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Virtual Excursions: Visiting the World from Home

No need to pack! Online outings brought right to your couch!

In an effort to “flatten the curve,” global health experts have recommended that people stay at home to combat the exponential spread of COVID-19. Communities are enforcing social distancing and shelter-in-place policies to limit the virus’ ability to spread.

So does that mean vacations are out of the question? Think again. Thanks to technology, it’s now possible to visit all kinds of places from the comfort of home. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best virtual trips for you, so enjoy your “visit!”

1. The Zoo There are so many amazing online options when it comes to zoos that we couldn’t narrow it down to just one. Most zoos have live webcams in some of their most popular exhibits, such as the Panda Cam at Zoo Atlanta. Some zoos offer a more in-depth look. You’ll definitely want to check out the San Diego Zoo. The San Diego Zoo (pictured) is one of the best, and most famous, zoos in the world — and the live streams they feature show it including baboon, penguin, polar bear, ape, giraffe, owl, elephant, tiger and condor cams where viewers can see the animals pal around in their habitats.

Additional zoos to check out include:

  • Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary — Located near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, the sanctuary has launched 15 different live stream cameras that are on 24/7 of their resident koalas. Viewers can watch the Young Koala Tracker, the Koala Forest, where most of the female koalas live, the Koala Train, where the koalas cuddle up and snuggle together, and one camera that is devoted to where they sleep, which is where they are most of the time. (Koalas sleep 18 to 20 hours a day.) But the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary doesn’t just feature everyone’s favorite marsupial, they also have live streams of bearded dragons, birds and dingoes.

  • Houston Zoo — Housing more than 6,000 animals from 900 different species, they are closed due to the pandemic; however, they host a bunch of cool animals on their live cams — the Rhino Yard, Chimp Window cams, Elephant yard cams, as well as the Gorilla Habitat and Giraffe cam. Perhaps the coolest cam at the Houston Zoo is the Leafcutter Ant cam, for all of the bug-lovers out there, which shows the powerful ant species at work, cutting leaves and building away.

  • Cincinnati Zoo Ohio’s Cincinnati Zoo is playing the live-stream game a little bit differently from the other zoos. Every single day, the Zoo will go on Facebook live at 2 p.m. to feature a different animal. The first live stream featured everyone’s favorite hippo, Fiona, but you can tune in daily to check out a different animal. 

2. The Aquarium It’s a similar story with aquariums. You have your pick of live webcams, but our favorites are:

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium — California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a stunning array of aquatic life. Seated at the edge of the Pacific ocean, it features 10 different live streams, including an aviary cam positioned on the aquarium’s ocean-view deck to see ocean birds; a Coral Reef cam, which offers glimpses of tropical fish gliding through the multi-colored habitat; a Kelp Forest Cam, which features, among other things, looks at leopard sharks and sardines; an Otter Cam, which looks out on Abbi and the other famous sea otters at the museum; and a Shark Cam, which, well, shows off their finned family. Best of all might be the Jellyfish Cam (pictured above) that provides a rare look at pods of the invertebrates bouncing around in their tanks.

  • Georgia Aquarium — The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is the largest aquarium in the country and has a series of live streams that feature all different types of fish and animals. The aquarium’s Ocean Voyager webcam, which shows off the inhabitants of the aquarium’s 6.3 million gallon tank, features four whale sharks, four manta rays and a green sea turtle. The aquarium also features a tropical diver reef live stream that has 9:30 a.m. dive shows and 2 p.m. feedings as well as a sea otter exhibit that features 10 a.m. training sessions. The African penguins alone are worth tuning in.

  • Seattle Aquarium — The Washington Aquarium has two live streams: one of their Harbor Seals, and another of their Sea Otters. In addition, the aquarium’s YouTube channel offers an abundance of footage of everything from the various aquarium Octopi as well as sea otter training, and some adorable videos of their rescued sea otter pup named Rialto.

3. The Farm Ah ... there's nothing more peaceful and sure to make you smile than watching alpacas graze on lush green grass. Welcome to the Wisconsin pasture at Farm Sanctuary, where you can watch cows, goats, sheep, alpacas and more socialize and relax in the picturesque tranquility of Watkins Glen, New York. Farm Fresh 360 allows you to immerse yourself in Canadian farm and food tours — from raising pigs to making milk and cheese. We’re also loving these virtual egg farm field trips from the American Egg Board.

4. A Planetarium Through Star Atlas, you can explore over 60,000 stars, locate planets and watch sunrises and solar eclipses. If you enter your location, you can see all the constellations that are visible in the night sky in your corner of the world!

5. Volcanoes The U.S. Geological Survey monitors volcanoes in the United States. Their interactive map allows you to click on and learn about any volcano in the country. 

6. Nature Works Everywhere The Nature Conservancy offers 11 virtual field trips that allow the viewer to do everything from exploring a coastal rain forest while in a canoe to unlocking the secrets of coral reefs in the Dominican Republic. Each video is about 45 minutes long.

The first established National Park (pictured) and popular vacation destination is now accessible to virtual travelers. The interactive maps are a great way to see the Mammoth Hot Springs and Mud Volcano, but we think kids will be psyched about the Old Faithful Geyser live-stream and the opportunity to make their own predictions for its next eruption.

8. The Great Lakes This virtual field trip from Great Lakes Now has three components: coastal wetlands, algae, and lake sturgeon. Each video is a quick five minutes. 9. The Smithsonian The National Museum of Natural History’s virtual experiences are self-guided, room-by-room tours of permanent, current and past exhibits. Make sure to visit the second floor Bone Hall to take a look at all different kinds of skeletons!

10. Metropolitan Museum of Art Bring the iconic New York museum into your home! Experience The Met online with any of the 26 online galleries, including Christian Dior: Ball Gowns and The Art of Music Through Time.

11. Colonial Williamsburg This living history museum (pictured) provides a look into life in an early American community. The website offers eight different webcams, featuring areas such as the tavern, the armory, and the market house.

12. 360 Cities Boasting the world’s largest collection of 360° images videos, 360 Cities provides its visitors with the opportunity to see stunning panoramas across the globe. Their video of black ants walking on the dirt is pretty amazing.

13. The Louvre Museum Everyone wants to go to Paris! But you don’t need a passport to see at least some of the exhibits at the world’s most famous art museum. Check out the current virtual tours: Egyptian antiquities, Galerie d’Apollon, and the remains of the Louvre’s moat.

14. The Great Wall of China See one of the wonders of the world with this amazing, thousands-year old fortification system known the world over. This virtual tour has three options for touring the ancient structure: Jinshaling to Simatai, watchtower and winter.

15. Ancient Egypt You don’t need a time machine! Discovering Ancient Egypt has a ton of free resources, but it’s the interactive pyramid map and 3D temple reconstructions that really give it an adventurous feel.

BONUS EXCURSION: Mars! No, really! You can absolutely go to the red planet. With Access Mars, you can see the actual surface of Mars, recorded by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Don’t miss the intro!

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