With each day bringing new closures and cancellations as we work together as a nation to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s natural to feel a little anxious. If you had to cancel a long-awaited vacation, school trip or spring break getaway, you might even feel angry or disappointed. And if you’re one of the many parents now schooling their children at home, the prospect of hunkering down for weeks on end may be, quite frankly, rather daunting.
Although none of us can control much of what’s going on right now, we do have the choice to move beyond our initial worries and woes to make the best of a not-so-great situation. We can choose to look at this an opportunity to slow down, reconnect as a family, discover new things – and maybe even some new places!
Thanks to the wonder that is the Internet, there’s a whole world out there just waiting for you to explore, right in the comfort of your own home. In recent years, hundreds of museums, national parks, zoos and other attractions have made virtual tours, videos, live cams and other discovery resources available online. Now is a great time to tap into these free resources, whether it’s to stave off boredom, satisfy your cravings for adventure, or keep kids learning while school is out. A virtual visit to Yellowstone National Park, for example, offers not only great views but also the opportunity to learn about history, geology and geography.
This roundup of virtual attractions will allow you to follow your virtual GPS across the U.S. There’s no need to pack a bag, but you might want to bring some snacks. Let’s get started!
From historic villages and world-famous zoos, to smaller regional and local sights, there’s a wealth of attractions to explore across the U.S.
- California Missions: (there are 21 in total)
- Colonial Williamsburg: Explore From Home
- Disney Parks: 360 Google Street View
- Georgia Aquarium: Live cams
- Minnesota State Fair: Virtual visit
- Monterey Bay Aquarium: Live cams
- New England Aquarium: Virtual visit
- San Diego Zoo: Live animal cams
- San Diego Zoo: Videos, games, activities for kids
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park
- U.S. Air Force Academy: Virtual Tours
- U.S. Naval Academy: Virtual Chapel Tours
- Virginia Zoo: Virtual Voyage
Cities & Towns
Ever wonder what it’s like to stand in the middle of Times Square, visit New Orleans or explore a tiny town that boasts a population of just 489? These virtual resources can help you discover a diverse slice of America.
- Empire State Building: View from the 102nd floor
- Friendsville, Maryland: (the tiny town referenced above)
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- New York City: NYC Virtual visit
Take a step back in time and learn more about America’s storied past, from its earliest beginnings to the
- Fort Negley 360: Nashville, Tennessee
- Gettysburg: Virtual tour
- Lincoln Memorial
- National WWII Museum: Electronic field trips
- Plimoth Plantation: Virtual field trip
- Valley Forge National Historical Park: Virtual Tours
Skip the lines and the ticket booth with these virtual visits to museums featuring world-famous art collections, immersive national history displays, in-depth science and space exhibits and more.
- American Museum of Natural History: New York City
- Detroit Institute of Arts
- Field Museum: Chicago
- Getty Museum, LA
- Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
- Guggenheim, NYC
- High Museum of Art, Atlanta
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York City
- MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art): New York City
- Museum of Contemporary Photography: Digital Exhibitions
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
- Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago: Science at Home
- National Air & Space Museum
- National Gallery of Art: Washington, D.C.
- National Museum of the Marine Corps: Virtual Experience
- National Museum of Natural History: Virtual tour
- National Women’s History Museum: Online exhibits
- The Met Museum, NYC: 360° Project
National & State Parks
From getting up close and personal with geysers, to uncovering archeological treasures, to talking a guided walk through ancient forests, these virtual park tours deliver on the call for adventure.
- Grand Canyon: Archeology tour
- Hidden Worlds of the National Parks
- National Parks: Google Views
- National Parks of the United States: Google Earth Views
- Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone
- Redwood Mountain: Virtual tour
- Yosemite National Park: Historic images
- Virtual Yosemite
Feeling cooped up? These resources will help you reconnect with nature as you virtually explore environments and landscapes both familiar and new. Perhaps even another planet?
- Bryce Canyon
- Discover Hawaii: Landmarks in Google Earth view
- Kenai Fjords, Alaska
- Grand Canyon: Virtual field trips
- Access Mars: Surface of Mars recorded by NASA’s Curiosity Rover
Unique buildings and structures are a feast for the eyes – and can also help you learn about design, history and more.
- Basilica of the Assumption: Baltimore, Maryland
- Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Washington D.C.
- Basilica of St. Mary: Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Betsy Ross House: 360° virtual tour
- Cathedral of Saint Andrew: Grand Rapids, Michigan
- Cathedral of St. John the Divine: New York City
- Cathedral of Saint Paul: Saint Paul, Minnesota
- Ellis Island: Interactive virtual tour
- Gateway Arch: 360° view
- Montana State Capitol Building
- Monticello: Virtual Tours
- Mount Vernon: Virtual tour
- Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral: Toledo, Ohio
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral: New York City
- Saint Thomas Church: New York City
- Taliesin: Frank Lloyd Wright
- The Architect’s Virtual Capitol: Interactive tour of the U.S. Capitol
- The White House: Virtual tour
- Washington National Cathedral: Washington D.C.
Explore a new-to-you aspect of America’s culture or get back to your own roots with these virtual resources.
- Google Arts & Culture: Large Virtual Resource
- National Museum of African American History and Culture: Virtual tour
Events & Festivals
While many events and festivals have been canceled or postponed for the next few weeks (or in some cases, months), you can still view plenty of performances – past and present – online.
- Broadway: Living Room Concerts
- Met Opera: Free Live Stream Performances
- National Cherry Blossom Festival: Washington, D.C.
- PBS Great Performances
Get your gearhead fix with these inside looks at trains, planes, automobiles and more!
- Henry Ford Museum: Virtual tour
- NASA Commercial Crew Program: VR 360 Tours
- National Museum of the United States Air Force: Virtual tour
- Nevada Northern Railway: Virtual Tour
- Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania: Virtual tours
- Strasburg Rail Road: Virtual Tour
About The Authors: It is a team effort to bring you this article and it is a small example of the growing FMG community. Introductory text, topic intros and seed links provided by writer Amber Gabrenas a self-proclaimed word nerd with a passion for travel. In the coming weeks, I (Alleyn) will continue to gather links to amazing virtual travel and exploration opportunities around American and update this article.