All around the world tourism has declined in the recent weeks, leaving the travel industry with a massive loss and very few options to consider. Fortunately, many organizations have stepped up to provide a front row seat to their incredible experiences through virtual tours. This, undoubtedly, to boost morale during these difficult, uncertain times while helping to satisfy our wanderlust until we’re able to get out there and travel once again.
As the itch to get out of the house and travel grows, these tours will provide an escape from reality as well as an opportunity to learn new things and even involve the family in your adventures. The best part: you won’t need to leave your house or break any rules at all!
yosemite national park
Yosemite National Park is best known for its waterfalls, towering granite monoliths, deep valleys and ancient giant sequoias. On October 1, 1890 Yosemite became a national park and more than 120 years later, is still an iconic part of US history.
This virtual tour of Yosemite National Park allows online visitors to experience over 200 different locations within the park and its surrounding areas. Over 95% of the locations shown are accessible to visitors via roads or trails.
grand canyon national park
A famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grand Canyon National Park is best known for its immense size and majestic views. At its widest point the Grand Canyon stretches 18 miles (29 kilometres) across. It is about 6,000 feet (1800 metres) deep and has The Colorado River running through it.
This cool virtual reality archaeological tour allows travelers to explore and learn more about the history behind the canyon’s formation by clicking on different geological features. It also provides beautiful pictures that make you feel as though you’re there.
Known for holding the title of biggest museum in the world, The Louvre is home to more than 380,000 objects and 35,000 art displays. The museum is easily one of the most famous cultural landmarks in France, if not, the world. However, what many people don’t know is that it was once the royal palace for French kings before Louis XVI moved his residence to Versailles.
The Parisian museum offers three virtual tours, including one featuring the moat that was the original perimeter of the Louvre, first built as a fortress, by French king Philippe Auguste.
Metropolitan museum of art (The met)
new york city, usa
Seeing how most, if not all of us, are confined to our homes, the MET has rolled out an incredible program to satisfy our desperate need to step out and explore. Introducing: The MET 360° Project!
The program includes videos covering 6 of the Met’s most popular attractions and spaces, including the magnificent Neo-Classic Grand Hall, the 2,000+ year old Temple of Dendur and so much more.
Van Gogh Museum
Known for housing the largest Van Gogh collection in the world, Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum has 200 of the artist’s 864 surviving paintings, over 400 drawings, 30 prints and 700 letters by him (many of which were written to his brother and provide an inside look into the artist’s complicated life).
Van Gogh was known for his bold colors and rough beauty. It is said that in a ten year span, he painted nearly 900 works of art. Each year, 1.6 million people visit the Van Gogh Museum, making it one of the 25 most popular museums in the world and the most important in the Netherlands.
The Musée d’Orsay is a national museum in Paris, France, on the left bank of the Seine opposite the Louvre and facing towards the river.
One of the most interesting things about this museum is that it was once a grand train station, constructed in 1900 for the World Fair, and considered by many as a masterpiece of industrial architecture.
Today, the museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914 – including paintings, sculptures, furniture and photography. Some of its most famous works of art include Renoir’s Dance at Le moulin de la Galette and Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhône.
NEW YORK CITY, USA
One of the most iconic museums in New York City, the Guggenheim is the oldest museum in NYC and is dedicated to helping visitors learn about the city’s rich past.
There is much controversy surrounding the origins of the creative structure of the building itself. The Guggenheim’s designer, Frank Lloyd Wright, wanted the building to have curved surfaces to convey “an atmosphere on the unbroken wave”, but many artists disagreed and even created a petition to stop it from being built.
Every year, the museum presents works by students in Learning Through Art, a program that sends professional teaching artists into the NYC public elementary schools. The annual exhibit is called “A Year With Children“.
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BROOKLYN BOTANICAL GARDEN
One of the prettiest green areas in New York, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is a 52-acre space in the heart of Brooklyn.
Since its inception, the Botanical Garden has been committed to education. In 1914, in an effort to maintain that mission and increase notoriety, the Children’s Gardening Program was created. At the time, it was the first program of its kind and has since become the prototype for many programs and gardens around the world. Today, kids between the ages of 2 and 17 continue to plant and harvest their own flowers and plants guided by garden instructors.
How many of you have always wanted to explore the Sistine Chapel, but have either been turned away because of those lines to get in or just haven’t had a chance to travel to that part of the world?
