Photo credit: Google Earth screen capture
There’s Still a Universe to Explore Even When Staying at Home
Staying at home doesn’t mean your mind can’t travel. Here are some amazing ways to travel and explore while sitting on the couch.
There’s nothing like a nice walking tour to get your travel juices flowing. Fortunately for those stuck inside, whether it’s bad weather or a nasty virus wrecking the day, YouTube has a vast collection of walking tours. You can find almost any major city, attraction, or amusement park, some with commentary and some without. To get as close to being there opt for ones shot with 4K and watch up close on a larger screen. Roller coasters, in particular, are best experienced this way. If you tend toward the educational guided tours, the Google Arts and Culture site has an extensive guided tour of CERN’s (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) underground spaces. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is an equally informative 360° experience, walking you through the facility from the lobby to the control center.
Favorite Walking Tours:
Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA
Great way to see the park and people watch all from a safe distance.
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, CA
Not only is this walking tour educational, but the views of Los Angeles are breathtaking.
Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Universal Studios, Orlando, FL
If you play this on a large desktop screen and sit really close it is … stirring.
Hogwarts Castle Tour, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA
See even more than if you were there rushing through the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey queue line.
Favorite Guided Tours:
Watch / Learn / Explore
Movies, TV and books have always been a way to travel and explore without leaving home. Today, we can combine the imagination of film with exploration on our own with technology. Google’s Art and Culture has a literal plethora of options of places you can explore on a desktop, smartphone, or tablet and some smart TVs. Perhaps start with the traveler of time and space — Doctor Who — as inspiration. First, watch the episode, “Vincent and the Doctor,” and get a little misty eyed when the Doctor brings Vincent to the Musée d’Orsay. Then hop on the computer and in seconds you can find yourself in the van Gogh rooms at the Musée d’Orsay. All to yourself. No crowds. Just you and Vincent. Take your time and explore. To be truly immersive, download the song “Chances” by Athlete, from the soundtrack of the episode. Click here to go.
If you need more inspiration, turn to Master Skywalker and the First Jedi Temple (otherwise known as Skellig Michael Island) for a little contemplation of your own. The Skellig Islands are located off the southwest coast of Ireland and are an amazing adventure on any travel itinerary. Exploring the island virtually is actually a bit easier. To reach the monastery at the top of Skellig Michael, you first must climb 618 steep and rocky steps. These are the same steps Rey takes in the final scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and where Luke trains Rey in the Jedi ways in The Last Jedi. It’s also the location of the Porg and the green milk, gulp. For a challenge of Jedi proportions, watch The Last Jedi then see if you can match the locations using Google Earth. Click here to go.
For added adventures see if you can find other filming locations using Google Earth or Google Arts and Culture. Spoiler: There are hundreds.
From Skellig Island, look upward and let the stars be your guide to the next adventure. To explore space, we look to NASA. Of course, with NASA, failure is not an option and the agency has met the challenge. Recently they launched a new site filled with fun and educational at-home activities for all ages. From there you can take a tour of the International Space Station. Be warned, it’s easy to get turned around in a truly 360° environment. If you want to dive more deeply into the universe, you can head to the Exoplanet Travel Bureau. Explore and learn about distant planets and then get yourself a beautiful, and free, travel poster! For an even deeper dive, an inexpensive Google Cardboard VR viewer ($15) and the Google Expeditions app will allow you to walk around Mars along with hundreds of other field trips from home.
Of course, with any adventure, real or virtual, the possibilities are endless. Be safe, but get out there and explore even if it is virtually.