15 Virtual Tours of America’s Greatest Landmarks
Bring American history and some of the nation's most iconic landmarks right into your living room.
Trips you won’t want to miss
The United States is lucky enough to boast diverse architecture, gorgeous parks, and iconic works of art. The best of them contain a piece of our nation’s history and help us learn more about what brought us to this point in time. Whether you’re a history buff who wants to know more about the origins of America, an art enthusiast, or simply someone who enjoys exploring nature, these virtual tours of America’s greatest landmarks will connect you with the nation in a new way. The best part is, you don’t even have to get off of your sofa. If you want to venture a little further, you can also virtually tour 10 of the world’s greatest landmarks.
Gettysburg National Battlefield
The Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 raged for three days and claimed the lives of 50,000 soldiers, making it the deadliest battle of the Civil War. Today, the site has been preserved for visitors who wish to walk the grounds or explore virtually from home. The virtual tour is hosted by Chief Interpretive Officer Christopher Gwin through 16 tour-stop videos, and each explains the historical significance of the featured areas and immerses you in the stories of key moments in the battle. The tour ends at the National Cemetery, where Lincoln made his famous Gettysburg Address. Don’t miss these 14 Abraham Lincoln quotes that are truly modern rules to live by.
The White House
It takes a little planning to visit the White House in person. Not only do you have to be in Washington, D.C., but you have to write your congressman to put in a request in advance. Taking a virtual tour of the White House is a lot easier. Google Arts and Culture offers free virtual tours of the interior of the White House, its storied grounds, and even its impressive collection of art and decor. It’s an incredible chance to get an up-close look at what is arguably the most important and iconic building in American history. It might surprise you to learn that our first president, George Washington, never lived in the White House. It’s one of the facts about the White House you probably never knew.
Plymouth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, is home to some truly amazing exhibits, including a full-size reproduction of the Mayflower, a recreation of the 17th-century farming village where the pilgrims lived, and a barn featuring rare breeds of historic livestock. If you don’t have plans to be in New England anytime soon, you can still experience the current exhibition, History in a New Light, through a free, virtual tour that explores the grounds and highlights 17th-century artifacts, such as pottery and maps recovered from the Native American Wampanoag Village of Pauxtet and the original 1602 European settlement. Here are 13 facts about Native Americans you didn’t learn in history class.
Many U.S. citizens have relatives that passed through Ellis Island when they immigrated to America. You can get a glimpse of what they saw by taking an interactive virtual tour of Ellis Island. The tour includes historic images from the National Archives that contrasts what the area looks like now with what it looked like back then and lets you into buildings (like the hospital) that are not open to the public. It’s a chance to venture back in history without booking a plane ticket or even putting on your coat and shoes. Check out these 20 fascinating facts about the Statue of Liberty.
If you’ve ever wanted to visit George Washington’s Virginia estate, Mount Vernon, you’re in luck. During this virtual tour, you’ll walk through the front door to admire the woodwork, architecture, and art of the first president of the United States. It’s an intimate look at what life was like back then for people with wealth and stature. You can explore on your own or through an educational video that provides context and historical background to the tour. Afterward, read about how the title of Mr. President was almost something else entirely.
There is perhaps no landmark in Texas more famous than the Alamo. This San Antonio fort was the site of the most famous and pivotal battle of the Texas Revolution. History buffs can explore it from the comfort of their living room to see what Sam Houston and Davy Crockett saw as they waged war with the government of Mexico. This easy-to-navigate virtual tour puts a modern twist on remembering the Alamo and includes the church, the courtyard, Long Barrack, fountain, and more. Afterward, check out these other virtual day trips you can now take online.
