Whether you’re officially quarantined or just clicking around for vacation inspiration, these digital journeys will scratch your travel itch.
By Maryann Jones Thompson
Once upon a time, the world was open!!! We climbed, dove, rafted, trekked, biked, boarded, and wandered. We met fabulous people! Explored magical cultures! There was art, architecture, history, wildlife, and food – oh, the FOOD!
Page through ROAM’s BIG BOOK of Virtual Adventures to revisit this bewitching time. The links below contain a mix of action videos, 360-degree experiences, virtual reality footage, interactive maps, and live cams from around the world. Bookmark this page because new sources of digital fun will be added weekly.
Click a chapter below to start fantasizing about your next travel tales. Sweet dreamin’!
Chapter 1: Action Packed!
Virtual trips to get your adrenaline pumping
- Snowboard the Andes – Get frostbite as you follow GoPro expert boarders up and then down 13,000-feet of powder.
- Rock Climb in Western Canada Head to Canmore, Lake Louise, Revelstoke, Skaha Bluffs, and Squamish with Hedon Rock Tours for a glimpse of the country’s best climbs.
- Walk New Zealand There are nine “Great Walks” on the two islands. This video will help you choose the right one for your family.
- Mountain Bike in Marshall Canyon – Hang on tight for Edward Eng’s ride down one of LA County’s most famous mountain biking trails via Outside’s Virtual Reality Filmmaker’s Challenge.
- Ski Italy’s Val di Fassa – Map your bluebird day “Google Street View”-style with an interactive map down the most famous runs of this Dolomites Resort.
- Backpack through Hawaii’s Volcanoes – Follow Hank Leukart on a three-day, 40-mile Big Island backcountry trip past Mauna Loa, Kilauea, and lots of lava in Volcanoes National Park.
- Hike Angels Landing in Zion – Don’t look down! This hike isn’t for acrophobics. Hang onto the chain and get a real idea of how crazy precarious and gorgeous this walk really is.
- Raft the Grand Canyon – Photographer Willie Holdman documented his trip down the Colorado with Western River Expeditions and the scenery is epic.
- Skydive with Tom Cruise – OK, this ain’t exactly a virtual tour but let’s head to Riverside County to get oriented and terrified with James Corden on his first tandem jump.
- Trek Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit – Jeff Pelletier walks us around one of the Himalaya’s most famous routes, including a pass at 5,400 meters.
- Bike an Empty NYC – Follow Gothamist on two-wheels (or on a skateboard, if you prefer) through Manhattan and see what the Big Apple looks like without humans.
Chapter 2: Splash Down!
Oceanic adventures from the Seven Seas
- Learn to Surf Big wave rider Kyle Thiermann presents “Surfing 101,” a virtual reality, 360-degree surf lesson you’ll have to watch multiple times to get all the angles and tips.
- Swim with Locals If you can get past its incessant zooming in and out, Google Voyager can keep you clicking for hours. This feature jumps around Google’s Earth for cool swimming holes around the world, but there are national parks, museums, and much more to explore interactively.
- Meet Fishpeople No, this is not a tour but a watch-worthy new documentary made available online by Patagonia. If you love the ocean, it is a splash to watch how it has transformed the lives of these humans.
- Explore the Great Barrier Reef – On this new, extraordinary, interactive expedition, you’ll accompany David Attenborough through five areas of the reef and learn the latest about its health and inhabitants.
- Go Deep in Catalina Even in winter, ROAM found LA’s local isle delivers incredible scuba diving adventures in its kelp forests and sandy bottoms.
- Spy on Undersea Creatures – Visit the most famous oceanic attraction in California – the Monterey Bay Aquarium – to see its popular webcams. Sure, there’s otters and sharks but for me, the jellies never disappoint 😉
- Scuba Dive the Red Sea – Descend on an HD trip to see some of the most beautiful reefs in the world and – spoiler alert – a hammerhead shark too!
Chapter 3: The Wild West
Adventures from the Pacific to the Rockies and beyond
- Bike from Venice to Santa Monica – Wind Walk Travels captures the sparkle and the sound of a perfect LA day on the strand in real-time.
- Study California History – It’s not all about the missions: The state compiled one page with the digital activities available for many of its most popular parks, with pages on Native American settlements, Gold Rush-ers, farmers, and – yes – the ranchos and missions, and more.
- Gawk at Yosemite’s Grandeur – With just one click, Virtual Yosemite lets you move from epic viewpoint to epic viewpoint around California’s most famous National Park.
- Watch the Northern Lights – William Briscoe Photography shares 10 minutes of 360-degree, real-time viewing from the shore of Birch Lake in Alaska.
