7 Far-Out Summer Vacation Ideas for Science Fiction Fans

Best Summer Vacation Ideas for Science Fiction Fans

CORBIS

Pack your bags, science fiction fans! It's time for summer vacation, so here are seven ideas on how to bring some sci-fi into your travel plans.

Whether you're looking to mingle with other science fiction buffs, immerse yourself in an imaginary world, or get out into nature, there's a sci-fi destination that's right for you.

Summertime is packed full of science fiction and comic book conventions, for those who would like to mingle with other sci-fi fans. 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the "Star Trek" franchise, and there are multiple Trek-specific conventions and meet-ups happening around the country. Plus, a traveling museum exhibit lets fans attend Starfleet Academy for a day.

"Star Wars" fans should seriously consider visiting an exhibit of real costumes worn by actors in all seven franchise movies. In addition, Disney's theme parks have been jam-packed with "Star Wars" elements ever since the release of the latest movie installment in 2015. And read on to find out about other science-fiction-related museum exhibits to check out this summer.

For fans seeking a more outdoor-focused summer expedition, here are a few destination suggestions: Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming, which served as the iconic mountain from Steven Spielberg's landmark science-fiction movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"; Barringer Crater (also known as Meteor Crater) in Arizona, where key scenes were shot for the science fiction love story "Starman"; and the Very Large Array, which played a key role in the movie adaptation of Carl Sagan's novel "Contact."  

NEXT: Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of "Star Trek"

Celebrate "Star Trek"

Paramount Pictures

2016 marked the 50th anniversary of "Star Trek," one of the most successful sci-fi franchises ever created. There are still lots of ways to celebrate the Trek-verse this summer, in locations all over the country.

Attend a "Star Trek" Convention

"Star Trek" conventions are nearly as old as the franchise itself, and there are multiple convention events in the U.S. this year. A complete list of dedicated Trek conventions, as well as general science fiction and comic book conventions (where Trek fans can also unite), can be found at treknews.net. OConventions will take place in Las Vegas and Chicago in August 2018, and in Birmingham, England in October 2018.

Fans of science fiction in general may want to consider attending a comic book or science fiction convention this summer. The mother of all such conventions, Comic Con International in San Diego, is taking place July 19-22, but passes are sold out for 2018. If you're interested in attending Comic Con next year, now is the time to register. You can sign up for a Comic-Con Member ID if you are interested in attending San Diego Comic Con 2019. Check the following links to find out about other comic book conventions and sci-fi conventions.

Baseball and Starfleet

Under the United Federation of Planets, Starfleet is the organization responsible for deep-space exploration, peacekeeping, defense and diplomacy.

This year, celebrate baseball and the Starfleet with "Star Trek Night" on Aug. 25 at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida by purchasing a ticket to watch the Miami Marlins take on the Atlanta Braves. A collector's edition Marlins/Star Trek Starfleet Command badge hat is available with a ticket package.

Trekonderoga

The fourth annual Trekonderoga will take place from Aug. 24-26. It will be held in Ticonderoga, New York, nestled between Lake George and Lake Champlain in the Adirondacks. According to their website, Trekonderoga 2018 will again offer a small, intimate setting where guests can meet stars and participate in events up-close, matched by a beautiful setting.

There are many types of tickets guests can purchase

Star Trek Set Tour

If you can't make it to Trekonderoga because the dates, don't worry. "Star Trek: Original Series Set Tour" is offered in Ticonderoga from April to Dec. 20, 6 days a week (closed on Mondays). According to their website

NEXT: Harry Potter in NYC

Harry Potter in NYC

The Big Apple is a hive of "Harry Potter" fun this summer.

"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" is now on Broadway! The full play is split into two parts, which means that you can choose to watch the first show on one day, and you can watch the second show later that day or later in your week. When you purchase tickets online, over the phone or in person, you choose the date for both shows so you don't have to worry about missing a piece of the story. The show runs Wednesdays to Sundays, with a 7:30 p.m. show each of those nights, and a 2 p.m. matinee on Wednesday and Sunday.

Many of the more affordable seats are sold out, but if you can't find tickets in your price range, check out their "Friday Forty" offer. Every Friday at 1:00 p.m. local time, 40 tickets for every performance the following week will be released for great seats in the theatre at $40 ($20 per part).

And these tickets will only be available through TodayTix.com or the TodayTix app, and according to the show's website, this "ensure[s] that as many people as possible have the chance to access these low-price tickets."

A History of Magic

If you visit New York this fall, consider taking a trip to the New-York Historical Society.

Through Jan. 27, 2019, the museum will host an exhibit called "Harry Potter: A History of Magic" The exhibition showcases the folklore and magic traditions from which the Harry Potter stories are based on, such as medieval descriptions of dragons and griffins to the origins of the sorcerer’s stone, according to the museum website.

The exhibit opens Oct. 5.

NEXT: Visit Devil's Tower from 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'

Visit Devil's Tower from 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'

Public Domain

In Steven Spielberg's 1977 science-fiction epic "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," a man named Roy Neary has a run-in with a UFO, and subsequently experiences a strange obsession with a flat-topped mountain he's never seen before. Neary soon finds out he's not the only one who can't get the mountain out of his head.

It's no wonder Spielberg chose Devil's Tower as the object of a mysterious infatuation in the movie — the natural formation has an extremely strange (even alien) appearance. Its slopes rise gradually at the base, then shoot up almost vertically. Free of vegetation, the sides appear to be streaked with long, thin rocks that look almost like massive, stone spaghetti. Geologists agree the structure was probably formed by "the forcible entry of magma into or between other rock formations," according to the National Parks Service website, but there is still debate about how exactly the process took place.

