Tag: vacation

Hogwarts castle for Winter Wizarding World of Harry Potter Makeover

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Gets a Christmas Makeover

In my opinion, there are two absolute truths in life. The first is that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. The second is that there is nothing in this world better than Harry Potter. If you guys agree, you should try to get to Orlando this Christmas.


In 2010, Universal Orlando Resort opened an attraction called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Since it opened in June of that year, the attraction has been transforming and expanding. 


With a mix of roller coasters and simulations, there are six rides at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There are also restaurants and gift shops that are modeled after real locations in the book series. The biggest attractions are the village of Hogsmeade, where tourists can go to the popular pub The Three Broomsticks, and the shopping center of Diagon Alley, where tourists can visit various shops, including Ollivander’s.


This Christmas, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is getting a seasonal makeover. The Christmas-themed Harry Potter world will open on November 18, 2017 and will carry on until January 6, 2018.


The Christmas version will feature many changes. Hogsmeade and all its shops will be decked out with holiday decorations. The food, drinks, and entertainment will also be holiday themed. Hogwarts will turn into a light projection spectacular featuring memorable Christmas moments from the Harry Potter movies. Nighttime will bring about musical arrangements. Several of the gift shops will be selling custom-made Christmas ornaments along with other merchandise. Best of all? The seasonal drink of Butterbeer will be available again in The Three Broomsticks. 


Before and after Harry Potter Castle

Hogwarts Castle; Left (Image Via Traveller): Original Castle, Right (Image Via IGN): Christmas Castle


Even if you’ve explored every inch of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’ve never seen it like this. It’s worth checking out the new version while it’s around. I know I, for one, am marking my calendar for November 18th!


Featured Image Via IGN

Warner Bros Studios

Top 7 Pilgrimages for the Adventurous Bookworm

We all know the exquisite pain of wishing we could climb inside the books we love and live in their worlds for a while. It may be easier than you think. We’ve put together the top destinations for adventurous book fans to visit in order to see the inspiration behind their favorite books, and how and where their favorite authors hung out! 


1: A trip to see The Cursed Child in London’s West End followed by the Warner Bros. Studios tour. 


The Cursed Child

Image Via The Wrap


Spend the day indulging in The Cursed Child in London’s West End. There’s a three hour break between the two halves, which you can spend by eating and wandering around the famous district. I’m pretty sure the alleged special effects in the play are actual magic. Prepare yourselves to get up close and personal with some all-too convincing dementors.


The following day, take the shuttle bus from London to Watford, home of Warner Bros. Studios, which in turn are home to every single prop and costume and specially built set used in the Harry Potter movies. Ride Hagrid’s motorbike, see the Weasely’s burrow complete with the self-knitting knitting needles and magic clock. Walk down Diagon Alley, see the Philosopher’s Stone, and wonder at the beauty of the life-size Buckbeak. This double-whammy has got to be the ultimate endgame for Harry Potter fans. Book your tickets approximately a year in advance, though, to avoid disappointment. Not kidding.


2. Tour of J. K. Rowling’s Edinburgh


Victoria Street and Candlemaker Row

Image Via Wow247


While you are waiting an entire year for your Cursed Child experience, another Harry Potter pilgrimage you can embark on is to Edinburgh, Scotland. J. K. Rowling wrote much of the first book in The Elephant House cafe, while looking out of the window at the stunning view of Edinburgh Castle. These days, the bathrooms are plastered in Harry Potter graffiti.


Greyfriars Kirkyard, a 16th century churchyard beside the Elephant House contains gravestones with names that inspired many of the Potter monikers! Nearby, Victoria Street and Candlemaker Row were the inspiration for Diagon Alley, while Heriot’s School is said to be the inspiration for Hogwarts! 



3. Follow Patti Smith’s Adventures in New York 


Smith and Mapplethorpe in the Chelsea Hotel

Image Via i-D


Though Patti Smith is primarily known for her music career, inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, her contributions to the world of literature are arguably her greatest works. Her memoir Just Kids, about her time in New York with her friend and lover, artist Robert Mapplethorpe, has led many an idealistic young writer to the streets of New York City, the pages of their copies of the book dog eared, marked and highlighted, their paths mapped out. 


