Renowned investor Peter Lynch came up with his best investment ideas not by studying in his office, but out on the street, where he could see the value of companies/products in action. No matter where he was or what he was doing, the wheels of investment analysis were always whirring quietly in his head. (For more on Peter Lynch, see Pick Stocks Like Peter Lynch and The Greatest Investors Tutorial.)
If you're geeky about Wall Street and investing, it may not matter whether you're placing trades with your broker or standing in line at the grocery store - the world of finance is never far from your thoughts. So, rather than try to leave your investor-think behind when you go on vacation, why not embrace your obsession by taking a trip that will please you and your family - and appeal to your inner geek. Here are our top picks.
1. Financial District, New York City
Assuming you don't work here already, you'll want to visit Wall Street, the heart of the U.S. financial system. This lower Manhattan area is the original home of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), one of the world's largest exchanges, and the headquarters of many of the largest American brokerages and investment banks. You can also visit the famous Wall Street Bull, a 7,000-pound bronze animal, whose flaring nostrils are often rubbed by traders for good luck. (For related reading, see The Tale Of Two Exchanges: NYSE and Nasdaq.)
While You're There: Although the NYSE, and many of the other institutions on Wall Street, are closed to the public, you'll be within walking distance of hundreds of other major museums and attractions, including the Museum of American Finance, at 48 Wall Street.
2. U.S. Bullion Depository (FortKnox) - Fort Knox, Kentucky
According to the U.S. Treasury, the "Gold Vault", located at Bullion Boulevard at the intersection of
Gold Vault Road, houses 147.3 million ounces of the U.S. gold reserves. It is a classified facility that does not allow visitors on the premises - a presidential order is required to gain access - but you can get a good view by traveling along US 31. (For related reading, see Getting Into The Gold Market.)
While You're There: Visit the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor, one of the largest in the U.S. Army Museum System ("Guide to U.S. Army Museums" (1997) by Cody Phillips)
3. Home of Warren Buffett - Omaha, Nebraska
If you're obsessed with investing, you might want to check out the birth place and hometown of the richest man in the world in 2008. Omaha is where Buffett earned his first dollars delivering newspapers, bought his first piece of land and is where he still lives in the modest house he bought in 1958. It's also where the headquarters of his company, Berkshire Hathaway are located.
While You're There: Buffett is known to be very down to earth, and still dines in local restaurants. Hang around long enough and you could catch a glimpse of this investing superstar, or at least absorb a little bit of his Midwestern, common-sense approach to investing. (For more on this, read Think Like Warren Buffett.)
4. Mount Washington Hotel - Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
This regal historic building, open since 1902, is where the Bretton Woods monetary conference took place in 1944, leading to the creation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Stories about the hotel's ghosts also abound, so although the Bretton Woods agreement was signed more than 100 years ago, you could bump into one of its signatories along one of the hotel's passageways.
While You're There: The hotel is open for business year-round and attracts visitors for its championship golf courses. The Mount Washing Resort is also New Hampshire's largest ski area.
5. Caymen Islands
Located 480 miles south of Miami, this island country is one of the world's largest offshore banking centers, according to a 2006 report by the Bank for International Settlements. The CaymenIslands are also known for giant turtles. As you watch these creatures lumber up the beach, you may not be able to help but ponder the billions of dollars that are slowly accumulating tax-free gains.
While You're There: Snorkel or scuba dive off the islands' many beaches and soak up some sun. (For more insight, read Pros And Cons Of Offshore Investing.)
6. Bre-X Minerals Mining Area - Busang, Indonesia
If you're looking for some adventure, head to the dense and humid jungles of the island of Borneo. It is deep within these jungles, in Busang, Indonesia, that Bre-X Minerals claimed it had found huge gold deposits. The claim turned out to be a fraud, leading to the company's collapse. An April 1997 article in Nothern Miner stated that locals panning for gold in the nearby river came up empty-handed, but even if you don't stumble across a gleaming hunk of ore, the jungle is likely to leave you feeling like anything's possible. (For related reading, check out Strike Gold With Junior Mining.)
While You're There: Getting to this remote part of Indonesia is difficult. In addition, ongoing ethnic and religious tensions in the country can result in violence and unrest, so check the U.S. Department of State's International Travel Information before visiting this region.
7. Jekyll Island, Georgia
This 12-mile-long island along Georgia's Atlantic Coast became a part of U.S. financial history when, in 1886, it became a private club for some of the country's richest capitalists, including J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller and William Vanderbilt. As such, it was on this island that a secret group of the country's financiers met in 1910 to discuss the establishment of what would become the Federal Reserve banking system. (To learn more, read How The Federal Reserve Was Formed.)
While You're There: Check out Jekyll's National Historic Landmark District and get a sense of how those 20th century "robber barons" lived.
8. The Louvre - Paris, France
This Museum in France's famous capital is the home of the Code of Hammurabi, which includes what may be the first official laws governing relations between creditors and debtors. According to an article by Tonietti Alphonse, which appeared in a 1928 edition of Credit Monthly, the code makes a distinct effort to protect debtors from creditors while also holding the debtor legally responsible for meeting his obligations. The sixth king of Babylon's (now part of Iraq) reputation as a lawmaker is evident in the U.S. as well; he is depicted on several U.S. government buildings, including the U.S. House of Representatives and the Supreme Court building. (For more on Hammurabi's impact on modern finance, see The History Behind Insurance.)
While You're There: In Paris, you can enjoy the French lifestyle, sample some world-famous cuisine and find just about any activity you can think of to fill your time.
9. Yap Islands, Federated States of Micronesia
This group of Pacific Ocean islands make up the least Westernized state of the Federated States of Micronesia and is best known for its famous stone money, called "rai". These giant, donut-shaped stone disks can measure between three inches and 12 feet in diameter, and are valued both for their size and their history. Islanders only use the money for ceremonial purposes - tourists will be happy to learn that the U.S. dollar is used for everyday transactions. (For related reading, check out From Barter To Banknotes.)
While You're There: Relax! This tropical island boasts relatively low rates of tourism and is known for its beaches and scuba diving.
Celebrate your inner financial geek by unwinding at one of these destinations. If you're inspired along the way, it could mean many happy returns.