Wellington: Two days, 20 dates

By Mike Yardley

Fresh from Sevens Heaven - and all those outrageously costumed spectators - the self-described Events Capital of New Zealand has an upcoming roll-call of big gigs to circle on the calendar.
Whether it be for a weekend escape or a more languid layover, Wellington rolls out the welcome mat like few cities can.
I still get a thrill flying into Wellington and gazing down on the majestic harbour and throng of multi-storey Victorian wooden homes that step up the city's verdant valleys.
And no visit to the capital is complete until you have undertaken your fill of Wellington essentials. Fortify yourself with a fresh brew on ritzy Oriental Parade, before scooting up to Mt Victoria for what is arguably New Zealand's most famous metropolitan view.
For a different panoramic perspective, traverse the Kelburn hillside on the cable car, which shuttles people up and down Wellington's lung-busting backdrop every 10 minutes from Lambton Quay.
For a dose of retail revelry, commence your browsing at the grand dame of department stores, Kirkcaldie & Stains. I also highly recommend a short diversion to historic Thorndon, which is bustling with a compelling assortment of boutique stores and antique shops.
Middle Earth mania is in for a renaissance, with The Hobbit preparing to enter production phase. Peter Jackson's movie-making legacy is magnificently presented at the Weta Cave. The Miramar hot-spot is an interactive shrine to the company's ingenious work on King Kong, The Chronicles of Narnia and the Rings trilogy. The behind-the-scenes film footage and face-to-face encounters with blockbuster characters rightly make "the cave" a must-see family hit.

For a complete change of scenery, a visit to Parliament can stir the heart of the politically apathetic. The architectural richness of the House of Representatives really does have to been seen to be believed. Make time to enjoy a free guided tour of the building, which is immensely rewarding. Tours operate daily, on the hour.
Wellington's red-hot arts scene continues to burn bright. Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand, needs no introduction. However, some special exhibitions currently being staged are well worth checking out.
Slice of Heaven: 20th Century Aotearoa continues until October, exploring the dramatic changes that united, divided and redefined our nation in the past century. From gay rights and the 1981 Springbok tour, to the Maori renaissance and our nation's stance on global issues, it's a smartly packaged exhibition.
Brian Blake : Lens of the World showcases the work of New Zealand's most globally recognised photographer, whose snapshots of humanity are beautifully captured and instantly evocative. The free exhibition runs until May 8.
Stay and play in the capital of hospitality
A long-standing and much-loved player in Wellington's hotel scene is the property that takes its name from a great explorer.
The James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor has captured the affections of discerning travellers for many years - and continues to. Ideally located in the heart of the capital, the property boasts 268 rooms and suites loaded with contemporary comforts.
Splash out on a Suite or Club King Room and enjoy direct access to the Club Lounge, housed on the 26th floor, with panoramic views across the capital, complimentary drinks and gourmet breakfast. The in-house restaurant, Whitby's, takes its name from Cook's birthplace and serves up a range of dining choices, from buffet to a la carte.
High tea-lovers are in for a treat at the James Cook. The daily service offers a choice of Classic High Tea ( complete with tiered stands stacked with tasty morsels) , or a decadent chocolate-based adaptation.
And if you're in need of a bit of "me time", you can't go past the in-house spa, Bodyhaven.
* The Events Capital of New Zealand has a packed calendar in the coming months. Here are a few  key dates:
* The Vector Wellington Orchestra is centre-stage at the Government House Summer Concert on March 5.
* The splash and colour of the Dragon Boat Festival takes to the water on the weekend of March 19 -20.
* Lionel Richie will have you dancing all night long on March 20, while Gerry & The Pacemakers trip down memory lane on April 3.
* For further information, go to www.wellingtonnz.com

- Northern Advocate

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