Hit the Road, Smarty Pants

Quick trips for geeks at heart

MS_Visitor_Center-1813_WEB

From jetliners to software, Washington thrives on its innovations. In 2011, Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry received a $10 million gift from Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Seattle-based Amazon.com. The grant will establish the “Center for Innovation” at the new MOHAI at Lake Union Park. The Center for Innovation will explore and showcase our region’s rich history of innovation, one that has benefited people around the world.

If you can’t wait for it to open, you can embark on your own celebration of innovation by taking a geek road trip. The Evergreen State is home to world-class science, technology, engineering and math attractions. Call it a vacation for your mind.

SPARK — Museum of Electrical InventionSpark-Museum-1_Photo-by-Tore-Ofteness

Bellingham’s Spark Museum of Electrical Invention is an exciting adventure for all ages. The Spark Museum showcases the inventions and innovations that changed the course of human history. This world-class collection of unique objects features compelling, interactive exhibits spanning four centuries of scientific achievement and cultural heritage. amre.us

B Reactor National Landmark Tours

The B Reactor at the Hanford Site, the world’s first production-scale nuclear reactor, was created as part of the top secret Manhattan Project during World War II. The decommissioned facility is now a National Historic Landmark on the Hanford site, which spans 586 square miles north of Richland and the greater Tri-Cities area. The reactor was built in just 13 months, without the help of computers or even final scale drawings, to produce plutonium for the first atomic bomb. manhattanprojectbreactor. hanford.gov

Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour

Founded in Seattle in 1916, Boeing is among the largest global aircraft manufacturers, and it’s the third-largest aerospace and defense contractor in the world based on defense-related revenue. During the tour of the world’s largest building by volume (472,000,000 cubic feet or 13,385,378 cubic meters), visitors will see airplanes being built for Boeing’s customers worldwide. boeing.com

Galloping Gertie

Scuba divers might enjoy the Tacoma Narrows, a 2- to 3-knot drift over “Galloping Gertie,” which was the world’s third-largest suspension bridge when it tumbled down on Nov. 7, 1940. Today, the bridge under the water is considered one of the largest manmade objects lost at sea — five times as large as the Titanic in raw materials — and home to many interesting sea creatures today. wsdot.wa.gov

Microsoft Visitor Center

Here, you can explore the culture, history, products and vision of Microsoft. This facility showcases Microsoft products, past and present, and offers a chance to play Xbox 360 games on a giant screen. Across the hall is the company store, where the public can buy merchandise but not software or hardware — you’ll need a friend who works there to do that for you. microsoft.com

Goldendale Observatory State Park

Located on a hilltop North of Goldendale, the Goldendale Observatory Interpretive Center offers programs for everyone from novices to experienced stargazers. There are a number of telescopes, including a 24.5 inch telescope that is used in the evenings for public viewing sessions. There is also a library for in-house study of astronomy. perr.com

Grand Coulee Dam

Completed in 1942, Grand Coulee Dam is America’s largest hydropower producer, with a total generating capacity of 6,809 megawatts. It is also part of the Columbia Basin Project, irrigating more than 600,000 acres, and the cornerstone for water control on the Columbia River. There is a guided tour, a visitor’s center and a free laser light show during the summer months. usbr.gov

LIGO Hanford Observatory

Tour one of two gravitational wave observatories in the United States. LIGO stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, whose mission is to observe gravitational waves of cosmic origin. LIGO’s interferometers (interferometers use multiple telescopes or mirrors to focus on a single object) are the world’s largest precision optical instruments. They are housed in one of the world’s largest vacuum systems, with a volume of nearly 300,000 cubic feet. ligo.caltech.edu

Mobius Science Center and Mobius Kids Children’s Museum

In downtown Spokane, the exciting, 26,000-square-foot Mobius Science Center recently opened in late 2012. With 65 interactive science and technology exhibits, along with numerous educational programs, Mobius is a lively place. Across the street, Mobius Kids Children’s Museum is a fun, nurturing place for children and families to learn through hands-on activities in science, culture and the arts. mobiusspokane.org

Wawona-Full-view---MOHAIMOHAI

The Museum of History and Industry reopened in Dec. 2012 at the Naval Reserve Armory at Lake Union Park in Seattle. Geek out over MOHAI’s incredible exhibits and vast collection of significants artifacts, documents and photographs from the Puget Sound region. mohai.org

Mount St. Helens

At 8:32 Sunday morning, May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted and hurled a wall of rock and ice 14 miles down the Toutle River. Surviving plants and animals have been rebuilding new life ever since. Explore this living laboratory by car or on foot, as well as the Mount St. Helens Visitors Center. fs.usda.gov/mountsthelens

One Square Inch of Silence

One Square Inch of Silence is the quietest place in the United States. Located in the Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park, One Square Inch of Silence was designated on Earth Day 2005 (April 22, 2005) to protect and manage the natural soundscape in Olympic Park’s backcountry wilderness. onesquareinch.org

Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility and Tour

Puget Sound Energy’s Renewable Energy Center offers a firsthand look at how wind and solar are turned into electricity. Wild Horse’s wind turbines have the capacity to generate up to 273 megawatts of electricity. Wild Horse’s solar-power installation, the Northwest’s largest, can generate up to 500 kilowatts. A visitor’s center and guided tours are available.  pse.com

Pacific Science Center

Pacific Science Center, the independent, nonprofit science museum, is a 7-acre science playground for all ages. The permanent exhibits include two IMAX theaters, dinosaurs, a laser dome, the Star lab Planetarium and a tropical butterfly house. The newest interactive exhibit is Professor Wellbody’s Academy of Health & Wellness. pacificsciencecenter.org

Port Townsend Marine Science Center

At the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, be sure to visit the new exhibit Learning from Orcas — the Story of Hope. The Orca Project was established to raise awareness of these remarkable animals, the threats they face and what we can do to help them survive. ptmsc.org/orca_project

Seattle-Public-Librar_Photo-Courtesy-Seattle-Public-LibrarySeattle Public Library

The Central Library is a magical mix of 18,400 cubic yards of concrete, 4,644 tons of steel and 9,994 pieces of exterior glass. The diagonal grid system is designed to withstand lateral forces caused by wind or earthquakes. The building has sustainable systems that lessen its energy and environmental impact, too.

Space Needle and SkyCity Revolving Restaurant

When the Space Needle was built in 1962 for that year’s World Fair, it was the tallest building West of the Mississippi River. The entire Space Needle saucer does not rotate — only a 14-foot ring next to the windows rotates on the SkyCity Restaurant level. All it takes to make the turntable revolve is a 1½-horsepower motor.

Rainier Tower

Rainier Tower is a 31-story Seattle skyscraper designed by Minoru Yamasaki, who designed the original World Trade Center in New York City. The skyscraper has an unusual appearance, being built atop an 11-story concrete pedestal base that tapers toward ground level, like an inverted pyramid.

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

Formally opened on July 4, 1917, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks is a complex of locks that sits at the west end of Salmon Bay, part of Seattle’s Lake Washington Ship Canal. The grounds feature a visitor’s center, as well as the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens.

First photo by Vetala Hawkins/Filmateria Digital for Microsoft; Second photo by Tore Ofteness; Third  photo courtesy MOHAI; Fourth photo courtesy Seattle Public Library

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