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Travel Hotspots That Will Nurture Your Inner Nerd

The Yoda Fountain
The Yoda Fountain of Lucasfilm’s Headquarters near San Francisco (source: dougSawyer)

Didn’t “geek” used to be derogatory? When once to be called a “geek” was enough to cause one to have a lifelong inferiority complex, it now is considered a badge of honor. Consider Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg–both self-described lifelong geeks. Who’s laughing now?

Geeks have many places to feel welcome, other than an online chat room on astrophysics and its role in baking a cake! The following places draw those with insatiable appetites for knowledge, particularly non-mainstream knowledge. No, you don’t even have to be a geek to enter, although it’s much cooler if you are!

Even non-Star Wars groupies will love the Yoda Fountain at Lucasfilm’s Headquarters (1 Letterman Drive in The Presidio) in San Francisco.

The Lucasfilm Headquarters holds Lucas Arts, Industrial Light & Magic and all of the marketing, licensing and online units of Lucasfilm. The lobby of Building B can be accessed by the general public during business hours, where one can view props and costumes from Star Wars movies, as well as other Lucasfilm memorabilia. But the Yoda Fountain is one of the biggest hits, a life-sized Jedi in the middle of a small fountain, with the wise Yoda looking serenely into the distance. Like the Mona Lisa, you may have to strain up on your tippy-toes to get a good view with all the fan boys, fan girls and tourists who flock to the sacred site and you don’t have to spend a dime unless of course you want to ask Yoda for a wish!

Midtown Comics (200 W. 40th St., 2nd Floor) in New York, is a comic-geek’s dream come true, with aisles and aisles of full runs, annuals, alternatives, variants, pull lists, previews, CGC graded, one-shots, back issues, action figures, apparel, graphic novels, young readers’ comic books, signed books and art books, PHEW! You won’t just find characters that look like they just walked out of “Big Bang Theory” in here because businessmen, homemakers, models and celebrities come here to release their latent children. Part of a chain, many folks who are comic experts claim this one’s the “real deal,” not to be missed. Yes it’s doesn’t cost anything to walk in but how much you are tempted to spend is totally up to you!

Musée Mécanique (Pier 45, Shed A at the end of Taylor Street), San Francisco, is one of the most fascinating display of antique mechanically-operated arcade machines and musical instruments in the world. Children marvel (and snicker) at the hand-cranked music boxes while grandparents reminisce and wonder why on earth they don’t make things like they used to.

Everything from “Laughing Sal” to the most modern arcade games is represented. The private owner has taken great lengths to preserve the pieces and his obsession is obvious. This free to visit museum is open 365 days a year and is a treat for everyone visiting Fisherman’s Wharf.

Ghibli Museum, Tokyo
Ghibli Museum, the Tim Burton-esque museum in Tokyo

The Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, Japan (1-1-83 Simorenjaku, Mitaka-shi) is what Willy Wonka would have created had he not had such a sweet tooth. Full of all kinds of modern cartoon characters, kitsch, retro and long-gone play toys, it also has a bookstore, cafe, bizarre and intriguing frescoes painted on the ceilings, and interactive activities. It’s a Tim Burton movie that has come to life! Tickets cost around 1000 JPY which is around $13 or GBP 9.00.

The Stephen Center
The National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (source: Llee_wu)

The National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which is located in Chantilly, VA, is an aeronautics and aviation geek’s playground. On display is the largest aviation and space artefacts collection in the world.

Visitors are able to get up-close and personal with the artefacts and aircraft in display cases, as well as view those hanging from the ceiling. Some notable displays include the Boeing Dash 80, which is the prototype of the 707; the Boeing B-29 Super fortress Enola Gay; the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest jet in the world; and the Gemini VII space capsule. The newest attraction includes the recently added Space shuttle Discovery.

If you one of those who can sit at the airport during a layover for hours and hours and remain sane because you can watch the air traffic, the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower gives you that opportunity without actually having to fly somewhere. There’s also the Airbus IMAX Theatre, flight simulators, a store, tours and food available. Even that ubiquitous “space ice cream.” Tickets to various exhibits start from $9.00.

Rancho Obi Wan
The Rancho Obi Wan ultimate Star Wars Memorabilia museum near San Francisco

Rancho Obi-Wan is like the ultimate New York nightclub’s VIP room for fashionistas and star-obsessed 20-somethings. Rancho Obi-Wan is also for the star-obsessed, but the celestial ones, not the Hollywood ones. It takes an invitation from Rancho Obi-Wan’s founder, Steve Sansweet, author of 14 Star Wars books and long-time Star Wars ambassador for Lucasfilms.

The non-profit memorabilia museum on the outskirts, in Petaluma, Calif., is just 50 minutes from San Francisco. It’s been recently remodelled and holds 35 years of Star Wars memorabilia from all over the world. If Steve doesn’t have it, then it exists purely in your overactive imagination. The Rancho Obi Wan is not open to the general public but you buy a membership and can book a private tour led by Steve Sansweet, your own private tour, what more could any geek ask for!

The Wellcome Collection (at 183 Euston Road in London) is a free museum that contains exhibits on the role of medicine in culture, both past and present…and future. There are many interactive exhibits here, as well as a library, bookshop, cafe and facilities in which to hold conferences.

The founder, Sir Henry Wellcome, was a geek before his time as well as an adventurous traveller. His intense affinity for all things medical led him to acquire more than a million related objects. Today the library has more than 750,000 journals and books, and his trust is the world’s largest independent charitable foundation which funds human and animal health-related research. It receives more than 30,000 readers each year.

The Royal Observatory (Blackheath Avenue, Greenwich, SE10 8XJ) doesn’t just study the beginning of time… it IS the beginning of time, as it is the site of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian. Also, it happens to be home of London’s sole planetarium, the U.K.’s largest refracting telescope and the Harrison timekeepers.

It’s quite a deal for all you quantum-physics geeks of the world…entrance to the Astronomy Center is free. Entrance to the Meridian Courtyard and Flamsteed House are £7. Entry FREE to Members.

For more Geek Travel spots and to find out which geek celebrity recommended the above hotspots, take a look at Hostelbookers’ Geek Travel Map.

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