Things to do on vacation: Steampunk tourism edition
It’s summer and hopefully you have some time off and are somewhere where the weather is nice and just the way you like it. If you’re lucky, you might even have the means to do some traveling this summer, or maybe you’re planning an upcoming trip. This is not to say you can’t do this in your home town, too – sometimes we all need to act as tourists and plan a day out, even though we’re locals. Still a pretty unexplored topic, steampunk (or subculture) tourism is not really a thing yet, but maybe we can change that together.
Whether a road trip or a trip further away, we really recommend having a browse first to see what steampunk places there are to visit in the area you’re going. You might at first have a tough time finding what you’re looking for – none of these tips will take you to an amazing steampunk theme park and retrofuturistic technologies, since those sadly don’t exist (yet), but if you change your perspective there are plenty of things to find and you can add a steampunk flavor to the usual touristic gift-shop traveling.
Old architecture and old towns
A first thing to look for is Victorian architecture, buildings and cities that feature old towns and buildings in general. Walking around an old part of a city may just be able to give you the vibe that you’re walking into the past, and we all know how much Victorian times have influenced the steampunk aesthetic. Some places offer tours in old buildings and houses, and historical museum houses usually give you a look into a previous era and times long gone. There are also ghost tours in old houses, catacombs and tunnels under cities, which might tickle your Gothic era fancy, too. Just find places to wander historical sites and see beautiful things – look for abandoned places and urban decay, too, since it usually offers beautiful and slightly eerie run-down pictures of what once was.
Another thing to definitely look into is various types of museums. Check if the historical museums offer exhibitions with period dress and costumes if you are into that and you may also get some inspiration for your next steampunk costume. Museums of technology can also be interesting if you’re interested in the technological aspect of steampunk, and you may even be able to find some steam engines in there. It's definitely worth a visit.
Markets, fairs and flea markets
Markets, fairs and flea markets are fun in all cases, but they also add a touch of old-style charm to your trip. The bustling life you find there and the fact that everyone is walking around on foot makes it easier to forget that you are in the 21st century with modern-day technology. Vendors selling hand-made items and crafts is an added bonus. Maybe you could don a steampunk hat, and stroll through as if you’re living in a retrofuturistic universe.
Antique and vintage stores
Along the same lines, vintage stores and antique shops are the next thing to look up. You’d be surprised what wonderful, dusty old items you can find in some of them. Hitting up an antique store is unbeatable, especially if it’s the kind with nick-knacks, odds and ends and weird gadgets. Look up the best antique stores in the places you’re visiting and you’ll come back with the most unique souvenirs.
Festivals and events
This one’s a given, but you could plan your trip around a steampunk event, ball, a festival, or a historical fair and your experience will get even better. If you can’t find a steampunk festival nearby, you could also try a historical fair or even a historical theme park or other kind of experience. Learn how to weld, sew or buy some home-made honey – what you’ll get depends on the place you go to, but it’s definitely worth checking out if there are any in the area.
This one doesn’t really apply to all trips, but we couldn’t leave out London. It’s no secret that Victorian London is the inspiration for many a steampunk location. Modern day London certainly has a completely different feel to it, but capturing the steampunk atmosphere is doable. Visit some abandoned old places, museums like the Victoria and Albert usually have interesting exhibitions, including old clothing, and stroll down Portobello Market or visit Camden for some alternative clothing shops.
So there were some suggestions. A place is as steampunk as you make it, but you can certainly cater your visit depending on what parts of steampunk interest you the most. Period dress, history, bustling street life, technology – just take your pick and you can create a most wonderful vacation.