Are you thinking about where to go on your next family vacation? If you’re geeks like us, you’ll want to check out our list of travel destinations that are perfect for families with geeky interests.
These locations are some of the coolest spots to indulge your family’s passions for science, technology, gaming, movies, television shows, anime, and so much more.
Japan is the ultimate destination for geeks. Whatever your interest, you’ll probably find something in Tokyo to enjoy.
If you’re a fan of the latest electronics, video games, anime or sci-fi, check out Akihabara Electric Town. This Tokyo neighborhood glows brightly with hundreds of neon signs inviting you into computer, camera and collectibles stores, manga shops, arcades, and maid cafes.
Just a few train stops away from Akihabara, Pokemon fans can shop and play at the Pokemon Center Sky Tree Town. If you’re a fan of tall buildings, you can also visit the observation deck of the Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest freestanding broadcast tower, for a 360-degree view of the city.
If you love Japanese teenage fashion and culture, don’t miss Takeshita Dori, a small narrow street lined with funky shops in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood. Be sure to visit on Sunday when lots of people gather in the area, decked out in their wildest fashions. Also, check out the huge Daiso Harajuku 100 Yen Shop (dollar store) and grab a snack at one of the awesome crepe stands. Plus, if you want to do some toy shopping, Kiddy Land is just a short walk away on Omotesando Street.
On Odaiba, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay, science fans can visit Miraikan, the National Museum for Emerging Science and Innovation. Here you can spend a couple of hours exploring their hands-on exhibits and seeing a demonstration of ASIMO, a humanoid robot. If you’re a Gundam fan, head to DiverCity Tokyo Plaza, which features attractions and shops related to the Gundam anime series, including a large Gundam statue in front of the building.
Fans of the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki and Ghibli Studios must visit the Ghibli Museum, located in the Tokyo suburb of Mitaka. The museum features unique animation exhibits and exclusive short films.
Disney geeks should not miss visiting the two Disney theme parks located in the Tokyo suburb of Maihama, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. While Tokyo Disneyland is a mix of classic and unique attractions, Tokyo DisneySea is almost completely unique amongst all Disney theme parks, and it’s amazing.
No trip to Japan is complete without a ride on the shinkansen, or bullet train. On some routes, the train can reach a top speed of around 170 miles per hour. The trip between Tokyo Station and Shin-Osaka Station can be made in as fast as 2 hours and 35 minutes. Osaka is a great second city to visit from Tokyo, especially if you’re a Harry Potter fan. Universal Studios Japan, with its Wizarding World of Harry Potter area, is located here. Osaka also has its own “Electric Town” called Den-Den, where you can find arcades, anime shops, and more.
So many movies and television shows have been filmed in and around London that walking through the city can feel like you’re on one giant set. So many filming locations are just the places most visitors go anyways – the London Eye, the Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, the Natural History Museum – and so on. Check out this list of the Top 10 Film Locations in London for some ideas for your visit.
One of our favorite movie series, partially set in London, is Harry Potter. You can visit a few filming sites around the city, but if you’re a true fan, you must visit the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter. Located just a short train ride from London, the studio tour is immersive and detailed. You’ll see costumes, props, sets, and so much more. Check out our complete guide to the studio tour before you go.
London is also home to engineering and design marvels that you can experience, like the Tower Bridge and the London Underground. Plus, you can visit some of the coolest-looking skyscrapers in the world. Check out our London guide for information on visiting the observation decks at The Shard and the Walkie Talkie.
Just a two-hour train ride from London is Cardiff, Wales, better known as the filming location for the long-running BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who. If you and your kids are Whovians, then Cardiff is a fun place for a day trip to search for sites used in various episodes. There are lots of great guides online, written by fans, that can help you find all the coolest and most memorable locations. Or, you can book a private tour.
Before you leave Cardiff, don’t forget to grab a treat at Science Cream, a liquid nitrogen ice cream parlor. Mad scientists in white coats and goggles will create custom desserts just for you.
Ever since the first Lord of the Rings movie was released, New Zealand has been known as the “Home of Middle-earth”. More than 150 locations in this beautiful country were used in the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy.
Lord of the Rings fans visiting New Zealand will find many tour options that will take you on hikes, drives, and helicopter rides to the coolest filming locations. You can even piece together your own tour. The New Zealand Tourism website has some wonderful suggested itineraries and maps.
Don’t forget to visit the city of Wellington, where the Weta Workshop is located. Weta has not only done design and effects work on the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, but they’ve also worked on Avatar, The Chronicles of Narnia, BFG, and one of our family’s favorite TV shows, Thunderbirds Are Go. Here you can take Weta Studio Tours to find out how they make TV and movie magic and see props and costumes from many of their projects.
