Although there’s no true replacement for getting on a plane or in a car and visiting a place in real life, many travel industry professionals and digital creatives have banded together to create some remarkable virtual travel experiences. We’ve been sharing many of these with the AFAR audience over the past few weeks as many Americans shelter in place at home, using them to fulfill our wanderlust.
These virtual travel experiences are proof that even while at home, you can still learn something new about a place, meet and interact with the locals who live there, and see some of the world’s most incredible natural wonders. If you, like us, are feeling the travel urge but unable to go anywhere IRL, use some of these 10 virtual travel ideas to explore, learn, and connect with a new (or old favorite) destination.
Visit a museum without the crowds
From the Musée d’Orsay to the MoMA, Google’s Arts and Culture has collaborated with some of the world’s most famous museums to digitize their galleries so you can still visit and tour galleries while their doors are (physically) shut. Outside of Google’s initiative, other museums are also offering their own virtual tours. Five of our favorite virtual museum tours include:
- The Louvre Museum in Paris
- Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
- Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico City
- The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
- The San Diego Museum of Art in California
Read more: Virtual Museum Tours, Performances, and Tutorials to Keep You (and Your Kids) Entertained at Home
Explore and learn about a U.S national park
While you normally wouldn’t want to go on a hike in your slippers, The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks series lets you explore several of the United State’s national parks without lacing up your boots. A collaboration between Google Arts & Culture and the National Park service, these interactive, 360-degree virtual national park tours immerse viewers in an awe-inspiring, yet educational, tour of the parks. Through Hidden Worlds, you can watch the sunset and go stargazing in Utah’s Bryce Canyon or swim through the corals in Florida’s Dry Tortugas—all while learning about each one with a park ranger by your side.
Read more: How to Visit a National Park Without Actually Visiting a National Park
Travel to the Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough
As one of the most incredible yet at-risk natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef sits high on the list of many travelers’ must-see lists. While we can’t go there in person right now, David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef: An Interactive Journey gives the next best thing: a virtual, multimedia experience aboard the Alucia research expedition vessel in which viewers can see, hear, and learn about the unique underwater ecosystem with the acclaimed Planet Earth host.
Read more: This Virtual Tour of the Great Barrier Reef With David Attenborough Is the Escape We Need
Wander around Venice’s canals
Venice may not be inviting outside visitors back to the city yet, but you can still tour the city’s streets and canals virtually through 19 live streams on YouTube channel, I Love You Venice. From the Rialto Bridge to Campo Santa Maria Formosa, the channel lets viewers explore some of the city’s most scenic areas—without bumping elbows with the crowds that normally frequent them.
Read more: Live Streams of Cities, Beaches, and Wildlife for Virtual Travel
Connect with locals in other countries
While virtual tours and livestreams let you see places around the world from home, there is one part of travel they miss: meeting and connecting with the people who live there. Fortunately, travel companies such as Indagare and Airbnb have created online opportunities that foster these experiences.
Recently, Airbnb launched an online version of Experiences, which is hosted over Zoom so travelers can still connect with local hosts around the globe during quarantine. Sign up for a 90-minute session to learn how to make ricotta cheese with Sonoma dairy farmers, or spend an hour meditating with Buddhist monks in Japan, all without leaving the house.
Similarly, Indagare Travel, a luxury travel agency, has launched a Global Classroom series where you can join virtual lectures, such as “Behind the Scenes at Changing of the Guards with Andrew Wallis,” or more hands-on courses, such as an Irish soda bread baking class—all for free. They also have additional, paid offerings.
Read more: Airbnb Launches Online Experiences Via Zoom
Recreate a day in your favorite destination
If you need more than just a quick fix, use one of these creative at-home travel itineraries to recreate a day in another destination. AFAR editors have curated hour-by-hour guides that take you through virtual tours, sightseeing adventures, recipes to help you whip up a taste of each destination, and recommendations for music, books, and films that will make you feel like you’re there.
Spend a full day recreating a trip to one of these popular destinations at home:
- Explore a food-and-art filled day in Paris
- Take an urban adventure in Tokyo
- Tour Rome’s streets, history, and food
- Experience Honolulu’s island flavors
- Dive into New York City’s music, theater, and food
- Drink and learn about Napa Valley’s wine
- Get to know New Orleans’s history, culture, and Creole cuisine
- Go from jungle to dance floor in Puerto Rico
Go on a safari game drive
If you’ve always dreamed of seeing the Big Five, you can now trade a bumpy jeep for a cushy couch and tag along with world-class safari guides through Singita’s virtual game drives in countries like Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Tune in to see if you’re lucky enough to catch a rare glimpse of a leopard climbing a tree or family of lions feasting on freshly caught prey, all while learning about wildlife and conservation efforts in sub-Saharan Africa.
Read more: 5 Virtual Travel Ideas You Can Do Right Now
Watch a film or TV show set in another country
For a more classic virtual travel experience, watch a movie or TV show that takes place in a location you love—or would love to visit. To help you out, the AFAR editors listed their favorite films set in Paris, movies based in New York City, and flicks that will take you to Rome (figuratively, of course) that you can stream right now.
Read more: 14 TV Shows to Stream That’ll Transport You Around the World
Eat an iconic dish from another city
Whether you’re a home cook or not, there are lots of options for bringing some of the world’s most iconic drinks and dishes to your home—just try your hand at one of these cocktail or meal recipes from around the globe.
Not in the mood to cook? No problem. Food delivery service, Goldbelly, delivers some of the United States’ most iconic dishes nationwide. With just a few clicks, you can have authentic Charleston biscuits or pastrami from New York City shipped to your door.
No matter which way you choose, don’t forget to order yourself a bottle of wine (or three)—delivered straight to your door—to enjoy with your global delicacy.
Read more: You Can Get America’s Most Iconic Foods Shipped to You, Wherever You Are
Turn your home into a wellness retreat
If you’re craving rest and rejuvenation more than adventure, consider turning your home into the world’s most exclusive wellness retreat. We reached out to several experts at spas and hotels around the world to learn how to create an at-home wellness retreat. Here are their top tips, as well as some of their favorite little luxuries (all under $50) to give your place a touch of that authentic spa mood.