Enter this incredible virtual experience. With the use of highly specialized images, the Vatican has provided visitors an opportunity to see the world renowned ceiling and “The Last Judgement” by Michelangelo.
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is one of Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces. If you can get to Barcelona to experience it in person, I urge and encourage you to do so. For the time being, this virtual tour by Google Earth does an amazing job of taking you through every single detail.
A UNESCO Heritage Site and perhaps one of the most unusual cathedrals in the world, La Sagrada Familia has been in construction for over a century and is still not complete! It is, however, believed to have entered into its final stage of construction with a tentative completion date of 2026.
Every single detail of this breathtaking structure has a reason and a purpose. For example, when La Sagrada Familia is completed, it will have 18 towers. Twelve of the towers will represent the apostles, four of them will represent the evangelists, one will be designated for the Virgin Mary and the highest one in the middle will represent Jesus Christ. Currently, there are only eight towers.
duomo di milano
One of the most impressive structures in Milan, the Duomo is the fifth largest Christian church in the world. Covering a surface of 109,641 square feet, its sheer size is even more impressive considering it is the oldest church amongst the other four that precede it. Additionally, it is known for having the most statues than any other building in the world. In total, there are 3,400 status, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures that decorate this incredible cathedral.
Similar to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, construction on Milan’s Duomo has not been completed. To date, it has taken a total of six centuries (and counting).
UNESCO WOrld Heritage Sites
ANDES MOUNTAINS, PERU
More than 7,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu is the most visited tourist destination in Peru. A symbol of the Inca Empire and built around 1450 AD, Machu Picchu was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
One of the most incredible facts about this ancient site is that while most cities built by the Inca civilization were destroyed by the Spanish conquest, Machu Picchu was in a hidden location—invisible from below—and never found. Thus, making it one of the most well-preserved Inca cities and an archeological wonder.
THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
Considered a wonder of the world, the Great Wall boasts a history of over 2,000 years and stretches over 13,000 miles across several provinces of northern China, making it one of the most impressive ancient structures on the planet.
Due to its colossal length, The Great Wall crosses 9 provinces and municipalities: Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Ningxia and Gansu. Badaling is the most visited section with over 83,000,000 visitors in a year. In the first week of May and October (high peak for tourists), the visitor flow can be up to 70,000 per day!
Lucky for us we don’t have to wait on lines or push our way through this expansive historical site. With this virtual tour, it feels as though we are there, seeing each detail of the wall itself.
Attracting over a million tourists each year, the Taj Mahal is one of the most significant Mughal Empire architectural marvels and famous Indian landmarks in the world. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. In Arabic, the name Taj Mahal is translated to “crown of palaces“.
The Taj Mahal took about 17 years to build – with over 22,000 laborers, painters, stonecutters, embroidery artists and about 1,000 elephants total. The most recognizable feature is the white dome at the peak of the mausoleum. Often called the ‘onion dome’, it rises to about 115 feet (35 meters) and is surrounded by four other domes.
According to historians, the structure captures the altering moods of the Emperor’s wife by the changing hues of the Mausoleum at different times of the day. It takes a pinkish hue in the morning, milky white in the evening and golden at night when illuminated by moonlight.
PYRAMIDS OF EGYPT
How many of you out there have always wanted to see the pyramids up close and personal? (Yep, my hand is up in the air!) Well, this virtual experience comes in close second. Take a look at pyramids from every angle and get as close as you want. The graphics are incredible – you will spend more time trying to look into the beautiful burial grounds than anything else!
Fun fact before you head out and explore these enormous structures:
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of all Seven Wonders of the World. This pyramid is the largest of all 3 pyramids that border El Giza, Egypt and it is also the largest pyramid ever built. It was built with about 2.3 million stone blocks and it is thought to weigh 5.9 million tonnes.
Nestled between Switzerland, Italy and Austria, The Dolomites stand tall as majestic protectors of an area full of rich history and culture. They were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2009 for their unique biodiversity.
The mountains are used for sports including skiing, hiking, mountain climbing, paragliding and cycling. Many of these extreme sports can be accessed through information offices in nearby cities, such as Trento, Italy.
Roughly around 18 of the peaks in the Dolomites mountain rage measure at least 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) in height and cover an area of approximately 882 miles (1,419 kilometers). Punta Penia, the tallest peak in the Dolomites has an elevation of about 10,900 feet (3,300 meters).