Yosemite National Park
If spectacular photos of America’s national parks leave you awestruck, you’re going to love this virtual tour of Yosemite National Park in California. Surrounded by forests, Yosemite is nothing short of a nature lover’s dream. This tour explores Yosemite’s meadows, trails, rivers, and, of course, the most famous spot in the park—the Half Dome area, a 4,700-foot granite rock face. The tour is easy to use and offers glimpses of the park during various seasons. You can even tour the Ansel Adams Gallery to marvel at the work of the famed photographer.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. An unusually tall man who was known for his integrity, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, at long last granting slaves their freedom and making him what many consider to be the best president in U.S. history. His home in Springfield, Illinois, has been preserved, and this online tour allows you to walk through its rooms and see the colorful carpet, wallpaper, and original furnishings used by the great man himself.
Castillo de San Marcos
St. Augustine in Florida is the oldest city in the country, and it’s absolutely beautiful. Do yourself a favor and take a virtual tour of the city’s Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. It’s the oldest masonry fort in the country and the best example of a Spanish colonial fort in the continental United States. The tour allows you to explore the fort’s interior rooms and grounds, and from the upper gun deck, you can take in views of the area from a vaulted perspective. There are also 3D models available throughout the tour, so you can get up close and personal with some of Castillo de San Marcos’ most fascinating areas.
Clara Barton National Historic Site
You’ll want to turn up the sound to get the most out of the virtual tour of Clara Barton’s house. The tour features a recorded voice-over reenactment of Barton’s own words, which you’ll hear as you explore the restored rooms and hallways of this home in Glenn Echo, Maryland. Not familiar with Clara Barton? She was one of the pioneering women who changed the world—a postal clerk who famously became a nurse and founded the Red Cross. Her home served as the organization’s headquarters, a dormitory for nurses, and a hospital. These pictures offer some additional insight into what nursing looked like 100 years ago.
Space Center Houston
The online tour of Space Center Houston definitely qualifies as one of the best virtual space exhibits in the world. Originally called the Johnson Space Center, this amazing facility was the base of operations for some of the most iconic space flights in history, including the miraculous Apollo 13 mission, which was recounted in the movie starring Tom Hanks. The Space Center’s virtual field trip videos cover life in space, the International Space Station, and even the Apollo 13 mission. It’s a great place to learn and be inspired. For even more inspiration, check out these heroes of space you didn’t learn about in school.
Mesa Verde National Park
If you’ve always wanted to learn about Native American culture by visiting Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park, you’ll be delighted to know that dreams do come true. Famous for the cliff dwellings that the Native American Puebloans called home for more than 700 years, Mesa Verde National Park is truly amazing. This virtual tour includes videos of the cliff dwellings, educational videos with park rangers, and 360-degree tours of specific spots of interest. There’s also a free podcast series that focuses on tying the past with the future of the area.
The Library of Congress
If you’ve never visited the Library of Congress, it might surprise you to learn that the library is spread out over multiple buildings. Virtual tours are now available for anyone who wants to explore the Thomas Jefferson Building, the James Madison Memorial Building, and the John Adams Building. The Library of Congress was established during John Adams’ presidency by an act of Congress and continues to be one of our most important American institutions. It also has the distinction of being the largest library in the world. If you have a thing for libraries, you’ll love this list of the most impressive libraries in every state.
The Statue of Liberty
There is perhaps no landmark more symbolic of the concept of American promise and freedom than the Statue of Liberty. This virtual tour allows you to see Lady Liberty in all her glory, without needing to hop on a ferry to do so. Start with the view from the torch, then click through to other areas such as the base, museum, and grounds. You can contrast the tour with historic images and read background materials while you’re there. Here’s what some other famous monuments look like from the inside.
The Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters
Slavery was an ugly blight on our nation’s history, and America is still dealing with its ramifications today. This virtual tour of the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters in Savannah, Georgia, takes you through a Regency-style mansion built in 1819 and its adjacent slave quarters. It’s a stark contrast, and there are educational materials and lesson plans provided for parents and educators who want to help make the tour a learning experience for children. Savannah, incidentally, is thought to be one of the most haunted places in America, according to paranormal experts.