Dear Pink Hair Girl,
My wife, my daughter, and I form this little family of geeks. We’re all into board games, video games, science, literature, you name it! So, family vacations up until now have revolved heavily on whether or not there’s some day care on-location, but now that the offspring is going on 8 years old, we’d like to plan something more adventurous, something really memorable for her, and somewhere we can all engage in some fun activities together. We all love trying new things, and I was wondering if you had any suggestions for what we could do to go on a geeky family vacation. We’re open to all kinds of suggestions!
Ah, the world is your oyster! There are SO MANY awesome geeky things out there to do. I’m hardcore into planning out the little details that make a vacation more memorable. So when snooping around for geeky vacation options, I noticed a serious lack of comprehensive considerations. Is this kid friendly? How expensive? Pros? Cons? I wanna give you something a little more comprehensive than just suggesting a few specific things to try. For this segment, I’m going to try and offer you the resources to find the right thing for your family, and not just take some shots in the dark.
Obviously, your family’s geek tendencies are diverse, so that leaves a lot of options on the table. Let’s break them up into types of vacations, because I notice some trends out there.
Everything from tours & parks based around your favorite book or author, to going back to another time & place! For a history lesson, or just for fun.
- Kid Friendly? – Yes! Theme vacations tend to cater to family groups, and involve lots of programming for younger audience members.
- Cost – Varies, but generally you can pay for daily admissions to parks or events.
- Pros – Spend one day, or go again and again to soak everything in. Also, many of these parks, tours, and fairs accommodate for the fact that their attendees are on vacation.
- Cons – There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, spending a WHOLE family vacation around one theme might be exhausting, or eventually redundant/boring. Plan for some other things to do to supplement the vacation if it’s more than a few days long.
- Duration – As many days as you want to return to the parks/tours/fairs.
Examples of Theme Vacations
- History Tours – visit a place with a lot of history behind it, and tour guides will walk you through time and teach you something new. Invariably if you visit a historical place, its easy to find daily tours. If you want a more complete package, Geek Nation Tours does planned out vacations, like a Civil War Tour or the Waterloo Tour in Europe.
- Theme Parks – Rides, Shows, Games, and Food, all centered around pop-culture geekery and fun. There’s nothing wrong with traveling out and staying a few days near a theme park off of peak-season to take advantage of shorter lines and a more relaxed pace. Six Flags has Looney Toons as well as DC Comics characters, plenty of related rides and toys. Then there’s the Harry Potter Wizarding World in Universal Studios in Florida. Shiny, new and LOTS of fun according to some friends of mine. (SO JEALOUS)
- Renaissance Faires – Booths of vendors, performers, games, and shows where everyone dresses up as in olden-times, and where many a terrible attempt at all kinds of English accents is taken. These faires range in attendance, some are small and last only one weekend, others are based around solid structures and run all weekends, season permitting. Generally, the bigger the attendance, the more fun. The outside locations allow them never to get terribly crowded and they’re always kid-friendly. Here’s a list of them by state, including the dates and size of each faire.
- Family Space Camp – This one in Alabama gets kind of pricey, but the activities are family-centric, and you can go for three or four days. You get to do fun stuff together like mission training and rocket science! There are astronaut mission simulators, IMAX movies, and a museum here too.
These are large gatherings of people based around some particular geeky theme. Anime, Star Trek, Video Games, etc, a ‘Con’ is a place where people with these specific interests gather (sometimes in the tens of thousands) to go attend discussion groups, see famous people in the business, dress up as their favorite characters, buy lots of niche related items from vendors, hear announcements, talk to creators, and basically geek-out together!
- Kid Friendly? – 50/50 I’ve seen people bring children to cons, but it might a good idea to save this for when your daughter is a couple years older. Generally, all day-time programming at cons are kept pretty PG. Programs are pretty good at labeling events with any age-related restrictions. And a lot of cons even have special panels and events for families these days! Some panels are fun hands-on stuff, some are sit-down discussions. Plan accordingly. If your kid loves to dress up, then this is a great excuse to bring a costume and have a second Halloween, because Cosplay is widespread and highly embraced at cons. One major downside for kid-friendliness is the crowds. Conventions, particularly the really big ones, get packed with people and its easy to get lost or separated. If your kid is pretty good with sticking close, then it shouldn’t be an issue. Make sure to have plans in place for meeting back up in case of separation.
- Cost – Moderately expensive. As with any vacation, if you’re going far from home you have to factor in travel expenses, hotel stays, and food. For conventions, registration these days can be anywhere between $50 to over $100 per adult depending on what kind of convention you’re attending. But those prices normally cover a whole 3 or 4 day weekend of events. But after registration costs, you’ll undoubtedly want to buy some neat new toys while you’re there.
