The Most Popular Virtual Tour in Each U.S. State
Not ready to travel yet but feeling a little (or a lot) stir-crazy? Head on a virtual tour to one of these top spots around the globe!
Coronavirus has changed the way we interact with the world, especially when it comes to travel. A number of countries might not let Americans visit this summer, and even though restrictions have loosened up in some U.S. states, it’s hard to know what will happen in the coming weeks as infections surge in certain spots. For many of us, trips have been postponed or converted back into points for a TBD trip down the road. But staying home doesn’t have to be boring. With a simple click, you can go overseas or find yourself all the way across the country—digitally, that is. Frontier Communications, which analyzed data from searches that took place between March 4 and April 3, found out where residents in every state have been “traveling.” Check out what your neighbors have been seeing, and get inspired to take a virtual (or real) tour of your own!
When life gets back to normal, you may want to museum-hop to see the Louvre and these other popular museums around the world—but for now, you’ll have to be happy with virtual visits. The City of Love’s most beloved museum earned one of the top spots on Frontier’s list, with the residents of four states checking it out the most—Hawaii, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Rhode Island. Intrigued? Before you visit the Louvre virtually, ask yourself one important question: How much time do you have? There’s a lot to see. Start with Collection & Louvre Palace, where you can explore eight curatorial departments, ranging from Western and Islamic art to formative works from civilizations of the ancient world. Click on individual pieces to read details about the artist, the artwork, and the time period. Then head over to Exhibitions & Events for info on the museum’s archives and filmed footage, or take one of their online tours. While you’re there, don’t miss Power Plays, an exhibition in its third season that focuses on the connection between art and political power.
Museum of Art of São Paulo
Until you can get to some of these popular destinations in South America, you can virtually visit one of Brazil’s museums from the comfort of your couch. The Louvre tied for first place with the Museum of Art of São Paulo, which was chosen by another four states: Connecticut, Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia. Take a number of virtual tours with the Google Arts & Culture app, check out the art online, or watch this historical tour from YouTube (it’s in Portuguese, so click on the bottom caption for English subtitles). To peruse pictures on the museum’s website, you can filter the categories by time period, which is helpful if you can’t remember the exact name of a piece or style you want to see but you’re pretty sure on the date.
It’s one of the most popular travel destinations in South America—and it’s equally popular online, with people in Alaska, Montana, and South Dakota searching for it in record numbers. Take a look at the ancient Inca ruins in Peru through the lens of two overlooks, the front door, or go straight to the heart of Machu Picchu. You can walk to the top virtually, then check out the highest point or even look out over the edge. You can also explore two courtyards and meet the alpacas, which will not disappoint.
Mississippi, Missouri, and North Dakota apparently have a flair for the fascinating and the macabre. These three states were transfixed by the Catacombs of Paris, which take you 20 meters underground through a maze of galleries. Visitors discover an ossuary holding the remains of millions of Parisians. Before you embark on your tour, check out the history of these underground tombs, which date back to the late 18th century when public health problems led to the city’s decision to transfer the bones underground. Gain insights about chronological milestones, and learn about the ossuary, the architecture, and the wall around Paris, also known as the “Gate of Hell.” And now for the pièce de résistance: an underground tour, where you’ll see the varied colors of dirt and pebbles on the ground, then scale the walls and roof of the Catacombs.
Idaho, Nevada, and Utah chose the Uffizi Gallery in Italy as their favorite virtual-travel spot. You can filter artwork based on the specific museum—the Uffizi, Pitti Palace, or the Boboli Gardens—or search by past, current, or upcoming exhibitions. Travel through history via captivating descriptions and HD pictures by category, including Rebirth, The Saint Who Baptized Christ, and the Jewels in the Uffizi. This virtual tour lets you click on each individual section for a look inside. Bonus: Video footage also reveals treasures from storage and a sneak peek behind the scenes. Looking for something non-traditional? Try the strangest museums in every state.
Have you always wanted to visit the Netherlands? Arizonans, Oklahomans, and Oregonians have—or, at the very least, were interested in exploring this country’s Rijks Museum. If you’d like to follow suit, you can check out YouTube episodes narrated by curators about their favorite pieces. Then bounce back to the Rijks’ website, where you can see hundreds of thousands of pieces of art, from Rembrandt to Vermeer. Search by artists alphabetically to simplify or by categories based on works of art—paintings and sculptures, furniture and interiors, fashions, weapons, ship models, and more. You can also access multimedia tours on the museum’s free app, as well as create your own “Rijksstudio” by logging in with Facebook or creating an account with your email.
