Take Your Kids on a Virtual Field Trip


This story was originally published in March 2021 and was updated in January 2022. 

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.

January 7, 2022
Exterior view of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto
   Photo: courtesy of the AGO
  1. 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.

A penguin swimming in the aquarium at the San Diego Zoo
   Photo: Crisoforo Gaspar Hernandez (Unsplash)
  1. 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.

View of a painting exhibit at the Louvre in Paris
   Photo: Amy Leigh Barnard (Unsplash)
  1. Travel back in time at the Louvre —

    The Parisian museum’s virtual tours explore everything from how artists represent movement to a Mona Lisa virtual reality experience, which uses VR to show the audience Leonardo da Vinci’s creative process and his painting techniques. The museum also offers the Louvre Kids hub, compiling short stories, videos and art to teach young patrons about the artwork in the museum. 

Black and white photo of the wavy exterior walls of the Canadian Museum of History
   Photo: JP Valery (Unsplash)
  1. 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.

Related: 6 Virtual Art Gallery Tours to Spark Your Creativity

View of the earth and a satellite in orbit from NASA
   Photo: NASA
  1. 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.

Sunrise over the Great Wall of China
   Photo: Robert Nyman (Unsplash)
  1. 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.

Related: See Pandas on Their Home Turf in China’s New National Park

A virtual field trip open on the Discovery Education platform
   Photo: Discovery Education
  1. Glimpse the future of tech with Discovery Education —

    This digital hub for virtual leaning features online field trips, including a visit to the Tech Interactive Centre in San Jose, California. They also offer free Daily DE learning activities, as well as video resources at Discovery Education.

Aerial view of the intricate design of Machu Picchu
   Photo: Agnieszka Mordaunt (Unsplash)
  1. 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.

Related: Whale Tales of Ancient Peru

A man adventuring into the Sơn Đoòng cave of Vietnam
   Photo: Le Tan (Unsplash)
  1. 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.

South African elephants cooling off in the river
   Photo: Rajiv Perera (Unsplash)
  1. 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.

Hues of pink, purple and green plant life along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia
   Photo: David Clode (Unsplash)
  1. 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.

Mount Mckay in Thunder Bay, Ontario
   Photo: Jaime Dantas (Unsplash)
  1. 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.