30 ways to leave home without actually leaving the couch, from virtual zoo exhibits to museum gallery tours

photocritical/Shutterstock; Sean Pavone/Shutterstock; Mark Scott/ShutterstockMonterey Bay Aquarium, the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, and NASA’s Houston Space Centre all offer free virtual exhibits.
  • Even when spending the day at a museum or going to the theatre isn’t an option, there are still ways to connect with the arts and stay entertained at home.
  • Many cultural institutions, castles, and historic landmarks offer free virtual tours and exhibits that can be educational and fun for all ages.
  • National parks and zoos also have online exhibits that can help people experience the outdoors.
  • Here’s how to visit theme parks, museums, and other spots around the world without leaving your couch.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Many museums and cultural institutions around the world are inspiring people to stay curious and occupied by offering free virtual tours, exhibits, videos, and performances for people to enjoy from their homes.

You can (digitally) take a walk through Main Street in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, view art from renowned names like Picasso, Dalí, and Vincent van Gogh, or relax by watching the sunset off the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland – all while staying at home.

Here’s how to enjoy an afternoon at the museum, the zoo, or your favourite national without leaving your couch.

Puerto Rico’s tourism board hosts live cooking and salsa dancing classes that will transport you to island time.

Rachel Wang/ShutterstockOld San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Discover Puerto Rico has made a variety of cultural enrichment opportunities accessible from anywhere in the world. Users can take salsa and bomba dance lessons in their living room, or tune in to chef tutorials on how to make authentic arroz con pollo and Puerto Rican coffee.

The tourism board also hosts live sessions on Instagram, Facebook, and Zoom each week, and the class schedules are posted weekly.

You can immerse yourself in musical theatre with Disney’s “The Lion King” Experience, a free online course tailored for ages 8 to 15.

Mario Tama/Getty‘The Lion King’ musical.

Disney Theatrical Productions made its interactive theatre course known as “The Lion King” Experience free for families and kids looking for an educational, creative outlet.

The program, according to Playbill, includes 11 online sessions for students aged 8 to 11, and an 18-part curriculum for ages 12 to 15. The theatrical, educational experience includes videos and instructional materials that learners can follow along with at home.

Take a guided virtual walking tour through one of many US national parks, from the Badlands to Yellowstone.

George Rose/Getty ImagesThe Thurston Lava Tube is an entrance to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

Google Earth and Google Arts & Culture have made at least 32 virtual tours of national parks around the US, allowing people to transport themselves to breathtaking landscapes around the country.

Tours available include digital looks at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park, and several others.

Browse the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago or create your own masterpiece with a printable colouring page.

ParamountThe famous scene from ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ filmed at the Art Institute.

The Art Institute has made several educational resources available online, such as colouring activities and audio tours.

The museum also has many of its collections available to view online, which some fans of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” might recognise from the ’80s movie – including A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat, which is painted in the pointillism style that makes for an interesting illusion.

Take a virtual tour of New York City’s American Museum of Natural History and tune in to Facebook Live sessions perfect for educators and families.

Jay YarowThe American Museum of National History is known for its wildlife scenes.

NYC’s American Museum of Natural History has ways to virtually explore its amazing collections on YouTube, and it also offers a Virtual Tour via Google Arts & Culture.

Families, parents, and educators may also be interested to tune into the museum’s Facebook Live videos at 2 p.m. ET every Tuesday and Thursday, which give fans a live look at the facility’s exhibits.

The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City has tons of online activities tailored for students in elementary, middle, and high school.

Anton_Ivanov/ShutterstockThe outside of the Intrepid Museum.

Museum educators are leading online sessions for students about stargazing and science, as well as virtual tours of the museum – including a look at space shuttle Enterprise and the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid.

History enthusiasts can also browse some of the museum’s collections that are published on the Google Arts & Culture website.

Take a virtual trek through Australia’s famous Outback region.

totajla/ShutterstockKangaroo crossing.

A series of virtual tours lets people all over the world experience the beauty of the Outback, specifically the sacred area known as Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Envision yourself dining at the renowned Windsor Castle or exploring the Palace of Versailles.

Royal Communications and Royal Collection Trust.A look inside Windsor Castle.

There are many castles that can be explored from home, such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, the famous residences of the British royal family. You could also take a digital walking tour of Catherine Palace in Russia, which is known for its colourful exterior.

The National World War II Museum has a variety of virtual field trip activities and oral histories available to explore for free.

Gerald Herbert/APNewspapers in an exhibit at the National World War II Museum.

The museum, located in New Orleans, has a dedicated at-home section on its website with learning resources, live webinars, and activities for students and history buffs of all ages.

Transport yourself to some of the world’s most ornate theatres, like Palais Garnier from “Phantom of the Opera” and Carnegie Hall in New York.

Izim M. Gulcuk/ShutterstockVienna State Opera in Wien, Austria.

While many theatres are temporarily closed, you can envision yourself in the Golden Age of cinema or at an architecturally stunning opera house in Europe by taking a digital tour of performing arts centres around the world via Google Arts & Culture.

Relax during golden hour by viewing the sunset off the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

ShutterstockThe Cliffs of Moher.

You can take a virtual tour of the famous Irish geological landmark on the Cliffs of Moher website.

The famed Metropolitan Opera is hosting nightly live opera streams.

Carlo Allegri/ReutersThe Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

The renowned opera house is closed to the public at the time of writing and is streaming performances ET every night they’re closed. The schedule is published on the Met Opera website, and the recordings will be available on the Met Opera homepage for 20 hours after they’re streamed at night.

The San Diego Zoo has live and archived videos of pandas, polar bears, giraffes, and other zoo animals.

KPG_Payless/ShutterstockA panda at the San Diego Zoo.

