Great escapes for geeks

What makes a great geek vacation? Well, high-speed access from even the most obscure locale is a given.

Then throw in some activities to stimulate the brain cells, maybe a dose of electronic entertainment, possibly a bit of techie history, and you’re most of the way there.

Of course, it also helps if your chosen location is frequented by similarly techie folks and has some out-of-the-mainstream cred, meaning it would make your non-alpha geek friends roll their eyes.

Our readers weighed in with their choices, and here’s what InfoWorld editors came up with as the favorites.

Bangalore, India

Why should Thomas Friedman have all the fun? Bangalore readily appeals to geeks with exotic tastes, given its dual status as both the Garden City and the Silicon Valley of India. While you couldn’t actually visit the local offices of tech giants such as Intel, Sun, or HP, you could explore the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum, with its exhibition halls that cover engineering, biotech, space travel, and the like.

Check out the view from the southern hemisphere at the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium. Internet cafes and Wi-Fi hotspots are everywhere; get your fix between visits to the 240-acre Lalbagh botanical gardens or the 300-acre Cubbon Park. Ulsoor Lake offers boat rides among its many small islands.

Tipu Sultan’s palace and the Raj-era Bangalore palace offer a dose of lush architecture. Hindu monuments abound: The Bull Temple is dominated by a massive, monolithic sculpture of said beast.

Another bull figures prominently in the main event at the Sri Gavi Gangadhareswara Temple: Every Jan. 14, a ray of sunshine aims through the horns of a bull statue to illuminate another statue, of Shiva Linga. Buy a gadget or a sari on Brigade Road or Commercial Street, and your South-Asian geek experience is complete.

Dinosaur dig

Digging up dinosaur fossils: It’s not just for stuffy paleontologists anymore! If you’ve ever been awed by dino-skeletons at a museum, wanted to reconnect with a youthful (or not-so-youthful) love of dinosaurs, or just wanted to see if that whole Jurassic Park thing could work for real, then are you ever in luck. You can, in fact, get right down into a real dig site.

And it isn’t some sort of fantasy camp-style interpretation of digging where all the hard work is done for you and the fossils are teed up for you to “discover,” either — these camps are the real deal. You get to do the actual dirty work yourself, side by side with scientists and experienced diggers.

Who knows — you might be a part of the next major fossil discovery!

There are dig vacations of all sorts of durations across the United States and all over the world. A sizable list of options can be found here.

CeBIT, Hanover, Germany; and Munich, Bavaria

Mark your calendars: March 2008 will see the next incarnation of the world’s largest computer-technology show. If you manage to tear yourself away from the exhibits, the Laatzen Museum of Aviation offers a less crowded dose of technology. The History of Energy Museum blasts you back to a past of radio, lightbulbs, and other electrical devices.

But the real technical center of Germany is in Munich, Bavaria, home to Siemens, Infineon, and the European outposts of many American high-tech firms.

It’s also a city that knows how to have fun. Where else could you quaff a liter of beer at HofBraeuHaus, then walk (please don’t drive) to the Deutsches Museum, where you could spend several days among its exhibits of mining, electronics, engineering, flight, and more?

Another huge outpost of the museum houses autos, trains, and more. With an advance reservation, you can take the BMW Factory Tour and see (but not buy) more beer, available in vending machines on the shop floor.

Check out the temporary BMW Museum in nearby Olympic Park, or wait for the grand opening of the renovated museum in spring of 2008. Don your lederhosen and come during Oktoberfest to see all of Bavaria dancing on tables.


Yes, you can take pleasure trips to Antarctica, assuming you’re one to define a visit to the coldest, most desolate place on earth as “pleasure.” It may not be hip, sexy, or urbane, but Antarctica certainly holds quite the travel cachet for its sheer remoteness and largely unspoiled landscape.

Believe it or not, Antarctic tourism is a successful industry — successful enough, even, to have its own association of tour operators. As for what you’ll see and experience, well, that depends largely on when you go.

There is, of course, lots of ice, not to mention mountains, which some tour packages will allow you to climb and camp on. You’ll also get to see seals, whales, and, of course, penguins, among other flora and fauna unique to this part of the world.

The most popular form of Antarctic tourism is a cruise. Yup, the same industry that promises to whisk you away to a tropical paradise also has a segment dedicated to the land of ice and snow. You can check out a FAQ and get some basic cruise info at the Antarctica Cruise and Travel Guide.

Silicon Valley, Calif.

The 30 miles between San Francisco and San Jose contain enough high-tech to sate even the most serious geek. InfoWorld’s hometown of San Francisco boasts two excellent examples: the distinctively hands-on Exploratoriumand the California Academy of Sciences.

It would also be fun to watch the new Academy of Sciences building rise in Golden Gate Park, complete with an undulating green roof of native plantings. Hop across the bay to the UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, named for Ernest O. Lawrence, the university’s first Nobel laureate.

Lawrence’s actual Nobel medal used to be displayed there, but after a recent, unsuccessful theft, it’s under wraps until a safer display case can be built. Farther south, you can park the family at Stanford Shopping Center while you pay discreet respects to the HP Garage in Palo Alto, then move the party to Six Flags Great America, a stone’s throw from Intel headquarters and its own museum.

Want more?

Check out the NASA Ames Exploration Center to learn about aerospace projects; visit Stanford’s Linear Accelerator to brush up on your particle physics; or see replicas of early flight machines and real modern aircraft at the Hiller Aviation Museum.

Geeks like to shop, too; around here, they flock to one of many Fry’s Electronics stores, each with a distinct decorative theme such as a Wild West saloon (Palo Alto) or a giant motherboard (Sunnyvale).

The DIY crowd goes to WeirdStuff for a wide-ranging, motley supply of used equipment and parts ranging from huge servers to tiny transistors

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