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These are the guilty pleasure travel destinations for sci-fi geeks

Words: Jason Wolf
Photography: Flickr/Josh Hallett

From underground video game cafes in Japan to the Comic-Con Festival in San Diego, here are five fictional universes you need to visit. 

For those who like to travel but would rather skip the vibrant scenery or cultural landmarks in order to discuss superheroes and dragons instead, there are some unique destinations that will keep you and your travel partner happy.

After recently covering the expansive Middle-Earth tour in New Zealand, which gives Lord of the Rings fans a chance to visit iconic locations and sets from the film series, we got to wondering where immutable fanboys of other properties can travel to let their Leia buns down and gleefully immerse themselves in their favorite fictional universe. Here are some of the popular nerd meccas around the world.

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Skywalker Ranch, San Francisco
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© Wikimedia

Just north of San Francisco in Marin County is the nerve center for Star Wars creator George Lucas’s film enterprise Lucasfilm. Primarily used as a post-production facility for cutting-edge sound design and visual effects, tourists are encouraged to visit the pastoral estate surrounding the workspace, which features memorabilia and props from such films as Star WarsIndiana Jones and E.T, as well as lush terrain and opulent furnishings. Exclusivity is championed at Skywalker Ranch, so bask in the ire of your fellow Star Wars fans if you’re lucky enough to book a guided tour of the facilities.

Akihabara, Japan
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© Wikimedia

For the gamers, the electronics district of Tokyo, called Akihabara, is a hotbed for products in anime, videogames, Manga, toys and electronic appliances. The area has an eclectic hoard of new and old-school games and collectibles, which are often sold for fractions of the cost at typical retailers. And don’t forget to stop for a cup of tea at one of their notorious “maid cafes,” highlighted by servers in cosplay outfits. 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando/Los Angeles
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© Flickr/Marco Becerra

OK, so these are at Universal Studios, but they are hands down the best replicas of any fantasy set ever. Harry Potter fans on either American coast can ensconce themselves in the impressively recreated Harry Potter World. Explore Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley, which has loads of magic-themed shops and events, and you can even cast spells on props that interact with your novelty wand that has a sensor within it. The focal point of the grounds is the ride within the Hogwarts Castle, an imaginative attraction that’s a hybrid between a roller coaster and a 3-D movie.  Universal Studios Los Angeles recently opened the gates to their own Harry Potter World, but the original, larger site in Orlando still has more bells and whistles to it.

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Vulcan, Canada
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© Wikimedia

Though somewhat esoteric, Star Trek die-hards can make the pilgrimage to Canada to visit Vulcan. This small town is highlighted by a visitor center erected in the image of a space station, a hefty supply of Star Trek memorabilia, and they even have a Star Trek-themed parade. The town also frequently holds Star Trek related contests that hand out costumes and props as prizes.

Comic-Con, San Diego
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© Wikimedia

Many towns offer comic book conventions on smaller scales, but the nucleus of nerd culture is definitely the San Diego Comic-Con. Droves of fans in cosplay flood the streets of Downtown San Diego each summer for access to treasure troves of memorabilia, celebrities, costume contests and the chance to break bread with their fellow shameless nerds. The event has famously become the destination of choice for movie studios and actors to promote and offer glimpses of popular upcoming projects. Although it’s gone a little mainstream in recent years, this comic convention is still the ultimate mecca that every faithful fan of toys, anime, comic books and superhero movies must visit before they die. 

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