There’s a lot going on in the world today, and there are days when all we want to do is escape – escape reality, society, politics, the news, our personal struggles, and everything in between. We need a mental break, a chance to unwind and forget about it all. And, quite honestly, we all deserve it.
Like many Millennials, my husband, Brian, and I grew up obsessed with the Wizarding World® since our hands first turned the pages of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1998. Now, our three-year-old wizard, Wesley, is as obsessed as we are but at a remarkably young age. To embrace his love for magic, we summoned our suitcases (accio!) and went to Philadelphia for Harry Potter: The Exhibition and New York City for Harry Potter New York and The Cauldron NYC.
Making its world premiere in 2022, Harry Potter: The Exhibition is a technologically immersive display showcasing authentic props, costumes, and set recreations from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts® films, plus the Broadway performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
You begin at King’s Cross Station with a kiosk that sorts you into your Hogwarts house (dormitory). You then choose a wand and your patronus, a magical creature defensive charm, that is linked to a wristband. This personalizes your experience as you follow the golden snitch, a flying gold ball with Mercury-like wings, throughout the exhibit. When interacting with various spells, potions, and activities, you earn points for your Hogwarts house – 10 points to Ravenclaw and Slytherin (our houses, of course)!
Each section brought magic to life – our names appeared on the Marauder’s Map; only glass separated us from Harry, Ron, and Hermoine’s robes; mandrakes squealed as Wesley pulled them from their pots; we threw rugby-like quaffle balls through hoops to win the Quidditch Cup; dueled with hero-Harry and villain Lord Voldemort’s wands at the Battle of Hogwarts; and, Wesley’s favorite, we curled up in “the cupboard under the stairs” at 4 Privet Drive, where Harry lived as a child.
Located in the heart of New York City, Harry Potter New York is the first official Harry Potter flagship store with the largest collection of Harry Potter series and Fantastic Beasts merchandise in one place. Once I walked inside, I honestly considered just handing over my 401k.
Giant magical creatures welcomed us throughout, and we discovered tasty treats like Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans and Chocolate Frogs; wands from over 50 characters; personalized house robes; graphic prints by MinaLima, who did the graphics for the films; plus, we posed for a photo in Hagrid’s shoes and the telephone booth to the Ministry of Magic!
For Brian and me, the most incredible part of Harry Potter New York was the one-of-a-kind virtual reality experiences. I did “Chaos at Hogwarts,” a thrilling journey with house elf Dobby to contain magical creatures loose in the castle. And Brian did “Wizards Take Flight,” where you fly through the skies of London to defeat Death Eaters, followers of Lord Voldemort.
Before exiting, we stopped to have a glass (or three) of Butterbeer. This was definitely Wesley’s highlight as he first thought it was ice cream and then realized it’s soda! Seeing a Butterbeer mustache on him is something I will always remember.
Although not affiliated with the Wizarding World franchise, The Cauldron NYC’s Harry Potter-inspired experience truly feels as if you’re sitting in Professor Snape’s Potions class trying to pass your Ordinary Wizarding Level examinations. They offer multiple immersive cocktail brewing classes for adults and families alike. We did Wizard Afternoon Tea so Wesley could enjoy the experience. The hour and 45-minute interactive session included two different tea brewing experiences, a selection of tea “sand-witches,” and assorted dessert treats.
Wesley was given an interactive wand that was used to unlock the ingredients for brewing our custom teas. He was taught to perform “spells” and loved shouting “Abracadabra!” to summon our incredible server. Brian and I assisted him with grinding various herbs and dropping flavorful mixes into his tea concoction.
To make sure we properly fermented our tea, our server dropped some dry ice into a tray and it billowed over our table. Watching Wesley’s eyes in amazement was priceless, and we were pleasantly surprised Wesley enjoyed the tea he created! This was a wonderful family activity that we highly recommend. The Cauldron Co. can be experienced in New York City, Edinburgh, Central London, East London, and newly in Philadelphia.
For our family, the Wizarding World is real. We immerse in it daily with the books, films, and music that have been part of our lives for over 20 years. But Harry Potter: The Exhibition, Harry Potter New York, and The Cauldron NYC gave Brian and me something we had not felt before – real magic. I’m not talking about casting spells and enchantments, but the magic of being parents and experiencing Harry Potter through the eyes of our son. Seeing and hearing Wesley’s genuine laugh, excitement, and astonishment that Harry Potter isn’t just a movie he watched or music he listens to – but something he can actually feel, taste, and touch – makes me want to put the memories made during this trip into a pensieve (a magical device to store memories) so I can watch them over and over… “Always.”
Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts characters, names and related indica are trademarks of ® Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts and Pottermore Publishing and Stage Theatrical Rights ® J.K. Rowling All Rights Reserved.
WIZARDING WORLD is a trademark of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Image Credit: Missi Wilson
When it comes to “finding your escape,” you probably don’t envision having to handle the logistics of a vacation. While being on vacation may sound like a dream, planning it all out and making sure everything runs smoothly doesn’t. The answer? Leave it to the professionals.
We caught up with Christian Leibl-Cote, Collette’s Executive Vice President of Global Business, to learn how North America’s longest-running tour operator can handle the logistics for you while guiding you on a unforgettable journey, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Q: Tell us a little bit about Collette.
As the longest-running tour operator in North America, Collette is the company travelers can trust. Leading with integrity, Collette’s comprehensive travel protection plan, flexible tour pacing, and strong relationships within the travel space set it apart. The happiness of its guests has been its roadmap since 1918, and today, Collette offers over 160 tours to all seven continents and five distinct travel styles, including small group touring and river cruises. Additionally, this third-generation, family-owned business is dedicated to giving back in both local and global communities through its social responsibility platform.
Q: What type of tours do you offer?
We recognize that everyone is different, and at Collette, we like to make sure our travelers can choose the travel style that’s right for them.
For guests who want to hit all the iconic must-sees on a whirlwind tour, classic touring is an opportunity to see all the epic sights.
Explorations are small group tours designed for travelers looking to travel in smaller groups (14–24 guests) while enjoying off-the-beaten-path adventures, authentic culinary experiences, specialty tastings, and chef-led demonstrations as well as more contact with the locals.
Spotlights are for travelers who enjoy single hotel stays and quick getaways. If they prefer to pack and unpack once, this is the way to go. In addition to that, these tours offer travelers plenty of freedom to get out on their own combined with the benefits of guided travel.
Those who enjoy cruising but also want a more in-depth experience, we have the perfect combination. These adventures, on small 4-star vessels, are a scenic and relaxing way to travel through the world’s beautiful waterways. Plus, many other tours now have on-ship stays, whether it’s exploring Nordic fjords or taking a privately chartered yacht to the Galápagos.
Q: How can Collette help travelers find their escape?
Collette offers more than 160 tours across all seven continents with expertly planned itineraries so that guests don’t have to think about any of the details. There truly is something for every client with a combination of sightseeing, relaxation, and personal free time.
Q: Tell us more about your Private Touring options.
Choose any tour and build your guest list of 10 or more travelers – we’ll handle the rest. Led by expert Tour Managers – who are highly trained on wellness protocols – private touring with Collette is ideal for your own personal group to experience must-see sights, enriching experiences, and delicious local flavor.
Q: Are there ways to customize a Collette tour?
Collette offers both pre-night and post-night extensions for guests to customize their tour to fit their needs.
Q: BONUS: For travelers wanting to find their escape, why should they choose Collette?
We consider everyone who travels with us to be our personal guest. Every moment matters to us because we know it matters to you. This may be because, at heart, we are a family-owned company that has been in business for many years, or it may be because our team is passionate about sharing their own love of travel with our guests.
Choosing Collette comes with benefits that take your guided travel experience to another level. Our inclusive tours provide you more value for your money and more of what makes travel special.
Image Credit: Collette
More than 50,000 travelers from across the globe journeyed to the distant land of Antarctica in 2021. For those who relish traveling to remote and unconventional locations, the seventh continent offers a type of pristine beauty and off-the-grid adventure that exists practically nowhere else. No longer is being “on The Ice” an activity reserved for the most intrepid of explorers. More and more travelers are finding reasons to visit Antarctica every year.
Antarctica’s appeal as a travel destination is increasing. According to statistics from the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), the number of visitors to the continent has risen by more than 50 percent over the past four years.
Antarctica, however, still receives only a tiny fraction of the tourism that descends upon the world’s most visited destinations. Tour operators who visit the region are committed to doing so responsibly under the Antarctic Treaty System. Consequently, visitors won’t have to share Antarctica’s breathtaking vistas with millions of others; instead, they can revel in the destination’s sense of serenity.
In many ways, Antarctica remains the final frontier. Read on to discover five reasons why Antarctica beckons the most discerning of travelers:
When my then-new husband and I honeymooned in Bora Bora, devouring every sparkle of crystalline lagoon water like it was our last meal on earth, we only saw other honeymooners in our midst.
The world was only made up of loved-up young people unblemished (physically or mentally) by children, wasn’t it? At least, that was how it seemed through our myopic newlywed filter. We fell so in love with this ethereal French Polynesian paradise that we vowed to return for our 10th wedding anniversary, which seemed another lifetime away.
