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Top Vacation Spots For Geeks

Anyone can head for the beach, but if space flight, astronomy, or science fiction/fantasy movies (Lord of The Rings, anyone?) mean anything to you, try these destinations instead.

This story originally appeared on August 2, 2008.

By now, you've probably heard of the “staycation,” a fuel-friendly alternative to packing up the car for a long drive or heading to the airport. Curbed by high gas prices, people are increasingly spending their free time at home, unwinding with their neglected hobbies and home entertainment systems.

Yet for geeks (and I use that term in the nicest, self-deprecating, and science-and-tech-friendly way), the idea of a "staycation" seems business-as-usual. For instance, computer geeks have been on an extended staycation since the Altair 8800.

But now, with the boring, ordinary folks staying at home, it's the perfect time for geeks to hit the road. You've earned it. With just a bit of money, some accrued vacation time, and an insatiable sense of curiosity, you'll have the perfect ingredients for an exciting and educational meatspace experience.

Hobbiton, near Matamata, New Zealand, where Lord Of The Rings was filmed. Photo by Silver Smith.
(click for image gallery)

Fanboy Pilgrimage

It wouldn't be a roundup of geek vacations without talking about heading off to see where canonical sci-fi and fantasy movies were filmed.

To see the spectacular landscapes from the Lord of the Rings series, visit New Zealand for a Lord of the Rings tour, including Matamata, the home of Hobbiton. And with the 17,600-mile round-trip flight from New York to New Zealand adding about 5,300 kg of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere (which you can offset by taking the bus instead of driving your car for 53,000 miles), you may have the added bonus of imagining a malevolent glowing eye in the sky following you wherever you go.

If you're a Trekkie (or Trekker), there's no need to teleport so far. Star Trek: The Tour had its initial run in Long Beach, Calif. earlier this year, and should soon be bringing a collection of memorabilia, flight simulators, and re-created film sets to a city near you. Or you can go to the Las Vegas Hilton for what may be your last chance to see Star Trek: The Experience, which reports indicate may be closed by the end of the year.

As real Star Wars fans surely know by now, you can visit the Hotel Sidi Driss in Tunisia to see where George Lucas and company filmed some of the early scenes from the first Star Wars movie (to be precise, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope).

But for a glimpse of real magic, the light in the saber was created at Industrial Light & Magic. Unfortunately, IL&M's main operation in San Francisco isn't open for tours by the public, and so you can forget about taking pictures like these -- unless you know somebody (and can invite me along).

You'll probably have better luck visiting Space Center Houston to gaze lovingly upon genuine props, models, and artifacts from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, coming soon to a theater near you.

The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations has travel tips related to numerous other movies of likely interest to cinema geeks of all stripes.

Tip: Take some movie stills with you so that you can match the camera angles when posing in front of an iconic landscape or set. This will make your Photoshop touch-up efforts that much easier when you return home.

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