Normally, this time of the year marks the start of road trip season for many of us. We spent the coldest winter months dreaming up all the epic trips we’d embark on as soon as the weather allowed. We looked up roadside attractions and national park accommodations, created itineraries, and clicked our way through countless desolate roads on Google Street View to figure out the most scenic routes. We were ready to go.
And then, just as we were about to load up our luggage and hit the road, we were told to stay at home. It’s no longer safe to travel. Back in late 2019, when we were still researching the best roadside eats or quirkiest museums along our routes, we had no idea a global pandemic would hit just a few months later and keep us all sheltering in place.
We may be stuck at home for now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still experience some of the places we’ve been dreaming of visiting or returning to. What I, personally, wouldn’t give right now to stand atop Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, overlooking Half Dome and the valley below. Or rolling along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park while melting snow trickles down the cliffside into tiny roadside waterfalls.
But in the meantime, many museums, attractions, and national parks are offering virtual tours, so you can visit them without leaving your home.
We will road trip again. Until then, let’s just pretend like we are.
Kenai Fjords, Dry Tortugas, and more
Google Arts & Culture’s Hidden Worlds of the National Parks is an interactive VR experience that lets you explore some of the country’s under-the-radar national parks through 360-degree video and ranger-led tours. Parks include Alaska’s Kenai Fjords, Florida’s Dry Tortugas, Hawaii’s Hawaii Volcanoes, and more.
Feel like you’re visiting Yosemite, one of the most popular and spectacular national parks in the U.S., through the VR project Virtual Yosemite. Created by a pioneering virtual reality photographer, the project allows you to explore more than 200 locations within the national park through interactive 360-degree panoramas.
Drive the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park from the comfort of your own home using Google Street View. The 50-mile-long road—which has been designated as a National Historic Landmark—crosses the Continental Divide and offers some truly spectacular views.
Explore the Mother Road through this Google Voyager Tour, which drops you straight into some of the more epic stops along the route. Here you can step into Pixar’s Cars universe at Cars on the Route in Kansas, walk through the Blue Whale of Catoosa in Oklahoma, or admire the neon at the Blue Swallow Motel in New Mexico.
Travel down Alaska’s Seward Highway, which stretches between Seward and Anchorage, using Google Street View. The 125-mile-long road offers dramatically scenic views of coastline, mountains, and national forests. (Check out this TripSavy article for more scenic Street View road trips.)
The Neon Museum
Go on a guided tour of The Neon Museum’s Tim Burton exhibit in Las Vegas. The video includes behind-the-scenes fun facts about both the exhibit and the museum’s permanent collection.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
April 13, 2020 marked the 150th birthday of The Met in New York City. While the museum has had to postpone the opening of its anniversary exhibit, Making the Met, you can still view much of it online through Google Arts & Culture. (Here you can also check out virtual versions of MoMa and The Guggenheim.)
National Museum of Natural History
The National Museum of Natural History, which is part of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., offers virtual, self-guided tours of its permanent exhibits, current and past exhibits, and more.
Animals and Wildlife
San Diego Zoo
The most visited zoo in the country may be temporarily closed to visitors, but you can still check in on its residents—including koalas, baboons, penguins, and polar bears—through a collection of live cams.
If aquatic animals are more your thing, check out the National Aquarium’s live cams, where you can spot blacktip reef sharks swimming alongside rays and smaller fish. The blue blubber jelly feed is especially soothing.
Still want more? We’ve put together some video call backgrounds for you to download and use to make your friends and coworkers think you’re out on Route 66 instead of holed up in your basement-turned-home office. Safe (virtual) travels!