Chicago is a family-friendly city with some really fun science and engineering attractions, especially for younger kids. One of our favorites is the Museum of Science and Industry. It’s filled with some of the coolest hands-on STEM exhibits that the whole family will enjoy. Check out our MSI Guide for everything you need to know about visiting this little slice of geek heaven.
If space is the place for you, then a visit to Adler Planetarium is in order. Once you’re done there, just walk next door and visit the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History. All three are located side-by-side in Chicago’s Museum Campus. It’s a perfect geek family day out.
If anyone in your family is a skyscraper fan, then Chicago has two of the best. The Willis Tower (formerly called the Sears Tower) is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Head up to its Skydeck on the 103rd floor for amazing views and to experience the Ledge. The Ledge lets you step into a glass box that extends out over 4 feet from the building. Only two of us were brave enough to do it!
The John Hancock Building’s 360 Chicago observation deck is “only” on the 94th floor. But, it boasts some seriously awesome views of the city and Lake Michigan. Plus, you can try TILT, if you dare! TILT is an enclosed moving platform that literally tilts you out over Michigan Avenue from 1000 feet up. Crazy fun.
If you love miniatures and train layouts, then Hamburg, Germany is the place to visit. Hamburg is the home of Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway exhibition. The exhibit includes over 1,000 trains, over 9,000 cars, 42 airplanes (that actually fly), and approximately 260,000 figures in 10 different landscapes. And, Miniatur Wunderland is still growing. During your visit, you can watch model builders and technicians work on their latest landscapes.
Not only is it massive in size, but Miniatur Wunderland is a technological marvel as well. The cars, trains and airplanes featured in the exhibit are all controlled by a computerized system that doesn’t just give them a fixed set of movements. Many of the vehicles are “smart” – they choose the best route through the exhibit based on traffic and roadway conditions.
If you tend to pay attention to the little details, plan to spend an entire day here. Yes, it’s THAT BIG!
Washington D.C. and its suburbs are home to some of the most amazing science and technology museums in the world.
One of the most popular is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. This museum is home to the world’s largest collection of aircraft and spacecraft. It also has a planetarium, flight simulators, IMAX movies, and more.
If a visit to the National Air and Space Museum isn’t enough to satisfy, you can visit its annex, located near Dulles Airport. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center has a lot of larger items in the museum’s collection, including the Space Shuttle Discovery. The center also has an observation tower for watching airplanes land and take off from the airport.
Nature and science enthusiasts will want to check out the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. There are tons of cool exhibits here, from Easter Island statues and the Hope Diamond to a butterfly pavilion and insect zoo.
Younger kids might be puzzled by a visit to this attraction, but budding spies and codebreakers will enjoy the National Cryptologic Museum. The museum traces the history of codebreaking from the Revolutionary War until present day. It also houses a large collection of encryption and decryption machines, as well as related books and documents.
To learn more about espionage, be sure to visit the International Spy Museum. This museum documents espionage through history and popular culture. See artifacts, hear stories about past missions, and learn about tools and techniques used by spies around the world. Groovy, baby.
Theme park geeks need to visit Orlando, Florida at least once in their lifetime. The Orlando-area is home to some of the coolest theme parks in the world.
Fans of Jurassic Park and Harry Potter shouldn’t miss the two theme parks at Universal Orlando Resort – Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure. They both also have awesome rollercoasters, for the thrill seekers in your family.
The four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort have something for everyone in your family, from kiddie rides to coasters and simulator rides.
SeaWorld Orlando has three of the most exciting roller coasters in town – Kraken, Manta, and Mako. Kraken is a floorless coaster that twists, turns, and loops. Manta is a flying coaster with an intense head-first, face-down inverted nosedive. Mako, the newest, is a hypercoaster. It doesn’t loop at all, but it’s high speeds and deep dives give riders lots of “air time”, where you lift up out of your seat and experience momentary weightlessness.
If you want some wet fun in the sun, there are four great water parks in the area. Universal’s Volcano Bay and SeaWorld’s Aquatica offer a variety of thrills for everyone in the family. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are a little more low key, but still fun.
Only an hour away from Orlando, LEGO fans can experience LEGOLAND Florida, one of several LEGOLAND parks around the world. While its rides and shows are more geared toward younger children, its Miniland section has amazing scenes made completely of LEGO bricks that everyone will enjoy. There’s also a LEGO water park next door if you and your kids want to cool off.
Space enthusiasts should head to the east coast of Florida, just 45 minutes from Orlando, to check out the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral. Learn about the history of NASA and space exploration and meet the astronauts and other pioneers of the space program. You can see rockets from past missions, plus launch sites and spaceflight facilities that are still in use today. You can also get a close-up view of the Space Shuttle Atlantis and experience a shuttle launch simulator. Check the Launch Calendar before you go – you may get a chance to see a rocket launch up close!
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