- Meet Yellowstone – Outfitter Austin Adventures offers several virtual tours for kids to their most popular family destinations. My favorite was their journey to Yellowstone.
- Raft Hell’s Canyon ROAM spent a week in Idaho kayaking, rafting, camping, fishing, and eating a ton! with America’s Rafting Company.
Chapter 4: European Classics
Enjoying the most popular experiences from The Continent
- Move around the Acropolis Get an on-the-ground look at Greece’s most famous archeological site atop Athens in this interactive feature from the Acropolis Restoration Service.
- Sing the “Sound of Music” This one’s near and dear to my heart: I have taken this tour every time I’ve been anywhere near Austria. Not sure how “portal 606” got the ok to use the movie’s soundtrack but I loved every one of their 36 minutes of Alpine film location footage.
- Drive Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way – There’s not much more dramatic than a NatGeo produced video of this famous seaside route.
- Go Underground in Moscow – Travel & Leisure shines a spotlight on several ways to see the incredibly modern and fantastically deco designs of Russia’s subway stations.
- Explore Versailles – Pick one of several themes for an annotated and interactive walk through the French palace.
- Live in Windsor Castle – Move from room to room and get a glimpse of what it’s like to live royal.
Chapter 5: Field Trips Afield
Visiting countries and regions with expert guides
- Take a Field Trip to Peru – Trekaroo and Koltur Peru show families what they need to know and what it’ll be like to visit the Andean nation.
- Do Iceland in the Round – The New York Times’ 2018 52 Places Traveler Jada Yuan takes a 360-degree cameraman along with her to Iceland’s most famous stops.
- Visit the Seventh Continent – This recap of a 10-day National Geographic Explorer journey across Drake’s Passage to Antarctica confirms why this journey is on every 21st Century traveler’s bucket list.
- Devour Guatemala – Follow Davidsbeenhere on a food-focused expedition through the colonial streets of Antigua.
- Explore Budapest – Samantha Brown’s “Places to Love” TV series offers a study guide for kids and an over-the-Danube look at Hungary’s capital and several other U.S. and European cities.
Chapter 6: Far East Odysseys
Exploring the most interesting cultures on the planet
- Journey around Mongolia – From Ulaanbataar to Hustai National Park to the eastern land of the “Eagle Huntress,” Adventure Calls presents a compelling case to visit this central Asian nation.
- Wander Bhutan Spend 30 minutes wandering the Happiest Country with Backpacker Steve, an official wanderer with G Adventures.
- Be a Balinese Woman Where’s Poppy follows a typically happy Balinese foodseller through her daily routine. Spoiler alert: A ton happens before my kids would even be out of bed.
- Walk the Great Wall – If you dream of walking this man-made wonder, then give this video a watch. The scale, the bricks, the haze, the real-time-y-ness, it is all much like our family’s walk from a few years back.
- See Inside Studio Ghibli The global shutdown caused the famed Japanese animation studio to open up and share an official look inside the suburban Tokyo attraction on its YouTube channel. But if you’re looking for a longer glimpse, watch this vlog of a visit by Always, Ros.
Chapter 7: Museum Halls
Roaming the world’s finest collections
- The British Museum with Google – Yes, thanks again to Google we can wander the halls for free like Londoners and witness the extraordinary expanse of their colonial collecting.
- Wander the Vatican Museum – Explore room-by-room in 360-degree awe. The only other person who gets to see these hallways this empty is the Pope.
- Stroll the Louvre – Wanderlust delivers a real-world amble through the galleries of the world’s foremost art museum – crowds and all.
- See the Smithsonian in 3D – America’s museum offers you the opportunity to examine a few of the most interesting specimens on their web site – it’s a great chance to view the underbelly of a mammoth skeleton if you’ve not done that before 😉
Chapter 8: Wildlife Watching
Viewing the non-human races in their native habitat
- Safari in Etosha – Virtual Field Trips provides a video slide show with captions of what the Namibian game park delivers.
- Cruising the Galapagos – This HD video by Fred Heiman provides a play-by-play of one family’s multigenerational trip from Quito to a ten-day cruise through the eastern and northern islands, from San Cristobal to Espanola.
- Webcam the World – By far my favorite find on this hunt for virtual treasures was the Explore.org Live Cam page. From their site, you can see animals, fish, reptiles, birds and other critters, frolicking in their natural environment or in captivity, organized by type of creature. Today, the home page features a bald eagle’s nest at the top of an oak tree in Decorah, Iowa. We had breakfast together 😉
Maryann Jones Thompson – May 2020
After a thousand years in publishing as a business journalist, ghostwriter, content strategist and market researcher, Maryann brings her experience traveling as a backpacker, businessperson, expat and mom to writing and editing for ROAM.
© ROAM Family Travel 2020 – All rights reserved
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