and martinis, this renovated army post/luxury resort at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. More »

Laurence and Sally Martin from Baggage Battles

What do Harry Houdini’s brother and Dracula have in common? Items related to these 2 figures could possibly make a trip to Dublin a major success for auction specialists Mark Meyer, Billy Leroy, or Laurence and Sally Martin.

Dublin has been and continues to be Ireland’s transportation hub for almost 1,000 years. The Garda, the local police, are in charge of managing all lost property that’s found and turned in to them by citizens. If no one claims the items for 1 year and a day, then the items are put up for auction.

Mark, Billy, and Laurence and Sally Martin keep their fingers crossed, hoping to strike it rich with items like old leather briefcases (potentially holding historic documents), as well as a jockey-training simulator and even an old sealed box with the words “Attic” on the front. And we all know what items are stored in the attic: old, and sometimes priceless, items.

Don’t miss tonight’s all-new episode at 8|7c.

Go behind the scenes with our Knightwalkers slideshow and watch a sneak peek of the bidding war in the Dublin Auction Preview.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way …

“Oh, what fun it is to … hunt with Jordan this Christmas Day!”

That’s right, people, with the holiday season  upon us, Jordan is on the lookout for some Yuletide bestsellers of the past, searching for misfit toys that are always in high demand around the holidays.

In fact, the holiday season is the busiest time of year for Jordan and his team. Clients are calling nonstop trying to track down hard-to-find toys from their childhood — and if there is one man for the job, it’s Jordan Hembrough.

After chasing down some hot leads, Jordan takes a trip down memory lane and comes across some of the best vintage Christmas gifts of all time. From a 1964 Creepy Crawlers “Thingmaker” to a 1996 Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid, Jordan and his team discover toys from every generation, for everyone — especially adults who are still just young at heart.

With the cool crispness of the December air, and Christmas’s festive spirit, now both upon us, what better way to kick off the holiday season than by taking a trip back to your childhood with the toys you love(d)?

Don’t miss Jordan’s all-new holiday special tonight at 9|8c!

And check out these exclusive behind-the-scenes pictures from tonight’s episode.

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