Whether you’re into comic books, board games or LARPing, the United States is inundated with cities of all sizes that are more than willing to meet your nerdy needs. However there is a special class of cities that are are doing an especially good job of catering to geek subculture. They have all of the essentials: the comic book stores, gaming parlors and independently run movie theaters. They also have a burgeoning community of like-minded individuals who are just waiting to welcome you into their tribe, faction or alien brood. Here are the four best US cities that are steeped in nerd culture and ready to accept your application.
Located just a few hours east of Philadelphia, Lancaster blends a colonial-American feel with a diverse community of beer-nerds, museum-lovers and hyper literates. It has more museums and bookstores per resident than almost any other city in the country. Lancaster also has acres of beautiful, rolling outdoor space surrounded by dutch-style castles that make it ideal of large-scale LARPing marathons, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it hosts some of the Northeast’s biggest LARPing festivals in the spring and summer. Without a doubt, the citizens of Lancaster know their dragon lore, and they aren’t afraid to use it.
Asheville, North Carolina
Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is probably better known for its hippie vibe and foodie culture, but it’s an underrated destination for nerds as well. The main streets are lined with excellent, eclectic book stores, toy shops and entertainment venues. It also has a burgeoning comedy and improv scene, which is probably best captured in the daily comedy bus tours that features, among other things, a nun riding a tricycle. Asheville is above all things a truly weird city, and it welcomes oddballs with totally open arms. No matter what corner of geek culture you reside in, this city has a place for you.
Maybe it’s the epic mountains in the background, the high altitude or the high ABV beer, but Denver seems to attract a diverse nerd culture from all over the country. Denver is one of the fastest growing cities in the US—due in large part to an expanding tech and financial sector. What was once an outpost for gold miners and cowboys heading west has suddenly become a permanent settlement for board-game loving techies and LARPing accountants. It’s also a surprisingly affordable city, with an abundance of great apartments close to the city center. There’s nothing better than having a short walk home after an all-night Magic the Gathering, and Denver makes that possible.
This might be a controversial statement, but of all the major cities in the US, Chicago is by far the nerdiest. Long recognized for its food and comedy scene, Chicago is at its core a city full of people who just want to have a good time and enjoy good company. Take a walk down any part of Milwaukee Avenue and you’ll pass a ridiculous number of vintage arcades, bars with indie board games sitting in the window and quirky hobby shops. Chicago also has the most green space of any big city. Add to this a huge improv comedy community and you’re talking about a veritable hotbed of LARPing action of all types. Maybe it’s the Midwest sensibility, but Chicago’s nerd-culture is the most welcoming. The good people of Chi-town are up for anything, and they’re more than happy to have you along for the ride.