One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.Henry Miller
Getting on an airplane was a near weekly occurrence for my colleagues and I before COVID-19 hit. Whether it was for work or for play, travel was a basic and essential element of our lives. My last plane ride was in late March, and it’s likely safe to assume this is the same for many others as well.
Travel now is more likely regional road-trips. Where a lot of my friends were generally very adventurous with their summer family travel, I saw a lot of them in national parks, camping trips with motor homes and VRBO rentals in nature areas within a day’s drive of the house. I lived vicariously through a lot of Facebook photos this summer and was delighted to see all the fun that could still be had without the air travel.
Looking forward to 2021, there’s still uncertainty about how much travel and vacationing we will do. The CDC’s “Travel Recommendations” map puts things into perspective. With most of the globe categorized as bright-orange high-risk, it’s easy to feel a bit blue. I know I, and a lot of others, are chomping at the bit for a little far-flung adventure.
Instead of seeing the ‘glass half empty,’ we can look at the bright side. Never has there been a better time to “travel” from the comfort of your home office or on the TV with your family as there is now by way of virtual tours. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve found quite an array of places to visit that aren’t your average tours in mainstream museums. Many of these tour recommendations are inspiring and stimulating — taking you to places you have never been, and maybe some have not even heard about.
So, say goodbye to a boring evening or weekend of Netflix, and say hello to some interesting and educational virtual tours of Museums of the United States, International Museums, Zoo-Cams, and Other-Worldly Adventures.
Museums of the United States
The Broad Museum, Los Angeles, CA
The Broad Museum showcases gorgeous and thought-provoking contemporary art from the 1950s to modern day. You can delve deeper into their collection with a tour directly from the curators themselves, and even more on their own YouTube channel! Committed to not only showcasing art itself but The Broad also hopes to inspire an artistic spirit in its visitors. So, expand your brain with their Poetry and Art series or get the kiddos off the videogame console and into The Broad’s interactive family art projects! You won’t regret it!
Fast Fact: A total of 318 skylights make up the “veil” across the gallery’s third floor space.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM
Instead of hopping onto a plane to visit Sante Fe, New Mexico, hop onto your couch! This museum has special perks, so instead of being limited to one kind of tour, you are treated to a whole calendar of events! Their events are the perfect mash-up of “eat, drink, work, and play.” You can eat breakfast with the O’Keeffe’s, get business advice, and take online art classes! Whatever you’re in the mood for, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has you covered!
Fast Fact: Georgia O’Keeffe never signed any of her paintings.
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
Who knew that The Detroit Museum of Arts, with over 100 galleries, has one of the largest and most significant art collections in the U.S? Since we cannot get there to see some of it in person, they’ve curated a slew of resources to keep you busy and your brain interactive. Kick back and check out their curator art tours, subscribe to their newsletter to get all the newest info on their live events (things like music and behind-the-scenes features), or grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy the Detroit Film Theater on demand (you won’t find these on Netflix).
Fast Fact: The DIA also houses a French Gothic chapel from a 16th century chateau that was carted over from Paris in 1924.
The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
One of the leading art museums in the Southeast, The High has more than 17,000 works of art in its permanent collection. Holdings include art from the 19th and 20th century of U.S. and European painting, a growing collection of African American Art, and a increased dedication to collecting works by Southern artists. The High has embraced technology and has an extensive video library on their YouTube Channel. Some fun and recent videos and playlists include: For kids in K-12, “Explore STEAM through Art,” (STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math); Curator Series (which shows you all about the creation of an exhibit); and countless other tours and lectures.
Fast Fact: In 2019, The High launched “Heartmatch,” a Tinder-style app which after a few left or right swipes, determines your art interests, and will take take you to a wing or collection in their museum for a deeper dive.
Museums of the World
Museo Frida Kahlo, Mexico City, Mexico
If your days are looking a little bleak, check out this tour of Frida Kahlo’s house! Talk about a ray of sunshine! “The Blue House” was made into a museum a few years after this famous artist’s death. She’s world-renowned for her creativity, but we must also applaud her resilience; she started her painting career after being immobilized by an auto accident. Maybe the Frida Kahlo Museum will provide some extra motivation to use our COVID-circumstance for something good.
