Geek Chic: Hotspots for Summer Vacations


by Tony Kontzer

Any self-respecting geek knows a good summer getaway isn't built around Disneyland or the Grand Canyon or Hawaii, places where the normal, non-techie throngs gather.

Instead, it's about someplace quirky or scientific or laden with fantasy. Someplace that channels the inner child. Someplace that makes them feel, well, geeky.

IT workers can plan any of the trips mentioned here and count on filling some part of their geeky dreams.

1) Lord of the Rings locales, New Zealand

Numerous tour operators in New Zealand can help you tap your inner Gandalf, offering LOTR day trips with names like "The Quest" and "Trails to Middle-Earth." You'll visit such fanciful locales as Hobbiton, Rivendell and Edoras, capital of Rohan. And you can probably pick up some really tasty meat pie while you're there.

If you can't afford the flight to Auckland, consider a consolation trip to Philadelphia for a performance of Star Trek: The Exhibition, at The Franklin Institute through Sept. 20.

2) Comic-Con, San Diego

Comic Book collectors who feel they just haven't quite finished their collections will want to be in Southern California July 23-26, when the 40th annual Comic-Con conference holds fort at the San Diego Convention Center. One highlight: Hellboy creator Mike Mignola will be there talking about the impact of Hollywood on comics.

3) Roswell, New Mexico

It's too late to make the Roswell UFO Festival, which concludes July 5, but even if you can't there's still plenty for a card-carrying geek to like about a potential visit to the alleged location of the nation's most-famous UFO incident. Just remember, if you see a dude in a black suit wearing dark glasses, stay away.

4) Biosphere 2, Tucson, Ariz.

Socially conscious geeks surely will want to make the pilgrimage to Tucson someday to visit this futuristic complex, where scientist and researchers are attempting to advance our understanding of the Earth and how our living here affects it. They'd have worked on better understanding IT, but they wanted to start with something less complex.

5) Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, Seattle

Visit this facility, which opened just five years ago, and you'll find exhibits about such things as aliens, futuristic cities, and space travel. Even better, while you're there, you can visit the adjoining Experience Music Project and perhaps find some Michael Jackson memorabilia leftover from. Extra bonus: You'll have no excuses if you don't return home with some great coffee.

6) Dinosaur Digs, various locations in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota

Jump online and you'll find numerous operators of dino digs, each of which provides adventurers with the chance to dig up dinosaur bones. The workaholic nature of techies is well-served here--excavating dinosaur remains is hard work, and conditions are hot and dusty. In other words, it shouldn't be that much different than your data center.

7) Silicon Valley, California

Few people consider it, but a stay in Silicon Valley can yield lots of benefits for geeks. Start with a visit to San Jose's impressive Tech Museum. Move on to such landmarks as San Francisco's spectacular new Academy of Sciences, UC Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science, and the underappreciated Computer History Museum in Mountain View. And don't forget to hit the famed Palo Alto garage where HP was born. (Alternatively, a trip to Bangalore--a.k.a. "The Silicon Valley of India"--could yield some inexpensive programming talent, or at least a crash course in operating a call center.)

8) Outer Space Circuit, Switzerland-Quebec-Florida

For space enthusiasts, a dream trip awaits. Start at Alpine Astrovillage Lue-Stailas in the Swiss Alps for an unforgettable amateur astrophotography experience. On the way back, stop in Laval, Quebec to attend the Cosmodome Space Camp, and then cap your space-themed vacation with a visit to Florida's Kennedy Space Center. If you can't make the Space Shuttle Endeavor's liftoff on or about July 11, try getting there for the planned launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on Aug. 18.