Smith met Mapplethorpe when she worked at Scribern’s Book Store, at 597 Fifth Avenue. It is currently home to Sephora at 48th Street, which it ahs been for some time now, but you can still see the store name in gold. She writes:


It seemed like a dream job, working in the retail store of the prestigious publisher, home to writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and their editor, the great Maxwell Perkins. Where the Rothschilds bought their books, where paintings by Maxfield Parrish hung in the stairwell.


Tompkins Square Park is where the third and most important meeting between Smith and Mapplethorpe occurred. On a date with a creepy older man, Smith spied Mapplethorpe, ran up to him and asked him to pretend to be her boyfriend. The two stuck together as lovers, and then as best friends for the rest of their lives. This park was a hub for the New York punk movement. The Chelsea Hotel was Mapplethorpe and Smith’s residence for some years, during which time they befriended the likes of Janis Joplin, Allen Ginsburg, and William S. Borroughs to name but a few. She once ran into Salvador Dali in the lobby! Situated directly below the balconies of the Chelsea Hotel, El Quijote, a Spanish bar and restaurant which was always full of the hotel’s patrons.  Smith recounts: “At the table to my left, Janis Joplin was holding court with her band. To my far right were Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane, along with members of Country Joe and the Fish. At the last table facing the door was Jimi Hendrix…” St Mark’s Church in the Bowery is where Smith first began reading her poetry publicly at the insistence of Gregory Corso, 


4.  Tour Game of Thrones Locations in Croatia



Image Via Hotel Aristan Dubrovnik 


Throughout the filming of HBO’s Game of Thrones, the Croatian city of Dubrovnik has served as the setting for King’s Landing. Visitors can see the Red Keep, the House of the Undying and the setting of the Purple Wedding among many other locations. St. Dominic Street is the setting of many market scenes, City Watch scenes, as well as where King Robert’s illegitimate sons were murdered. It is also the scene of Cersei’s walk of shame in Season Five. Bokar Fortress is King’s Landing. The two-story medieval fortress is open to the public all year!


Lokrum Island is situated 600 meters off Croatia’s mainland. Lokrum functions as the city of Qarth, ruled by the ‘pureborn,’ where Daenerys Targaryen gets a frosty welcome from the Spice King. This island  dates back to 1023 and, according to legend, Richard the Lionheart sheltered here after a shipwreck while returning from the Crusades. At the highest point of Dubrovnik stands Mineeta Tower, which double as the walls of the House of the Undying. Fans can walk along a high wall above the city and look out over King’s Landing. 


5. Visit Jane Austen’s House in Hampshire


Jane Austen's House

Image Via Visit Winchester


The 17th-century house in which Pride and Prejudice author Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life resides in the village of Chawton near Alton in Hampshire. It has been made into a museum where fans can see books, jewelry, and a piano belonging to Austen. There’s also furniture and other items belonging to the Austen family. The quaint country side and local houses will give you some idea of the world in which Austen lived, and the inspirations behind her settings such as Pemberley. 


6. Tour of Hunter S. Thompson’s home Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colorado. 


HST and Anita at home

Image Via Newsweek


Hunter S. Thompson’s wife Anita is currently in the process of opening their home as a museum for Gonzo fans. Owl Farm was where Anita and Thompson lived for the two years of their marriage before his suicide in 2005. If all goes according to plan, you can sign up on the Gonzo Foundation website.


Anita will make the same breakfast she always made for Hunter at 2PM: grapefruit, scrambled eggs, juice, coffee, and fresh fruit suspended in Jell-O, with gin and Grand Marnier drizzled on top. After this, the grand tour of the two-story log cabin. The rooms are jammed with books, art, vinyl albums, memorabilia, and Thompson’s handwritten notes. His famous red shark convertible is in the garage. Owl Farm is also home to a German Shepard, two Siamese cats, and a flock of peacocks whom Thompson would defend with his shotgun. 


7. Tour Emily Dickinson’s Amhurst Home


 Emily Dickinson's House

Image Via View from Federal Twist


One of the most lauded poets of the 20th century, Dickinson’s home in Amhurst, Massachusetts, where she lived as a recluse all her life, is now the Emily Dickinson Museum. Walk the grounds of the beautiful home where Dickinson was inspired to write her wonderful poetry about nature, and walk through the rooms where her more abstract verses were composed. The museum also hosts literary events and workshops. 


