Between travel restrictions, stay-at-home recommendations and safety concerns, the COVID-19 virus has put many of our travel plans on hold. But just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can’t see some of the world’s top sites. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection.
Here are five ideas to help you enjoy some of your favorite travel experiences — no matter where you are. Even better, all of them are free.
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Tour an online gallery
The Google Arts & Culture platform features high-resolution images of art and artifacts from more than 2,000 top museums and archives. You can search by museum; perhaps you want to see the ancient sculptures at the Acropolis Museum in Athens or the Tudor works on display at London’s Tate Britain. The digital galleries can also be sorted by artist, medium and art movement. Escape to the surrealist worlds of Marc Chagall and Frida Kahlo or travel to the cabarets of 19th century France with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. No matter your interest or art appreciation experience, there’s truly something for everyone in this robust collection of the world’s best works.
See the world’s top sites
Museums aren’t the only star of the Google Arts & Culture platform. Thanks to Google’s powerful imaging technologies, you can also enjoy 360-degree views of some of the world’s top sites. Admire the view of Agra from the minarets of the Taj Mahal, then take a virtual walk among the pyramids of Giza. Other famous places on display include Machu Picchu, Stonehenge and — for a literal out-of-this-world experience — the International Space Station.
Explore a national park
The National Parks Foundation, the official charitable partner of America’s National Park Service, offers virtual tours of many of the country’s top historic and nature destinations. Experiences range from a choose-your-own-adventure tour of Crater Lake National Park to a behind-the-scenes look at one of the homes that served as a safe haven on the Underground Railroad. You can also enjoy live webcams from sites like Yellowstone National Park and the National Mall. Wildlife lovers will especially enjoy the “bear cam” feeds from Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve.
Enjoy a garden stroll
Get back to nature with a digital stroll through some of the world’s most beautiful indoor and outdoor gardens. On the Royal Academy of Arts’ YouTube channel, you can visit Claude Monet’s garden in Normandy and learn how its light and landscape inspired works like The Water-Lily Pond. Then, in just a few clicks, you can travel to the other side of the world and explore the boardwalks and hidden waterfalls of the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, care of Go Visit Hawaii. Closer to home, the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., offers video tours of its rose and orchid gardens, as well as the tropical rainforests and endangered habitats on display inside its famous Conservatory.
Take a virtual roller coaster ride
Thanks to YouTube, kids (and kids at heart) can ride their favorite Walt Disney World Resort roller coasters and water slides without having to pay for admission or stand in line. Videos range from a slightly herky-jerky recording of Space Mountain to a professionally produced cruise through the Seven Seaways Waterway on the “it’s a small world” virtual boat ride. Other online experiences include stunning footage of the parks’ famous Happily Ever After Fireworks and clips from the first Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom.
This is just a taste of all the virtual experiences you can find online. Is there a destination on your bucket list you’ve always wanted to visit? Search sites like YouTube and Instagram to see if the local tourism board is offering online tours or virtual experiences.
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