Here’s the Top 12 list of global “Geeky Destinations and Smart Side Trips” as selected and described by Wired magazine (more information: wired.com). Note that 2 of the 12 sites are right here in the extended Inland Empire (No. 2 Riverside in Riverside County and No. 8 Mojave in San Bernardino County).
Match that, Rest of the Earth!
1. The Autodesk Gallery, San Francisco: If you’re in the Bay Area on a Wednesday, head to the Autodesk Gallery at One Market Street to see the best work done by customers of the design software firm. We’re partial to the 62,500-piece dinosaur built by Lego.
2. Eaton Collection, University of California, Riverside: The world’s largest nonprivate athenaeum of science fiction, fantasy, and horror includes an original copy of Thomas Moore’s Utopia, more than 500 editions of Philip K. Dick’s writings, Ray Bradbury’s personal letters, and 125,000 superhero comics. Pow!
3. SEG Electronics Market, Shenzhen, China: Eight floors of tiny booths packed with electronics equipment, from microprocessors to cell phones. This is where our robot overlords will one day force their human slaves to shop for spare parts, so you might as well familiarize yourself with the layout now.
4. Trinity Site, Alamogordo, New Mexico: On the first Saturday in October (and then again in April), you can visit the site of the first atomic bomb test. Don’t pick up the glassy Trinitite you see lying on the ground — it’s still hot. And bring your own food. And gas. If you drive in with the convoy, it’s 150 miles round-trip.
5. Ride of the Rings, near Queenstown, New Zealand: Attention Hobbitses! Book a horseback tour at Dart Stables to see several of the “Lord of the Rings” filming locations: the Misty Mountains, the road to Isengard, the fields of Rohan, and Amon Hen.
6. Paris Sewer Museum, Paris, France: Always wanted to join the French underground? Next time you’re in Paris you can, with a tour of the City of Lights’ sewers. See the centuries-old, nearly 1,500-mile tunnel network! Smell the millions of gallons of wastewater!
7. Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan: Use the world’s second-tallest building as a sundial, with adjoining Millennium Park as the clock face; ride the world’s fastest passenger elevator–it goes almost 40 mph; visit the observatory to see the 660-metric-ton wind damper that keeps the building balanced during severe weather.
8. Mojave Air & Space Port, Mojave, Calif.: You could plunk down a $20,000 deposit to reserve your spot on the Virgin Galactic flight to (almost) space. Or you could spend $5 for a tour of this bustling space port in the California desert.
9. CERN and tzi the Iceman, Geneva, Switzerland & Bolzano, Italy: When you finally wangle that invitation to Davos (Switzerland, home of the World Economic Forum), give yourself a few extra days. One to visit CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider. (Plan ahead — the group tour books up four months to a year in advance.) You’ll also want to visit tzi the Iceman — the 5,300-year-old is the world’s best-preserved “wet” mummy — at Bolzano’s South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.
10. Arecibo Observatory, Arecibo, Puerto Rico: You know the end of “Golden Eye,” where Bond and Trevelyan battle on a platform over a giant satellite dish? That was the Arecibo Observatory, home to the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. It’s open to visitors, but don’t get your hopes up — sliding down the face of the satellite is prohibited.
11. Arcosanti and Biosphere 2, Mayer & Oracle, Arizona: People in Arizona live in weird places. There’s Arcosanti, the Tatooine-ish “ecological” settlement of boxes and domes north of Phoenix, and Biosphere 2, near Tucson. The latter is a museum now, and you can visit the five biomes that, for two years in the ’90s, enclosed a clutch of hungry, squabbling researchers.
12. Baikonur Cosmodrome, Baikonur, Kazakhstan: Mourning the death of the Space Shuttle program? Visit the Baikonur Cosmodrome: If you time your tour right, you can witness one of the four manned launches scheduled throughout the year.