The California zoo has pre-recorded and live video streams showing koalas, apes, pandas, penguins, and other creatures that offer endless hours of entertainment and fascination.

Disney World and Disneyland are closed for the time being, but fans can still virtually roam the magical theme park.

Associated PressMickey and Walt Disney.

Disney previously launched Google Street View imagery of Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

Fans dreaming of a day spent in the loveable theme parks can virtually enjoy Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and even Disney World’s global Epcot “countries.”

If a “walk” through Disney isn’t your speed, try going for a virtual rollercoaster ride.

John Raoux/APSlinky Dog Dash ride in Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World.

YouTube is filled with rollercoaster ride recordings that let users envision themselves on attractions at Disney resorts, from the Incredicoaster at Disney’s California Adventure park to the “Frozen” Ever After ride at Walt Disney World.

The Guggenheim Museum in New York City is offering a free virtual tour of all its galleries.

Earthscape/ShutterstockThe outside of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.

Google Arts & Culture is offering a free digital tour of the Guggenheim Museum through its Street View feature.

The Guggenheim is known for its collection of contemporary art, as well as for its unique architecture, and the experience of roaming the signature curved building is still captured by the Google Street View digital tour.

Transport yourself to a world landmark, like the Taj Mahal.

Matt King/Getty ImagesGoogle Street View offers a 360-degree look at many famous destinations.

Google’s Arts & Culture section has crystal-clear views of the Taj Mahal in New Dehli, India, as well as several other renowned spots around the world. For example, you can look down from the top of the Eiffel Tower or relax with a view of the Sydney Opera House, all while not actually travelling.

Monterey Bay Aquarium in California is livestreaming penguins, sea otters, jellyfish, and other creatures.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/APJellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The Monterey, California, aquarium is giving visitors a virtual look at its colourful sea creatures via free live camera streaming. Animal lovers can zen out to jellyfish or watch penguins waddling in their habitat.

Several exhibits in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, can be toured virtually.

Carolyn Kaster/APA fossil exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

From dinosaurs to ocean creatures, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History offers in-depth 360-degree views of its exhibits.

History buffs can explore an interactive tour from the British Museum in London.

Piotr Wawrzyniuk/ShutterstockInside the British Museum in London.

The museum has a free interactive timeline that lets users explore artifacts from ancient civilizations around the world. The virtual exhibit lets people focus on different topics and themes, like “living and dying,” “power and identity,” and “trade and conflict,” all from different continents and eras.

The Museum of Modern Art has a library of photos from its permanent collections, featuring works by van Gogh and other contemporary artists.

Google Art ProjectThe MoMA is home to Vincent van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night.’

Also in partnership with Google Arts & Culture, the MoMA offers one free virtual “walk-through” exhibit, plus select photos of its permanent artwork collections.

You can take a tour of Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland.

John Cogill/APBlarney Castle is famous for a stone that visitors kiss for good luck.

Blarney Castle is known for its mythical stone that visitors have kissed for good luck for hundreds of years. This year was the first time in history that the kissing of the stone was put on hold due to the spread of the coronavirus.

For now, prospective visitors can take in the beautiful sight through a highly detailed virtual tour.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a series of videos set to calming music showing stunning views of its buildings.

Diego Grandi/ShutterstockInside the Met in New York City.

Anyone who appreciates architecture will likely enjoy The Met’s series of YouTube videos that show its most famous buildings and exhibit spaces in a 360-degree format. As a bonus, the videos also feature relaxing instrumental music soundtracks.

Take a deep breath and take a virtual stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO-recognised site in Kew, London.

Kamira/ShutterstockThe Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, England.

Some very kind visitors to the Royal Botanic Gardens captured panoramic shots of the stunning landscape, and they’re available to view on Google’s Street View feature.

Fans of surrealism can virtually step inside The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sean Pavone/ShutterstockThe Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, has an extensive collection of Dalí’s artwork.

The Dalí Museum lets visitors virtually explore its courtyard, architecture, and even inside some of its gallery areas, which houses more than 2,400 works of art by Salvador Dalí.

NASA’s free mobile app lets space-enthusiasts virtually step into mission control.

Michael Wyke/APNASA Johnson Space Centre in Houston in 2019.

NASA’s free Space Centre Houston app lets people explore virtual reality experiences, take astronaut selfies, and follow along through an audio tour of its educational space centre.

The Picasso Museum has a virtual tour of its historic courtyard, plus an interactive map of Barcelona.

Popova Valeriya / ShutterstockPablo Picasso spent many of his formative years as an artist in Barcelona.

The Picasso Museum offers virtual tours of its courtyards, discussing the architecture in relation to the history of Barcelona.The museum also has an interactive map depicting Picasso’s Barcelona, showing a timeline of his upbringing, his first studios, and bars and galleries frequented by the famed artist.

There are a couple of ways to virtually tour the Louvre.

Thierry Thorel/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesFrance’s Louvre Museum announced it would not open on Sunday due to fears of the coronavirus.

The Louvre’s official website offers a few virtual exhibits of its own, and a separate site, YouVisit, has a realistic 360-degree tour of several parts of the Paris museum.

The Acropolis Museum lets users take in stunning views of Athens, Greece, from their couch.

jpbarcelos/ShutterstockA view from the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece.

In partnership with Google Arts & Culture, the Acropolis Museum has digitised many of its ancient artifacts, from statues to marble murals. Virtual visitors can also take in panoramic views of Athens via the Street View feature.

The National Portrait Gallery has digitised versions of its famous paintings.

Jacquelyn Martin/APPortraits of Oprah Winfrey and Condoleezza Rice by Mickalene Thomas.

Online guests can explore several exhibits from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, from “First Ladies” to “Eye to I: Self-portraits from 1900 to today.”

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