While recent events may have kept us off planes and, well, on our couch, travel still remains one of the best ways to demonstrate our global interconnectedness and humanity. So for now, because we are all in this together (and separately from our individual couches), we’ll have to be armchair voyagers as we explore museums, libraries, and historical, religious, and cultural sites. Learning and discovery don’t have to stop. Keep reading to find out about the best virtual vacations from the comfort—and safety—of your own home.
Have a Virtual Adventure at the Grand Canyon
The National Park Service does more than educate sightseers in person when they visit any of the 61 national parks. You can view the Grand Canyon via 360-degree photographs on an archeology virtual tour, go on a virtual hike past layers of earth to the famous Phantom Ranch, or float down the Colorado River on a rafting trip.
Online: View virtual tours, maps, and photographs through the National Park System’s website.
See Llamas at Machu Picchu
High in the Peruvian Andes mountains sits Machu Picchu, an ancient citadel built in the 15th century. A visit here will reward you with stunning mountain views, llama sightings, and great hikes throughout olden ruins.
Online: Visit the citadel online through a 360-degree virtual tour, provided by You Visit.
Wander Through the Sistine Chapel in Italy
Located in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel is famous for the Renaissance frescos that brighten up the interior. In person, when open to the public, The Sistine Chapel is crowded, and it can be difficult to view all of the artwork. A virtual tour is not only a great way to appreciate the chapel without the interference of too many people, but you can also see the gardens, Pontifical Villas, and Vatican City museums.
Online: See the Vatican grounds, including the Sistine Chapel, by clicking on arrows to move up, down, left and right throughout each tour. You’ll also be able to zoom in to get a better look at the paintings.
Visit the Land of Creation
Jerusalem is home to three monolithic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is one of the most notable locations in Jerusalem. Located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City in Israel, this religious site is said to be where Jesus was crucified, where his empty tomb is located, and where he is believed to have been resurrected.
Online: Experience 360-degree virtual tours of Jerusalem, including The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Western Wall, Old City markets, Mount of Olives, and much more via Samsung XL.
Tour the White House
Visiting Washington, D.C., is inadvisable right now, but you can still go on a virtual tour of the White House. See the Eisenhower Executive Office Building positioned next to the West Wing where White House Staff offices are located. Click through a 360-degree view of the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office, the Secretary of War Suite, the War Library/The Law Library, and The Indian Treaty Room. Learn about how the art and décor of the White House has changed with each Presidential occupancy. You’ll have the opportunity to view the Entrance Hall, Cross Hall, East Room, Green Room, Blue Room, Red Room, State Dining Room, Vermeil Room, China Room, East Garden Room, and more.
Online: Google Arts & Culture offers a wide variety of virtual reality tours.
Visit the Guggenheim Museum in New York City
New York City’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is one of the most stunning Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures in the country. The white spiral ramp in the interior takes you from the bottom to the top in an organized and visually pleasing way.
Online: Google Arts & Culture will lead you through the museum’s multiple floors, highlighting 600 artworks along the way. You’ll be able to zoom in and out and rotate your view 360 degrees.
Understand the Natural World in Washington, D.C.
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, home to 125 million artifacts, is one of the most-visited natural history institutions on the planet. Visit the exhibits—permanent, current, and past—from your desktop or mobile device on a virtual tour. You’ll be able to click on blue arrows as you navigate through each exhibit, located on the ground, first, or second floors. Be patient as pages load and click on camera icons to get a close-up view of a particular object.
Online: The museum’s website showcases a wide variety of exhibits via virtual tours.
Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York City
If you’ve never been to New York City, then the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration on Ellis Island are likely high on your travel wishlist. Both islands, which are part of the same National Park System, are worth exploring. Go on a virtual tour of Ellis Island to see where more than 40 percent of Americans can find family history and climb inside of the Statue of Liberty.
Online: The National Park Service has virtual tours of Ellis Island, created by Heritage Documentation Programs, and the Statue of Liberty National Monument. Scholastic also has an informative Teacher’s Activity Guide that will allow you to see photos, listen to audio, and learn about Ellis Island on an interactive tour.
Smile Back at Mona Lisa in Paris
The Louvre in Paris is the largest art museum on the planet, home to more than 35,000 displayed works, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. While this historic museum is usually congested, especially on the weekends, you can visit virtually, from the comfort of your own home, and see the museum’s most impressive works. If nothing else, this online experience can be valuable research for when you travel to Paris in the future.
Online: Immerse yourself in the museum’s galleries and exhibits via virtual reality. See Egyptian antiques, the Louvre’s moat, and, of course, Mona Lisa’s smile. The museum’s website also has a number of videos that you can watch to get a better understanding of the museum’s art. Note: You’ll have to download Flash Player. You Visit also has a great 360-degree virtual reality display of several museum galleries.
Witness the Treasures of England’s British Museum
Home to the Rosetta Stone, Greek vases, Egyptian mummies, an Easter Island statue, an Aztec double-headed serpent sculpture, and numerous other artifacts and artworks, the British Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London. See impressive examples of human history, art, and culture through a virtual tour.
Online: See the British Museum via Google, where you can navigate a timeline to view specific artifacts.
Learn About Amsterdam’s History and Culture at The Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum is one of the most visited museums in Amsterdam, and for good reason. See works from the Dutch Golden Age by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Ruisdael, Steen, and more. The building itself is also a work of art and worth viewing through virtual reality.
Online: Virtual tours, of the interior as well as the exterior, are available through Google Arts & Culture.
Float Along the Great Wall of China
Fortification walls, stretching thousands of miles, were built in northern China to protect the country against invaders and to control trade along the Silk Road. The Great Wall of China is known as one of the most impressive and significant archeological human feats in history.
Online: Wander through sections of the Great Wall of China through a virtual tour, provided by You Visit. Click on the camera icons to see close-up photographs.