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Virtual field trips and travel activities for kids
Lena Borrelli, Million Mile Secrets, April 5, 2021
As we quickly approach the second quarter of 2021, the world today still bears the heavy scars of coronavirus. Nowhere perhaps is it more evident than on the nation’s children, who have not been spared from the sickness and have also seen schools, events, and facilities all close down in response.
As travel remains restricted throughout much of the world and certainly within the U.S., COVID has shifted the focus to home learning. Parents and caregivers suddenly became educators and are responsible for their children’s schooling.
It’s also placed a renewed focus on technology as field trips and play dates turn virtual. Field trips have long been a way for children to become engaged in learning through fun, but with closures around the world, in-person visits haven’t been a possibility for quite some time. That’s where we can help, offering this handy guide for at-home learning through virtual visits to all of your favorite places around the world.
Virtual field trips and activities
Thanks to the Digital Age, you don’t even need to leave your house to experience a whole world of excitement and adventure. No matter your hobbies or interests, there’s something for you to enjoy with today’s virtual field trips and activities.
We’ve created a virtual field trip activity log, which is a great companion for your child’s next digital tour. You can download our virtual field trip worksheet here.
Science and Technology
Zoos and aquariums
Enjoy the opportunity to explore all different kinds of animal species through a variety of different virtual field trips available at both local and international zoos and aquariums with experienced, professional guides and fun interactive activities.
The entire museum is now online for virtual tours with a handy map tool to help you move between exhibits. There’s a one-hour tour option that brings you up close and personal with an ambassador animal and a guided activity. If you prefer to map out your own personal adventure, the National Aquarium offers its Custom Virtual Program, complete with personalized video messages and live virtual tours.
The Houston Zoo offers custom programs for both individual and group learning. You connect with the zoo using the Zoom platform to be treated to a live zoo tour that is hosted by a Houston Zoo educator. There are several programs to choose from, depending on how many exhibits you want to visit. You can choose visits with specific animals, such as an Asian elephant herd, big cats, great apes, farm animals and animals of the Texas Wetlands.
Located on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, it is the self-proclaimed home of the Crocodile Hunter. Enjoy a self-guided virtual field trip that uses a series of YouTube videos to take you through the zoo’s most exciting exhibits. It’s also an opportunity to see your virtual hosts, Terri Irwin and her children, Robert and Bindi, as they continue their father’s, Steve Irwin, legacy.
Located in Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium offers access to live webcams, so you can regularly check in to see new animals or visit a favorite one. Visitors will have the option to see animals like beluga whales, sea otters, sea lions, piranhas and African penguins. Also in town is the Zoo Atlanta, which offers a “Panda Cam” live stream that lets you check in on the local giant panda twins, Ya Lun and Xi Lun.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium gives access to live webcams, allowing you to do a deep dive into the exhibits. You will be able to watch animals live in their habitat, with plenty of sea otters, leopard sharks, and jellyfish to keep you entertained. The Open Sea Cam is available 24/7, and there is also an aviary section for bird-watching.
America’s future scientists will love virtual visits to exciting favorites like NASA and the Nature Conservancy. There are plenty of age-appropriate activities to accompany your virtual visit, plus guidance from professional experts.
With the creation of the Space Force, there’s a renewed excitement over all things space-related. It’s a great time to check out NASA and the many virtual field trips available on the site. Choices are clearly marked by grade, with options to visit famous facilities like the Goddard Space Flight Center and the Kennedy Space Center.
The Tech Interactive has moved its activities online given the COVID pandemic. However, visitors can still take part in exciting virtual labs, including the popular Physics of Roller Coasters and Down the Drain virtual labs. There is also a multimedia experience, Global Soundscapes, which focuses on sound waves and investigates authentic Costa Rican soundscapes. Better yet, all activities are led by expert lab instructors so your children can make the most out of the experience.
Discovery Education offers both live and on-demand virtual field trips that you explore any time you’re ready. Activities include a behind-the-scenes look at Inauguration Day 2021, Silicon Valley’s annual Tech for Tomorrow event and Tundra Connects, which gives you a close-up look at Polar Bears International. There’s also a companion guide that includes tons of hands-on activities to correspond with your virtual travels.
Join the Carnegie Science Center for a virtual visit to its most coveted exhibits. There are four different experiences that are designed based on grade level, with options available for grades three through 12. Visitors can enjoy live demonstrations and instruction provided by the Carnegie Science Center’s skilled professors.
The Nature Conservatory offers virtual learning opportunities for grades five through eight. Activities follow specific themes, such as engineering and robotics, animals and aquaria, space and astronomy, and health and the human body. Plus, each virtual field trip offers additional fun resources, such as a video, teacher guide and student activities to accompany each trip.
History and geography
U.S. National Parks
With a virtual tour, you can get closer than ever to America’s national treasures with no wait times or disruption from the elements, guaranteeing an enjoyable visit.
You can enjoy virtual hikes to Phantom Ranch via the Bright Angel Trail, or you can take a virtual raft trip through the Grand Canyon. Students can also engage in curriculum-based activities through The Canyon Field School. It’s the result of a partnership between the Grand Canyon Conservancy and the National Park Service, offering educational opportunities for middle and high school-aged students.
Thanks to Google Earth, visitors can have access to 360-degree tours of the park with live videos of all 734 miles of the park on YouTube. The park offers access to live webcams, letting you log in whenever you want to catch the changing seasonal views. There are even Zoom backgrounds to keep your favorite animals close while you work or learn.
Thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAFGI), and the State of Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys (ADGGS), you can now pay a virtual visit to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Here, you can go behind the scenes to explore active volcanoes. Visitors are able to dig deep, learning in detail about volcanic processes to best understand how volcanoes work while logging in to see the Observatory’s live cameras in action.
