The kids have transformed the house into a pillow fort, pulled every book from the shelves and brought every toy into the living room and it’s only 11 a.m. Here’s the perfect travel‑inspired remedy: twelve virtual field trips, from watching the animals at the San Diego Zoo to exploring outer space with NASA. Send them on these far‑flung explorations around the planet, all from the comfort of the couch.
Photo: courtesy of the AGO
Curate your own exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario —Toronto’s AGO takes its creative, family‑based activities online by allowing guests to browse the gallery’s extensive collection of art and curate their own exhibition using filtering options like time period, artist and object. Treat your search like a digital scavenger hunt and try to find kid‑friendly pieces like the Bear sculpture by Inuit‑artist Ningeoseak Pudlat or one of the naval model ships.
Photo: Crisoforo Gaspar Hernandez (Unsplash)
Swim with African penguins at the San Diego Zoo —Set in Balboa Park, this world‑famous zoo is home to more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals. The website offers educational activities, but the real draw is the live video stream of the zoo animals. Watch African penguins swim alongside leopard sharks or “visit” the Safari Park to see tigers and baboons. Parents will appreciate the website’s teacher resources and activity guides that range from kindergarten to grade 5.
Photo: Amy Leigh Barnard (Unsplash)
Travel back in time at the Louvre —The Parisian museum’s seven virtual tours offer a glimpse into the ancient Egyptians, a look at the renowned Galerie d’Apollon and a journey through the remains of the Louvre’s moat (the museum was originally a fortress built by the French king Philippe Auguste in 1190 to protect Paris from invasion). The museum has also published two short videos to teach young patrons about the artwork in the museum.
Photo: JP Valery (Unsplash)
Explore the virtual playhouse at the Canadian Museum of History —Famous for its First Peoples Hall and Children’s Museum, the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, is one of the preeminent archival resources of our country’s history. Along with a range of digital exhibitions, their website features a virtual “playhouse” complete with vintage games and toys. Scroll through retro boardgames, hand painted trains and homemade dolls to see how play has – or hasn’t – changed throughout the ages.
Blast into outer space with NASA —You don’t have to visit the Kennedy Space Center or one of the fourteen NASA Visitor Centers located across the United States to learn about otherworldly missions – just tune in to NASA TV. Their online STEM‑based learning programs help the next generation of astronauts learn about outer space and complete mission‑driven activities, while their interactive YouTube videos, which feature the NASA Commercial Crew, show viewers how to train like an astronaut and how they prepare for the launch of their spacecraft.
Photo: Robert Nyman (Unsplash)
Walk the Great Wall of China —While Beijing is often seen as the launch point for visitors hoping to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site in northern China – which spans nearly five thousand kilometres – but the virtual tour starts at Jinshanling. Don’t miss the Juyongguan Great Wall, which crosses three mountainous areas, or the Mutianyu Great Wall, which offers impressive views of the other walls without the crowds. Maybe this will inspire your little one to grab their blocks and build a great wall of their own at home.
Photo: Discovery Education
Photo: Agnieszka Mordaunt (Unsplash)
Go on a virtual hike through Machu Picchu, Peru —This digital visit offers a 360‑degree view of the most visited destination in Peru. At a soaring 7,000 feet above sea level, you can marvel at the Andes Mountains, explore the dry‑stone walls of 15th‑century Incan civilization and check out the grazing alpacas – first domesticated in the area over 4,000 years ago.
Photo: Le Tan (Unsplash)
Take a pretend day trip to Vietnam —Immerse yourself in National Geographic’s interactive “audio‑visual” tour of Sơn Đoòng, the world’s largest cave. Then visit the Google Arts & Culture collection to learn about the traditional colourful lanterns of Hội An and the legends behind the dragons of the 19th century Nguyen Dynasty.
Photo: Rajiv Perera (Unsplash)
Explore live nature cams —With more than 100 live video cameras on the Explore website, you can discover nature and wildlife in natural habitats around the world. Watch alligators bask in Florida swamps, marvel at elephants in South Africa or behold the mesmerizing and colourful aurora borealis in Manitoba.
Photo: David Clode (Unsplash)
Learn about the species that inhabit the Great Barrier Reef —Take a colourful and interactive journey with famed nature historian David Attenborough to the most complex and spectacular ecosystem in the world. You will learn how coral grows and provides for all life on the reef and develop an understanding of extraordinary species like the Mantis Shrimp, known for its amazing – and strange – eyes. Attenborough discusses his first time scuba diving at the reef nearly 60 years ago, how he has seen it transform over time and the climate threats it now faces.
Photo: Jaime Dantas (Unsplash)
Take a virtual field trip in Ontario —Explore canyons and mountains in Thunder Bay or head over to Manitoulin Island, which was once home to a large shallow‑water coral reef system. Geoscience Info approaches local geology in a fun and accessible way and also makes educational videos geared to kids, including How do Volcanoes Form? and Where Does My Water Come From?
Find more ways to travel the world without leaving home here.