Fast Fact: Frida Kahlo was born in 1907 in a building nicknamed “La Casa Azul” for its vivid blue exterior. She died in the same house in 1954 at the sage of 47.
The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
The Hermitage is the second largest museum and the eighth most visited art museum in the world. Boasting over 3 million pieces of artwork, there is literally something for everyone here, including some amazing architecture. Their virtual tour allows you to walk through all five buildings of the complex, treasure gallery, and nine different exhibition projects.
Fast Fact: The Hermitage started out as the private art collection of Catherine the Great when she bought more than 200 pieces of art in Berlin from agents. At the time of her death, the collection emcompassed almost 4,000 paintings.
Museu Picasso, Barcelona, Spain
This is an artistic and cultural tour rolled into one! Picasso moved to Barcelona with his family when he was just a teenager. The Picasso Museum houses an extensive collection of his artwork (over four thousand pieces!) from his early years. This collection is organized in a way that, when you enter each separate room of this tour, you experience a different stage of Picasso’s lifetime! You can also continue your adventure with an outside stroll around all of the grand buildings, terraces, and courtyards.
Fast Fact: The Museu Picasso occupies five large houses or palaces dating from the 13th and 14th centuries.
Science Museum, London, England
From the start, you’ll discover this museum is a little different from the rest. Put your thinking cap on and check out the London Science Museum’s award-winning exhibitions. They offer an imagination-tempting buffet of different online experiences, including activities, online object galleries, and live online events. You can take a google-fueled self-guided-tour through the museum or watch their curator guides. Learn about various subjects, like how Tracy the sheep contributed to science or about Amy Johnson, the first solo female aviator to cross from England to Australia. This museum proves that science is anything but boring!
Fast Fact: The Science Museum now holds a collection of over 300,000 items, including such famous items as Stephenson’s Rocket, Puffing Billy (the oldest surviving steam locomotive), and the first jet engine.
One of my favorite all-time vacations was a week at Yellowstone and through the Grand Teton National Park. Alas, it was the first time I was up-close and personal with coyotes, buffalo, moose, elk, and bears (further, fortunately). Anytime I can, I l-o-v-e to watch animals at play. Here’s a quick collection of live web-cams where you can see various animals at play in zoos or in their natural habitats. (NOTE: A lot of thes zoo cam’s are turned off in the evenings.)
Bald Eagles in the Channel Islands: May be more seasonal based upon nesting cycles
Panda-Cam, Atlanta Zoo
Beluga Whale Cam, Georgia Aquarium
Elephant Yard Cam, Houston Zoo
Koala Cam, San Diego Zoo (check out myriads of other species too)
Sloth Cam, Hattiesburg Zoo
Sea Otter Cam, Monterey Bay Aquarium
African River Wildlife, Kenya
Can you say, ‘Yes, please?!” The Great Wall of China should definitely be on every traveler’s bucket list. After all, it is considered to be a world wonder! So take this opportunity to take your walking tour from the comfort of your living room! This tour costs only $5, and you’re given access to additional tours that include locations in Beijing, Guilin, Yangshuo, Suzhou, and more!
Let’s be honest, in real life, climbing Mount Everest is pretty unachievable for your average traveler. And, your wish has become the internet’s command! Check out this virtual reality climb up the extraordinary summit. You can purchase a cardboard viewer from Google, or easily make your own from the zillion Amazon boxes you have lying around. Either way, you will have an unforgettable climb to the top! (Disclaimer: You won’t burn off any calories during this video.)
Are you looking for something ‘out of this world?’ Well, here it is! This tour gives you insight into what the scientists see! It’s thanks to NASA’s Curiosity Rover. You get the opportunity, not only to see what’s going on up there but to drive their little rover friend to different educational check-points and learn more about man’s mission on mars!
Here’s hoping these tours opened your eyes to a new way of seeing things. May you always exercise your brain, grow your imagination, and feed your heart.