1. Gen Con
Let’s start off with another Con, but one that focuses on games! Over 40,000 people show up every year to play some of the newest and best tabletop, card, dice, nerd, etc. games on the planet. Plus, we still get awesome celebs like Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day who join in the fun. What more could you ask for?
2. E3 Expo
Moving from analog to digital, the E3 Expo is the highlight of the electronics world. The biggest names in video games and gadgets fill the hall with booths and demos of amazing technological advances about to hit the market. Sometimes you even get the exciting throwdown conferences between Microsoft and Sony — the Romulus and Remus of console gaming (while Nintendo plays in the kids’ corner).
3. Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash
Kevin Smith, the filmmaker/writer/uber-nerd who created classics like Clerks, Mallrats, and… Cop Out, opened his own comic book store in Red Bank, N.J. The Stash not only gives you the chance to enjoy a bit of Smith’s stomping grounds, but you just might appear on their AMC show, Comic Book Men.
4. Visit a Motion Capture Studio
Aside from getting to wear a skintight suit outfitted with illuminated balls, you could make your very own animated film! Motion capture is used in almost every project these days, from Gollum in Lord of the Rings, to Adrian Peterson in the Madden games, to Nicolas Cage in everything (I’m just assuming he’s not real). It may be expensive, but hey, it’s something to cross off a bucket list!
5. Kennedy Space Center Rocket Launch
Even though the shuttle program has been retired, Kennedy still launches plenty of rockets into the sky. Every nerd should experience that exciting blast before their star burns out. The center also houses a magnificent collection of NASA memorabilia and science exhibits sure to turn any grown nerd into a little kid, again.
6. Dungeons & Dragons-themed Park
Carbondale, Ill., houses a one-of-a-kind community park filled with dragons and castles and wizards (oh my!). The 3.5-acre site is dedicated to Jeremy Rochman, a D&D fanatic who died in a car accident. If you’ve ever needed a good location to LARP (live-action role-play, for you normies), this would be the place!
7. Star Wars Celebration
Every few years, the Star Wars universe gets together to throw a giant party — think the ends of Return of the Jedi and Phantom Menace, but with more Wookies. This year, the Celebration heads to
Mos Eisley Messe Essen, Germany, for the evil galactic empire’s (Disney) coming out party. So grab your lightsabers, jump on the nearest transport, and head to Germany — where nothing horrible ever happens… I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
8. S.E.T.I. Institute
The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Institute is the largest cooperative search for little green men on the planet. They search the skies for radio waves sent via other worlds, famously portrayed in the film Contact. Donating members can gain access to exclusive tours and information, so you might even be able to listen yourself!
9. Funspot Arcade
This New Hampshire icon claims to be the world’s largest arcade and also houses the American Classic Arcade Museum, which holds all kinds of arcade tournaments. You’ll want to give yourself a good week of playing time to get through the hundreds of classic machines, prize games, bowling, and, of course, the tavern. Fans of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One will be especially interested in reliving the ’80s!
10. Take a Stuntperson Training Course
Have you ever leapt back as far as you can onto your bed to recreate an explosion in a movie? Yeah, me neither…
Learn how the professionals get blown up, set on fire, and jump off buildings during your own training session. Who knows, one day you might take the place of Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, or Colin Farrell — check that, never mind.
11. Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The California Institute of Technology is home to the brilliant women and men who perfectly landed the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. While exploring their labs, you could run into the scientist made famous during the live landing, affectionately known as Mohawk Guy.
12. Trek Fest
This annual gathering takes place in Riverside, Iowa — the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. The tiny town has a small museum filled with Star Trek memorabilia, autographed pictures, and homemade Trek trinkets. Trek Fest has a parade, swap meet, dog costume contest, and even a demolition derby. It’s as though a tiny Star Trek conference smashed together with a rural town’s summer picnic. Recent parade grand marshals have included astronauts, scientists, and even Chekov himself, Walter Koenig.
If you’re headed to Comic Con, then you’re one of the lucky ones (and the rest of us hate you).
What other nerdy locations would you like to see? Add your ideas in the comments below!