With coronavirus disrupting travel plans, kids schooling from home, and recommendations to practice social distancing, a lot of us have started to go stir-crazy. How can you keep yourself (and the kids) entertained at home without spending the whole day binging Netflix?
Thankfully, the only thing you need to “visit” a national park or famous landmark is an internet connection. Tourist destinations around the world are now offering virtual tours, allowing you to take an exciting vacation from the comfort of your living room. I also love this as a way to get families engaged BEFORE they head off on your next adventure. Some familiarity with the history, significance or details can make the in-person experience so much more impactful.
Just because you’re stuck inside all day doesn’t mean you can’t experience a bit of adventure! A few national parks are offering virtual tours to help ease your cabin fever. Kids will love the simulations that allow you to fly over an active volcano or ride through a canyon on horseback.
This Virtual Tour includes sound, so you can hear the rushing water of the waterfall or birds chirping in the background. The perfect antidote to being stuck inside.
Exploring far off parts of the United States with Google Arts and Culture is a must! Take a narrated journey with a park ranger through the ice-filled Kenai Fjörds, the lush Hawaii Volcanoes, underground in New Mexico or the red rocks of the Southwest. Put on a headset and give yourself a big dose of nature and the wonder of these distinctive natural wonders. You will lose yourself and feel like an explorer.
Landmarks and Cultural Sites
Are there any famous sites you were excited to see in person during your vacation, but are now having to put off for a later date? While you wait, you can visit them online and keep that travel dream alive.
Again, for me, travel is a way to learn about history in a compelling way. Doing a bit of reading about some of these iconic sites is a great way to get a sense for the history of the place, or learn more beyond what is just commonplace knowledge.
For many of us who have watched The Crown on Netflix, this online resource is a great way to fact check information and learn more about the royal family’s history. The Residences, Art and History section allows you to virtually tour any of the royal residences.
The scope of the Great Wall is greater than you can imagine. In person, some of the areas closer to the city of Beijing can get quite crowded, so we always send our clients to to the less crowded spots a bit further outside of town. This virtual visit gives you a chance to see what it feels like to walk on the wall.
Pompeii is another destination that can be overrun with tourists. We often like to suggest less popular sites that still offer the history, but by using Google Earth, you can visit the site without the hassle of the crowds.
Before I visited, I didn’t know that Angkor Wat was a series of temples and not just one. It is actually the largest religious complex in the world. The Virtual Angkor website tells a fascinating history of these famous temples and offers videos that help recreate what living in these sites must have been like.
This virtual tour of Stonehenge allows you to explore the restoration work of this 5,000 year old monument, along with tons of information on the creation of the site. We have extraordinary access to Stonehenge through one of our partners in London, but this is a great way to learn more about one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the meantime.
This virtual tour has a terrific narration that helps you understand what you are looking at while you explore the site. The history of this sanctuary is fascinating — it was only rediscovered in 1911. I always recommend for my clients to read about the discovery.
This tour allows you to fly over and explore the Taj Mahal. While not as information-focused as many of the other resources, it does an excellent job of helping you understand the scale of the monument. The second part of the tour allows you to explore the mausoleum. We always bring our clients to the Taj Mahal twice — once at sunset and once at dawn — in order to really appreciate the impact of the different light on the world heritage site.
Ironically, visiting the Cliffs of Moher is tricky because when you are at the location, it is almost impossible to get perspective on where you are. This virtual tour does a fantastic job of helping you appreciate the majesty of the cliffs and is very fun for those who have visited.
Bonus: Virtual Disney Rides
If you’re one of the many people who had to cancel your Disney vacation due to park closures, you’re not entirely out of luck. Disney partnered with Google Street View in 2018 to allow guests to explore the parks virtually, but thanks to a few camera-savvy individuals, you can now ride popular attractions without even leaving your couch. Travel + Leisure rounded up a few great ride videos that can help add a little bit of magic to your day.
While no virtual trip will be as good as the real thing, it will only make it that much more special when you finally get to visit in real life. And when you are ready, we’ll be here to help plan the perfect trip for you.