These days, your field trips know no boundaries.

By Lisa Milbrand
October 09, 2020
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Credit: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

As if we needed another one, one downside to the COVID-19 pandemic is that taking field trips to your local zoo, museum, or aquarium can be problematic (if not impossible). But the big upside? So many amazing virtual field trip experiences have blossomed online, allowing kids (and adults) to learn and discover places and people from around the world—all while wearing their pajamas.

Pointing and clicking may not be quite the same thing as seeing and experiencing science, arts, culture, and history in person, but when your field trip can include viewing artwork from the Louvre in the morning and then heading out on a leopard safari in the afternoon, it might be a fair tradeoff. (After all, virtual summer camps didn’t disappoint, right?)

Reserve a front-row seat on your couch for one of these awesome virtual field trips, many of which are free.

Virtual field trip ideas

1. Experience culture

Google’s Arts and Culture section can take you pretty much anywhere you’d want to go. Spend the day clicking through the collection of virtual tours, videos, and games to travel the world from your sofa. Start with a tour of the Discovery space shuttle with a pair of astronauts who helped deploy the Hubble space telescope and find out exactly how astronauts use the bathroom in space, or take a 360-degree tour of the grandeur of the Paris Opera House, where you can live out your ballerina fantasies and take a bow with a sweeping view from the stage before checking out the incredibly over-the-top gilded salons and the breathtaking view from the roof. Some of the augmented reality options are pretty cool, too, letting you project priceless masterpieces or intriguing artifacts into your home so you can see how big (or small) they really are. Put together a schedule of these free virtual field trips and travel the world, one day at a time.

2. Try something interactive

Airbnb’s collection of interactive virtual field trips, curated from nearly 300 online experiences, focuses on connecting with intriguing people (and animals!) around the world. You can take a karate class with a member of the U.S. Olympic team, learn about sharks from a shark expert, uncover the mysteries of Pompeii with an archaeologist, or learn how to make French pastry from a Parisian chef. You’ll pay a per-person charge (generally less than $20 per person) for many of the experiences, but a few of the high-profile events with big names like skateboarder Tony Hawk can be replayed (without the interactive element) for free.

3. Explore one-on-one

Amazon’s brand new Explore feature offers solo adventures around the globe, where you can check out the toucans and sloths at a Costa Rican animal rescue, explore the Freedom Trail in Boston or the Berlin Wall, or learn a little Cantonese while you (virtually) wander the streets of Hong Kong with your guide. Amazon Explore is a one-on-one experience, so you’ll have the undivided attention of your guide and a customized trip, where you can take pictures, point and click at things that interest you, and interact with your guide. Prices vary, and most sessions are between 40 minutes and an hour.

4. Visit the theater

If your child is studying Shakespeare (or you can’t get enough of the Bard), London’s grand recreation of the Globe Theatre offers an interactive tour of the theater—along with a free video of its stellar production of Romeo and Juliet. And if your kids are willing to get up early to accommodate the time zone difference, the company is offering a series of workshops to help bring Shakespeare’s greatest plays to life for young kids.

5. Go wild

Animal webcams were uberpopular during the early months of the pandemic—and who wouldn’t want more? The National Zoo has a panda cam trained on its newest addition, the baby cub born August 21 with mama Mei Xiang. At the Bronx Zoo, you can engage in Zoom virtual encounters with sloths, cheetahs, camels, and other favorites, where you can talk with their keepers and learn all about your favorite creatures. And Shedd Aquarium offers virtual meet-and-greets with sea lions, penguins, and sea otters.

6. Take a (virtual) walk

Walking tour companies have started creating online options, such as Walks, where knowledgeable guides take you through top spots in Europe and the U.S., including the Sistine Chapel, the Acropolis, and the Tower of London, in their Tours from Home program.

7. Connect to nature

The National Park Service offers an array of cool virtual field trips or tours and videos on their site, whether you want a guided tour through the history of Gettysburg or a virtual rafting or hiking adventure at the Grand Canyon.

8. Travel the globe

If there’s somewhere in particular you’d like to explore, just search for virtual tours—you might find something like this nice exploration of the Great Wall of China (minus the vertigo and sore calves you might feel walking up and down the steps), a tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza, or a virtual field trip to the Taj Mahal.

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