Need to get out of the house and go on vacation, but finances, health, or other circumstances have you staying at home? Virtual tours are the next best thing. They allow you to travel to exotic locations, including space, without ever leaving home. Here are some of the best ways to take a staycation getaway using virtual tours.
The Seven Wonders app allows you to travel to the seven wonders of the world from your phone. The app supports the use of Google Cardboard but you don’t have to use it. You can just hold your phone up to your face — as you move the phone, you’ll see a 360-degree view of whatever location you’re visiting.
With the Sites in VR app, you can take tours around the world using a virtual reality headset or just your phone or iPad. You can choose from cities or countries to visit, or you can go inside famous landmarks, like the pyramids. There are even space panoramas for a little out-of-this-world entertainment.
AirPano is a free site that allows you to wander beautiful locations all over the world. The best features of these virtual tours are choosing to take a helicopter view over the landscape or a walking trail through the area. The site also has articles about the location you are visiting and allows visitors to leave comments. If you really like a tour, you can choose to buy it as a download.
Sometimes you just want to leave this planet behind. That’s where virtual space tours come in handy. The Exoplanet Travel Bureau, powered by NASA, is here for you. You can choose an exoplanet and travel around its alien surface. Of course, the planets are artist renderings, since we haven’t actually traveled there yet, but they’re fascinating just the same. NASA at Home has many more space-themed virtual and augmented reality tours, too.
The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks is a Google project that lets you explore five different U.S. parks, including Florida’s Dry Tortugas, Hawaiian volcanoes, the Kenai Fjords in Alaska, New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns, and Utah’s Bryce Canyon. Each tour starts with a little history lesson about the area, and then you can dive into the 360-degree landscape. There are also audio tour guides that help you along your journey, explaining what you’re looking at and a little of its history.
Sometimes you don’t know where you want to go, and that’s OK. The Random Street View generator (powered by Google Maps) is the answer. It will take you on a virtual stroll down a random street somewhere in the world. Be careful, though. Exploring random locations is a bit addicting. One minute you may be virtually walking down a highway in Michigan, and then with a click, you could be in an alleyway in Romania. The best part is that you get to see places that other virtual tour sites and apps don’t offer.
With Google Earth, you can go anywhere on our planet, from your hometown to the other side of the earth. You can use the website to take your journey, or use the app together with VR equipment to enhance your experience. Other than the awesome street views and ability to travel just about anywhere, you can also enhance Google Earth with your own videos and photos of places you have been in person.
If you’re an animal lover, there are many great virtual zoo exhibits that you can visit from your home. The San Diego Live Cams, for example, let you watch live footage of a wide range of animals, from baboons to penguins. Some other great animal cams can be found at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, The Houston Zoo, and EarthCam.
There are plenty of ways to visit our fishy friends, too. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, The Georgia Aquarium, and The National Aquarium all have fantastic live webcams that allow you to watch sharks, jellyfish, stingrays, and much more.
When it comes to fine art, it’s hard to do better than a virtual tour of the Louvre. The website has a variety of tours you can take throughout the gallery, including The Galerie d’Apollon, Louvre’s Petite Galerie, and the east side of the Sully wing. When you’re finished at the Louvre, check out the virtual tours of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in South Korea, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and the Museu de Arte de São Paulo in Brazil.
There are also virtual tours that can take you back in time, sort of. You can see amazing exhibits of curiosities from the past, like dinosaurs, Egyptian relics, Stone Age tools, and more at The Natural History Museum in London, The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and The British Museum.
Longing for a walk in the woods or a tour through habitats that rarely see a human? No problem. There are plenty of virtual tours to satisfy you. Conservation International, for example, has a 360-degree tour through the Amazon that is narrated by an indigenous guide. Other virtual hikes you might enjoy include a trip through the redwoods at Muir Woods National Park, a stroll through the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve, and a tour of New Zealand’s Great Walks.