Free virtual tours are a huge blessing during the times in our lives when we’re can’t travel physically. Just because we’re stuck at home doesn’t mean we can’t stimulate our minds and mental health by visiting a national park, museum or interesting destination.
Perhaps you’re recovering from hip replacement surgery, a common experience for many boomers. Have you been drafted as the family caregiver to elderly parents or grandchildren whose parents need a helping hand? Or maybe you’re quarantined due to a worldwide pandemic—never, ever thought I’d write those words.
How to travel virtually on a tour
Yes, it’s possible to travel when you’re stuck at home. Virtual travelers ride the internet on wifi signals rather than boarding a plane or cruise ship.
No matter the cause, a virtual escape does wonders for your attitude and a restless spirit. When a follower on the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook requested virtual tour ideas for adults similar to the virtual field trips for school children that our grand kids experience, I hopped to it.
My travels around the internet introduced me to tons of options for keeping boomer travelers entertained and inspired when they can’t travel. While YouTube videos and webcams are fun, I searched for a more immersive experience.Take a look at what I found.
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National Park virtual tours
Experts advise that getting outside is just as beneficial for our mental health as it is for our bodies. Visits to national parks are good for your health, offering some of the best outdoor inspiration that I know of. While you may not currently be able to step out onto a national park hiking trail, virtual tours are the next best thing to being there.
Two ways to explore national parks with Google
Use the power of Google Earth, to explore 31 national parks. Through Google’s map and satellite imagery, hike the trails and admire the views until you can take the trip for real.
Watching the virtual tour of Black Canyon of the Gunnison gave me a new perspective on the North Rim trail that Alan and I hiked several years ago. I especially enjoyed the overviews that show the entire landscape.
But I think the national park section at Google Art and Culture is even better. Hidden Worlds of the National Parks explores Bryce, Kenai, Carslbad Caverns, Hawai’i Volcanoes and Dry Tortugas National Parks. By the way, the Kenai tour is awesome!
The tours include videos narrated by national park rangers. I watched the one about Dry Tortugas that includes seeing the park from a diver’s perspective, after reading Erika Nelson’s piece on how to take a day trip to Dry Tortugas. It was the perfect combination for virtually exploring the park.
National Park Service virtual tours
The National Park Service offers virtual tours at many national parks. When I checked out the one for Yellowstone National Park—read my story on visiting Lamar Valley in the winter—I found an assortment of experiences.
There are pages with photos and detailed reading, but if you’re looking for a more immersive experience, take a look at Yellowstone in 3D. A map appears. As you scroll down the page, slides with text identify major landmarks of Yellowstone and the map changes to the location of the landmark.
There’s nothing link a video for the “you are there” experience. Take your pick from documentaries to shorter ranger-narrated videos called Inside Yellowstone. My favorites are the “Minute Out in It” that truly make you feel like you are there.
Does your favorite national park offer virtual tours? Here’s a search list that I did on the National Park website. My suggestion is to visit the webpage for your favorite national park and start exploring. Be sure you have some free time because you’re going to be there for at least an hour or more.
Take a virtual bucket list trip
You may not be able to travel right now, which makes this a time to dream. From websites and blogs like My Itchy Travel Feet to your favorite YouTube channel, there’s plenty of bucket list travel inspiration out there. But let’s turn it up a notch with an immersive experience.
Air Pano takes you around the world
The 360° videos at Air Pano leave me breathless at the wonder that exists in the world. As Air Pano promises, this is a virtual journey around the world. Believe me, once you click onto the site, you’ll look up to find that several hours have passed.
The videos are accompanied by music appropriate to the region, with plenty of text to read. Have fun zooming in and out of the photos with the drone videos and animated slideshows.
When I watched the Great Pyramids of Egypt video, I truly felt as if I was there. The birds-eye view of the Great Pyramid, Sphinx and surrounding area reminded me of my trip to Egypt where I visited Giza and Saqarra.
Explore bucket list destinations with Google
We’re back to Google Earth again (web version is only available on Chrome). In the Voyage section under the Travel tab, explore the world at your leisure. The process works the same as the national park section that I told you about.
Are you a boomer who enjoys traveling to Italy? Virtually travel to Rome on a 72-hour itinerary itinerary. Then read Debi Lander’s article about a baby boomer adventure in Rome to complete the experience.
Visit a museum or historical site virtually
Many museums and historical sites offer free virtual tours, like the National Museum of Natural History. The best way to find them is to visit the websites of museums or historical sites that you’d like to explore. In researching this article, I came up with a few I’d like to visit.
Here are more examples from Google Arts & Culture:
Be schooled in the art of portrait painting with a closeup inspection of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl in the Pearl Earring.
And I really enjoyed Google’s virtual reality tour of the White House. It is available on the website as well as the Google Arts & Culture app for both iOS and Android devices. No matter how you view it, this one offers hours of interesting history and architecture to explore.
As you can see, baby boomers really don’t have any excuses for being bored when we can’t travel. There are so many virtual tours to explore! I’ll be adding more to this article as I find them.
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