Flash forward 12 years and two kids, and we finally made it back. By this point, my seven-year-old twins, Jordan and Maya, were plenty accustomed to world travel. As the lucky offspring of travel-loving parents, they’ve visited corners of the globe from Mexico to Morocco, Costa Rica to Croatia. They’ve become pros at traveling, with a global, cultural and geographical awareness that seems far beyond their years.
But what they’re not is serene. Or static. They’re constantly in motion, with a knack for shattering the calm in any environment they enter. So how would my rough-and-tumble kiddos – strangers to the concept of an inside voice – fare in this honeymooners’ paradise? And how would Bora Bora and its peace-seeking holidaymakers greet them?
Swimmingly, as it turns out. In fact, we learned the South Pacific island is actually an ideal location for a dream trip for the whole family.
Now water-safe, Jordan and Maya were the perfect age to indulge in the island’s signature lodging: the overwater bungalow. We jumped off our deck over and over again into the lagoon, teeming with fish and rays. (Fearless Maya showboated for a few days before finally convincing her brother to take the plunge, too — then cheered him on vociferously.) We splashed, we floated, we chased each other in circles around the stilts, and we waved to each other through the windows in the floor.
As a family, we kayaked, paddle boarded, snorkeled, and swam in the infinity pool and the sea, wading out multiple times to the sandbar that doubled as a Robinson Crusoe-like dreamscape for pretend play. We washed down croissants and crepes with ice-cold coconut milk and tropical smoothies.
When it was time for my husband and me to enjoy beverages more adult in nature, my kids hauled off to the resort kids’ club. I hadn’t noticed in my newlywed haze just how accommodating this magical island can be for kids. But here, kids aren’t verboten; they’re graciously accommodated. As a group, they scoured the beach for hermit crabs and then raced them against each other. The staff organized fishing trips, pareo-dying projects, nature treasure hunts, and seashell necklace crafts.
Maya’s tooth had been loose for weeks and she worried that, if she lost it on vacation, the tooth fairy might not be able to find her. Indeed, that tooth finally gave up its tenuous hold just as she donned her snorkel mask. But lest the tooth fairy miss her on this remote speck of sand, the kids club team lovingly collected it in tissue paper so the tooth fairy could make a special delivery (in Pacific francs) to our bungalow that night.
All along, Jordan and Maya bonded with new friends from around the world – a five-year-old boy named Conrad of Greek and British parents just learning to swim and an eight-year-old girl from Canada named Chloe who developed a new love for snorkeling. In the evenings, the kids all played together on the beach as the parents, now new friends too, dined al fresco as the sun set.
It turns out the lagoon-encircled ancient volcanic island is a dream at any stage of life — even when the company you keep is louder, messier, and more demanding of snacks.
After a week in Bora Bora, I know my kids felt the same thing my husband and I did on our honeymoon those 12 years before: that Bora Bora is the most spectacularly beautiful, relaxing, and just plain fun corner of the planet. No matter how many places on earth we visit, we’ll always dream of going back.
Image Credit: Alesandra Dubin
Tempting dishes from our featured destinations give you a taste of local culture. From succulent roasts to exotic spicy fare and some divine desserts, you’re sure to find plenty of delicious recipes to try at home.
Each month we’re showcasing our cruise partners to bring you the latest on the cruise line and their ships. With different cruising styles and a variety of ships to choose from, you’ll find these profiles helpful for selecting the cruise that’s right for you.
The all-suite National Geographic Islander II was built to immerse guests in the wonder of the Galápagos like never before. Accommodating just 48 passengers in 26 suites, guests will have unprecedented access to the expedition tools and team of experts they need to delve into these enchanting isles.
For more than 50 years, Lindblad Expeditions has been perfecting Galápagos exploration with the same spirit of adventure and responsible tourism that has been a part of our rich heritage for generations.
Since Lars-Eric Lindblad founded our organization in 1958 as a means for curious travelers to explore the farthest reaches of the Earth with unspoiled nature and diverse cultures, Lindblad has introduced thousands of travelers to the unrivaled beauty of the Galápagos, plus dozens of other polar and temperate regions. In 2004, Lindblad partnered with National Geographic to offer an even wider range of expedition travel that has amplified the quality of our ships and staff.
The recipe for the perfect Lindblad-National Geographic expedition has two primary ingredients. The first is a veteran expedition team that knows the region inside and out. With an expedition leader, naturalists, marine biologists, historians, and undersea specialists at their side, guests will experience each locale through the lens of our experts’ wisdom, experience, and passion.
The second, equally important ingredient is our intimately scaled expedition ships. Their small, nimble size allows us to venture safely where larger cruise ships can’t, to provide our guests with the most authentic, up-close encounters imaginable. Plus, with flexible itineraries and the ability to change course at a moment’s notice, each Lindblad-National Geographic expedition is truly unique.
