While sheltering in place, we can support great places around the USA from the comfort and safety of our own homes. I'm going to be sharing a few of my favorite places offering virtual experiences. Please be sure to add your own in the comments or email me to let me know about others we can add to the list. I'll be creating another list for world virtual experiences in the next few days. Stay safe and enjoy a virtual visit to these great spots across the country from your own home!
Hidden Worlds of the US National Parks
Our Wander writers love National Parks. After the coronavirus pandemic is behind us, we encourage you to explore those amazing parks across our country. However, in the meantime, you can take a virtual exploration thanks to the US Park Service and Google Arts & Culture. Be sure to turn up the volume or use your headphones for this amazing series. The featured parks right now include:
- Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
- Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai'i
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
- Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
- Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Online NYC Museums
I love New York City and I'm a bit heartbroken by the tragedy right now in the city. But in the spirit of the Big Apple, there are great NYC museums offering online virtual tours. This is a great way to spend some “shelter-in-place” time and to supplement what the kids are learning while studying at home. Here are a few of my favorites.
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History is a massive collection of scientific, educational, and cultural exhibits. It includes the Hayden Planetarium and a massive research division. The Museum has so many incredible online resources that you could lose a few days just on this website.
For those teaching kids, there's a science website for kids and a full curriculum collection that includes activities and articles. There are a number of online courses through Khan Academy and Coursera.
Even if you don't have kids, you might want to take a virtual tour of the museum. You can see inside the museum with a virtual tour, explore some of the exhibits, or check out lectures and videos with SciCafe.
The Frick Collection
Since I was a little girl, I have found European art fascinating. The Frick Collection contains some of my favorites, from 17th-century Dutch masters and 18-century French art to beautiful Limoges enamels. Now, you can see some of these online through Google Arts & Culture. Be sure you scroll down after checking out the exhibits to take a virtual walk through the museum.
The Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim is fascinating both for its collection and its building. As a Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiast, I find the building to be simply breathtaking. The collections put this over the top. Right now, you can take a virtual tour of the museum, explore the collection, listen to live-stream broadcasts from inside the museum with staff members, and check out interviews with some of the Guggenheim artists. You can access all of this through the Guggenheim's website. There are also some specific exhibits available on Google Arts & Culture from the Guggenheim.
The Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan celebrates modern and contemporary art. While you can't visit the midtown Manhattan location, you can explore online. You can take a virtual tour of the Sophie Taeuber-arp exhibit. If you want to jump in even more, how about an online art course? I'm looking for fun new things to learn, so I'll be checking these out. Right now, MoMA has classes available online, all free, through Coursera.
A branch of MoMA is The Cloisters Museum and Gardens, which explores medieval European art and architecture. You can use Google Arts & Culture to take a virtual tour and see a few of the artifacts.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has three sites in New York City and each one offers so many amazing “wow moments”. The Met shares art from around the world and right now you can experience this national treasure online. You can explore so many different exhibits. I adore the history of fashion, so I enjoyed the Coco Chanel and Christian Dior exhibits. I also thought the Art of Music through Time was phenomenal.
Washington DC Virtual Bloom Watch
Every year, the cherry blossoms blooming on the National Mall in Washington, DC is a sign of hope and peace. This year, the National Park Service is reminding everyone that in this time of crisis, you should not attempt to get to the Tidal Basin to see the blossoms. The roads are closed. Restaurants and public restrooms are closed. Instead, you can enjoy the blooms in real-time from the #BloomCam that is broadcasting live.
Winchester Mystery House
One of the most interesting houses in the US is the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. This architectural wonder, built by the heiress to the Winchester® Repeating Arms estate, is reportedly one of the most haunted places in the country. Due to its quirky construction, the mansion isn't accessible to those in wheelchairs or having difficulty with stairs. Usually, a video tour of 45 minutes is available for $20. Now until April 7, 2020—during the closure during the COVID-19 crisis—you can take a complimentary 45-minute video tour.
Once you see this free 45-minute video tour, you'll want to visit in the future. For a limited time, to help support Winchester Mystery House, you can purchase a voucher for $26 that can be used until May 1, 2021, with no blackout dates.
Take a Virtual Visit to Chattanooga
I haven't been to Chattanooga in years but really enjoyed my visit there. It's such a great spot for families with Ruby Falls, the Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga Zoo, and gorgeous outdoor spaces. Until you can visit in person, Chattanooga has some great ways to explore online with virtual tours. Here is a list of the current offerings, but be sure to follow Chattanooga on social media at @VisitChatt and #ConnectChatt.
Bluff View Art District
One of my favorite memories in Chattanooga was walking through the Bluff View Art District. This historic neighborhood has some of the most beautiful gardens. The art district covers 1.5 blocks with art, sculpture, gardens, shops, and coffee shops overlooking the Tennessee River. While you can't visit now, you can take a virtual tour of the Bluff View Art District. During your online tour, you can explore 12 individual scenes and use your mouse to get 360-degree views of each area.
The Tennessee Aquarium
I love great aquariums and Tennessee Aquarium is offering great videos. Follow them on Facebook to see their past videos and check out the live broadcasts. You can catch the Penguin chat from a few days ago. Who doesn't love those penguins? You can also see more videos and get at-home resources and activities on their website. My favorite is the river otter falls. They also have a live cam at Penguins Rock (I had a chance to watch them feeding the penguins today) and in the Secret Reef.