A bit biased? Perhaps, but who can blame Georgia and next-door-neighbor Alabama for picking the Georgia Aquarium? After all, it’s the largest aquarium in the western hemisphere. From the comfort of your couch, you can check out the aquatic animals via three webcams: African penguins, beluga whales, and the sea creatures of the Indo-Pacific barrier reef. If your kids love to draw, they can submit their artwork to the Creative Kids Art Gallery. Some of the amazing animals—like beluga whales, dolphins, sea lions, and penguins—even make their own artwork. (Yes, you read that right!) You can purchase their creations online. For underwater adventures, check out 13 of the weirdest deep-sea creatures.
If a trip to Italy sounds heavenly to you, you’re not alone. Nebraska and Tennessee chose the Vatican Museum as the place they wanted to be this spring. Its comprehensive collections of art, music, architecture, sculpture, and painting welcome all people with a message of good news, consolation, and hope. Start with the site’s history section to learn about the items gathered by the popes over the centuries. Also, check out the rooms the popes used for private residences and prayer, starting with the Niccoline Chapel and the Borgia Apartment. You can even learn about the training program for young restoration specialists. Finish with these stunning 360-degree virtual tours of the Sistine Halls, Alexandrine Hall, the Hall of the Papyri, the Salone Sistino, and more. Did you know that Vatican City is one of only five countries in the world without its own airport?
National Women’s History Museum
Girl power for Colorado and New Jersey! The National Women’s History Museum of Alexandria, Virginia, provides a series of online exhibits to help you dive into women’s history—all from your favorite chair. Pick from women who advocated for change, women of NASA, women in STEM, women in fashion, and early female participants in the Olympics. You can also study women’s suffrage, as well as learn about those who made an impact during World War I and World War II. Stop by the museum’s Fab Five monthly roundup for thematic biographies. Learn about some trailblazing women who have made history.
Palace of Versailles
With its over-the-top Hall of Mirrors and perfectly manicured gardens, the Palace of Versailles was a hot topic of interest in Arkansas and South Carolina. You, too, can head overseas (virtually, of course) on a YouTube tour or with the free Palace of Versailles app (available for Apple and via Google Play). On the app, you’ll get an audio guide—which is available in 11 languages, though some of the features are only available in French, English, and Spanish—that covers the Chateau, the Gardens, the Trianon Estate, and the Galerie des Carrosses. An interactive map is also available. If you’d prefer not to download the app, you can still explore the Palace by its various sections. Do you recognize these other royal gardens around the world?
The win for Washington state and West Virginia goes to the Acropolis in Athens. Check out the origins of the Acropolis, who destroyed it, and how people have tried to preserve it over the years. Wondering what it means? In Greek, it stands for “high city” and can refer to one of many natural strongholds constructed on elevated, rocky land in Greece (though, naturally, this one is the most famous). Go on a virtual tour to feel like you’re right there as you discover breathtaking views of classical Greek architecture from a 360-degree map. Start at the Propylaia, and head to the Athena Nike. Next, it’s onto the Erechtheion, the Parthenon, the Acropolis itself, and the Walls. Known as a mythical home of the gods, there’s so much that draws people here. When the world opens up again, these are the 12 best things to do in Greece.
It’s no surprise that Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium won for Illinois and Wisconsin—and you’re about to see why. There’s a quick but whimsical tour from the penguins—they really like the belugas. In addition to the general fun online, Shedd is offering a Summer Splash Camp for kids at home. They’ll get to join Wellington the penguin for a week of virtual summer camp. The five-day camp costs $140 ($125 for members), while the three-day program is $85 ($75 for members). Sessions go through mid-August. While we’re on the subject, pick up these 12 tech tools kids can’t learn without this fall.
Museo Nacional de Antropología
Iowa and Pennsylvania opted to head south of the border to Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Antropología, the largest museum in Mexico. Online, you get to visit previous and current exhibitions, along with those under Travel that are showcased in other locations. The focus is on two primary collections: archeology and ethnography. Three recent exhibitions include Vision of Anahuac, The Invention of Memory: Photography and Archeology in Mexico, and Memories of the Templo Mayor.
