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The Best Virtual Tours and Activities to Explore at Home

Around the world, many cities and countries have urged or even legally mandated that their citizens stay home to try and curb the spread of COVID-19. Cut off from the outside world, we’re realizing the value of so many things we used to take for granted: the ability to travel at will to a different country, visit an art gallery or museum, or take the family to a theme park or zoo for a day of fun. But there is one bright side: we live in a digital age where many real-world experiences have been transformed into digital ones, allowing us to explore and discover the world from inside our own four walls. Now, with so much time on our hands, we have a chance to better ourselves and do the things we never had the time to do before or only dreamed about: learn more about art or history, take that crazy vacation, or even visit outer space. Institutions around the world from museums to scientific agencies have opened their virtual doors to the world in solidarity and support, offering free content like virtual tours, educational videos, livestreams, and much more to help entertain and educate people. We’ve scoured the web for the best, and here are the top virtual tours and activities for being stuck at home.

british museum google arts and culture
Google Arts & Culture

Visit a World-Renowned Museum

Many of the world’s top museums, like the Louvre in Paris, NYC’s Guggenheim, the British Museum in London, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museums, and LA’s J. Paul Getty Museum are now offering free virtual tours of their exhibits that you can navigate through on your own. The Louvre, for example, has set up online tours of several of its permanent exhibits like the Egyptian Antiquities, the remains of the buildings’ moat, and the “Advent of the Artist” exhibition which features works by Rembrandt and Delacroix. At the Getty, use Google Street View to peruse this famous museum’s collection of European art. At the British Museum, you can virtually stroll through its unparalleled exhibits of priceless antiquities and artifacts from ancient cultures around the world including the ancient Egyptians.

Many of the museums listed above (as well as hundreds of others) offer their tours through the Museum View page of Google Arts & Culture. This site has a mindboggling 3,470 digital tours available of museums, temples, churches, and other famous cultural and religious sites around the world, all available and navigable with just a few clicks. If you can’t find a particular museum you’re looking for, you can also check that individual museum’s websites to see if it offers any digital goodies.

Tour a New City or Country

Sheltering-in-place and travel restrictions have been especially hard on the wanderlust-afflicted, but just because we’re temporarily grounded doesn’t mean we can’t still get to know a new city. Virtual reality content is getting more and more popular, so you can easily find VR tours of different cities and countries around the world with just a quick Google search. On YouTube, VR Gorilla has tons of full 360-degree tours of cities like London and Rome. Visit Japan offers a roughly 3-minute 360-degree VR movie that travels throughout the country in a few short minutes, from the heart of Tokyo to serene bamboo forests. But if there’s a particular city or place you want to visit, Google it: Chances are you’ll find just what you’re looking for.

Of course, some of these work best if you are in possession of a virtual reality headset and equipment that allows you the full 3-D experience, but even if you don’t have a VR headset, you can still enjoy the high-quality videos and images.

Commiserate with the Animals at Zoos and Aquariums

Now that we’re all stuck inside without much to do, now we finally know what it’s like for the animals in zoos and aquariums (even though now, even zoo animals are being allowed to explore outside their habitats and get to know the other animals!). But since we have to stay inside, we can at least watch animals go about their daily business with the tons of livestreams that zoos and aquariums around the country have set up. The famous Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has ten different livestreams of various animals and habitats, like a Shark Cam, Penguin Cam, and Sea Otter Cam. The National Aquarium in Baltimore has walk-through digital tours of several of its exhibits that you can navigate with an interactive map, taking you to different parts of the aquarium like the dolphin tank and the jellyfish area.

Plenty of zoos also have livestreams set up, like the Houston Zoo (which has cams for its elephants, giraffes, gorillas, and more), and the Atlanta Zoo, which has a panda cam. The epic San Diego Zoo also has a fantastic variety of cams to watch, including tigers, polar bears, penguins, and apes.

Also, be sure to check your local zoo or aquarium’s website as they may also have livestreams set up and so you can watch your own local wildlife that you’ve visited in person.

Discover a World-Famous Site

With the Google Arts & Culture site, you can do much more than explore museums; you can also explore iconic places around the world like cathedrals, temples, monuments, and even World Heritage Sites like Stonehenge, the pyramids, and the Taj Mahal. No entry fee, huge crowds, or long lines here.

Go to DisneyWorld

Stuck at home with kids (or just a big kid at heart)? Even though Disney Parks are currently closed, you can still click around and explore popular parks like the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, the Animal Kingdom, and Disneyland itself with Google Street view. Put on some Disney songs in the background, crank up the heat, and it’s just like you’re in Florida but without the crowds! You can also find bootleg online videos of Disney rides like It’s A Small World After All (which takes on a whole new meaning now thanks to the pandemic) and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Blast Off Into Space

COVID-19 is now present on nearly every continent on Earth … but it hasn’t reached the stars yet. If you’re feeling to need for some literal “space,” check out NASA’s selection of augmented reality and video tours of some of its operations. There are astronaut-guided videos of the International Space Station, a tour of the mission operation center for the Hubble Space Telescope, and much more. You can also pay a visit to the Exoplanet Travel Bureau where you can explore digital renderings of the surfaces of planets and moons throughout the universe (and can also download cool posters of the different places).

Editors' Recommendations

Zoe Baillargeon
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Zoe Baillargeon is an award-winning travel writer and freelance journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. She covers travel…
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