Even geeks and nerds need to take a little vacation every once in a while. They simply can’t spend all of their time working on code, doing experiments in the science lab, gaming, reading stacks upon stacks of comic books and generally living up to all the stereotypes and cliches expected of them. If you have an interest in the history of scientific discovery, space travel, or you just love comics and toys, then there are certain unique destinations that are sure to stimulate your mind and offer you some great memories as well. Some of these locales are high tech, while some of them are low key, but they all offer endless hours of geeky, nerdy fun.
Geek culture has left its niche and become effectively mainstream in the last ten years or so. Every year movie theatres around the world are filled to the brim with big-budget superhero and sci-fi movies, video games are played by almost everyone in their 20s and 30s, and physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson is now considered one of the coolest people on the planet – and for good reason, too. So, why not embrace your geeky and nerdy side, grab your suitcase that looks like a Gameboy, pack your favorite Asimov book to read on the plane, and head to one, or maybe more, of these nerd paradises around the world.
12. Akihabara in Tokyo
This is where all the Otakus (Japanese for nerd) gather in Japan’s capital. Get off at Akihabara Station and right outside the main exit is a Gundam Wing café. Every second store on the main street of the district is either a toyshop, a manga store (a style of Japanese comics) or a video game shop. If you are looking for a Famicom (original Japanese Nintendo), then this is the place to go. Girls dressed in maid outfits line the streets enticing you into one of the many maid cafés in Akihabara. If you need a break from shopping for geeky Japanese things, then head to one of the many massive arcades.
11. Legoland in Billund, Denmark
Most people know about Legoland California. This one, however, is based in the country where Lego was born, and as the original Legoland it’s the one you must visit if you want an authentic experience. Lego is one of the most collectable toys in the world. Now that the Danish company has the license to build sets based on Star Wars, Batman, Avengers, Back to the Future, The Simpsons and Ghostbusters, the toys are geekier than ever and they’re not just for kids anymore. Lego creator and founder Ole Kirk Christiansen designed Legoland Billund. Throughout the park you will find Lego models of Star wars scenes, safari animals and miniatures of Danish landmarks.
10. Odaiba in Tokyo
Tokyo really is a geek’s paradise, and it’s so huge that one entry on this list simply would not suffice. On the man-made island of Odaiba you will find one of the geekiest things in the world. Standing 60 feet tall is a lit up, life-sized model of a Mobile Suit Gundam mech right in front of the DiverCity shopping center. The night air is filled with the mechanical whirring of the giant robot and its lights illuminate the boardwalk. Odaiba is also home to other popular nerdy spots like the Toyota Mega Web (a Toyota car museum) and a pretty cool Lego park (Legoland Discovery Center).
9. NASA Tourism Centers in the USA
NASA has 14 tourist centers across the United Sates. If you’re inclined to take a road trip across the good old US of A and visit all of them, then a ‘Passport to Explore Space’ might be worthwhile – the program is free and gives visitors discounts on NASA tours. Four of the 14 visitor centers house retired space shuttles. Space Shuttle Atlantis is at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Space Shuttle Enterprise is at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space museum in New York, Space Shuttle Discovery is at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia and Space Shuttle Endeavour is at the California Science Center.
8. Middle Earth AKA New Zealand
The little country of New Zealand has received no bigger promotion for its tourism industry than when Peter Jackson filmed all six Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies there. Lord of the Rings has become synonymous with New Zealand and the country’s currency and airlines have even been adorned with Hobbit and Lord of the Rings artwork. Several tourism agencies have created Lord of the Rings tourism packages. Travelers can visit Lord of the Rings locales such as Hobbiton, which has been recreated from the films. Helicopter tours are offered over the glacier-filled southern lakes in the Queenstown area where Isengard and Lothlorien scenes were shot. Kaitoke Regional Park near Wellington doubled as Rivendell, and Tongariro National Park on the North Island doubled as Mordor. In Wellington, visitors can check out the Weta Cave and get an inside look at the special effects industry.
7. Endor AKA Redwood National and State Parks in California
Many visit these parks every year, but not everyone realizes they’re actually walking through the inspiration for the forest moon of Endor. George Lucas used the Tall Trees Redwood Grove in the northern part of Humboldt County to double for the Ewok’s stronghold in Return of the Jedi. Moreover, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Patrick’s Point State Park were used to film scenes of the Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World. When you’re hiking watch out for scout troopers and t-rexes.
6. Comic Book Heaven AKA New York City and New Jersey
New York City is filled with geeky tourist spots. Midtown Comics in Time Square is one of the largest comic book stores in the world and the Flat Iron Building was used for exterior shots of the Daily Bugle in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy. Take a ride across the bridge to Jersey and visit Kevin Smith’s comic book store Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash; the Secret Stash is where the highly entertaining AMC reality show Comic Book Men is filmed.
5. Petra, Jordan
This ancient city was featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This UNESCO site is a great place to visit if you fancy yourself an adventurer and are in search of the Holy Grail. Filming for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade took place at the Al Kazeneh temple, which served as the location of the Holy Grail in the third Indiana Jones film.
4. Marvel Theme Parks
Face front true believer! If you fancy yourself a Marvelite then there is a wealth of theme park fun to be had. The Islands of Adventure in Universal Studios Florida feature a Spider-Man ride and a Hulk roller coaster, and costumed superheroes like Wolverine and Captain America walk around the park greeting visitors. Marvel just announced a huge traveling theme park and stage show, which will be making its way through numerous cities throughout North America over the next couple of years, and a Marvel theme park is currently being built in Dubai.
3. Galileo Museum in Florence, Italy
The Museo Galileo is devoted to one of the greatest pioneers in the realm of scientific discovery: Galileo Galilei. Founded by the University of Florence, the museum takes you on a journey to the past to learn about this famous physicist and his contributions to the scientific revolution. Numerous scientific tools such as telescopes and navigational instruments that date back to the 1500s are on display.
If you’re super nerdy and uber-wealthy, you can book yourself a ticket to board Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo. Dubbed as the first commercial suborbital flight, passengers pay a ticket price of a cool $250,000 USD to board. Virgin Galactic, which hopes to make the inaugural space tourism flight with passengers on board soon, operates out of Spaceport America, which is the first space tourism airport. Other major space tourism providers and commercial space programs like Elon Musk’s Space X and Up Aerospace also use the facility.
1. Comic Con
Sand Diego Comic Con has become so huge that almost every big blockbuster is promoted at the event. A-list movie stars attend the event and many put on costumes of their own so they can walk the halls and visit the many booths without being recognized by adoring fans. Visitors can spend thousands on rare toys and comics, while budget-conscious tourists can simply take home any of the many free promo items that are handed out.