J. Paul Getty Museum
Wyoming chose the J. Paul Getty Museum—better known as the Getty—in Los Angeles. You’ll see artwork from ancient Greece and Italy, along with Europe from the Middle Ages to the early 1900s, as well as photography from around the world. From the illuminated natural world to natural dyes and the rainbow flag, the Getty has it covered. The museum is big on education, offering a variety of resources along the way. You can browse online Public Programs from artists, thinkers, and scholars, and learn more through Getty Talks. Due to coronavirus, the museum has also put together a starter kit of online art, books, and videos.
The Lone Star State was missing the Houston Zoo this spring. If you’re not near this Texas staple or not ready to visit the reopened zoo, grab your cowboy boots, settle onto the sofa, and see pics of the adorable newborn hedgehog tenrecs born in mid-June and other resident animals. To get up close and personal with the wildlife, join the zoo’s Facebook Live program and check out the seven incredible webcams to watch giraffes, rhinos, chimps, and flamingos in action. While you’re at it, learn these 60 fun facts about animals you probably didn’t know before.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
It’s no surprise that New Yorkers were virtually touring the Metropolitan Museum of Art, better known as the Met, while sheltering in place. And no matter where you are in the world right now, you can do the same—at any time of the day or night. Go ahead and click Start Here on the home page. With three choices (explore, learn, or feel inspired), you’ll get to discover 5,000 years of art online. For a fun overview, check out their 360-degree tours to “walk through” the museum’s iconic spaces. Some spots include the Great Hall, the Met Cloisters, the Temple of Dendur, and the Arms and Armor Galleries. On your next trip to the Big Apple, visit these 15 NYC hidden gems most New Yorkers don’t know about.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Residents of the Golden State couldn’t get enough of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Join Californians in checking out the live cameras—ten in total, including the aviary for bird watching, the coral reef for busy tropical fish, the jellies for breathtaking sea nettles, and the kelp forest for sardines and leopard sharks. You can also see glowing moon jellies, penguins, and sea otters, as well as watch an open sea camera to spot tuna, turtles, and sharks. Plus, the Monterey Bay Cam goes above the water for a look at otters, birds, and sailboats on the Monterey Bay. Don’t miss the narrated penguin feeding at 3 p.m. PT daily.
Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Institute of Arts was tops for Michigan. Check out their virtual tour and you’ll see why locals missed visiting in person. The art collection contains more than 60,000 records, but the Search Collection option is user-friendly—by keyword, collection or department, and by the artist or maker. The current exhibition includes Frida Kahlo, and American paintings will be the focus of the fall. You can also find units and lesson plans on a variety of topics, with downloads and supporting materials. If you’re looking for a good movie, the Institute’s Detroit Film Theatre is available online, offering around 20 flicks to choose from. There are a lot of virtual tours out there, so how can you choose? One woman watched more than 100 of them—and these were her 11 favorites.
Museum of Fine Arts
Massachusetts residents stayed close to home with the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. That’s no surprise since it has so much to offer. For starters, you can check out its Virtual Screening Room, where there’s currently a celebration of French cinema running through the end of July. While there’s a fee for that, you can listen to some music for free, as well as take virtual tours of the 2019 exhibition Gender Bending Fashion and Ancient Nubia Now. Perusing the Collections—from the ancient world to contemporary art—will also keep you busy. Were you looking to make a trip abroad this year? Check out these U.S. destinations that feel like your canceled vacation abroad.
One of Maryland’s faves was the National Aquarium in Baltimore. There, you can see virtual tours of award-winning exhibits, from the Amazon River Forest to the Atlantic Coral Reef and Shark Alley, as well as get plenty of information. The aquarium houses 20,000 animals and 800 species, and you can also check out some of their stories for a more personal look. Now that you’ve visited the deep blue sea, how about the next (and final) frontier? These are the 13 best virtual space exhibits in the world.
National Gallery of Art
This D.C. museum split the vote in Maryland. At the National Gallery of Art, begin with the Perspectives section for a plethora of blog posts, on topics ranging from the first painting by a Native artist to changing our values to create a more equitable society. Then look through the virtual exhibitions—from the exhibition True to Nature: Open-Air Painting in Europe to the rooms of Degas at the Opera. If you have time, go on the virtual tour of Raphael and His Circle. Trust us—you will not be disappointed.
National Museum of the United States Air Force
Ohio went with a patriotic choice, the National Museum of the United States Air Force located near Dayton, Ohio. The website offers pictures of the galleries, including exhibit areas separated chronologically. Check out the aircraft and engines at the Global Reach Gallery, or catch a virtual tour of the Southeast Asia War Gallery, where you’ll see a Boeing B-52D Stratofortress and a North American F-100F Super Sabre, among others. Take some time to scroll around Memorial Park for the names and memories of those who have served our country honorably.
