Nerdy holidays: The top 10 destinations for geeks (and geek-lovers)

Why go to the beach when you can see planes being made? Who on earth would want to go to an art gallery when they can visit the birthplace of genetic science? And why would you choose to go to a show when you can wander around inside a big dam?

If this sort of thinking appeals to you, then never fear – there are plenty of tremendously nerdy attractions around the world that should make for the perfect unashamedly geeky holiday. Such as…

The Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

For decades, the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral has been the main launch site for the American space programme. Launches still take place throughout the year, but even if nothing is being sent up, there's still enough there to completely fill a weekend. Part of it is visual – seeing the Saturn V rockets, the computers that launched the Apollo Missions and Space Shuttle Atlantis is always going to be pretty damn impressive.

But the experiences are even better. The Lunar Theatre makes you feel like you're present in the control room for the launch of Apollo 8, while the Astronaut Training Experience trains you up for a shuttle mission across the course of a day. See www.Kennedyspacecenter.com  

The Royal Observatory, London

Greenwich is where time is measured from – all the world's time zones are expressed in relation to Greenwich Mean Time. The geek photo opportunity lies in straddling the line that separates the two hemispheres, but it's far more interesting inside. There's a planetarium, and plenty of old telescopes used by former Royal Astronomers to study the heavens. But the most engrossing exhibits are on the battle to accurately measure longitude – a puzzle that frustrated sailors for centuries. See rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory.

The Boeing Factory, near Seattle

By volume, the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington is the largest building on earth. It's kept remarkably simple in places – who needs air conditioning when you can simply open giant hangar doors? But what's put together in there is anything but simple. This is where planes are made, and much of the fascination comes from walking through, seeing the component parts slowly being constructed and made as a patchwork. Tours can be booked via Future Of Flight.

CERN, Switzerland

If the largest particle physics laboratory on earth doesn't quite exciting enough on its own, then brace yourself – CERN is also home to the Large Hadron Collider. This is the giant underground tunnel where atoms are smashed into each other in order to discover more about the tiny building blocks that make up the universe.

There's plenty more going on however – including work on global computer memory storage systems – and tours of the complex are available. These need booking weeks in advance, but those rocking up on the day can check out the Microcosm exhibit. The latter goes into the work being done at CERN, and its past achievements. See outreach.web.cern.ch.

St Thomas' Abbey, Czech Republic

An abbey in Brno, the Czech Republic's second city, is hardly the first place you'd look for the site of a major scientific breakthrough. But St Thomas' Abbey was where Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel set to work in his garden, methodically growing peas to emphasise traits such as size and colour. In doing so, he noticed patterns, and established the principles of genetic inheritance. The concepts of dominant and recessive alleles come from here, and this is the bedrock of our modern knowledge of genetics. Nowadays, the abbey hosts a museum that goes into Mendel's life and his work, while the small garden can be found outside. See mendelmuseum.muni.cz/en.

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Yes, it might be one of the most undeservingly touristy sites in the world (although the neighbouring cathedral that everyone ignores is splendid). Yes, you may have to battle thousands of people taking 'hilarious' selfies.

But you'll also be visiting the spot where one of the most famous scientific experiments of all time took place. In 1589, Galileo Galilei dropped two balls of different masses from the top of the tower to show that the time it took for them to hit the ground was independent of their mass. And that principle forms a key plank of what we know about gravity.

The Hoover Dam, Nevada

Feats of engineering rarely get more spectacular than the Hoover Dam, which is over 2.4 million cubic metres of concrete poured into a Colorado River canyon. It looks spectacular from the outside, and you can go over the top of it, but the real nerdgasm comes from going inside. Tours through the dark corridors include explanations of how it provides electricity for much of the south-western corner of the US. But coolest of all, you can look out at little windows at the river, straddling the Arizona-Nevada border. See usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam.

Honeysuckle Creek, ACT

Just outside Canberra in the Namadgi National Park, there's an ugly concrete base near the Honeysuckle Campground. It's not all that sexy to look at, but this was once the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station. And without it, we wouldn't have seen the moment when man first landed on the moon. The images from the moon were received by the antenna at Honeysuckle Creek, then broadcast to the world.

The tracking station was closed in 1981, but the 26m antenna still lives on at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex – which is open to visitors. See cdscc.nasa.gov.

Los Alamos, New Mexico

High on a plateau, the very existence of Los Alamos was a carefully guarded secret for many years. People living and working there just gave their address as a Santa Fe postcode.

But during World War II, a former ranch school was bought out by the US government and some of the world's greatest scientists descended on the hidden town to work on a project that would have a devastating impact.

This was where the world's first atomic bombs were designed and put together before being tested in the New Mexico desert then dropped on Japan. Nuclear research is still done there today, but the Bradbury Science Museum is the place to learn about the atomic history. The stories of those who worked at Los Alamos – most didn't know what they were working on – are extraordinary. See lanl.gov/museum.

Bletchley Park, England

The other secret World War II game-changer was worked on at Bletchley Park on the outskirts of Milton Keynes. This was where codebreakers intercepted messages, and Alan Turing's team put together the machine that cracked the Nazi's Enigma code. In doing so, they created what is widely believed to be the world's first computer. The old mansion is now a museum that delves into the codebreaking options and housing Turing's refurbished Bombe machines. See Bletchleypark.org.uk

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