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17 of the Coolest Travel Destinations For Nerds

If your idea of a vacation means lounging around on the couch and binging on “Game of Thrones” or “Star Trek” episodes, why not try something a bit different. Spending time away from home doesn’t have to mean going to view the Grand Canyon or soaking up the sand and the sun – there are many fantastic destinations that are perfect for nerds, and those who love them.

Alnwick Castle - Northumberland, England Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England
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Alnwick Castle - Northumberland, England

Alnwick Castle was actually Hogwarts Castle in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” It was the place where Harry and his classmates learned to fly in Madam Hooch’s flying class as well as the setting for Ron and Harry’s flying car crash. Visitors can even try their hand at wizardry and broomstick “flight” training. Located in Northumberland, the castle has also been featured in famous films like “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and “Elizabeth.” Harry Potter fans can also visit other top filming locations nearby.

New Zealand, AKA Middle Earth New Zealand, AKA Middle Earth
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New Zealand, AKA Middle Earth

While you can’t exactly hop on a flight to Middle Earth, visiting New Zealand is definitely the next best thing. This is the country where Peter Jackson filmed all of the “Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” movies. Of course, if you care at all, you already know this, but did you know that there are a number of companies offering tours to some of the most notable film locations in the movies? Travelers can visit places like Hobbiton to see Hobbit Holes, The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill, double-arched bridge and other structures and gardens built for the films. Or, take a helicopter tour over glacier-filled southern lakes to see where Isengard and Lothlorien scenes were shot. You can also check out Weta Cave for an in-depth look at the special effects industry and see the site of the Battle of Pelennor Fields in Mackenzie Country.

Tokyo, Japan Tokyo, Japan
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Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is the ultimate geek paradise, with all of the otakus (Japanese for nerd) gathering in the country’s capital. Akihabara is one of the top places to go in Tokyo, with every other store on its main street either a video game shop, a toy shop or a manga retailer (a Japanese-style comic book store). Check out at least one of the many maid cafes – all you have to do is look for the girls donning maid outfits who will try and entice you in. On Odaiba Island, a large man-made island in Tokyo Bay, you’ll find plenty of nerdy spots like the Toyota Mega Web (a Toyota vehicle museum), a Lego park and a life-sized model of a Mobile Suit Gundam mech which stands in front of the DiverCity shopping center – all lit-up and standing at 60-feet tall, you can’t miss it.

Redwood National and State Parks, California Redwood
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Redwood National and State Parks, California

At Redwood National and State Parks, located just south of Crescent in Northern California, offers the chance to gaze up at some of the tallest trees on the planet as well as to walk in the footsteps of famous directors like George Lucas, who used the Tall Trees Redwood Grove to double for the Ewok’s stronghold in “Return of the Jedi.” If you’re a real film buff, you’ll probably also remember this park from the popular dinosaur movie sequel, “The Lost World” (Jurassic Park). While you’re taking a hike, be sure to watch out for t-rexes and scout troopers!

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park - Wulingyuan District, China Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
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Zhangjiajie National Forest Park - Wulingyuan District, China

It was the epic sci-fi film “Avatar” that put Zhangjiajie National Forest Park into the spotlight. The Hallelujah Mountains in the movie were inspired by the park’s Heavenly Pillar. Ideal for nerds who like to hike or climb, the area is renowned for its precarious peaks, dense forests and large karst caves. By heading to Wulingyuan, the jumping-off point for excursions into the “Avatar” Mountains, you can join a day tour to experience their glory in real life. You can also head out onto the trails on your own. The Yuanjiajie Scenic Area is where you’ll find Avatar/Hallelujah Mountain as well as highlights like the First Bridge Under Heaven and the “Lost Souls” Platform.

NASA Tourist Center Road Trip, throughout the U.S. Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida
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NASA Tourist Center Road Trip, throughout the U.S.

If you’re passionate about all things space-related, why not take a road trip to visit NASA’s 14 tourist centers? NASA now offers a special “Passport to Explore Space.” The free program provides savings on admission, tours, food and merchandise at all 14 NASA Visitor Centers and Orbiter locations. Four of the centers even house retired space shuttles, including Kennedy Space Center in Florida, home to Space Shuttle Atlantis, and Space Shuttle Endeavour, located at the California Science Center. Not only can you see lots of what America has to offer on your road trip, but you’ll get a fascinating look at space through unique exhibitions and presentations at every center.

