Virtual days out: best online experiences and tours from your home

From Yosemite National Park to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, tourist hotspots are moving online during the coronavirus pandemic

Taj Mahal, India
India’s Taj Mahal is one of a number of iconic tourist sites offering virtual tours in the coming weeks
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With landmarks and attractions closing across the world to slow the spread of coronavirus, plans for the next holiday or family day out have been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

But thanks to modern technology, you can still explore many galleries, museums and historical sights from the comfort of your living room, with more and more tourist hotspots uploading images and videos online.

Here’s a look at some of the best virtual attractions to keep you occupied during these unusual times:

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Museums across the world have uploaded videos and virtual content to keep potential visitors entertained during the pandemic, with London’s Natural History Musem and British Museum leading the way in the UK.

The Daily Mirror notes that the British Museum’s virtual tour allows you to “check out the highlights at your own leisure”, having teamed up with Google Earth for the tour.

Across the pond, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is offering a tour, as well as online learning materials for science fans of all ages, while the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Air and Space Anywhere webpage provides virtual tours of the museum and educational podcasts.

Elsewhere, people can experience the “soaring vaulted ceilings, intricate murals and tapestries” of the Vatican’s museums, The Guardian says, which have been uploaded to the web in a series of seven 360-degree images, including the Sistine Chapel.

And art fans can head - virtually - to Bilbao’s iconic Guggenheim museum, where users can sift through its “collection of postwar American and European painting and sculpture – Rothko, Holzer, Koons, Kapoor – and even down between the weathered curves of Serra’s Matter of Time”, the paper adds.

Chester Zoo

On Friday last week, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world flocked to the Facebook page of Chester Zoo as it hosted its first ever live virtual tour.

The zoo is currently closed due to the pandemic, but the live video streams allowed would-be visitors to watch keepers provide interesting facts about their animals and showed them eating their meals, Cheshire Live reports.

Will Condliffe from Chester Zoo’s media team told the paper when asked about a potential second virtual tour of the zoo: “Such is the demand, I don’t really think we have a choice! Watch this space…”

Theme parks

YouTube channel Virtual Disney World is ideal for those seeking the thrill of Disney theme parks from indoors.

It allows viewers to see Walt Disney World attractions, shows and hotels within an interactive 360º video environment.

Wonders of the World

Although many of the world’s most iconic landmarks are closed, a number of them have crafted an interactive, virtual version for people to explore online.

The Guardian reports that Machu Picchu, Christ the Redeemer, the Pyramids of Giza and the Taj Mahal are among the many wonders of the world to have launched online tours, allowing the most restless among us to undertake virtual visits to these bucket list locations.

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National parks

For a more serene option, many national parks across the world are offering virtual tours of their grounds. In the US, Google Earth has teamed up with the National Parks Service to offer visual experiences of some of America’s most iconic parks, such as Yosemite and Yellowstone - a programme which Mother Nature Network says is “turning out to be a nice resource to have when you're hunkering down at home during a pandemic”.

However, the tours are also designed to deter people from visiting the parks in person during the pandemic; The Hill reported last week that visitors are “flooding” the nation’s national parks following Donald Trump’s decision to waive entrance fees last week at parks that remained open, claiming said it would make it “a little easier for the American public to enjoy the outdoors in our incredible National Parks”.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror reports that in the UK, the Lake District has set up a network of webcams which have been “strategically placed to overlook some of the prettiest scenery”.

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