Family vacations may be on pause right now as we grapple with the effects of COVID-19, but virtual travel from our homes is helping to fill the gap. Thousands of museums, national parks, urban landmarks and other famous sites across the globe have stepped up their online game, putting kid-friendly virtual travel resources and activities right at our fingertips. It can be overwhelming to sort through them all, so we’ve done the hard part for you, creating a list of our favorite resources for family getaways from your own living room.
The best part? You might even discover new destinations to add to your must-see list. And when it’s safe to explore the world again, we’ll be here waiting and ready to help you make your dream trips happen.
Bringing Africa Home. Luxury travel firm &Beyond offers a terrific collection of movies, documentaries and YouTube videos themed around the wonders of Africa’s landscape, natural history, and animal life.
Edinburgh Zoo. Observe the day-to-day habits of adorable penguins, pandas, koalas, tigers and more while you virtually explore their zoo surroundings.
San Diego Zoo. Among the finest in the U.S., the San Diego Zoo has almost a dozen webcams that feature live streams of polar bears, owls, elephants, baboons and other critters.
Ouwehand Zoo. You’ll love keeping up with the growth of two adorable polar bear cubs as they frolic on camera at this Netherlands-based zoo.
New England Aquarium. An ongoing video series gets kids up close and personal with behind-the-scenes tasks like seal training and fish feeding.
Georgia Aquarium. Watch ethereal beluga whales glide through the water and playful sea otters scamper around, or practice mindfulness with hypnotic videos of jellyfish and other marine life.
Google Arts and Culture. The 800-pound gorilla of virtual museum and monument tours, Google takes you inside scores of iconic institutions — including the Uffizi Gallery in Florence; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Pergamon Museum in Berlin; and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam — plus landmarks like Christ the Redeemer in Rio and the Empire State Building. If you only have time to scour one resource for virtual travel experiences, this is the one.
Vatican Museums. Enjoy in-the-round panoramas of the Sistine Chapel (with no crowds … a feat only social distancing can offer!), the Raphael Rooms and other Vatican highlights.
British Museum. A masterfully constructed virtual timeline plots items from the vast collection along different points in history.
The Louvre. Online exhibits highlight select rooms and collections of this beloved Paris museum, like Egyptian antiquities and the Galerie d’Apollon, on which Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors was based.
MetKids, Metropolitan Museum of Art. No need to travel to New York City right now! Kids can jump into a time machine to glimpse objects from different eras in history, watch art-themed videos tailored just for kids or click on a hand-drawn map for views within each floor and gallery.
The Art Institute of Chicago. In addition to online tours and collection highlights, kids can access creative activities geared for solo experimentation and all-family fun.
Berlin Philharmonic. Listen in on hundreds of live-streamed and archival concerts and other musical events from one of the finest performing arts venues in the world.
Metropolitan Opera. Weekly student-focused opera streams plus Facebook Live and Zoom chats from this New York stalwart are designed to engage young opera fans and meet them where they are while they stay home: social media.
Royal Collection Trust. As custodians of the 500-year-old Royal Collection, works of art amassed by the British Royal Family through generations, the Trust has arranged online viewing of exquisite objects such as Fabergé boxes and Da Vinci sketches.
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Virtual Adventures for Kids. Austin Adventures, a favorite with families, hosts a series of webinars that allow kids to explore captivating destinations worldwide, like Alaska, Costa Rica and Peru.
Google Maps Treks. Want to canvass the Temples of Angkor? Hike the mountains of Nepal? Gaze at the Taj Mahal? Bucket-list adventures become a reality thanks to this initiative by Google Maps.
Google Earth Virtual Reality. Compatible with Oculus virtual reality products, these videos allow you to walk around or soar over jaw-dropping landscapes and city streets. All you need is a VR headset and the comfort of your own home.
National Geographic. We can’t think of a brand more suited to offering free virtual tours of some of the most exotic and hard-to-reach places in the world than National Geographic. This series of 360-degree tours takes kids inside Mexico’s Chichén Itzá, through a shipwreck off Bermuda and deep into the canyons of Victoria Falls in Africa, just for starters.
National Air and Space Museum. Art and Space Anywhere programming includes interviews with major figures in STEM, bite-size videos about stars and planets, virtual tours and online games.
American Museum of Natural History. Browse the museum’s science-focused OLogy website for in-depth exploration of a huge range of scientific topics, from astronomy and climate change to biodiversity and paleontology.
NASA STEM Engagement. Broken out by age range, NASA’s comprehensive space content — model rocket launches, astronaut interviews, hands-on activities — is perfect for science and tech enthusiasts.
Steve Spangler Science. Want to create a sugar rainbow? Make a soap soufflé? See how many water drops can fit on a penny? The huge library of experiments on this great site will keep kids entertained (and learning) for weeks.
Access Mars. Traverse the surface of the Red Planet right from your own living room with this virtual tour in the Curiosity rover. Perfect for space buffs!
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