Here are some of the profound ways our guests can experience the Galápagos aboard the National Geographic Islander II:
Explore more of what Lindblad-National Geographic has to offer by clicking each tab below.
Sleek and elegant, the all-suite National Geographic Islander II is committed to expedition excellence, sailing year-round in the Galápagos. With 26 large suites accommodating just 48 passengers, and 1:1 crew-to-guest ratio, a spacious and temperature-controlled marina, and ample indoor/outdoor spaces, each guest has the freedom and tools they need to make meaningful connections to the world around them. Plus, it’s all happening in a setting of supreme comfort with hallmark attentive service by our dedicated crew.
Contributing to the fully immersive Ecuadorian experience on board are locally sourced and sustainable farm-to-table and ocean-to-table culinary ingredients, as well as artisan spa elements and handcrafted textiles, art, and décor—all regionally created.
National Geographic Islander II’s 26 spacious suites are decorated with local flair and allow guests to feel connected to their destination in comfort and style. Guests can unwind after a long day of exploration with organic bathroom amenities designed exclusively for our ships, then climb into luxuriously soft 600-thread-count bedding. Plus, each suite is equipped with satellite television, ample closets, a sofa and comfortable seating, coffee and tea, and a mini fridge that’s been fully stocked to each guest’s preferences.
Our four larger Islander Suites, named after the four populated islands, feature the same top-of-the-line amenities as our standard suites. Each has a separate living area including double the space for relaxing, walk-in closets, full-sized bathtubs, and glassed-in rain showers. Plus, each suite is beautifully decorated with specially commissioned art inspired by the suite’s name.
Onboard National Geographic Islander II, every meal features casual, non-assigned seating—served with a view. The Patio Café gives guests the option of indoor/outdoor seating to enjoy the splendor of the Galápagos al fresco; the grill on the Observation Deck allows guests to completely immerse themselves in their surroundings with 360° views; and the Yacht Club Restaurant is available for elegant indoor dining.
Menus are designed in partnership with Ecuadorian chefs and the onboard team to honor local cuisine and traditional meals. Each plate is crafted with local, sustainable, and fresh farm-to-table ingredients. Plant-based menus, cocktails, and zero-proof cocktails are also available in dining areas, and all-day beverage stations are set up in the library. Wine, beer, and alcoholic beverages are included (except some premium brands).
During each voyage, guests can also expect special culinary events such as a festive BBQ on deck, wine tastings, and chocolate sampling.
National Geographic Islander II carries a full suite of expedition tools so guests can explore the Galápagos and all its wonders up close. Plus, with a 1:1 crew-to-guest ratio, a member of our expedition team is always available to enhance your experience even more.
Join a naturalist presentation, explore the library, or share a drink with fellow passengers in the Cove lounge. Each guest has the flexibility to tailor their expedition experience to their preferences to make it as personally fulfilling as possible.
There’s no better way for families to re-establish bonds than by sharing a wild adventure. And there's no better place to do it than onboard National Geographic Islander II. Guests have the freedom to connect wherever and whenever they please—over a morning cup of coffee on the Observation Deck, commuting to a wild shoreline aboard a Zodiac, or snorkeling among the most vibrant schools of fish they’ve ever seen.
An expedition, with its mix of new daily sights, wildlife, undersea wonders, and activities for every age and fitness level, is the ideal way to unite old and young in shared experiences everyone will find collectively exhilarating. Spending time in nature encourages curiosity and relaxes the mind and body—plus, it’s super fun.
Developed in conjunction with National Geographic Education, the unique National Geographic Global Explorers program helps kids and teens under 18 get more out of exploring and have more fun. On every Galápagos expedition, kids and teens choose cool activities, from earning a Zodiac “driver’s license” to recording wildlife sightings in their Field Notebook. Each activity is designed to help them see and do more while exercising some measure of independence within the safe confines of the ship. Plus, our staff is specially trained to work with kids of every age, leading rollicking tromps through the forests and along shores where kids have so much fun, they don’t even realize how much they’re learning.
Life onboard National Geographic Islander II is remarkable. Being in the wild doesn’t mean renouncing comfort, luxurious amenities, or superb food. Our hotel team will learn your personal preferences from day one. Regardless of how often you’re in your suite, it will be immaculate when you return. Our chefs and their galley teams produce cuisine full of interest and discovery, highlighting the rich flavors of the Galápagos with ingredients that are local and/or sustainably produced or caught.
The new all-suite, 48-guest National Geographic Islander II provides an authentic expedition experience into the wonders of the Galápagos.