New England Aquarium
New Hampshire got its virtual-vacation fix at the New England Aquarium, which features live webcams of the Giant Ocean Tank and the Penguin Colony. This Northeastern attraction also offers specialized virtual tours with their penguins or marine mammals, for a fee. It’ll cost you $150 per group for 30 minutes, but it’s an actual live-stream via Zoom with a trainer, who will answer questions and share fascinating facts about the animals. On the site, you can also check out news and features based on advocacy, conservation, and research—like stress levels in sea turtles when they are transported.
Royal Academy of Arts
Maine chose the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Access the 40-minute virtual tour Picasso and Paper, which is on display until the beginning of August at the museum, and then check out Gauguin and the Impressionists, which goes into the middle of October. And don’t miss the Young Artists’ Summer Show, an online exhibition of artists ranging from five to 19 years old. This year’s judges received just under 18,000 submissions! “Big Boys Cry Too” is a touching piece, full of color and emotion, by a 14-year-old artist. Museums aren’t the only places to explore around the world. Check out these 15 virtual tours of America’s greatest landmarks.
San Diego Zoo
Vermonters were apparently hankering for a cross-country trip, and they landed at the San Diego Zoo. The zoo offers more than a dozen live cams—from hippos and baboons to penguins and polar bears. The elephants and giraffes are amazing, too, as are the burrowing owls and pandas. With two locations, the San Diego Zoo (downtown) and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (in Escondido), this organization is committed to saving species around the world. Their Zoonooz magazine is available online, with info on animals and plants, keeper notes, and more.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Nope, you’re not in Kansas anymore! Kansans were interested in virtually touring the Guggenheim, which boasts four locations around the globe: New York, Venice, Bilbao, and Abu Dhabi. Guggenheim at Large offers a variety of online resources and programs for discovering iconic art and architecture. You can check out the online collection, as well as virtual tours, activities, and classes that are great for families, educators, and art lovers of all ages. Capacity is limited, and prices vary but tend to be around $15 (with a discount for members). The $15 fee for the Little Guggs kids’ class allows access for multiple relatives, even from different locations; scholarships are also available. Check out these photos that will define the era of social distancing.
Bye-bye, bayou—at least for a little while. Louisiana residents were interested in hopping across the pond for a virtual tour of London’s Tate Modern, one of Tate’s four galleries. (The other three are Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, and Tate St. Ives.) Tate Images showcases a variety of categories online: artwork, archives, galleries, and displays. You can also search by general themes, such as farm, beach, religion, or winter. And Black lives matter here. Watch “How to Paint Like Bowling” to learn how Black artist Frank Bowling creates colorful abstract compositions, or make a protest poster and share it with the world. For inspiration, check out these 22 powerful signs seen at Black Lives Matter protests.
Walt Disney World Resort
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Florida went with the Walt Disney World Resort. This world-famous attraction is fun for all ages, and the best spot to grab a virtual tour is on YouTube. Experience all of your favorite attractions with interactive 360-degree videos. With tours of hotels, monorails, trains, boats, and extensive park areas, you’ll practically feel like you’re there. Music accompanies you on your digital tour—songs the whole family will enjoy along the way.
Kentucky picked the Cincinnati Zoo, which is known for its incredible animals but also for its lush botanical garden (technically listed in its name, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden). Click on “Saving Wildlife” and “Gardens” for up-to-date pictures, or hop on over to its Facebook page, where you can take virtual tours and see all sorts of added-value content. On the zoo’s website, kids can learn about different kinds of bird feeders, take the Plant for Pollinators Challenge, and more. Just keep clicking for more adventure.
Discover two million years of human history and culture from home by touring the British Museum—that’s what Delaware residents did! There are 11 different options, and from virtual galleries to Google’s Street View tour, they’ve really got you covered. Don’t miss the Egyptian sculpture gallery and the tour through the Enlightenment. You can also go behind the scenes with the museum’s podcast, as well as learn about things like how Egyptian mummies were made and what the ancient Romans ate and drank. Museum curators offer introductions to 64 galleries via Apple Music and Google Play. Next, find out how one travel writer is satisfying her wanderlust from home.
For more on this developing situation, including how people are staying safe and sane, see our comprehensive Coronavirus Guide.