Things to Do at Home: Take a Trip From Your Laptop
Gaze at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel without looking up, walk into a prehistoric cave or admire the aurora borealis without leaving your couch.
The Ta Prohm, a buddhist temple in cambodia, was built in 1186 and is one of the spots you can explore through google.
Pack Your Passport
Actual travel is still a distant dream. Thank goodness for tourism groups and 360-degree cameras. Tourism Western Australia just posted 13 virtual video tours on its Facebook page that take you deep into caves carved out of fossilized reefs and boating to the region’s horizontal falls. A China travel agency lets people take a look around the Great Wall of China through several seasons, including the months when snow tops the stone, wood and earthen barrier.
If Europe is calling your name, youvisit.com provides 360-degree scenic snapshots from vantage points throughout Rome, London and Barcelona and other popular sites in Peru, Brazil and more. The site, which launched as a way for potential students to virtually visit college campuses, now also hosts tours of other cities when you click on the “travel” link at the top of the website. Turn off the sound to avoid the travelogue—and to preserve any sense that you’re not in your living room.
But, of course, the master is Google. Its treks feature gives you more than 20 options to explore, from the base camp of Mount Everest in Nepal to a Lilliputian view of the world through the landscapes of the world’s largest model railway set, Miniatur Wunderland in Germany.
While you are Googling, America’s National Parks are calling. Yosemite, Yellowstone and Redwood national parks are a few featured in its parks collection. I’m glad to see one of my favorites, Mesa Verde, is online. I always marvel over the buildings and homes built right into crevices on cliffs by tribes 1,400 years ago.
Explore.org hosts more than 80 live cameras focusing on everything natural. Select the Zen Cam category for the site’s biggest collection of scenic cameras so you can watch for the dynamic colors of the aurora borealis or spend a few calming hours gazing at Earth from the International Space Station. It even has cameras at Pipeline and Waimea Bay for those craving a visit to the North Shore.
Talk to the Animals
If you need signs of other life, explore.org also keeps an eye on animals around the world. Giant pandas roam through a grove in Sichuan, China, while elephants stomp, gorillas romp and birds wade through watering holes in Africa.
A little closer to home, zoos and aquariums across the country are letting people peek in while the gates are closed. I spent hours watching Hō‘ailona, one of the Waikīkī Aquarium’s Hawaiian monk seals, swim, eat and play. Other groups have livestreams of various animals ranging from ants to giraffes, jellyfish and quiet koala bears. Find a roundup of cameras on honolulufamily.com.
the state hermitage museum in st. petersburg, russia is closed for now.
Stroll Through a Museum (or Through Time) for Free
In southern France, the Chauvet Cave and its well-preserved prehistoric art is off-limits to the public. But Google, of course, lets us inside to see the more than 30,000-year-old paintings through its almost 10-minute immersive virtual tour. The dramatic pace can feel sleepy, so feel free to pan around the scene while the narrator takes you back in time, through sparks of fire into the past.
It’s almost like Stonehenge was built to be seen in 360 degrees. (Is THAT what the creators were thinking?) Spend a serene few minutes spinning around in this circular wonder and click on the pulsing circles for informational videos.
In person—and in normal times—crowds usually obstruct leisurely looks at some of the world’s most amazing art. Virtually, that’s not a problem. In the Vatican, take the time to wander through elaborate halls without being shoved forward by a tour guide’s breakneck pace. An added bonus: You can examine the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and corridors without developing a serious crick in the neck. We love visiting ʻIolani Palace, but the opulence of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia is incredible even virtually. The more than 250-year-old palace, which was finished by Catherine the Great, is now the State Hermitage Museum, the second-largest art museum in the world. The buildings hold more than 3,000,000 pieces, but the gilding surroundings often steal the show.
Great Long Reads From Our Files
The Lava Dwellers: These People Live on One of the Most Active Volcanoes on Earth
Lava flows burn houses to the ground. But people keep rebuilding on the barren ground on the east flank of Kīlauea. In 2012, we trekked out to meet the people who choose to live on lava.
Photo Essay: What Do You Do When the Homeless Man on the Street is Your Father?
Photographer Diana Kim was documenting the homeless in Honolulu when she discovered her father was living on the streets. She shares her struggle on finding him, and helping him, through a deeply personal photo essay.
In Transition: Hawaiʻi’s Transgender Teens
An estimated 1,260 public high school students identify as transgender. How is Hawaiʻi succeeding and struggling in supporting kids in transition?
Can We Ever Eat Local in Hawai‘i?
The governor set a goal of doubling local food production by 2020. So how do we measure up?