- Pros – Conventions tend to happen in or near big cities, with plenty of other new sights to see. If you’re feeling touristy after the con, it’s easy to stay a few extra days to sight see in a brand new place.
- Cons – Cons of the Cons… lol. Be ready for big crowds. As mentioned before, you’ll have to keep close tabs on little ones. And aside from that, local restaurants are usually swamped, there can be lines for restrooms, and places will take advantage and charge you high prices for convenience.
- Duration – A con can be done in a long weekend (3-4 days)
Examples of Conventions
- Dragon*Con – Atlanta, GA – General Nerdfest! Scifi,Fantasy, Gaming, Comics, Literature, Movies, Pop-Culture etc. As big as big cons go.
- Otakon – Baltimore, MA – One of the biggest Anime conventions. But multitudes of smaller ones happen all the time, all over the US. Here’s a list.
- Comic-Con – San Diego, CA – There are other Comic Book conventions around the country as well, this one is considered a BIGGY.
- Star Wars Celebration – Orlando, FL – For all of those people who are REALLY into Star Wars!
- PAX Prime – Seattle, WA – Great big con full of gaming. Mainly about Video Games but includes Tabletop games, Board Games, Pen & Paper RPGs , you name it! There’s also one in Boston MA called PAX East.
- Try Googling conventions for any niche interest you have. TV shows, popular book series, movie genres, many have some sort of Con revolving around them! If you find a smaller con nearby that revolves around a family interest, definitely give it a shot!
- Kid Friendly? – Yes!
- Cost – Inexpensive – Generally museums are only permitted to accept suggested donations; $20 per adult is pretty common. It’s important to support museums with your patronage, but if you are on a very tight budget, you don’t have to pay full price. Just give what you can.
- Pros – Museums are everywhere! And usually open throughout the year (Barring being closed on Mondays or during holidays, they’re year-round establishments.)
- Cons – Be ready for a day FULL of walking (possibly carrying sleepy little ones), and expensive cafeteria food. Not all museums are created equal, either. Try looking up reviews.
- Duration – Varies
Examples of Museum Trips
- Washington D.C. – The Smithsonian Institute is 19 buildings of various kinds of museums, plus a zoo. Also in DC is the International Spy Museum, and the Crime & Punishment Museum (…I don’t know if that’s a good museum for little girls. It probably depends on the little girl.)
- New York City – You have to hit up the Museum of Natural History, Then there’s Ellis Island, The Met, The Cloisters, all kinds of art museums…If you cross the river into New Jersey there’s the Liberty Science Center right there which is tons of fun for kids, lots of interactive displays for kids.
- Chicago – They’ve got the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium all in one spot. Then just up the road is the Chicago Children’s Museum. It’s easy to devote a whole day to each one of these.
- Kid Friendly? – Sometimes.
- Cost – Mucho Deniro
- Pros – Generally with experiences like these, you get what you pay for. They vast difference from what it’s like in your country, or even just how different it is to be so far from home, tends to imprint itself deeply into your memory, one way or another.
- Cons – These kinds of trips generally require a good bit of extra planning. Passports and paperwork have to be in order, travel times are demanding, in some cases other languages apply, as do exchanges in currency.
- Duration – At least a week. Make sure you have enough time to rest after all the traveling.
Examples of Luxury/Vacations Abroad
- JoCo Cruise Crazy – This ship has already sailed for 2012, but you might be able to plan for next year. Basically Johnathan Coulton takes over a cruise ship and brings a bunch of his famous geeky friends. This year it was people like Wil Wheaton, John Hodgeman, and MC Frontalot to name a few. They all perform, plus there’s a 24-hour tabletop game room. And there are even some kid-specific supervised activities. In general, I believe it’s as kid-friendly as most other cruises.
- Lord of the Rings Tour – in Friggin New Zealand. OMG. It’s basically all the most beautiful terrain where the movies were filmed. This tour will take you to all those places. Also, you get to see New Zealand! Also, this particular tour gives you costumes and weapons, for a total immersion experience. No kidding.
- Akihabara – This is a district in Tokyo, Japan, also known as Electric Town. It is an Otaku mecha. Find any kind of electronic device here, from bargain stores where you can pick up super-obscure old stuff, to the kinds of places where you can sell the promise of your next child to get something Japanese and amazing that your friends won’t see anywhere in America for a decade. This place is also full of anime, arcades, and ramen. (side note, remember that in japan, cartoons & video games aren’t always for children. Doing a little research will help you avoid those sorts of stores, mostly. Also, a tour guide can help with this immensely). Did I mention it’s in Tokyo!
I hope some of these tips and suggestions are enough to give you a head start on picking your perfect geek-family vacation! Like I said, there’s tons of stuff to see and do out there, some of it as close as your backyard, and some on the other side of the globe. But whatever you decide to do, go have a blast with your family, and make some beautiful nerd memories with them.
Pink Hair Girl