14 Virtual Tours of Attractions That Were on Your Bucket List
Take the trip of your dreams from the comfort of your own couch.
Choose your own adventure
For the past several weeks, most of us have been stuck inside thanks to stay-at-home orders to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Even before we started to shelter-in-place, non-essential travel basically came to a screeching halt once we knew the virus was spreading around parts of Asia and Europe. But the thing about being cooped up inside all the time is that it can strengthen our already existent wanderlust. Fortunately, one of the few positive side effects of this pandemic has been how so many popular travel destinations have made virtual tours available to anyone for free online. You’ll also want to check out these ideas on what to do after your whole life has been canceled.
New York City
Whether you’ve always wanted to see the Big Apple, are a frequent visitor, or even live here and miss your city, you’re in luck—and while you’re at it, you can learn more about the surprising words and phrases you had no idea were coined in New York City. Untapped New York—a site with fascinating articles about the history of New York City as well as tours of local attractions—is offering people a free two-month subscription to its virtual tours. And these aren’t your typical tours of Central Park or going to the top of the Empire State Building: these tours take you to places in New York City that you didn’t even know you wanted to see. This includes an underground tour of the subway, a virtual tour of Grand Central Terminal, and a visit to the iconic Fulton Fish Market.
Italy is a popular bucket-list destination in general, especially the ancient city of Pompeii, one of the cities we all learned about in school that no longer exist, which was frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. Thanks to new drone technology, we’re able to see even more of the town than before—and that includes those of us visiting from our homes. The Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities released a video tour of two recently excavated homes in Pompeii. Virtual visitors will get to see newly discovered archaeological details like traces of a millennia-old garden, and a well-preserved mosaic of the hunter Orion turning into a constellation.
Whether or not you’re a big fan of Elvis Presley’s music, you’re probably at least a little intrigued by what his house looked like. Now, thanks to regular virtual tours of Graceland, just one of the things you can do while you’re stuck indoors, you can get a glimpse inside the rock ‘n roll icon’s home, as well as rare access to their typically off-limits archive. Each of the tours is available on the Graceland Facebook page, and include offerings like a look inside a box of Elvis’s acetates: a type of record widely used from the 1930s to 1950s for special recording purposes like comparing different takes or getting preview copies into the hands of important disc jockeys.
The Great Wall of China
Even if you’re fortunate enough to get to see the Great Wall of China in person, most people aren’t able to visit all 3,000 miles of it in one trip. But now anyone can experience more than 2,000 years of history thanks to this virtual visit to the Great Wall of China. If you’re not sure where to start, the site provides tips, based on what you want to see, like sections built during the Ming Dynasty between the 14th and 17th centuries, located in the suburbs of Beijing, including Badaling, Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Juyongguan, Gubeikou, and Jiankou.
If you have kids, you’re probably very busy keeping them educated and entertained during the quarantine—here are some silver linings to feel better during quarantine. So if you haven’t checked out the Disney parks’ YouTube channel yet, you’re in for a surprise. Wish you could go on the It‘s a Small World ride? Now you can, from your couch. Want to see what Disneyland Paris looks like at night? There’s a virtual tour of that, too. And die-hard Disney fans will love the new behind-the-scenes tours of the Imagineering Art Library.
The Catacombs of Paris
The Eiffel Tower may be a popular tourist spot in Paris, but one of the most interesting tours takes place underground, in the city’s catacombs. Dating back to the late 18th century, these subterranean cemeteries contain the remains of between six and seven million Parisians spread out over approximately 200 miles of tunnels. The Catacombs of Paris have been open to visitors since 1809, and now they’re welcome even more people through their virtual tours.
Harry and Meghan may have flown the royal coop, but they’re not the only interesting royals. Queen Elizabeth II is still alive and well in London at her official residence of Buckingham Palace. And if you’ve ever wondered what it looked like inside the iconic building outside of these rarely seen photos of Buckingham Palace, now’s your chance. Buckingham Palace is now offering several virtual tours, featuring places like the Grand Staircase, the White Drawing Room, the Throne Room, and the Blue Drawing Room.
No, you won’t be able to snap the Instagram-required selfie of yourself in front of the ruins, but you do have the chance to visit Machu Picchu, one of the most popular travel destinations in South America—virtually, at least. Operated by YouVisit, the tour allows visitors inside the world-famous ruins, offering 360-degree views of the ancient fortress. There’s even a feature that brings the site’s famous alpacas into your home—without the long trip or the bad smells.
Pyramids of Giza
Located in Egypt, the Pyramids of Giza are the last-standing wonder of the ancient world and an item on many bucket lists—dive into these ancient mysteries researchers still can’t explain for more historic intrigue. Though we may not be able to visit them in person right now, thanks to Google Street View Treks, we can take an in-depth virtual tour of the pyramids. Built almost 5,000 years ago outside the ancient city of Memphis, the Pyramids of Giza served as tombs for Egyptian kings. Now, we can take 360-degree tours of the pyramids and surrounding areas without even leaving our home.
Even if you went on the classic American family vacation to the Grand Canyon as a child, this natural wonder is worth another look as an adult. Thanks to virtual tours offered by the National Park Service, you’re now able to visit the picturesque hole without piling into the station wagon, just one of the many examples of free things you can do online to pass the time right now. The park may be closed to in-person visitors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore some of its most famous trails, or even take a virtual rafting trip through the canyon.
Mount Everest Base Camp
Perhaps climbing Mount Everest wasn’t on your bucket list, but now you don’t have to let the distance or lack of training stop you from experiencing what it looks like at base camp. Back in 2011, a team from Google spent 12 days hiking 70 miles up the world’s tallest mountain, and luckily for us, recorded everything. Now, thanks to Google Street View Treks, anyone can enjoy a virtual tour and 360-degree views of their journey. In addition to a collection of panoramas at key camps, the team also captured interesting stops like a Buddhist monastery.
Gettysburg National Military Park
Civil War and American history buffs make it a point of visiting Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—home to the battle widely considered to be the turning point of the Civil War. Again, the National Parks Service comes to the rescue by offering multiple virtual tours of various parts of the Gettysburg National Military Park, built around the 16 stops in the audio tour, including Warfield Ridge, Little Round Top, and the Peach Orchard.
Great Barrier Reef
If you’ve always secretly wanted to be the next Jacques Cousteau and explore the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, now’s your chance. The team at Google Street View Treks put together a virtual tour of the world-famous bucket list spot. Featuring six of the ocean’s most spectacular coral reefs, these 360 degree underwater views will transport you from your couch to the warm waters of Australia.
Mohonk Mountain House
With everything going on right now, it makes sense that we’d want some sort of escape. If a Victorian castle in the mountains located on a lake is your idea of the perfect trip, then you’re going to want to check out the virtual tours and events offered by Mohonk Mountain House (don’t forget about these other virtual museum and concerts, too!). The 151-year-old family-owned resort about 90 minutes north of New York City is so dreamy, it was recently featured in the new Amazon Prime series “Upload” as a version of heaven. And once you’ve taken a virtual look around the property, you’ll probably agree. During the pandemic, Mohonk is offering virtual mindfulness events, as well as virtual hikes and scenic views from the historic site.