In a city peppered with hi-tech, biotech, aerospace and gaming companies combined with a climate mostly conducive to hunkering down indoors, it’s no wonder “geekery” thrives in Seattle, including plenty of opportunities to have a blast with your young nerd-in-training. In honor of GeekGirlCon, held on Oct. 10 and 11 this year at the Washington State Convention Center, here are ten of our favorite geek activities
Seattle Pinball Museum
If your kids don’t know what came before video games, it’s time to go on a field trip. Nestled among the Asian restaurants of the International District is the one-and-only Seattle Pinball Museum. Featuring 53 pinball machines from the 1960s to now, this hands-on museum is “dedicated to the preservation of pinball for future generations.” Pay a daily entrance fee and play unlimited pinball games. Kids 5 and over are welcome.
Details: $10-$15; ages 7 and older; open daily except Tuesday
Location: 508 Maynard Ave. S., Seattle; 206-623-0759
Living Computer Museum
Just a short drive from the Seattle Pinball Museum, in SoDo, is another temple of retro-geekdom, the Living Computer Museum. This 15,000-square-foot facility houses a Paul Allen–assembled collection of 60-odd vintage computers that have been meticulously restored and are still functional. Now you can show your kids what it was like to “boot” a computer and use floppy discs; they can also experiment with writing BASIC, play vintage computer games and try a Teletype.
Details: $2–$6, ages 5 and under free. Open Tuesday-Sunday
Location: 2245 First Avenue S., Seattle
EMP Museum, Seattle
Originally created to showcase music, the EMP now contains a vast permanent collection of science fiction memorabilia from popular shows and movies in the Icons of Science Fiction. Feast your eyes on a Dalek and Cyberman from Dr. Who, gaze upon Darth Vader’s light saber and Yoda’s cane and pendant or imagine soaring above Metropolis in Christopher Reeves’ Superman costume. The museum also features revolving exhibits like Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic, featuring costumes and artifacts from beloved fantasy genre shows and films; and We Are 12, about the Seahawks Super Bown win. Get excited for a Hello Kitty exhibit that opens Nov. 14.
Details: (Online discount) $22 adult, $16 child (5–17), free (4 and under); open daily
Location: 325 5th Ave. N., Seattle; 206-770-2700
Pacific Science Center
A day at the Pacific Science Center has something for every interest and age group. Kid geeks should make sure to check out the Tinker Tank in Building 3 that hosts hands-on aerodynamics, gravity and building experiments. It’s open the rest of the week for origami paper-folding activities but unstaffed. Other highlights for young science fans include the animatronic dinosaurs display, the tropical butterfly house, and the Wellbody Academy Exhibit. Don’t miss the state-of-the-art photo booth PacSci360 in the lobby for a unique digital souvenir of your visit.
Details: $11.75–$19.75; shows are an additional charge. If you have a child on the autism spectrum, there are special autism-friendly early hours on the second Saturday of every month (free admission). Open daily.
Location: 200 Second Ave. N., Seattle; 206-443-2001
All about flight (and Star Wars)
Explore aeronautical history and the triumph of human persistence at the Museum of Flight, one of the largest private air and space museums in the world. Walk through International Space Station Destiny Laboratory Mock-up that shows where all the experiments are done, get up-close and personal with the world's fastest aircraft – the Blackbird spy plane in the Great Gallery. And for pilots-in-training who want to "fly" themselves, attempt the Voyager simulator in the Kid’s Flight Zone area as well as the more dynamic Blue Angels and i360 simulators. Finally, for space fans 10 and older, be sure to get tickets ahead of time for the space shuttle trainer tour, where you’ll get to explore the simulator where U.S. astronauts actually trained for each mission.
This Saturday, Museum of Flight is extra-geeky, with a Star Wars Read Day events on Oct. 10.
Details: $12–$20; free 4 and under. Check for current discounts, such as 2fer Tuesdays (purchase two tickets for the price of one when you visit on Tuesdays, through Dec. 22), and half-price admission after 3 p.m. Monday–Friday. Open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily; first Thursday of each month: 10 a.m.–9 p.m. (free after 5 p.m.)
Location: 9404 East Marginal Way S., Seattle; 206-764-5720
Or if your aviation geek wants to see how things are made, take the Boeing Airplane Factory Tour, where they assemble the 747, 777 and 787 airplanes. Insider tip: Go during the weekdays to see the factory bustling with workers and activity.
