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Just 8 months old, Britain’s Prince George heads out on his first royal tour with proud parents, Prince William and Kate Middleton. Here are some of the highlights for the royal family, who only arrived in New Zealand on Monday.

William and Kate Arrive in New Zealand with Prince George in Tow

Photography by Samir Hussein/WireImage

Official Welcome: After touching down at Wellington Airport in New Zealand, the royal couple received a traditional, Maori welcome known as Powhiri. The New Zealand Defence Force Maori Cultural Group performed a wero, in which they advanced with spears and various battle cries. Will and Kate also took part in a hongi, a traditional greeting in which 2 people press their noses and foreheads together, with Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae and his wife, Lady Janine.

Wharekauhau Country Estate

Photography by Bernard Golder, flickr

Luxury Retreat: After their 27-hour flight, Will, Kate and George adjusted to their new time zone — and beat their jetlag — at the beautiful Wharekauhau Country Estate, roughly a 90-minute drive from the capital of Wellington.  While the wind and rain likely kept them indoors, the royal couple and some of their staff relaxed in a series of interconnecting cottages. The lodge, which boasts a spa, pool and an extensive wine cellar, came at the recommendation of the New Zealand government.

Prince George of Cambridge's Playdate

Photography by Reuters

Royal Playdate: Prince George joined 10 other babies for a playdate at the Government House, where the family will stay for the majority of their trip. George charmed his playmates (and their respective parents) during his first major royal engagement in celebration of The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, a non-profit family health organization.

Keep up with Prince William, Kate Middleton and baby George in our Royal Spotting slideshow.

 

Art Deco Weekend, Napier, New Zealand

Photography By catspyjamasnz, Flickr

Located in the Hawkes Bay region on the eastern coast of New Zealand, Napier is a popular destination that is chock-full of Art Deco buildings, shopping and events — so much so that its locals and tourists often refer to it as the “Art Deco Capital of the World.”

The city’s largest annual event, the TREMAINS Art Deco Weekend, will take place Feb. 19-23 this year and will include more than 200 events, various displays of 1920s and ’30s cars, trains and planes, and a Gatsby-inspired picnic. Festival-goers from all over the world will fill the streets dressed in era-appropriate attire to wine, dine, dance and celebrate all things Art Deco.

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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.

Earthquake in New Zealand

At least 75 people are dead after a 6.3-magnitude quake rocked Christchurch, New Zealand’s second-largest city, on Tuesday. Prime Minister John Key said the world may be witnessing “New Zealand’s darkest day.”

The city’s airport was shut down and the hospital evacuated. Rescue crews are searching for hundreds of people who remain trapped in toppled buildings or scattered debris. The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered 3 miles from the city.

According to Huffington Post, this is the second major quake to hit Christchurch in 5 months. The 7.1-magnitude quake on September 4, 2010, shook the city, but there was no loss of life.

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