We might not be travelling, but that doesn’t mean we can’t inspire some wanderlust with these virtual tours!
Travel is a luxury that we’ve been able to share readily with our kids and there’s no denying that we’ve raised little global citizens in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, exotic holidays aren’t on the agenda for the coming months and you and your children could be forgiven for getting itchy feet. The world’s zoos, aquariums, museums and galleries might be closed to the public, but many have opened up virtually instead, unveiling a treasure trove of resources. Be sure to check out these virtual tours with your little ones and get some inspiration for your next trip while you’re at it!
Under The Sea
The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California is a leader in ocean conservation and education. It’s home to all sorts of oceanic exhibits including local Monterey Bay habitats, Pacific kelp forests, open oceans and this Mama’s favourite, the sea otters. There are 10 live cameras operating including in the sea otter, shark and penguin enclosures. The aquarium is currently closed to the public so the team has taken the opportunity to let its rescued sea otter pups into the main two-storey enclosure. Some of the resident otters act as surrogates to the orphaned pups and we can guarantee it’s one of the cutest things you’ll see all day!
Sassy Mama tip: There are downloadable colouring, games and activity sheets to follow up on your fieldwork!
Georgia Aquarium, USA
If you’ve ever wanted to get up close to Beluga whales, piranhas and even a whale shark, then take a look at the webcams at the Georgia Aquarium. We tuned into the Ocean Voyager webcam and, within seconds, were treated to seeing the whale shark up close along with spotted eagle rays, reef sharks and plenty of other fish. Be sure to check the At Home Learning page so you know when to tune into special live streams, as well as being able to download resources specific to the age group of your child (from Kindergarten through to Grade 12!).
While this one isn’t a tour as such, it is such a valuable resource we couldn’t not include it! CoralWatch is a citizen science programme based out of the University of Queensland. You can download free learning materials from the website or watch educational videos on its YouTube channel. Follow it on Facebook and Twitter to teach your little conservationists about the fascinating coral reef ecosystems.
Animals And Nature
WildEarth, South Africa
Based in Kruger National Park in South Africa, WildEarth takes you on a safari adventure twice a day from the comfort of your living room! Tune in via YouTube for the sunrise safari, which starts at 5:30am local time (a very civilised 11:30am here in Hong Kong!). The sunset tour maybe a little late for kids with a 3:30pm start (9:30pm in Hong Kong). When the safari isn’t live, you can tune in to the live feed of the Djuma Waterhole and see which animals are coming down for a drink. It even has special measures in place for conducting virtual tours while South Africa is in lockdown. Spot wild elephants, giraffes, rhinos and more!
San Diego Zoo, USA
Pandas and tigers and polar bears, oh my! From the wilds of Africa to the Australian outback, the far reaches of the Antarctic to northern polar extremes, your kids will love browsing San Diego Zoo’s webcams. There’s also educational videos, games (we can’t wait to try out Polar Bear Plunge!) and a whole curriculum to go with its many exhibits.
Australian Reptile Park, Australia
Tune in at 10am and 2pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (7am and 11am in Hong Kong – note Daylight Savings ends on Sunday, 5 April and after this, the times will be 8am and 12pm in Hong Kong) for a live stream of the Reptile Park’s daily animal feeds and educational talks with keeper Tim Faulkner. Koalas, Elvis – the giant saltwater crocodile, Hugo – the giant tortoise, along with the dingoes and reptiles will be eating their lunch this week in the afternoon and can be seen on the Facebook and Instagram pages. Head to the YouTube channel for live talks (which are also recorded for later viewing) which this week features animals like the tawny frogmouth (which is not an owl!), Tasmanian devils and one of the world’s two monotremes (an egg-laying mammal) — the echidna.
Sassy Mama tip: The videos also feature an Auslan interpreter for the hearing impaired!
FNQ Nature Tours, Australia
Far North Queensland is full of wonderful tour guides who love heading out into the rainforest each and every day. Just because tourists can’t visit, that hasn’t stopped FNQ Nature Tours from heading out and about for some birdwatching and photography with some expert commentary along the way. The first tour is taking place on Saturday, 4 April and you just need to join the Virtual Tour Program Facebook page to get in on the action.
Have you dreamed of visiting the Hawai’i Volcanoes, Alaskan Kenai Fjords or Bryce Canyon National Parks? Now you can, along with the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and the Dry Tortugas in Florida. Google Arts & Culture has teamed up with local expert rangers to take your family into the parks, parts of which are often off-limits to the general public. You can fly over an active volcano, dive into a shipwreck and explore incredible natural landscapes in this interactive tour the whole family will love.
British Museum, UK
With a collection spanning over two-million years of history (seriously, there are remnants of a stone tool made by humans two-million years ago!), the British Museum in London has hours of exhibits to browse. Explore using an interactive timeline and see artefacts from Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia and Oceania. History buffs will love getting a close-up glimpse of the Rosetta Stone (the key that let archaeologists translate Egyptian hieroglyphics), not to mention countless pieces from Ancient Greece and Rome and Medieval Europe. There are also classroom resources with lessons and activities (perfect for homeschooling) that you can download.
After watching “A Night At The Museum”, treat your family to the real thing! During your virtual tour at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, you can either browse room by room or choose your favourite exhibits to explore in more depth. With everything from elephants to fossils, there’s sure to be something that inspires your little ones.
Kennedy Space Center, USA
No visitors are allowed into the Kennedy Space Center for the time being, but the staff are bringing you live lessons (that are recorded and available later too) every Monday, Wednesday and Friday via its Facebook page.
While we’re talking about space, why not take your kids behind the scenes of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The YouTube tour takes you from astronaut training through to launch, as well as into spaceflight. There’s never been a better time to encourage your kids to get into STEM.
Musicals And Theatre
If you are missing getting out to the theatre, or maybe just want to nurture and inspire your children to love the arts, consider signing up to Broadway HD, a streaming service for Broadway performances. There are family-friendly favourites like Peter Pan (a top Sassy Mama pick!), as well as Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, The Wind In The Willows and Disney’s Broadway Hits at the Royal Albert Hall. Prices start at $8.99 USD per month, but there is a free seven-day trial so it’s definitely worth testing out!
National Theatre Live, London
Starting Thursday, 2 April the National Theatre Live will be bringing the theatre straight to your living room via its YouTube channel. The premier will be One Man Two Guvnors starring James Corden. Performances will be available to stream free for one week.
Sassy Mama tip: These performances are aimed at the Sassy Mamas and Papas so treat yourself to a different kind of date night once the kids are tucked up in bed!
Thanks to Google Arts & Culture you can also explore 11 of the most dramatic stages around the world. The tour covers icons like The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Carnegie Hall in New York City and the Sydney Opera House. Your future stars of the stage are sure to be inspired!
There are countless virtual tours popping up everywhere and one of the best resources out there is Google Arts & Culture. Delve deep into a historical and cultural journey covering everything from the Pyramids of Giza to the Eiffel Tower or Taj Mahal. Some are simple street views, but others (like the National Parks tour listed above) are highly interactive as well as educational. Another great resource for fans of webcams is EarthCam. Check in on some of your favourite destinations or browse by location for an instant fix to that travel bug! Both are great ways to let your kids explore their interests and inspire a lifelong love of learning about faraway places and cultures. It’s only a matter of time before we’ll be able to travel to them again!
Read more: Best Indoor Activities For Kids