Nowadays it’s easier than ever for your child to learn from some of the best parks and museums the world has to offer. Virtual tours are getting more sophisticated, using interactive maps, videos, and virtual reality (or VR) to let learners explore exciting spaces from the comfort of their home or classroom. If you’re interested in taking your family on a virtual field trip, here are five of the best virtual tours we’ve tried to get you started.
The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. has a classic natural history museum with fossils, ancient artifacts, and (of course) a big model Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. Its self-guided virtual tours let you peruse permanent, current, and even past exhibits, and offer a VR option. The tour shows a map of all three museum floors with points you can jump to, making it easy to navigate and see the exhibits your child cares about most. Also, be sure to stop by the Smithsonian Castle tour to check out its library, commons, and gardens!
The United States’ national parks are known around the world for their majesty and natural beauty, and Hidden Worlds of the National Parks gives you a way to trek them from home. There are 20 different parks that you can tour using Google Maps, as well as five featured parks with videos, 360 degree views, audio descriptions from park rangers, and even interactive constellation maps of the night sky! These featured park tours are great for showing your child the geographic diversity of America, ranging from the chilly Kenai Fjords in Alaska to the tropical Dry Tortugas of Florida.
If you’re raising a budding marine biologist, this is the field trip for you. The Georgia Aquarium website offers 10 different webcams starring beluga whales, sharks, sea otters, and more. Aquarium technicians have done a great job positioning the cameras so that there’s almost always some kind of critter in view. Plus, if a particular sea creature strikes your child’s fancy, below the livestream are links to profiles of all the different marine animals the Georgia Aquarium houses, making it easy to learn more about them.
Located in Taipei, Taiwan, the National Palace Museum boasts one of the biggest collections of Chinese art in the world. There’s got a lot to get through, but it’s aided by a fantastic virtual tour that offers featured routes. Just select a route and the virtual tour will automatically take you through a path of the museum. When your child sees something they’re interested in, you can pause, look around, and click on exhibits to get more information about them (complete with read-aloud audio support). It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon touring this massive art collection!
Experience the rides at Disney theme parks without the lines! The Virtual Disney World channel on YouTube uploads 360 degree videos of Disney rides, which let your child change the video’s perspective to see any angle they’d like. Each video also comes with VR support, letting you pop your phone into a Google Cardboard viewer and watch the video through the headset for more immersion. Before you let your child use Google Cardboard, we recommend taking a look at the health and safety guidelines first.