Feature Image Via Trip Advisor 

Lin Manuel Miranda

Check out Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Summer Reading List

Sharing a list of all the books he devoured while on holidays, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote ‘I read so much on vacation! This is everything I liked.’ He was quick to clarify, however, that he will not be adapting any of them into musicals. 


He offers a very diverse list! Ahead of the movie’s release next year, Miranda read Madeleine D’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ as well as the sequel ‘A Wind in the Door.’ He also read ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ in Spanish, and sections from Tolstoy’s famous tome ‘War and Peace.’ 



Oprah in A Wrinkle in Time

Oprah Winfrey in ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ (2018) / Image Courtesy of Den of Geek



See the full list below. 



Pick them up here: 


One Hundred Years of Solitude‘ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (in Spanish: Cien Años De Soledad)


Theft by Finding‘ by David Sedaris


Creativity, Inc.‘ by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace


A Wrinkle in Time‘ by Madeleine L’Engle


A Wind in the Door‘ by Madeleine L’Engle


Consider the Lobster‘ by David Foster Wallace


Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night‘ by Jason Zinoman


Dave Malloy’s adapted chapters of War & Peace‘ by Leo Tolstoy


Strokes of Genius‘ by L. Jon Wertheim


The Collectors: A His Dark Materials Story‘ by Philip Pullman


The Second Sex‘ by Simone de Beauvoir


Sense of Occasion‘ by Hal Prince (available for pre-order)


Fosse‘ by Sam Wasson


Vacationland‘ by John Hodgman (available for pre-order)



Featured Image Courtesy of Business 2 Community 


Listen to These 14 Awesome Audiobooks on the Go

Busy as we are this summer, it can be hard to pack extra reading time into our schedules. Even if you have some time to spare during lengthy road trips, flipping pages becomes somewhat challenging on the go and not to mention it’s extremely laborious for your eyes. Also, if traveling with your family would jeopardize your sanity, our recommendation is to download audiobooks. With enticing voices narrating these addictive stories, the audiobooks will enable avoidance from meaningless conversations. If you intend on traveling alone, these downloads will enhance your journey by distracting you from the solitude.


Even if you don’t plan on traveling anytime soon, these awesome audiobooks will distract you from your monotonous daily chores and help you get through the reading list that you never got through.


1. A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman and Jessica Cohen

Length: 5 hrs and 49 mins


A Horse Walks Into a Bar


Winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, A Horse Walks into a Bar is written by the Israeli author David Grossman and translated into English by Jessica Cohen. This book goes through one standup comic’s evening performance in stunning details like that of a memoir. Through historical accounts of loss and survival, from touching family ties to the horrors of the holocaust, protagonist Dov Greenstein demonstrates his life journey to the audience in a manner that is humorous and serious at the same time.


2. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Length: 8 hrs and 21 mins

Orphan Train


Everything is transient in Molly Ayer’s life. As she ages out of the foster care system, she finds comfort from her volunteering position responsible for helping an old woman, except Vivian is moving out of this place as well. While Molly goes through Vivian’s possessions, she learns that their lives are not so different after all. As a young Irish immigrant as well as an orphan in the chaotic New York City, Vivian was placed on a train heading towards the Midwest along with numerous other children. Though their births may vary, the overwhelming uncertainty that lies ahead of them is shared. Nobody knew where they could end up and there was nothing to do except pray for the best. However, these blurry memories are like broken pieces of puzzle, waiting to be pieced up. For her entire life, Vivian has been haunted by unanswered questions and unsolved mysteries. Now Molly must help her, thus save herself at the same time.


3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Length: 8 hrs and 35 mins



Narrated by Dan Stevens (Downtown Abbey), this is the audiobook that will transform a classic tale into an enticing adventure while blowing your ear-drums away. Victor Frankenstein is forced to face a tremendous battle between man and monster that almost throws him into the interminable abyss of insanity.


4. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Length: 11 hrs and 8 mins


The Woman in Cabin 10


Reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s spine-tingling murder mysteries, The Woman in Cabin 10 is an eerie account of journalist Lo Blacklock, a travel magazine writer who has been assigned to spend a week on a luxury cruise called the Aurora. On this ship, there are dazzling dinner parties full of elegant guests. Everything seems perfectly calm until the sky starts to dim down and gray clusters of clouds wrought forceful winds, causing the ship to weaken and signaling an ill-omen. Something strange suddenly occurs, a woman’s body is tossed overboard into the freezing seawaters. Despite Lo’s extreme dismay, other passengers all act as if nothing has happened…


5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Length: 16 hrs


Big Little Lies


Get ready to stay on the edge of your seat for this one because the manipulative plot twists will leave you exhausted yet curious to see what follows. However, that’s not to say this story can’t be light-hearted. While you’re doing your weekly grocery shopping, Big Little Lies can throw you into occasional giggle fits in front of the vegetable sector. From beginning to end, Moriarty leaves seemingly inconsequential clues that will poke fun at your curiosity. As one strange occurrence unfolds another,  the story quickly gathers pace and gradually accumulates to reach an astonishingly satisfying ending that will leave you breathless. 


6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Length: 7hrs 47mins


Neil Gaiman


Both written and performed by Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book is one filled with thrilling adventures. The central character, Nobody Owens (yes, that’s literally his name), more often referred to by his friends as Bod, seems like an average boy except he lives in a graveyard and was brought up by ghosts. A ghostly entity belonging to neither the living nor the dead acts the role of his guardian and Bod is safe, for now. As long as he does not leave the graveyard, he will be protected from Jack – the man responsible for slaughtering Bod’s family.


7. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

Length: 9 hrs and 59 mins

The Sixth Extinction


As one of the three recommended books from Stanford for this year, The Sixth Extinction imagines the world undergoing another mass extinction that wipes out half of all living organisms on Earth. With a healthy dose of humor, Kolbert turns this disaster into something bearable for readers who remain unaware of the threats posed by human behavior.


8. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Length: 6 hrs 1min

Agatha Christie


Also narrated by Dan Stevens, And Then There Were None is the one of the world’s best-selling murder mystery you are guaranteed to enjoy. Ten strangers are lured onto an isolated island by the same mysterious “U.N. Owen”. At dinner, a recorded audio message accuses every guest member of keeping a dark and guilty secret. By the end of the evening, one out of ten is dead. From then on, one by one, each and everyone one fears for their fate. To survive, they must resolve the hidden connections behind each other and spell out the complete story before one more person falls…


9. Matilda by Ronald Dahl

Length: 4hrs 18mins



Matilda Wormwood is a smart, sweet girl unaware of her true powers and unappreciated by her heartless parents. At home, she suffers from ill-treatment from sluggish and selfish family member; at school, she is attacked by the cruel and ruthless Miss Trunchbull. Fortunately, her timely discovery of her supernatural power reverses the game. Read by Academy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet, this childhood classic will prove to be the most useful and educative way to pacify unsettling children.


10. The Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Peter Kenny

Length: 11hrs 3mins


Book cover


Before his 100th birthday party, Allan Karlsson sits quietly in the old people’s home, wistfully looking out the window and contemplating about what life still has to offer. He cannot reach a conclusive answer but what he does know is that this party simply cannot happen. He takes a leap from his window, steps into the flowerbed and begins his belated adventure. Throughout this spontaneous journey, Allan encounters several deaths and dangerous criminals only to end up with a suitcase loaded with cash. Along these strange happenings, we learn more of Allan’s past and his role in some of the revolutionary moments in the 20th century.


11. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Length: 11hrs 35mins


Pride and Prejudice


In this audible version of Austen’s timeless romance, Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Pride and Prejudice) with her experience in the 2005 film adaptation delivers a satisfying narration and succeeds in bringing the story of the Bennett sisters into vivacity. In Pride and Prejudice, the Bennett Sisters and their tangled relationships with potential marriage partners concoct a thoughtful story that details the importance of first impressions and captures that tingling feeling associated with falling in love.


13. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Length: 9hrs 9 mins

A Man Called Ove


Ove is a curmudgeon who is not afraid of pointing out those he dislikes. For his strict principles and stubborn personality, people refer to him as “the bitter neighbor from hell”. However, beneath his surface layer of crankiness and unease, there’s a tragic story that explains his acerbity.


14. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Length: 2hrs 18mins


Mansfield Park


This dramatized reading of Mansfield Park could be perfect if your drive is short. Performed by Benedict Cumberbatch, David Tennant and Felicity Jones, the story of young Fanny Price living with her rich aunt and uncle will make you unable to unplug your headphones.


15. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Length: 10 hrs and 8 mins


Dark Matter


“Are you happy with your life?”

These are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him into an unconscious limbo. As he reopens his eyes, he finds himself tightly strapped to a gurney and surrounded by strange men dressed in hazmat suits. In this unfamiliar world that he has found himself within, his wife is not his wife, his son had never been born and he is not the average physics professor but a mathematical genius who has created something remarkable for mankind. As Jason begins to question reality, he is forced to confront his deepest, darkest terrors while standing up to a formidable enemy.


All image courtesy of Audible and http://bit.ly/2pDPvDg



Picture of Dragonstone, highlighting the beach in the front and a few of the dragons flying to the keep.

5 Fictional Places We Wish Were Real

It’s only the middle of the week and you are waiting to go to the beach or counting down the days until vacation. For some, maybe you’re just waiting for the weather to not be so humid.


But some of our favorite books provide even better summer escape destinations. If only these were real…


1. The Capitol from “The Hunger Games”

Image of The Capitol, which shows a sleek city in daylight, highlighting a modern bridge.

Image courtesy of Pinterest


Yes, absolutely, it’s a symbol of oppression and tyranny, but it also seems like a technological paradise. The Capitol lifestyle is needlessly excessive, but some of the excesses are pleasant. For instance, imagine finishing an entrée at a restaurant only to realize your date’s meal tastes better. The Capitol’s got you covered: just drink their special concoction, and you have room for a second dinner. Second dinner! Imagine that.


2. Rivendell from “The Lord of the Rings”

Image of Rivendell, which is a nice city perched in a valley, surrounded by waterfalls.

Image courtesy of Vanderstelt Studio


Whether in the movies or the books, Rivendell is the perfect postcard destination. Relax in a small city perched in a deep valley, listen to water rushing down from dizzying heights or walk along the gorgeous bridges connecting the various buildings. Some serious business may be being discussed by the Council of Elrond, but numerous great writers have also found this location to be a killer spot to write. Bilbo Baggins is just one!


3. Octavia from “Invisible Cities”

Illustration of Octavia, which is a bunch of buildings suspended over a mountain.

Image courtesy of Pinterest


Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” contains dozens of descriptions of fascinating locales. Per Marco Polo’s description, Octavia sounds especially mind-bending. It’s a city suspended over an abyss, described to be like a spider-web. Sure, it’ll fall at any moment, but a short weekend getaway might be exciting. Imagine coming out of work and looking down at nothingness. Breathtaking!


4. The Ministry of Magic from “Harry Potter”

Picture of the Ministry of Magic, which features a big statue of a gryffin in the center of a complex.

Image courtesy of Pottermore


Getting caught in rush hour is frankly soul crushing. Whether it’s a messed up train schedule or bumper-to-bumper traffic, the commute can often be the most harrowing part of the work day.


Nevertheless, magic may prove to be the answer to all these problems. Just hop into a fireplace (unlit preferably), use some Floo Powder, and, poof, you’re home from work. Imagine having offices in The Ministry of Magic! The idea of avoiding the evening rush is the most magical gift J.K. Rowling has bestowed.


5. Dragonstone from “Game of Thrones”

Picture of Dragonstone from Game of Thrones, which is a stark looking fortress overlooking an ocean.

Image courtesy of Game of Thrones Wiki


The massive walkway can be tiresome, but stumbling upon a vacant fortress would be a nice change of pace. Between the gorgeous dragon engravings and beachfront view, Dragonstone makes a splendid gothic getaway. It’s an especially welcome change if you’ve just come from Meereen and are staging a coup for the Seven Kingdoms. We can all relate to that.


Featured image courtesy of Daily Dot