Nerdy Vacation Spots: Redmond, Washington

Looking for the perfect nerdy family getaway? Techno-Geek Families will find their Graceland in Redmond, Washington, the home of Microsoft’s 300-acre high tech playground. While you may be tempted to indulge in dressing the whole family in traditional north western apparel (fleece, khakis, and sandals over socks) and pretend you are a budding software developer on the cusp of the next technological breakthrough (maybe a version of IE that is fully standards compliant?), you’ll want to start your experience at the Microsoft Visitors Center.

The Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., but it’s a good idea to call a few days before you go as it occasionally closes for private events. Microsoft’s hands-on science and technology museum has enough in it to get your whole family excited about the history of computers, their current state, and what lies ahead in the future. Inside, you will find interactive exhibits on the latest Microsoft research and products (i.e. Kinetics, surface tables, Windows phones), and historical exhibits, such as the one featuring the Altair 8800 Computer. To get an idea of what’s in store at the museum, check out this virtual tour at http://blogs.technet.com/b/next/archive/2011/05/05/a-tour-of-microsoft-s-visitor-center.aspx.

Your kids will also love all the interactive displays, and there are Xbox gaming systems to keep them entertained as well. The staff is very friendly and I was told they will even take your requests and accommodate your child’s age level and interests.

After reveling in this hi-tech haven, you can pick up some swag at the Microsoft company store across the hall . Here you can purchase anything from MS logo onesies and tees to water bottles that say GEEK. My personal favorite is the “My Mom is a Geek” tee. Of course, there is an Xbox 360 in there, too, if the kiddos start getting restless as you debate over whether to by a Halo action figure or a genuine Microsoft fleece. The latter may help you with your next sightseeing enterprise — trying to enter the lobby of office Studio D. It’s Microsoft policy that you can’t even get into the lobby if you’re not with an employee, so only the geekiest of Microsoft fans may want to attempt the following shameless mission.

First, locate the office of Studio D. (Just north of the Visitor Center in Bldg 92. Here’s a map: http://campusbuilding.com/microsoft-campus-map-picture/). Wait outside with a camera prominently displayed; it will help if your kids sport sad puppy dog expressions. Wait for someone to enter or exit, then beg them to let you into the lobby for a quick photo op. I assure you it will be worth it, as your breath is taken away by one of the most impressive items in Microsoft’s extensive art collection — an enormous holographic sculpture featuring Captain Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. This piece, titled “Spock, Kirk, and McCoy Beaming-In” by Deborah Sperber, is made of 75 thousand translucent beads. In it, the crew shimmers, and appears to be on the verge of materializing. (Follow this link for a preview: http://www.microsoft.com/about/artcollection/en/us/about.aspx)

If that doesn’t work, there are many signs with the iconic Microsoft logo that will serve your needs for photographic closure. Employees of Microsoft are geek brothers in arms, so don’t be shy about asking one to be your photographer — they will get it.

Once you’re done geeking out with all of the fun toys at Microsoft, I suggest a visit to Redmond’s most popular park, Marymoor Park (just 8 minutes away at 6046 W Lake Sammamish Parkway NE). This 560-acre park has all the usual playground equipment, as well as several unique features most parks do not have. Marymoor has a model airplane flying field, various sports fields, rock climbing walls, an outdoor theater and Washington state’s only velodrome. There is even a 48-acre off leash dog park for those who bring their dogs. If you’re planning this trip for the summer months, there is an additional delight for music lovers — an annual summer concert series known as Concerts at Marymoor.

All this is just 16 miles east of Seattle, so you’ll only be about 30 minutes away from the amenities of a large city during your trip. Nerdy parents may also want to check out the EMP Museum in Seattle, where they will find great exhibits on music and pop culture and The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. Need we say more?

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