PALACE OF VERSAILLES
Perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in the world, the Palace of Versailles is a royal French palace located in the Ile de France region and is about a half hour train ride from the center of Paris. Approximately five million tourists visit the palace each year and 8-10 million walk the gardens of the palace.
Versailles required the work of approximately 3,000 people to construct both building and grounds. There are more than 700 rooms – including 1,200 fireplaces and 60 staircases in the Palace of Versailles. In today’s money, it would have cost roughly $2 billion to build.
Some of the most notable areas of the grounds are the Hall of Mirrors and the spectacular gardens. The Gardens of Versailles cover 30,000+ acres with approximately 400 sculptures and 1,400 fountains in total.
TOWER OF LONDON
The Tower of London is a 900-year-old castle and fortress in central London that is notable for housing the crown jewels and for holding many famous and infamous prisoners. It is one of England’s most iconic structures.
The castle is made up of three “wards”, or enclosures. Of the three, The White Tower is the most notable and considered a keep, the strongest structure in a medieval castle. As one of the largest keeps in the Christian world, the White Tower has been described as “the most complete eleventh-century palace in Europe“.
Fun fact: The Tower of London is still officially a royal residence of Her Majesty the Queen. She has a house onsite called ‘The Queen’s House’ (The King’s House when the Monarch’s male), which she could still inhabit if she wished.
STATUE OF LIBERTY
NEW YORK, USA
Known famously as Lady Liberty (even though she is said to have over 15 nicknames, including Lady of the Harbor, Lady on a Pedestal and Lady with a Torch), The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom and a welcome to all visitors alike.
Standing tall at 305 feet (93 meters) from base to torch, Lady Liberty is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. Created as a commemoration for the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi designed the statue to the likeness of his mother and officially named her “Liberty Enlightening the World” (nope, her name is NOT the Statue of Liberty!).
The spikes radiating on the crown of Lady Liberty are there to represent the world’s seven seas and continents. Visitors were once able to climb up to the top of the torch, but after a terrorist incident was never reopened to the public. However, you can still appreciate the view from the top with this TorchCam installed in 2011.
BE PROTECTED NO MATTER WHAT
If the current world situation has taught us anything, it’s that we always need to be prepared. When traveling, whether my flight is canceled, luggage is lost/delayed or even if I suffer an accident, World Nomads is my go-to travel insurance company.
They have incredible rates, flexible coverage plans and their claim process is ridiculously simple.
PALACE OF FINE ARTS
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
The Palace of Fine Arts also known as Palacio de Bellas Artes is Mexico City’s grandest and most important performance spaces and national treasures. The building features murals that were created by some of Mexico’s finest artists, including Diego Rivera, Jose Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. It houses exhibition halls for sculpture and painting, the National Museum of Architecture and the National Theater.
For those of you who watched the movie Frida, do you remember the mural that Diego Rivera created for Rockefeller Center in 1933? It was called, El Hombre en el Cruce de Caminos (Man at the Crossroads). Well, spoiler: it was way too political for John D. Rockefeller who later had it destroyed. Diego recreated it for the Palace of Fine Arts and can be studied by anyone who visits.
Due to its strong artistic and cultural contributions to society (fine arts, dance, theater, music and opera), the Palace of Fine Arts was declared an artistic monument by UNESCO in 1987.
Created as an “entrance arc” for the 1889 World Fair and only meant to stay up for 20 years, The Eiffel Tower won the hearts of the French (and visitors worldwide) and has stood the test of time. Three hundred steel workers spent two years, from 1887 to 1889, constructing the Tower, using more than 18,000 individual metallic parts, 2.5 million rivets and 40 tons of paint.
When making your way up, there are three potential areas of the tower you can visit at different heights: the first level is 189 feet high and includes an observation area, a reception room named after Gustave Eiffel, souvenir shops, an art show, a restaurant (58 Tour Eiffel) and a transparent floor. The second floor is 379 feet high and includes another observation area Le Jules Verne restaurant. Finally, the top level offers panoramic views at 905 feet high and features a beautiful champagne bar.
THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA
No building on Earth is more famous for its diagonal posture than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The slanted bell tower is arguably one of the most visited attractions in this region of Italy today. Its original design was never meant to lean, but due to a mistake in its architecture due largely in part to the shallow foundation of the area, we have the cultural phenomenon that is the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Did you know: A number of other Pisani structures suffer foundational instability thanks to the river city’s soft grounds. Among these are San Nicola, a 12th century church located about half a mile south of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and San Michele degli Scalzi, an 11th century church. While San Nicola, whose base is rooted beneath the earth, leans only mildly, San Michele degli Scalzi boasts a substantial 5-degree tilt.
NEW YORK CITY, USA
Central Park is a one of a kind wonder. It covers roughly 3.5 square miles, stretches across 843 acres of land and is said to be larger than some countries in the world (it’s larger than Vatican City and SIX times larger than Monaco).
The list of activities available is endless, with many of them completely FREE – so much so that an app was created by the Central Park Conservancy with the sole purpose of helping visitors find their way around the enormous space while learning about all of the daily activities available.
On any given day, you could take a boat ride, roller skate, hike, play in various and unique playgrounds, feed animals, ride on a carousel or simply lay a blanket under your favorite tree and read a good book for hours.
TAKE A WALKING TOUR OF NYC'S STREET ART
NEW YORK CITY, USA
Google now provides visitors from all over the world the opportunity to see the incredible street art New York City has to offer from the comfort of your own home! No need to go from downtown to midtown to spot these really cool, unique works of art.
However, once this travel ban is lifted, I do encourage you all to do this tour in person – you won’t regret it!
TOUR THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON DC, USA
Have you ever wanted to see inside the White House? Now you can! With this virtual tour by Google Arts & Culture, you can pick from 3 possible tours. Take a look at the White House from the inside, explore the outside grounds or check out the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Take the exclusive tour here.
SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS/AURORA BOREALIS
No lie, I have had this live virtual footage on since last night. While it has served as much needed white noise while working (and writing this), I’m also completely intrigued by watching this remote area in Manitoba, Canada.
I was able to see the Northern Lights last night in real time and it blew my mind/only made me want to see them in person even more. Check it out (or leave it on in the background for hours) and let me know your thoughts!
WATCH A SHOW AT THE MET OPERA HOUSE
NEW YORK CITY, USA
If you have always wanted to see an opera live and in person, but have never gotten around to it – this is for you!
The MET Opera House is offering live streams of shows including the iconic “La Boheme” and “Il Trovatore“. Shows will go live at 7:30 pm each night and be available for 20 hours after each performance. Don’t worry, all shows offer subtitles so you can follow along or simply enjoy the music.
LISTEN TO THE VANCOUVER SYMPHONY
Catch a live stream of the Vancouver Symphony anytime from the comfort of your home. Currently playing: Beethovenfest Virtual Finale. Shows are updated often, so be sure to check the site below for more information.
RIDE THE RIDES AT DISNEYLAND
Something for the kids!
I present to you: Virtual Disney rides to satisfy that Disney craving during this time of quarantine and isolation. Also, this will probably keep them occupied for a while and give you a break at home. I’m nothing if not helpful!
Join Elsa, Anna and Olaf as you go through the virtual Frozen ride, among other gems you’ll find here. Just don’t blame me if the kids want to watch endless Disney movies after this!
GO ON AN AFRICAN SAFARI
Sabi Sands, South Africa
Interact with an expert game ranger in real time. The stream is brought to us by WildEarth and features safari guides on foot, in their vehicles and using drones. It’s completely unscripted which makes you feel like you are right there, seeing it all in person.
There are two adventures per day:
Monday-Sunday, 12am-3am EDT
Monday-Sunday, 9:30am-12:30pm EDT
VISIT MARS like an astronaut
This, in my opinion, is one of THE COOLEST virtual experiences available online right now. NASA has teamed up with Google to create an entire experience as astronauts heading to Mars.
In addition to live footage, there is a click and learn option at every step which gives you all sorts of facts and information about what you’re looking at, materials that make up what you’re “stepping” on and so much more.
This could be an excellent tool for kids, but I think most adults will enjoy it just as much. Make it a whole family affair!
Check it out here and let me know your thoughts!
With so much fear and uncertainty around us, it’s important to remain calm and keep busy. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but with these incredible virtual tours, your mind will be occupied (and maybe even tricked) for a few hours. At least until we can all get back out there and travel.
Stay safe and healthy, loves! But most importantly – STAY HOME!