Travel

Zooey Deschanel Talks Broadway, Mickey Mouse, and Maybe Packing Cubes

The funny, lovable movie star shares what it's like to travel with family.

Photo courtesy of Zooey Deschanel
Photo courtesy of Zooey Deschanel
Photo courtesy of Zooey Deschanel

To answer the “Who’s that girlllll?” question posed in New Girl’s catchy intro: It’s Zooey Deschanel, of course. The L.A. native has stayed in the spotlight through the years, spanning comedic roles in the likes of Elf with Will Ferrell to dramas like The Happening with Mark Wahlberg. And, yes, New Girl-in which she starred in seven seasons as the beloved teacher Jessica Day-remains a bingeable favorite for so many. These days, she’s rockin’ on many fronts. Her band She & Him released its latest album in 2022, a tribute to Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson.

Amid it all, she’s a big travel fan, particularly when it comes to hitting the road with her two kids, Elsie and Charlie, or her boyfriend, Jonathan Scott, star of Property Brothers. This love for travel is perhaps best accentuated by her new partnership with Choice Hotels, in which she appears as a “Fairy Hotel Mother,” helping travel dreams come true. Nowadays, her latest travel highlights come with so many useful tips on traveling with family, which she shares in her own words. As told to Jesse Scott.I’m always traveling, and for many different purposes. I fly solo if I’m going for business or something related. Then Jonathan and I will travel by ourselves. I also go on trips with my kids. Traveling with my family is great.

When I’m traveling, I like being in cities. I love going to New York-we went recently, and it was really fun, because we got to see two shows in the city. My boyfriend and I saw Funny Girl, which was fantastic. Then we took the kids to their first Broadway show, Harry Potter at the Lyric Theatre. That was something special-they sat through the entire thing and really enjoyed it.

What’s funny is I remember going to see a Broadway show when I was four, and I talked the entire time. I talked so much that my mom had to take me out of there. I was the opposite of my kids-I never paid attention to things.

But when my daughter was three, she sat through the whole “Nutcracker.” It was pretty impressive, because it’s ballet. I was thinking, “We’re going to make it to intermission, maybe?” But sure enough, if there’s a good story, they’re in it for the long haul.

Photo courtesy of Zooey Deschanel
Photo courtesy of Zooey Deschanel
Photo courtesy of Zooey Deschanel

When it comes to traveling with family, being in close proximity to things that will entertain kids is important.

Recently I went to Disney World. I love Epcot-it’s a place for grownups. But my kids loved Magic Kingdom, because they love all the fairytale kind of rides. There’s a new ride there, Guardians of the Galaxy, that’s just awesome.I brought an electric fan thing to Disney World, thinking it was essential. I thought, “Oh, we’re going to use this thing for sure!” And then I never once used it. We were actually particularly lucky; we went in the springtime, and it was still pretty cloudy and comfortable.

Also, going into this trip, there had been people who suggested packing cubes and I was like, “No, I don’t do packing cubes.” After this trip, having to repack and unpack and repack so many things, I thought “Okay, I may do packing cubes.”

Every trip is different, and that’s why I’m a little obsessed with having an easy little daypack with everything you need. Everyone gets blisters on their feet, someone inevitably falls and grazes their knee, and sunblock is important. You have to have just enough supplies that you’re not going to be totally miserable having to carry around a huge, heavy backpack. It has to be something small and lightweight that’s got your family’s essentials.

Photo courtesy of Zooey Deschanel
Photo courtesy of Zooey Deschanel
Photo courtesy of Zooey Deschanel

Also, food options for kids are important. I love food so much-the more food options the better, which is a big part of traveling in cities. Growing up, we went to Europe a lot, and that feels very nostalgic for me. I lived in London when I was a kid, and my dad is half-French, so we would spend a lot of time in Paris and Lyon, where my grandmother is from. We usually go every summer.

I’ve never been to Australia, and I’ve always wanted to go. I’m hoping to make that happen soon.

I’ve traveled with my sister and her son a bit, and we do a regular trip with my kids, my boyfriend, and my kids’ dad as well. We try to do this kind of togetherness, because we’re all co-parenting. The kids are so happy when we’re all together. And if the kids are happy, I’m happy, too.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Jesse Scott is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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