London, England London, England
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London, England

While you’re in England, you’ll definitely want to spend some time in London. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a bucket list site for every English and academic nerd. The reconstructed theater was made just like the original, with designers making sure to follow the original plans as closely as possible –adding just a few exits in order to adhere to fire codes. Lovers of the Bard will appreciate seeing just how Shakespeare saw the Globe during his time – and, if you’re there in the summer, you can also watch incredible performances of his plays. Fans of “Doctor Who,” are sure to enjoy it too, considering that the cast and crew of the BBC sci-fi series were shot here for an episode in its third season. All Harry Potter fans should also make the trip over to the famous platform that leads to Hogwarts Express, Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross station, and check out Leadenhall Market, where the entrance to the wizard’s pub, The Leaky Cauldron, was filmed for the first movie. Baker Street, which was home to the most famous detective in the world, Sherlock Holmes, can also be found here in London. It houses the Sherlock Holmes Museum and also sells items like traditional pipes along with modern merchandise featuring BBC’s Benedict Cumberbatch.

Vulcan, Alberta Vulcan, Alberta
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Vulcan, Alberta

Dubbed the “Star Trek capital of Canada,” Vulcan, just an hour from the city of Calgary, sits on the western edge of the Canadian Badlands and is surrounded by endless fields of wheat, canola and barley. This town of less than 2,000 may not seem like much at first, but it’s worked hard to take advantage of its name by creating a fun, unique Star Trek related identity to make it stand out from other small prairie towns. Its one-of-a-kind visitor center was built to look like a space station and includes an 800-piece collection of Star Trek memorabilia. It attracts thousands of visitors from around the world, including none other than Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) himself.

Matmata, Tunisia Matmata, Tunisia
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Matmata, Tunisia

Matmata is better known to Star Wars fans as the fictional landscape and home of Luke Skywalker, Tatooine. Many of the first movie’s scenes were filmed right here in the African country of Tunisia, including those shot at the Hotel Sidi Driss in Matamata. The traditional Berber house was constructed centuries ago and today offers traditional troglodyte accommodations. In the film, it was the home of Aunt Beru, Uncle Owen and Skywalker. From here, head to the city of Ajim, where you can see the building that was used for the famous cantina scene and then move on to the desert to view the spot where desert dwellers ambushed the droids.

Skellig Islands, Ireland Skellig Islands, Ireland
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Skellig Islands, Ireland

Some of the most stunning, otherworldly scenes in the newest Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens” were shot on Skellig Michael, an island located six miles off the Irish coast in County Kerry near the town of Portmagee. The shoot was shrouded in secrecy, and all locals who weren’t directly involved were told the crew was filming a documentary. They were shocked when they found out it was Star Wars being filmed right in their backyard. Not only does the island offer incredible views, but it hosts the ruins of an ancient monastery built between the 6th and 8th centuries. Public boat tours to the island are available, but you’ll need to go sometime between late spring and early fall. Even then, the trips aren’t guaranteed as calms seas are a necessity.

New York City, New York Times Square
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New York City, New York

New York City is a geek’s paradise, filled with perfectly nerdy spots like Midtown Comics in Time Square, one of the world’s largest comic book stores. The Flat Iron Building was used in the original Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” trilogy as the Daily Bugle. Of course, you’ll also find lots of gaming stores to check out, like The Compleat Strategist, 20-Sided Store and Kings Games, along with Nintendo World, located in Manhattan’s historic Rockefeller Center. The store also serves as a museum to Nintendo’s history with a display case that’s filled with old handheld consoles and games. By taking a ride across the bridge to New Jersey, you can also stop in at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, owned by Kevin Smith, as well as being the spot where the AMC reality show “Comic Book Men” is filmed.

