As summer approaches, our thoughts turn to taking a break. Rather than bring you boring beaches or tacky theme parks, we’re planning pilgrimages for our inner-geek.
From the birth of Silicon Valley, to the inception of Twitter, we’ve pinpointed ten places across America that should be of particular interest to those with a passion for tech and social media.
Whether you’re an Apple fanboy, mad for social media or just a retro gaming fanatic, our top 10 places to visit this summer will give you some great geek-themed road trip ideas and destinations.
1. 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014
While waltzing into Apple’s headquarters and demanding a meeting with Steve Jobs won’t get you very far, one place you are welcome is Apple’s “Company Store.”
A unique Apple retail space, the Company Store isn’t your run-of-the-mill Apple shop, but instead sells Apple-branded products.
In the words of the company, it’s “the only place in the world that sells Apple logo t-shirts, caps and accessories.” We assume they mean the only place for official Apple logo t-shirts, caps and accessories.
Geek-vacation must: Pick yourself up an “I visited the Mothership” t-shirt.
2. 579 Endicott Street North, Laconia, NH 03246
At 579 Endicott Street North you’ll find “Funspot,” New Hampshire’s “entertainment supercenter.” But more importantly, within the Funspot premises can be found the The American Classic Arcade Museum.
The museum contains the world’s largest collection of classic arcade games, from pre-war pinball machines, through “Pac Man,” and up to “Time Crisis 3.”
In addition to the arcade games themselves, you’ll find written, audio, video and electronic data about the history of coin-operated games and the people who created them, making this a mecca for retro gaming fans.
Geek-vacation must: Play Donkey Kong on the same machine where Steve Weibe scored a million points.
3. South Park, San Francisco, CA 94107
Described as the “ground zero” of the dot com revolution, South Park in San Francisco has seen many a web entrepreneur eat lunch on its grass over recent years. It’s most notable for being the location where Twitter, or “Twttr” as it was to be called, was first conceived by Jack Dorsey.
Dom Sagolla described the Odeo brainstorming session that saw it born:
“‘Rebooting’ or reinventing the company started with a daylong brainstorming session where we broke up into teams to talk about our best ideas. I was lucky enough to be in @Jack’s group, where he first described a service that uses SMS to tell small groups what you are doing. We happened to be on top of the slide on the north end of South Park. It was sunny and brisk. We were eating Mexican food. His idea made us stop eating and start talking.”
Geek-vacation must: Tweet from the top of the slide!
4. 15010 NE 36th Street, Redmond, WA 98052
If you venture to Redmond on a week day, you can head to Microsoft’s 300-acre corporate campus where, in Building 92, you’ll find the official Microsoft Visitor Center.
The blurb for the center promises “the vision, products, culture, and history of Microsoft,” with exhibits ranging from an Xbox 360 that you can play on a giant screen to the first personal computer.
You can also hit the Microsoft Company Store, which, in a similar vein to the Apple Company Store mentioned above, offers all manner of Microsoft-themed clothing and trinkets.
Geek-vacation must: Have a go on Microsoft Surface.
5. Kirkland House, Cambridge, MA 01238
It’s common knowledge that Facebook was conceived and launched by Mark Zuckerberg while studying at Harvard in 2004, but did you know the whole thing started as “thefacebook.com” from his dorm room in Harvard’s Kirkland House?
Kirkland’s online mailing list was how news of the fledgling service debuted. After Zuckerberg told his friends about the site, one suggested putting it on the 300-strong mailing list. As legend goes, within 24 hours of the list hitting inboxes, between 1,200 to 1,500 students had signed up.
You can easily see Kirkland House on a visit to Harvard independently, but if you want a better perspective on its history, then the student-led walking tours can offer more insight.
Geek-vacation must: Tag Kirkland House in a photo on Facebook.
6. 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94309
While Hewlett Packard might not be the sexiest consumer electronics company around, it has played a very important part in the history of the industry. Proof of their contributions are marked by California Historic Landmark No. 976: HP Garage — dubbed the “birthplace of Silicon Valley.”
Way before today’s tech giants were even twinkles in our eyes, college friends Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started their business in the late 1930s from a 12 by 18-foot garage on Addison Avenue.
Hewlett Packard began restoring the garage in 2004 — complete with authentic tools, furnishings and equipment — in order to preserve the tiny property as a historical landmark. Sadly, it’s not open to the public but you can view the garage from the sidewalk. While it’s in a residential area, HP urges visitors to respect the privacy of neighbors.
Geek-vacation must: Grab a pic of the historical garage plaque.
7. 2615 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA 94063
To those ignorant of the tech world’s current affairs, this is just a nice German-themed shop and beer garden. But to those in the know, it’s so much more. The place where the iPhone 4 made its unofficial and unintentional public debut has to be on the Apple fanboy’s must-see list.
The Gourmet Haus Staudt in Redwood City, California offers a vast selection of German beers on tap. Who knows, maybe you’ll find an iPhone 5?
Geek-vacation must: Make sure you have all your belongings before you leave.
8. 1401 N. Shoreline Boulevard, Mountain View, CA 94043
Offering one of the world’s largest collections of computing artifacts, the Computer History Museum is another must-visit attraction for any geek.
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the museum currently showcases some of the stories behind local corporate giants like Adobe, Apple, Cisco, HP, Intel and Sun Microsystems, as well as a model of the Babbage Engine and a look at the history of computer chess.
New exhibits are planned for 2011, so you might want to check what is showing before you take the trip.
Geek-vacation must: Check out the “Hall of Fellows” awards honoring individuals who have made great contributions to the industry.
9. 241 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025
The Homebrew Computer Club’s place in the history of modern computing cannot be understated. Back in the late 70s, for example, a 26 year-old Hewlett Packard employee nicknamed Woz debuted a machine called the Apple I during a meeting.
Although early meetings took place in a garage in Menlo Park (a la Google years later) Homebrew’s other staging area, according to a member, was “The Oasis,” a bar and grill on El Camino Real.
Today, The Oasis is still going strong as a bar and burger and pizza joint, so you can visit and stand in the gastronomic footsteps of the computing greats.
Geek-vacation must: Eat! The BBQ chicken pizza is popular now, but the classic “O” experience calls for a burger.
10. 232 Santa Margarita Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025
In 1998, in an inauspicious garage in Menlo Park, Larry Page and Sergey Brin created what is now one of the most valuable companies in the world.
Page and Brin rented the “Google garage” from Anne Wojcicki — a future Google employee — for $1,700 a month, helping Wojcicki pay her mortgage and giving Google its first ever official premises (the search engine had previously been run from the Stanford website.)
Google bought the house and garage in 2006, claiming the purchase was “to preserve part of our legacy.”
While we’d fully expect the garage to be given the HP treatment (see above) in years to come, right now you can view it in its unassuming natural habitat by moseying down Santa Margarita.
Geek-vacation must: Rollerblade past the garage for the true Page/Brin experience.