You spend weeks planning, packing, and standing in a TSA line only to have your kid crap all over your vacation plans (literally and figuratively). But, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hobbiton in New Zealand is the only place this side of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter where kids can experience some real magic. Tour the Shire. Have a drink at the Green Dragon Inn. Buy a souvenir at Frodo’s boyhood gift shop!
The tourist site is actually located on a New Zealand family’s sheep and beef farm just southwest of Matamata, in Waikato, New Zealand. After Peter Jackson wrapped filming on the original trilogy, it reverted to being just another picturesque countryside outpost. The farm is still fully operational, and produces mutton, wool and beef. Fortunately for tourism, the sets were rebuilt in 2011 for the Hobbit movies. It’s at this point someone must’ve said, “Hey, don’t tear it down. We could probably make a ton of money off of this.” And so the legend of this permanent monument to LOTR geeks was born.
Hobbiton offers 2-hour guided tours through The Shire (much shorter than a journey to Mordor) at $79 NZD for adults 17+; $39.50 NZD for kids 9 – 16; and shockingly free for kids 0-8 years. This is presumably because your kid already looks like a resident —minus the hairy feet. The tour includes stops at the Hobbit Holes, Mill, Party Tree, Bilbo’s home, and other iconic set pieces from the movies. Afterwards, grab a second breakfast (and complimentary Hobbit-inspired ale) at an authentic reproduction of the Green Dragon Inn. Then go ahead and blow whatever’s left from your flight budget on replica memorabilia.
Beyond the basic package, there are also longer tours that offer a more comprehensive oral history of making the film, and some actual non-fantasy cultural experiences. The “Experience The Trilogy” package is the most immersive (and expensive — $757 for 2 adults and 2 kids, but that’s only about $540 USD). It includes the 2-hour movie set tour, a 45-minute tour of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, a 2-hour tour of Ruakuri Cave, and 4.5-hour tour of Te Puia, the cuisine and cultural capital of the Maori indigenous people. (Although your kid will probably dig it mostly for the Pohotu geyser.)
By the end of that long day, you’ll need to tuck your kid in like Frodo did to his Sam. Stay on one of the farms in the area, or leave the Shire behind and make the 2-hour drive to downtown Auckland. Because you’re going to need a break from all that culture.