Petra, Jordan Petra, Jordan
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Petra, Jordan

If you’re the type of nerd who would love to be an adventurer like Indiana Jones, you’ve got to visit the ancient city of Petra. It was featured in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” with scenes shot at the Al Kazeneh temple. The temple also served as the location of the Holy Grail in the third Indiana Jones flick. Mystery buffs will be fascinated with a visit too, as the lost city that was believed to have been built in the first century BC, is still said to hold hidden secrets that are waiting to be revealed. Archaeological excavations in the area have shown that Petra was first occupied more than 9000 years ago. It’s made up of hundreds of tombs, houses, a theater that could fit more than 3000 people, temples, obelisks and altars, but just 15 percent of the city has been uncovered – the other 85 percent remain untouched and underground.

Galileo Museum - Florence, Italy Duomo Santa Maria Del Fiore and Bargello, Florence
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Galileo Museum - Florence, Italy

Florence offers something for everyone from amazing art museums and shopping opportunities to historical palazzos, churches and more. For science nerds, the chance to visit the Museo Galileo (Galileo Museum) is reason enough to head to Florence. Devoted to Galileo Galilei, one of the greatest pioneers when it comes to scientific discovery, and founded by the University of Florence, it takes visitors on a journey to the past. You’ll find out everything you need to know about the famous physicist as well as his contributions to the scientific revolution. The museum features many different scientific tools, including navigational instruments and telescopes dating back to the 16th century.

Space Flight SpaceShipTwo
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Space Flight

Nerds who also happen to be super-wealthy can hop on board Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. While it will cost you a cool quarter-million for a ticket, you will be one of only a few lucky passengers who get to make the inaugural space tourism flight. SpaceShipTwo is projected to fly to a height of nearly 70 miles, going beyond the defined boundary of space (100 km or a little over 62 miles), and lengthening the experience of weightlessness for passengers. It will reach a top speed of 2,485 mph. To date, famous passengers who’ve already submitted their deposit for a spot on the flight include Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Tom Hanks, Katy Perry, Ashton Kutcher and Stephen Hawking.

Computer History Museum - Mountain View, California Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California
Credit: Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California by Computer History Museum

Computer History Museum - Mountain View, California

A mecca for computer geeks, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California is just a short drive south of San Francisco. It holds one of the world’s largest collections of computing artifacts, including early Cray supercomputers, as well as showcasing some of the stories behind area corporate giants like Apple, HP, Intel, Cisco and Adobe. The institution itself also has a storied history, with its first exhibition held in a converted coat closet in the lobby of an early software vendor, DEC, over four decades ago.

The Causeway Coast - Northern Ireland The Causeway Coast
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The Causeway Coast - Northern Ireland

If you’re a fan of “Game of Thrones,” you’ve got to visit Northern Ireland. That’s the place where many of its incredibly scenic, rugged shots were filmed. While the HBO series shoots its interior scenes in the Paint Hall complex in Belfast, exterior scenes are done throughout the country, many along the Causeway Coast and nearby inland areas like the Dark Hedges near the town of Ballymoney. This magical tree tunnel is something that both non-fans and GOT fans alike should experience at least once. The road was used as a setting in season two, episode one when Arya Stark had escaped King’s Landing disguised as a boy and was on the King’s Road on the way to join the Night’s Watch. Larrybane headland, along the stunning coast near Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, was the dramatic spot chosen for Renly Baratheon’s camp in season two, the site where Catelyn Stark agrees on a treaty with Renley on behalf of her son Robb. Winterfell is another must-see. A replica of the Winterfell Castle archery range movie set was recreated in the castle’s courtyard where the filming originally took place. You can even dress up in character costumes, take a tour of the set and stand right where Jon Snow stood while firing live arrows.

Cardiff, Wales Cardiff
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Cardiff, Wales

“Doctor Who” fans now have the perfect reason to visit Wales as the majority of the show is filmed here. The Wales Millennium Centre and Roald Dahl Plaza, serve as the hospital in “New Earth” and the place where the rift through all of space and time appears. The picturesque village of Llandaff, just four miles from Cardiff, was the birthplace of the famous “James and the Giant Peach” writer, Dahl, as well as singer Charlotte Church. Head to Southerdown Beach in Vale of Glamorgan where you’ll be at the same spot the Tenth Doctor said his tearful goodbye to Rose in “Doomsday.”

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