Family Travel (Cool For Adults Too)

The Magical Way into Harry Potter’s Wizarding World

If you are planning a vacation to Central Florida with young Muggles, odds are high that they’ve tugged on your arm begging you to take them to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The attraction, a part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, has been Orlando’s hottest attraction since it opened in June of 2010.

Nearly any kid who’s a fan of the J.K. Rowling books will eat up everything about the Wizarding World like so many Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. But what about the parents?

The good news for adults is that, while the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is far from mind blowingly amazing, it does have cool elements to it. There’s also one piece of advice that in itself can make your visit there turn out somewhere between tolerable and fun. For that, Dear Reader, continue on . . .

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The Beach in the Middle of the Meadow

Though not on the sea, water at the beach falls and rises with the tides.

In Spain, it isn’t surprising to find a crystal-clear waters lapping up against a golden sand beach. Yet it is completely surprising when you come across Spain’s Playa del Gulpiyuri. That’s because this unusual beach isn’t on the Atlantic Ocean. And it isn’t on the Mediterranean sea. It isn’t even on a lake or next to a river. Instead, Gulpiyuri beach is in the middle of a meadow!

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The Emerson Resort and the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope

There are plenty of rural lodges with log cabin architecture and a family-friendly environment. And there are also a myriad of modern hotels that offer a luxurious, adults-only atmosphere. But we only know of one resort that is both of those at once: The Emerson in Mt. Tremper, New York.

Spot Cool Stuff went to visit The Emerson as part of our road trip test drive of a Kia Sportage EX and our family road trip around the Catskills area of New York State. We stayed at The Lodge at the Emerson (the family-friendly section of the resort), toured The Inn at the Emerson (the resort’s adult portion) and did some shopping at the resort’s country store, which, among other things, is the unlikely home to the world’s largest kaleidoscope. Here’s what we found at each:

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A Family Road Trip Around the Catskills

Less than a 90-minute drive from New York City, but seemingly much further away in terms of scenery and pace of life, the Catskills Mountains and is a land of cool inns, charming bed and breakfasts, gourmet cafes, scenic hikes, ski resorts, antique shops — and a surprising number unusual attractions.

Spot Cool Stuff recently returned from a week-long road trip around the Catskills. In addition to being a family vacation, the trip was an opportunity to test drive a Kia Sportage compact SUV.

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The Largest Water Park in the Caribbean

Somehow, kids make it look easy the first time they hop on a SurfStream simulated wave.

For such a sun-drenched, humidity-soaked, tourist-filled region, the Caribbean has surprisingly few really great water parks. Perhaps the best of them, and certainly the largest, is at the all-inclusive Beaches Resort in the Turks & Caicos. It’s there that Pirates Island beacons the young — and the young at heart.

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The Glowworm Cave

When it is time for vacation and you go online to research ideas, it often happens that small things can make a big difference in choosing your destination.

Take, for instance, the tiny glowworm. The unusual creature is only about the size of a small mosquito. But when gathered in a large group, the glimmering effect the glowworms create can be worth traversing the globe for.

And you likely will have to traverse a large portion of the globe to experience the glow of the glowworm, unless you happen to live Down Under. That’s where the majority of glowworm habitats are located.

The very best place to go glowworm gazing? That’s inside the appropriately-named Glowworm Cave in Waitomo, New Zealand.

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Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions

The Edinburgh Castle is the largest and most famous tourist attraction in Scotland’s capital. But in its shadow, almost literally, there’s another must-visit destination: The Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions. Operating since 1835, it’s part unusual art gallery, part interactive science museum, part surreal funhouse — and entirely entertaining.

As an attraction, Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions consists of two parts. It will surely come as stunning news that these are: 1) the Camera Obscura and 2) the World of Illusions.

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How To Go Boating in a Hot Tub

Hot Tub Time Machine is terrible. But a hot tub boat? Now that’s cool!

Spot Cool Stuff loves unlikely hybrids of two travel products. Previously we’ve reviewed a scooter that doubles as a wheeled bag, a wheeled bag that’s also a backpack and a backpack that’s also a downhill bike, among other hybrid travel products.

In that spirit of Dr. Moreau-inspired travel ideas comes hot tub boating.

There are, surprisingly, at least two places on the planet where you can take a small boat out in the water whilst simultaneously lounging in a hot tub. One is in Seattle. The another in IJlst, Holland.

It might be the coolest travel hybrid experience we’ve found since the tent-hammock-treehouse. Our look at each:

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