Details: $9–$16 adult (discounts for reserving ahead); children must be at least 4 feet tall for safety reasons.
Location: 8415 Paine Field Boulevard, Mukilteo; 425-438-8100
The Seattle Cinerama
The Cinerama, renovated in the late 1990s and again in 2010, balances a lush, mid-century nostalgic movie theater feel with state-of-the-art digital 3D technology. Visit other worlds under the starry-sky ceiling that’s illuminated during previews in this 808-seat piece of history. For extra fun, munch on your chocolate popcorn and Full Till ice cream in the lobby as you gawk at sci-fi movie memorabilia on loan from the EMP.
Cost: $9–$11. Check website for showtimes
Location: 2100 4th Ave. S., Seattle; 206-448-6680
Comic book shops
As a cornerstone of geekdom, the comic book and the comic book shop from whence it came are sacred. If you happen to venture into the basement of Pike Place Market, explore the comic mecca known as Golden Age Collectables (the oldest comic shop in the U.S.). With a wide selection of comics, collectable merchandise and toys, it’s not to be missed. Also check out local area comic book shops like Arcane Comics and More (Ballard), Alter Ego Comics (Bellevue), Geek Fortress (Snohomish), Mill Geek Comics (Bothell), Corner Comics (Kirkland), Comics Keep (Bremerton) and Fansasium Comics in Federal Way.
Space travel, LEGO and other geek-themed shops
The Greenwood Space Travel Supply boldly goes where no store has gone before — it’s “the comprehensive emporium of all your space travel needs.” Stop in when you find yourself needing supplies for an interstellar journey like a zero gravity spaghetti containment device, a biggifier so you don’t overlook the small stuff or a star constellation book plus many other fun and unique items. All proceeds go to the nonprofit writing center Bureau of Fearless Ideas adjacent to the store.
Hours: Open daily except Sunday.
Location: 8414 Greenwood Avenue N., Seattle; 206-725-2625
Wishing to spread the love of math and Lego, the Math 'n Stuff Store in Seattle's Maple Leaf neighborhood is a Lego Gold Standard store as of 2014. It has more than 25,000 products to spark your imagination and make math fun for all ages, plus board games, puzzles, clothing and crafts. Attention LEGO fans, looking for some specific pieces but don’t want to buy a whole set or just want to build something new? Register for their monthly weekend Pick a Brick event. You can also plan a Lego birthday party (these events are at a location two blocks north of the store).
Main store location: 8926 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle 98115; 206-522-8891
Game on: Places to play
From role-playing games (RPG) to board games to video games and beyond, Seattle has a variety of places to play and meet other gamers. Try the downtown Seattle video game wonderland Gameworks. Enter a tournament playing some of your favorite games at Uncle’s Games (Bellevue, Redmond), Games & Gizmos (Redmond) or Card Kingdom (Ballard), with Cafe Mox next door.
“Unplug and reconnect,” as they say, at Blue Highway Games (Queen Anne) with their vast selection of board games and organized game nights.
Seattle Coder DoJo
Are your geeks in training looking to develop some new skills? Kids 8 to 17 can learn how to write computer code and develop websites, apps, programs, games from an army of computer science professional volunteers through the group Seattle Coder Dojo. This movement originally started with a computer club student in Cork, England. The learn-to-code movement went global, spawning clubs all around the world. To participate in the Seattle Club, kids will need to bring a WiFi enabled laptop running Windows, OSX (Mac) or Linux with at least two hours of battery life. Check the website for specifics.
Time: Usually, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays
Location: Various, but recent ones hosted at the Amazon offices in South Lake Union
Comicon and more "cons”
Would your young geek like to cosplay (dress up in costume as a favorite superhero or story character)? Would they like to interact with a whole bunch of other people (kids and adults) who love the same stuff they do? Would they like to meet the people responsible for creating their favorite shows, games, comics and movies? Often known as “nerd proms,” there’s nothing like wandering the floor at a convention. Throughout the year, our fair city will play host to Emerald City Comicon in March, Sakura-Con (anime) in April, PAX Prime (gaming) in August, and BrickCon (LEGO) and GeekGirlCon in October.