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Geeky Places to Visit In & Near Maryland

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Maryland has a number of geek attractions inside and around its borders. Here’s a sampling:

National Air & Space Museum

There are two locations to visit. The museum on the National Mall is in the heart of D.C. and features over 20 exhibition galleries that include an Apollo 11 command module, lunar rocks, IMAX theater, and planetarium. For truly colossal exhibits you’ll want to head ~22 miles out of town to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Located just off the approach to Dulles airport’s runway 1R, the museum includes the space shuttle Enterprise, and an SR-71 Blackbird. You shouldn’t need any more reasons to go.

National Cryptologic Museumcryptologic museum

Nothing says “hard core geek” more than spending time in a museum dedicated to cryptology. The museum is located within electronic eavesdropping range* of the NSA headquarters on a drab stretch of Route 32. But inside you’ll find many compelling exhibits and intriguing devices, like a Jefferson cipher wheel, an Enigma machine, and a Cray Y-MP supercomputer that could hold 32 GB of memory … in 1993.

You don’t need a password to get in.

Goddard Space Flight Center

It’s a little bit of NASA just outside the D.C. beltway in Greenbelt, MD. Exhibits include a rocket garden, a spherical movie screen,  and a sycamore tree grown from a seed that went to the moon and back with Apollo 14 in 1971. Model rocket launching on the first Sunday of every month!

Maryland Science Center

The MSC sits diagonally across the water from the National Aquarium in Baltimore’s inner harbor. It was voted as one of the 10 best science centers for families by Parents’ magazine and includes interactive exhibits that range from the cells inside us, to the stars around us. The aquarium on the other side of the harbor is top notch, too, with great food and other sights in between.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

What’s so geeky about a scenic railroad ride in the mountains? In short: steam power, bridges, tunnels, and turn tables. As a kid I found myself absolutely astounded by the fact that steam (which I thought of then as really hot water), could propel such massive weight. There are also murder mystery trains on the weekends, which is just as geeky as D&D, but without the 20 sided die rolling.

U.S. Army Ordnance Museum

The museum is located on the Aberdeen Proving Ground and contains a formidable number of engineering marvels with German, Soviet, Japanese, American, and Italian tanks and artillery pieces. An exhibit both extraordinary and sobering. The museum is relocating to southern Virginia in 2011.

* This would be them eavesdropping on you, as I wouldn’t recommend the reverse approach.