7 min read
With borders (international and state) closed for, who knows how long, we are needing to find creative ways to get our travel fix. Whilst nothing beats that feeling of getting on a plane to take you on a new adventure, we just need to sit tight for a little longer. And so it is, we introduce, virtual travel.
As inconvenient as COVID-19 is, we do have to be grateful that it has happened at a time when technology has allowed us to stay connected and keep businesses ‘operational’ in new ways. Which is exactly how we’ve been able to explore this idea of virtual travel. With major art galleries, museums, zoos, theme parks and more all ‘opening their doors’ to the world, we are able to head off on a different kind of adventure.
Here are our picks to get you and the family started (be sure to bookmark this page for multiple visits):
Have fun with the kids to see how many animals you can spot and name as they come across the cameras.
Visit a virtual aquarium
Aquariums lend themselves well to the virtual experience as static cameras can capture tanks and large pools well.
- Sea Life Sydney has live cams and various video resources
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Follow the footsteps of a visitor at Georgia Aquarium
- National Aquarium Virtual Tour
- Enjoy a virtual tour of the Seattle Aquarium
- Check out the "secret reef" at the Tennessee Aquarium
- We love these Sea Curious clips too
Tour some of the world’s biggest zoos
Zoo webcams have allowed visitors to drop in on the habitats of some of the zoo’s favourite animal exhibits. Here are some highlights.
- Melbourne Zoo has a series of videos showing animal encounters, zookeeper talks and virtual tours of their animal areas in addition to live streams of various enclosures.
- San Diego Zoo
- Zoo Atlanta Panda Cam
- Smithsonian’s National Zoo
- Reid Park Zoo Lion Cam in Tuscon, AZ
- Ouwehand Park Polar Bear Cubs Rhenen, Netherland
Go on a digital safari
If your children love learning about wild animals there are, of course, plenty of nature programs for them to enjoy, but for a more bite-sized version take a look at these sites:
- The WildwatchLive program from the sustainable travel company &Beyond.
Perhaps less educational but definitely a huge ton of fun is taking a trip to a theme or water park while on lockdown.
- Check out the best virtual tours from Disney parks around the world
- Get a 360-degree view of Legoland Windsor’s Miniland.
- A simple YouTube search of water parks or roller-coasters will also allow you and your kids to experience the thrill of waiting at the top of a huge aqua slide or sitting at the front of a ride as it starts chugging upwards… (we share more ideas here)
Wander City Streets
Wandering city streets is accessible and interesting to children, as well as an interesting way to teach them about social history and political commentary.
- Tour Buenos Aires’ StreetArt with Google. You can navigate around the neighbourhood with useful audio.
- Get 360º views of big city features
Take an online tour of an art gallery
Some of the world’s most famous art galleries were offering interactive experiences and virtual content for kids well ahead of lockdown.
- Explore Victoria's NGV 3D Tours
- Start with the MetKids dedicated site
- Go to the Warhol exhibition currently at Tate Modern in London
- Show them the famous Louvre Museum
- Peruse the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
- Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
- Indulge in the impressive Uffizi Gallery, Florence Italy
Visit a museum's online collection
Many of the world’s famous museums have put their collections online. While you can’t replicate the experience of learning from something firsthand, children may gain more from a briefer and more focused virtual visit without the crowds, the lines and onset of museum legs. To name but a few, your kids can:
- See the Rosetta stone at the British Museum
- Te Papa Museum in Wellington has launched a Virtual Explorer Programme
- Dive into the wonderful world of Roald Dahl
- Learn about female adventurers at the US National Women’s History Museum.
Explore some of the wonders of the world
Google has done some great work in making some of the most well-known attractions in the world digitally accessible. With its trek experiences you can walk through the Great Pyramids of Giza, visit the temples of Angkor, and explore the canals of Venice – and all with bite-sized shots of information, short clips and footage that makes you want to click on. Perfect for kids.
- Google Maps street view will allow you to visit almost any destination around the world. Check out this view from Pompei
- Visit the Great Wall of China
- Virtually discover Yellowstone National Park
- Tour England through this 360 video
- Take a live look at Colonial Williamsburg
- Go on a virtual field trip to Ellis Island
Blast into space
If you want to take virtual travel to the next level then it’s time to visit some of the fascinating space-related sites online.
- You’ve got NASA’s short and sweet 360-degree tours,
- Download the Space Center Houston’s app which will give your kids, among other things, a space selfie
- Explore Mars with the Curiosity rover (and Google).
Top tips for happy virtual touring
If you are not sure where to start, think about places your kids like visiting and any major museums or attractions that they have particularly enjoyed.
Do your research in advance. Take a look at what videos appear to be the most engaging. Some of the zoos have saved videos that show animal interactions so these are a great place to start to ensure engagement, otherwise (just like when you visit a zoo in person) you might be waiting some time to see the animals!
Set your expectations. It’s unlikely that you are going to keep your kids engaged for hours with a virtual tour. Be ready for it to be a fairly quick visit, but use it as a vehicle to discuss what you’ve seen and whether you might like to visit in person, when travel is accessible again.
Be prepared for technical issues - between WiFi connections and camera feeds, there are many ways things could go awry and you might not be able to view your chosen activity.