Located in northeastern Wyoming, Devil's Tower National Monument is open year-round. Prime activities in the area include hiking, rock-climbing the tower, stargazing, and cross-country skiing. The monument is the starting point of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which takes place in the first week of August. Stop by the visitor's center to learn about the history between the monument and the native people who have lived in the surrounding area.

According to the National Parks Service, regularly scheduled ranger-led interpretive programs are offered during the summer, Memorial Day to Labor Day.

NEXT: Explore the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.

Explore the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle

Brady Harvey

The Museum of Pop Culture (previously known as the EMP Museum) in Seattle is celebrating 80 years of swashbuckling heroics with its new exhibit, "MARVEL: Universe of Super Heroes." Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange are some of the Marvel heroes highlighted here.

The museum also hosts the Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction exhibit, a shrine to both classic and modern science-fiction storytelling. In addition to various artifacts from movies, TV shows and more, the exhibit has interactive elements, including a spaceship visitors can pilot.

The EMP Museum was formerly known as the Experience Music Project, and included the Science Fiction Museum and the Fantasy Hall of Fame. The latter was founded in 1996, but was replaced with the Infinite Worlds exhibit in 2012. The EMP Museum still maintains the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and asked the public for help in compiling a list of nominees for the creators and creations that will be inducted into the hall in 2016.

The Museum of Pop Culture is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from May 25 to Sept. 3, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the rest of the year (check their website for updated hours on holidays). Museum admission tickets start at $28 for adults at the door, and $26 when purchased online. Kids ages 5-17 are $19 at the door.

NEXT: Visit Meteor Crater from 'Starman'

Visit Meteor Crater from 'Starman'

ESA/NASA

The Voyager space probes have traveled farther out into the cosmos than any human-made object in the history of the world. Each probe contains a greeting for any intelligent alien species that might stumble upon it. In the 1984 movie "Starman," a space traveler hears the greeting, and decides to pay Earth a visit. The movie stars Jeff Bridges as the title character, and was directed by John Carpenter (who also directed another sci-fi favorite, the 1982 reboot of "The Thing").

When Bridges' character receives a less-than-warm welcome from the U.S. government, he decides it's time to leave the planet. To do so, he needs to get to a rendezvous point — Barringer Crater, also known as Meteor Crater.

In reality, the crater is located about 45 minutes east of Flagstaff, Arizona. This giant hole in the ground was formed by a meteorite that hit the Earth about 50,000 years ago, according to the Barringer Crater website.

The crater is the "best preserved meteorite impact site on Earth," according to the Meteor Crater web page, and is nearly 1 mile across, 2.4 miles deep, and more than 550 feet deep. From the visitor's center at the rim of the crater, it's possible to see the massive formation from outdoor observation trails or an indoor air-conditioned viewing spot. Visitors can also watch a movie about the crater's formation, and check out the exhibits at the Meteor Crater Interactive Discovery Center. There's also a Recreation Room with household amenities and an RV Park.

The crater Visitor's Center is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., from May 22 to Sept. 5, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. all other days. Admission is $18 for adults, and $9 for kids ages 6-17.

NEXT: Visit the Very Large Array from "Contact."

Visit the Very Large Array from 'Contact'

Image courtesy of NRAO/AUI and NRAO.

In Carl Sagan's novel "Contact," a radio telescope in New Mexico receives a signal from space that appears to be a message from an intelligent alien race. The novel explores the intersection of science and religion, and poses important questions about how civilization would handle this situation.

In the film adaptation of the novel, the message is picked up by the Very Large Array (VLA) — a real radio observatory located outside Socorro, New Mexico, about 2 hours southwest of Albuquerque. The VLA is one member of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory family of facilities. It consists of 27 radio antennas arranged in a 'Y' shape. Each antenna is 82 feet (25 meters) in diameter.

The VLA site and the Visitor Center are open daily from 8:30 a.m. until sunset, and visitors can take a self-guided tour that includes a video about radio astronomy (narrated by Jodie Foster), exhibits and different views of the telescopes.

Guided tours are given on the first Saturday of each month at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and "take visitors to areas behind-the-scenes" at the VLA, according to the facility's website. The  tours last 50 minutes. And beginning in 2018, the VLA hosts three guided tours on the third Saturday of each month at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. Check the VLA website for updates. No reservations are required for the guided tours, but visitors should arrive 20 minutes before the tours. 

Admission to the visitor's center is $6 for adults, with kids under 17 free. The gift shop is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. The Visitor's Center does not have an address, so visit the website for GPS coordinates and directions.

NEXT: Disney's "Star Wars" Attractions

Disney's 'Star Wars' Attractions

Disney/Lucasfilm

We probably don’t have to tell you that Disneyland and Disney World are common summer vacation destinations. But maybe you didn't know that the parks have somewhat recently added a bunch of "Star Wars"-related attractions.

Disneyland, in Anaheim, California, about an hour south of Los Angeles, currently features an array of "Star Wars" attractions, including an interactive exhibit where visitors can meet characters from the franchise, and a stage show in which young Jedis in training fight villains from the "Star Wars" universe. The theme park's classic ride Space Mountain has been given a temporary "Star Wars" makeover and transformed into Hyperspace Mountain.

At Disney World, in Orlando, Florida, the park's Disney Hollywood Studios is loaded up with "Star Wars" features, including a fireworks show choreographed to "Star Wars" music. There's a new "Star Wars"-themed live show, and a ride called "Star Tours" that takes visitors to various destinations from the movies. And, of course, both parks provide visitors with lots and lots of opportunities to buy "Star Wars" merchandise.

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