Yellowstone National Park gives visitors access to popular points within the park. Enjoy a close-up look at the Fountain Paint Pot, Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Dragon’s Mouth Spring at Mud Volcano. There are also opportunities to visit the overlook at Upper Falls, the Lookout Point for the Lower Falls. Yellowstone National Park even offers themed story maps that include education materials, featuring water, mining history, and stream cleanup.
For a trip to the Caribbean, visit the Virgin Islands National Park, a member of the National Park Service. Set amongst the palm trees and sandy beaches, the Virgin Islands National Park covers two-thirds of the island. Virtual tours give you the chance to explore marine life swimming amongst the underwater coral reefs, or investigate the remaining handiwork of the Taino Indians with up-close views of the ancient petroglyphs along Reef Bay Trail.
U.S. History Landmarks
Save your money by skipping the airfare or long road trip, and instead, take the whole family on a virtual trip to many of the most popular and revered landmarks throughout American history.
Home to George Washington, Mount Vernon sits sprawled across 500 acres. Virtual tours are available for the historic home and the rest of the plantation with 360-degree panoramic images and unprecedented access to the property. You’ll also have an opportunity to visit George Washington’s Gristmill & Distillery and the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.
For an immersive experience of Colonial Williamsburg, check out the available 360-degree tours. Tours will teach you everything from how the buildings were constructed to which artifacts decorate the property. You will get access to exclusive behind-the-scenes content, in addition to virtual scavenger hunts that the kids are sure to enjoy.
Home to the deadliest battle of the Civil War, the Gettysburg National Battlefield now offers the chance to walk these hallowed grounds through a virtual tour. Chief Interpretive Officer Christopher Gwin offers 16 videos, each for a different stop along the tour. The tour comes to an end at the National Cemetery, where Lincoln gave his famed Gettysburg Address.
Visit the home of American presidents with an unprecedented tour through the property. Thanks to Goole Arts and Culture, there are free virtual tours to take you through the interior of the property, giving you exclusive access. In addition to views of the grounds, the tour also educates visitors on its unique collection of art, decor, and valuables.
Go back in time to the days of the 17th century with an up-close look at some truly authentic exhibits. In addition to the full-sized recreation of The Mayflower, explore an authentic portrayal of what Plymouth farming villages were really like in those days. There are also virtual tours of current exhibitions so you won’t have to venture far to enjoy the site.
Arts and culture
Museums and Galleries
No matter where your interests lay, there are several museums and galleries that you can visit using your home computer or tablet for a live, interactive look at some of your favorite exhibits.
Now you don’t have to visit Washington, D.C. to see the National Gallery of Art. Google provides access to two online exhibits. The first features an in-depth look at fashion from the Colonial and Revolutionary eras, ranging from 1740 to 1895. There is also a second exhibit that explores the works of Dutch Baroque painter Johannes Vermeer.
Home of the ancient Rosetta Stone, the British Museum in London also hosts several other items of interest for the history buff. Visit the Great Court or check out the real Egyptian mummies. There are also thousands of artifacts to explore by continent for an up-close look at the many gifts history has left behind.
New York’s Guggenheim Museum is now available for personal virtual tours via Google’s Street View. Visit the famous spiral staircase and then enter one of the many galleries to take in breathtaking pieces of world-famous art. Art buffs will appreciate the opportunity to scroll between Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary eras for a more in-depth look at art history.
The famed Musée d’Orsay of Paris now offers virtual tours to see the best in French art. Explore works created between 1848 and 1914, including some of the most popular artists of all time. Explore favorite works from Monet, Cézanne, and Gauguin before exploring other notable pieces of art from the region.
The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, South Korea lets you visit all four branches of the museum with online virtual tours. Journey through six different floors to see well over 300 different art pieces. Visitors will get to see some of the world’s very best Korean contemporary art, all without a passport.
Concerts and shows
Live concerts and shows are a favorite American pastime but were quickly made impossible due to social distancing mandates. Thankfully, there are many organizations that have stepped up to help, ensuring that you still have access to your favorite artists.
Streaming nightly, the Metropolitan Opera will be featuring a new concert each night. Featuring the Met’s Live in HD series, a new performance is made available each night so you always have something new to enjoy each day. In addition to the Met’s live stream, you can also watch via your Samsung Smart TV or Apple, Amazon, and Roku devices.
As one of the world’s leading orchestras, the Berlin Philharmonic offers a digital library of its most popular performances. There are more than 600 different performances for visitors to enjoy. Plus, there’s a 30-day free trial so you can check out all there is to offer before you commit to buy.
Vivid Seats has also temporarily ditched the live ticket sales and introduced LiveStreams for virtual concerts “from our couch to yours.” The series offers an intimate look at your favorite artists with live performances that offer a more personal, intimate look at today’s biggest stars.
The Grammy Museum is offering tons of fresh content for visitors to explore. There are even special virtual tours available for students and educators. If you’re a fan of The Beatles, there’s an exclusive exhibit dedicated to Ringo Starr available beginning this month.
Normally used for ticket sales, LiveNation has adapted to a post-COVID model with live concerts available for streaming. Catch the latest music from your favorite artists right within the comfort of your home. In addition to live concerts, it’s a great place to go for breaking news surrounding all of your favorite musicians.
Coronavirus has changed the world we’ve always known, shuttering our favorite institutions and terminating ticket sales. Thankfully, many organizations have stepped up to offer virtual tours and field trips.
From the comfort of your own home, you can tour Yellowstone National Park, the Guggenheim or the Met. Plus, many organizations are now offering expanded learning resources that are designed exclusively for children and families to enhance their visits.
No matter what you enjoy, there’s a virtual field trip out there for you – you only need to choose.
Lena Borrelli is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.