When I was last in Chattanooga, I spent a half-day at the Chattanooga Zoo. It's a fun little zoo with great places to Wander. While it is closed to the public, you can check out their live video streams to see the animals. Keep in mind that these are live and sometimes you'll see the animal antics, but at other times, they'll be hiding out—just like when you visit in person. I've yet to catch sight of the snow leopard, but the adorable little meerkat looks out at the windows as if he's wondering where all the humans have gone. The tamarins are entertaining and they became very excited when a worker walked up to the outside window.
Wander Ruby Falls
During my visit to Chattanooga, one of the highlights was going deep inside the caverns at Ruby Falls. Ruby Falls is below Lookout Mountain and really is an amazing experience. While Ruby Falls is closed to visitors, you can check out their Facebook page for videos. They go live every Friday for #FridayChatter, but I recommend checking out the 3-part tour of Ruby Falls. Here are the links to each tour:
Be sure to add Ruby Falls to your list for a real-life visit when we can safely travel again. There is a zip adventure, shopping, family-friendly dining, and breathtaking views from the top of Lookout Mountain Tower.
Virtual Marine Biology Field Camp
What happens when two marine scientists from the Pacific Northwest end up at home with their family during quarantine? You end up with an online field camp that's great for all ages. Oceans Initiative is going live every Monday and Thursday at 11 am PST on Facebook. You can also check out the back episodes on their Facebook account.
Pay a Virtual Visit to the Saint Louis Zoo
While the St. Louis Zoo is closed, they are giving everyone a chance to see the zoo animals online. With the #BringTheStlZooToYou campaign, you can explore various animals with the help of the zoo staff. There are some saved videos and you can follow the Penguin & Puffin Coast Live Stream every day from 9 am to 5 pm Central time. You can view it recorded in off-hours.
Oklahoma City American Banjo Museum
Nothing gets the spirit going like music. On my last visit to Oklahoma City, I enjoyed exploring the American Banjo Museum. During its closure, the museum is providing virtual tours and concerts. The first virtual concert was previously recorded with Johnny Baier singing banjo favorites. You can check out new posts daily at noon Central time and on the museum's Facebook page. I'm looking forward to the Jambalaya Jass Band on Monday, March 22, 2020 at noon Central time.
The National WWII Museum of New Orleans
The National WWII Museum tells the story of America during World War II. The museum has an amazing collection of history, artifacts, and lessons. During the shutdown, you can access the Distance Learning Video Archive. There is an assortment of dozens of videos that include electronic field trips, oral histories, and more. You can also check out the museum's YouTube channel for more great coverage.
Explore Los Angeles Area Museums
There are so many diverse museums across Southern California. Right now, you have an opportunity to visit those from home. Here are a few of my suggestions for virtual museum visits in Los Angeles.
The Getty Center
The Getty Research Institute has thousands and thousands of resources. You can explore them online through virtual visits, videos, podcasts, and more. One of the best resources I found for the Getty is the blog entry they made on their website. Some of the highlights include:
- Explore the Michelangelo exhibit currently at the Getty
- Rembrandt exhibits around Los Angeles, including at the Getty
- Read the Getty's online publications about art and exhibitions
- Watch the Getty Museum's YouTube channel
- Listen to the Getty Podcasts
- Resources for parents and teachers
The Paley Center for Media
The Paley Center for Media brings us art and performances from television, radio, and other platforms. While The Paley Center for Media is closed, you can find hours of entertainment and information on the Center's YouTube channel through PALEY@Home. There are new videos almost daily. Tuesdays feature Paley Presents with some of the biggest headliners. Wednesday is Family Comedy. The Paley Report comes out each Thursday featuring conversations with CEOs and leaders in media. Fridays are Paley Date Night with comedies and dramas.
Annenberg Space for Photography
I completely believe in the philosophy that a photo is worth 1,000 words. I am fascinated with great photographs that capture an entire story. Nowhere can you experience this more than at Annenberg Space for Photography. Since the beautiful space is closed, you can follow along with some of the photo exhibits via audio tour. Featured exhibits right now include:
- Vanity Fair: Hollywood Calling
- WALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine
- Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop
- Generation Wealth by Lauren Greenfield
The Hammer Museum at UCLA
The Hammer Museum, founded in 1990 by Dr. Armand Hammer, works to bring artists and art together to inspire change. While the museum is closed, you can access the museum's YouTube channel to experience the wonder of art. There are also some great artists who offer online interviews.
Museum of African American History
The Boston-based Museum of African American History is offering two of their exhibits online via Google Arts & Culture. I really love that you can take a virtual tour on the Black Heritage Trail. It's not as good as being there in person, but it's a really great way to explore a new place from the safety of your home.
The Art Institute of Chicago
I really loved visiting The Art Institute of Chicago. I spent several hours there, but didn't begin to see everything. While the museum is closed, you can visit virtually on the museum's website. Some of the highlights include:
- Explore the collection; my favorite was the architecture pieces in the collection
- Explore the El Greco collection through a video or audio tour and more
- Check out the Art Institute of Chicago's YouTube channel
- Explore themed highlights from throughout the museum
- Get parent and teacher educational resources
- Create a fun, interactive journey through The Art Institute of Chicago
We welcome more suggestions. Please be sure to add links in the comments or email me information so we can continue to grow this list. Be safe, stay home, and we look forward to helping you stay entertained and Wander With Wonder virtually until we can all get back out there and connect in real life once again.