Three months have passed since humanity at large went into quarantine and social isolation to reduce the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19. We have learned to work remotely, order groceries online and socialize via video conference. However, even those among us stuck at home who have thrived best in the new normal miss the outside world. Enter virtual tourism.
Fortunately, many destinations have heard the clamor of those trapped in their house. Thanks to this, you can still practice virtual tourism and enjoy these places from the comfort of your sofa.
We invite you to pack your imaginary bags and “visit” …
6 Ancient Greece and Egypt
Video games allow you to escape to expansive worlds, many of which (like Minecraft and Don’t Starve Together) self-generate from scratch in each new session. You can explore fantastic places like Azeroth, Gotham City, Hyrule, Tamriel and Los Santos from Grand Theft Auto V. (A great game you can get for free at the Epic Games Store until May 21.) Many even take place in real locations like Chicago (Watch Dogs), New York (Spider-Man PS4), 50’s-era Los Angeles (L.A. Noire) and Paris during the French Revolution (Assasin’s Creed Unity).
All these places share the same drawback: they get difficult to explore while you’re being pursued by opponents bent on killing you. What if you just want to walk around these worlds for tourism purposes?
Ubisoft came to the rescue with its new product line, Discovery Tour. Both current editions turn the worlds created for the company’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey games into “a living museum” where you can explore Pharaoh-era Egypt and Ancient Greece, respectively. Given the high level of research the developers carry out to create these virtual worlds, turning them into walking simulators is less of an insult to adrenaline fans and more of a new educational tool to relive history.
5 Theme Park Virtual Tourism
Since the youngest members of the family may prefer a more exciting virtual vacation, you can “take” them to famous theme parks in Orlando, Florida and other parts of the world.
YouTube channel Virtual Disney World offers you virtual versions of many Disney parks attractions with 360-degree views, many in 4K resolution. You can use your smartphone or your virtual reality (VR) headset to enjoy the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and many others like you were there, minus the lines. The channel even has some of the live shows, like the Main Street Electrical Parade.
You can make your Disney virtual tourism experience even closer to reality. The parks’ official blog offers more ideas for celebrating Disney at home, under the Disney Magic Moments banner. These include recipes for some of the snacks sold in each park. We tried the churro recipe and it was a delicious success:
The Orlando virtual experience is not just limited to Disney. iThemePark features complete tours of Disney Parks, Universal Parks, LEGOLAND and SeaWorld, among others. The channel also includes seasonal events (Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights) and even some discontinued attractions (Epcot’s Maelstrom and the Universal Studios Jaws ride). For added realism, iThemePark also features road trips through Florida en route to the parks.
4 Theaters and Concerts
The pandemic made home cinema a bittersweet reality thanks to Netflix and all the recent movie releases now available for digital rental. Now, even theater lovers get some love. For weeks, cultural organizations such as the New York Metropolitan Opera, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Opéra National de Paris and the Berliner Philharmoniker have opened their digital catalog of past productions to broadcast them online. All this content is available for free, but donations are accepted in every case.
In addition, many local theaters around the world (with support of sponsoring companies), as well as services like BroadwayHD, present televised recorded versions of their recent plays at a low price. Search for your local theaters online to check which plays are available. If you prefer concerts and have digital cable at home, many providers have made their live event catalogs free of charge. Search your cable menu and discover which of your favorite musical acts is available.
If you have Disney+ where you live, you’ll soon be able to enjoy Hamilton, one of the most popular musicals of the last decade. The film recalls a live performance with the original cast, including show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Hamilton premieres on the digital service July 3.
3 International Museums
Did quarantine ruin your dream of visiting the Louvre in Paris? Until such time as you’re able, the museum has videos and free virtual tours of many of his works on its official site. In addition, we invite you to discover more ways to enjoy the Louvre for free, some of which you can do at home. (Still, you can help out financially through donations or with a membership to the Société des Amis du Louvre.)
The Louvre is not the only museum with virtual tourism options. If you like variety, Google Arts and Culture has digital reproductions of great works of art from the world’s leading museums. The platform contains collections from New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Palace of Versailles in Paris, the National Gallery in London, the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City, Bogota’s Botero Museum, and the Galleria Nazionale de Roma, among many other institutions.
Some of the museums featured on Google Arts and Culture can even be explored Street View stylelike on Google Maps and Google Earth. Users can even live their own custom at-home art gallery experience with Pocket Gallery, the new feature within the official Google Arts and Culture app for iOS and Android.
History museums aren’t far behind, with virtual tours of institutions like the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
2 Great Landmarks
The world’s architectural wonders and landmarks await our return. Luckily, some have kept their virtual doors open for us.
Would you like to cross the Great Wall of China? The China Guide travel agency has a virtual tour at no cost. Fancy walking around the Colosseum in Rome? Again, Google Arts and Culture has your back, along with views of 10 more vintage and contemporary theater stages around the world. Want to explore the monuments at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.? Both YouVisit and HistoryView offer virtual tourism of the top spots.
Would you like to meditate in the Sistine Chapel? The Vatican Museum in Rome, Italy lets you calmly admire the artistic detail of the space, especially its famous ceiling painted by Renaissance master Michelangelo. Since photography is prohibited inside the Sistine Chapel, this virtual tour allows you to better admire it and discover its secrets, even if you’ve had the privilege of visiting it in person.
1 Virtual Tourism in Your Favorite Place in the World
There are few places in the world that haven’t been fully recorded and documented. The concept behind this article is that your favorite place on the planet is right at your fingertips. You may not be able to visit it right now, and it may not be a great monument, but you can probably “visit” it after a quick online search.
National Parks? Yellowstone Park has virtual tours, for example, or you can find detailed information about Argentine national parks in the Argentina Natural app. A small town? Tourism authorities in places like Wellington, New Zealand have virtual tours for everyone. A haunted house? You can pay to watch paranormal investigators spend the night at the house that inspired the movie The Conjuring. A beach? For sure there’s a 360 video of your favorite spot and even some virtual diving options. The Titanic? You can study its sections or even navigate its submerged interiors. If it has been documented by Google, surely you can explore it using Google Earth VR and similar apps.
Despite the current health situation, we live in a wonderful time where technology unites us despite the fact that we remain apart. Although nothing will ever replace the impression of actually visiting a place or experiencing an attraction, we hope that these virtual tourism suggestions will encourage you until your next travel opportunity.
(VR photo source: pch.vector / Freepik.)