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Virtual Vacations

From daring adventures and exploring new cultures to burying your feet in sugary sand on a secluded tropical beach, travel makes us feel alive. If you can’t make it to your dream destination anytime soon, why not go on mini virtual vacations by viewing online videos and travel shows? We’ve put together some ideas to help you get started and satisfy your wanderlust while staying safe and healthy during the pandemic.

Not Your Parents’ Video Travel Tours

A great way to view the sights and hear the sounds of locales near and far is to take an online tour, and now we have even more options to choose from than ever before. Whether you’re a nature lover or can’t wait to check out an exotic, far-flung destination, online tours that include 360-degree and interactive 3D experiences are practically the next best thing to being there.

If you are like most of us, the ancient Incan citadel Machu Picchu is on your bucket list. Instead of hopping on a jet to Cusco, Peru, then making your way up into the Peruvian Andes, sit back in your chair and take a 360-degree tour, such as the one found at It gives you the ability to check out the entry, overlooks, heart of the citadel, and even some local alpacas using your mouse to take in a panoramic view.

Love museums, art, and history? Google Arts & Culture (ArtsAndCulture. offers online tours of more than 2,500 museums that include everything from exhibits at the Museum of African American Art in Los Angeles to modern works of Latin American artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bogota, Columbia. Or visually wander through historic sites, such as Ananias Chapel, a small, underground Christian church in the heart of Damascus, Syria. If you are into Native American history, how about a virtual visit to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, where you’re taken inside a Native American cliff dwelling without having to climb a ladder. Or experience a 360-degree view of the entrance into the ancients and stone city of Petra, Jordan via Google Arts & Culture then go to where you will find several videos to view.

Augmented and Virtual Reality TripsPerhaps the “trippiest” virtual trips of all leverage advanced technology. Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information. Download the Google Arts & Culture app to access their AR feature that lets you project 3D models into the real world through your camera phone. For example, if you’re curious about pangolins but can’t travel to Africa, Asia, or India to spy one in the wild, you can project a life-sized image of one right in front of you wherever you are. How cool is that?

Cooler yet is virtual reality (VR), which involves the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment. It’s a little like the Star Trek holodeck, but the experience is brought to you via wearable headgear. All you need is a VR system such as an Oculus to navigate through the Narrows in Zion National Park, walk through the Roman Forum, or visit Hawaii, to name a few destinations. A VR experience in Patagonia, for instance, even allows you to fly like a bird, soaring past waterfalls and over glacial formations.

If Crater Lake in Oregon isn’t on your virtual reality bucket list, it should be. Take an immersive adventure around the lake that includes an interactive map. Jump to different locations and animated scenes depicting Mount Mazama’s massive eruption and the creation of the caldera, which holds the lake today. You can even interact with pop-up windows showing detailed information on local wildlife.

Virtual experiences are not the same as the real thing, but they let you dream big, gain knowledge, and plan for the future. We won’t be stuck at home forever, and when you feel comfortable traveling again, your bucket list will be updated with some amazing new things to do and see.

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