Travelling doesn’t just have to be about beautiful scenery, extreme adventures or boutique hotels. Sometimes you’ve got to surrender to the geek in you, and visit somewhere a little bit different. There are plenty of great places around the world to satisfy even the geekiest of guys and girls. Here are 10 of the best:
1. Cern – Switzerland
The current talking point of geek cool is the infamous Large Hadron Collider CERN’s particle accelerator. While the LHC might be off limits now it’s operational, CERN has plenty to offer visitors, with The Globe being its showpiece. A huge timber dome structure, The Globe is home to a science and innovation exhibition, and its high tech exhibits are not to be missed. Book well in advance for a guided tour of CERN’s laboratories, and soak up the science facts!
2. Atacama telescope – Chile
The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile’s Atacama Desert is a billion dollar high-powered telescope project with a global investment. The telescope array is set on the Chajnantor plateau, at a dizzying 5000 metre altitude. A hotel for ALMA staff is expected to be built by 2014 (at a lower altitude), while a visitor centre, guided tours and exhibitions are planned for 2013.
3. Apple Company Store – San Francisco, USA
The computing giant may have more money than the US Government (ish!) and certainly don’t need any more cash, but for Mac devotees there’s one Apple Shop that’s really worth visiting: The Company Store. This Apple Shop is located in Apple’s HQ in Cupertino, California, and is the home of some amazing Mac merch. As the only place to legally buy such items, visitors flock here for Apple-branded mugs, t-shirts, notepads and more. Take home a shirt with I visited the Mothership for the ultimate in geek-chic.
4. Miniatur Wunderland – Hamburg, Germany
Not content with its title of the largest model railway in the world, Miniatur Wunderland is constantly growing. Started in 2000 by Frederik and Gerrit Braun, this incredibly popular model exhibition is due for completion in 2020 and features incredibly detailed working environments to explore. The Wunderland Airport features planes taking off, while the mini Las Vegas features 30,000 tiny lights.
5. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory – Pasadena, USA
NASA’s JPL is a research and development centre in the Pasadena area of Los Angeles, California. Responsible for building some of NASAs great space programs, JPL has constructed many spacecraft. Free public tours are available, including a visit to the enticing sounding Spacecraft Assembly Facility. Its yearly Open House weekends also attract thousands of visitors, and a busy lecture timetable is definitely worth checking out.
6. RoboGames Tournament – San Mateo, USA
This giant annual robo-fest in the San Francisco Bay Area is now the world’s largest, and certainly worth a visit. The Olympics of Robots lives up to its name, with a huge range of events to see. The best bit for all budding cybernetic geeks is that the events are open to all build your bot and compete in robo Kung-Fu, weightlifting, soccer, or even bartending! Check out the heavyweight 220-pound Combat robotics bouts for real twisted metal carnage.
7. Arecibo Observatory – Puerto Rico
This giant radio telescope is the biggest of its kind, and at 1000ft in diameter is a sight to behold. A giant sinkhole provides the setting for this huge dish, in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. It even featured in the James Bond movie GoldenEye. The telescope collects vital data, from mapping the surface of Mercury to detecting distant stars. The visitor centre is host to exhibitions, fascinating collections, and workshops, and of course, the obligatory on-site shop.
8. Microsoft Visitor Center – Redmond, USA
For computer geeks of a PC persuasion, a pilgrimage to the Microsoft heartland of Redmond, just outside Seattle is an absolute must. Microsoft’s Visitor Center is an immersive experience, with displays and exhibits, from early PCs to the latest interactive XBox games. There’s an on-site shop of course, and if nothing else you could spend the entire day playing Xbox guilt free!
9. NOESIS Science Centre & Technology Museum – Thessaloniki, Greece
A relative newcomer to the geek travel itinerary, the NOESIS Science Centre & Technology Museum is an impressive experience, in Thessaloniki, Greece. Boasting a huge digital planetarium, a 3D virtual reality simulator and Greece’s largest flat screen, NOESIS has so much to offer the inquisitive mind. Learn about ancient Greek technology, see an exhibition of classic cars, and get hands-on at the interactive Technopark.
10. Bandai Museum – Tokyo, Japan
One for the toy and gaming geeks, Bandai has been synonymous with video games model figures and animation for years. From Power Rangers to Tamagotchi and the massively popular Gundam series, Bandai have set up an odd collection of exhibits as part of their Toy Town in Mibu, a couple of hours from Tokyo. Exhibits include a model coal mine, a collection of toys from all over the world, some Thomas Edison inventions, and the main draw the 1:1 scale Gundam model.