Virtual vacations

COVID-19 doesn’t have to mean the end of summer travel and vacations. Check out these virtual vacations that allow you to maintain social distancing.

June 2020

Greg Grisolano

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Ever wanted to see the masterpieces of the Louvre? What about the insides of the Great Pyramids? Has a lack of truck parking thwarted you from sightseeing in one of America’s great natural parks? Well, then you just might be in luck.

As the COVID-19 crisis brought most of the world to a halt this spring, many tourist attractions, museums and other destinations took the unprecedented step of offering virtual tours online. Some of the advantages of virtual tours include: no long lines or crowds, no one obstructing your views, and no charge for tickets or mandatory trips to the gift shop. It might not be a true “Line 1 layover,” but it may just be the next best thing while social distancing remains in effect.

Sightseeing in America’s national parks

Take a virtual visit to a national park, via the National Parks Foundation’s blog.

Explore Oregon’s Crater Lake in a 360-degree video that includes a guided tour from park rangers. Or, watch for wildlife on one of the live webcams. You can even tune in to watch Old Faithful’s eruptions on one of the nine live webcams at Yellowstone National Park.

For a truly unique viewing experience, dive into the underwater webcam at Channel Islands National Park off the coast of California.

The National Parks Foundation also provides links to virtual tours that will take you inside landmarks like the Clara Barton house in Glen Echo, Md.

Have you been wondering how the brown bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska’s Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes are doing lately? Check in on them via the park’s three bear webcams. The cameras go live in the summer, when the bears are most active, foraging for food in preparation for the winter’s hibernation. But the park provides highlight reels from the bear cams year-round.

If aquatic life is more your scene, many aquariums – including the National Aquarium in Baltimore and California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium – are offering livestreams of their exhibits, including sharks, sea otters and beluga whales. There’s even a live webcam of waves crashing into the Monterey Bay, which can be particularly calming to watch.

A night in a museum

If you’ve had enough of the great outdoors, try checking out what’s inside some of the world’s most famous museums.

Google Arts and Culture partnered with over 2,500 museums and galleries around the world to offer virtual tours of their spaces. Some of the options include New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. The Louvre in Paris also offers tours of its galleries while the physical museum remains closed because of France’s nationwide shelter-in-place order.

That extensive list of museums isn’t limited strictly to art museums, either. Peruse the shelves of many national libraries or even dive deep into collections aimed at hobbies and enthusiasms.

Gearheads might want to investigate the insides of Australia’s National Motor Museum, in Birdwood. The museum “showcases the stories of people and vehicles that have shaped Australia’s motoring history.”

Sports fans may want to check out the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s online exhibits, which include video interviews with some of the men who barnstormed around the country when Major League Baseball was still enforcing segregation.

In the mood for something completely different? Scope out the National Inventors Hall of Fame, where one of the online exhibits focuses on Marshall Jones, a 2017 inductee who is credited with inventing industrial lasers. According to his Hall of Fame bio, Jones “pioneered the use of lasers for industrial materials processing. He invented novel methods to weld dissimilar metals, and developed fiber optic systems, making lasers much more convenient for industrial applications.”

If natural history’s more your thing, check out the 360-degree room-by-room tour of every exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Journey abroad without a passport

The COVID-19 crisis has had a worldwide impact. Many of the great cultural heritage sites and vacation destinations have been severely affected by a lack of travel and tourism. But there may be no better time to check out some of these breathtaking destinations.

The Giza Project at Harvard University is offering virtual tours of four of the most famous pyramids in the Giza Necropolis, all from the comfort of your phone or laptop. Take a step-by-step journey through the tomb of the legendary Pharaoh Ramses II, pausing to look at the hieroglyphics that decorate every inch of wall and ceiling in the ancient king’s burial chamber. Or explore the tomb of Queen Meresankh III, and click on the interactive map for historical photos of the first excavation or to view a digital reconstruction of what the interior of the pyramid would have looked like in the pharaoh’s day.

You can take a walk through the inside of the Coliseum in Rome, or scope out the skyline from the Eiffel Tower. Fly over the lotus-topped dome of the Taj Mahal, or climb deep inside five of the towers of Angkor Wat, the city of temples in Cambodia.

If you’d prefer a tour with more structure, the Machu Picchu pyramid site in Peru offers a voiceover guided narration to help explore the ancient Incan ruins. Or you can journey to Stonehenge and watch videos about how the site was constructed using ancient technology. LL

Greg Grisolano

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.