An engineer's dream vacation - where would you go?

Every once in a while, my SO and I will visit someplace that appeals to our geeky/engineering sides. A few years ago, it was the long tour of Hoover Dam. Once, it was a tour of the inner workings of a major league ball park. Kennedy Space Center falls into this catagory.

So where have you been/would you like to go that that fits this? What’s on your engineering bucket list?

As a kid I visited the Henry Ford Museum and Greeenfield Village; it was fascinating. I actually saw the chair that Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated: complete with blood stain.

I’m sure I’d find the Smithsonian would be equally as fascinating.

I’ve been to the Kennedy Space Center as a kid too. Thanks to my current job I’ve visited nuclear research reactors and power reactors.

I’d love to see the Hoover Dam.

Visiting one of the retired space shuttles would be fascinating.

If you’re up for an international trip, why not visit Greece and Italy, and see some ancient architectural marvels (the Roman aqueducts, the Pantheon, the Acropolis) up close?

those would be dream locations only if you could stay there a week or so.

Factory tours could be fun. I’ve always wanted to see the Boeing plant in Everett, Washington.

Come to Chicago, Holy City of the Architecture Buffs, next October 18th-19th for:

Open House Chicago:

Many of the sites feature behind-the-scenes areas not open to the public even on the (sponsor) Chicago Architecture Foundation’s regular tours.
If you have an extra day in Chicago:

Museum of Science and Industry:

For a side of gruesome with your geek:

Mütter Museum (medical history; located in Philadelphia):
The dream cruise vacation for geeks is a Panama Canal passage. There are plenty of ships to choose from; even mass market lines do this itinerary, positioning from Alaska to the Caribbean in the spring and fall. The transit day is essentially an inside tour.

While observatories may be more on the sciencey-side, there is plenty of engineering going on.


Any place where the C4 and bangalores are plentiful and a high maximum net explosive weight.

Unless you didn’t mean that kind of engineer.

Washington DC is pretty wonderful for geeks. I’ve gotten a kick out of the National Archives, the couple times I’ve been in DC. That’s where they’ve got the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution - The Real Things, and they’ve also got collections of curious miscellanea. For example, they displayed Truman’s journal with notes on his first meeting with Josef Stalin - and this being Truman, the notes were remarkably candid.

London. Specifically, Maritime Greenwich…
Maritime Greenwich is an unique ensemble of buildings and landscape of exceptional artistic value, the work of a number of outstanding architects and designers. At the same time, it is of considerable scientific significance by virtue of the contributions to astronomy and to navigation. The public and private buildings and the Royal Park at Greenwich form an exceptional ensemble bearing witness to human artistic and scientific endeavour of the highest quality, to European architecture at an important stage of British design evolution, and to the creation of a landscape that integrates nature and culture in a harmonious whole.

[li]The Cutty Sark[/li][li]National Maritime Museum[/li][li]Royal Observatory[/li][li]The Prime Meridian[/li][li]Harrison (longitude) clocks[/li][/ul]

How about a walking/climbing tour of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House?

KSC, or maybe even the Baikonaur cosmodrome.

I’d really love to visit the Russian nuclear weapons museum in Sarov, especially if I’m allowed to take pictures. The The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History might be a bit more accessible, though.

They’ve still got Babbage’s Difference Engine No.2 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, as far as I know, which I’ve seen in operation. Quite a sight. Not many computers I can think of with an integrated drip pan.

I was about to say that. I recently did the Panama Canal by cruise ship, and was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life.

The very best museum of this type is The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley.
They even have a Difference Engine in the lobby. When I went I could hardly keep my hands off stuff, since I’ve used so many of them.

When I retire I’m so volunteering there. They are restoring a PDP-1. I won’t work on the hardware, but my assembly language class at MIT was on one, so I can do software.

Plus, the Intel Museum is not far away. Worth seeing, but not nearly as good. There is also the Tech Museum in San Jose. But if you want to be geeky, come to the geek capital of the world.

IIRC IEEE Spectrum had a series on good engineering museums a while back. You can searching for it. Ah, here it is.

Saw it last summer, wasn’t that impressed with it. The tour starts with a 10-minute movie in the visitor center, then everyone gets herded onto buses and driven a mile or so to the factory. Park outside, take stairs down into the basement, walk to center of factory, take elevator to observation deck, where the tour guide gives a brief narration of what happens in this part of the factory as you gaze out over a collection of partially-completed aircraft. Sorry, no photos allowed. Then you go back out to the bus, drive a couple hundred yards down the factory building, and repeat the ingress/observation/egress cycle. Repeat again, then head back to visitor center. I found that visitor center to be more interesting, since it had a number of airplane parts (engines, 747 vertical stabilizer, 787 fuselage section) on display.

If you’re in Seattle with limited time, much better to visit the Musem of Flight. It’s absolutely massive, and has some very cool planes on display:

-Air Force One, the one that carried Kennedy et al. (you can walk through it)
-Concorde (also walkable)
-“City of Everett,” the first 747 ever to fly
-space shuttle trainer

On the east coast, Baltimore has the B&O Railroad museum. Less about science and technology, but lots of history, and a large array of beautifully restored rolling stock.

Engineers visiting Washington DC must see the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum - the one on the mall, and also the Udvar-Hazy center.

Years ago my brother worked for General Dynamics in Forth Worth, and he gave me a tour of the mile-long F-16 assembly building there. I don’t know if similar access is given to the general public, but it’s worth looking into. It was like the Boeing factory tour, except I was close enough to touch aircraft parts.

I did one last year - the Panama Canal. It lived up to every expectation.

On my list to do: The Smithsonian.

Backstage at Disney World.

The engineering of the shows has to be incredible, and even more so, the logistics. Every single thing in the park has been placed where it is for a specific reason. A random planter is designed to split the traffic flow just so, the waiting area queues are designed to move people in the most efficient manner, etc.

Similarly, I’ve heard that cruise ships offer behind-the-scenes tours. They might show the bridge and engine room, of course, but they might also show the kitchens and food storage areas. This might sound prosaic but the amount of food they have to store, prepare and serve is awesome. I’ve seen YouTube videos of such tours. There will be pallet after pallet of vegetables or steak, an assembly line to prepare the desserts and a whole area set up to break down and crush the cardboard packaging.

I liked the Boeing tour, although I’ve also enjoyed some objectively quite boring industrial tours in my day. I just thought I’d add that at the same airport, there’s the Flying Heritage museum which is Paul Allen’s world-class collection of vintage fighter planes. It’s not as big as the MofF but there’s some seriously cool stuff there.

Steam Town.