staying home Virtual Vacations to Take Right Now (Yes, Now)

Virtual Vacations to Take Right Now (Yes, Now)

Virtually there: Cruise Norway from your couch.
Virtually there: Cruise Norway from your couch.
Photo by Getty Images
Slipping your stay-at-home order starts with a click. 

This story was updated on May 19, 2020.

Cabin fever has made it clear: There will never be a substitute for experiencing the world in person. And trust us, like you, our editorial team can’t wait to travel again. But until the coronavirus crisis runs its course, here are our current picks for taking flight and going on vacation from the safety of your home (thank you, technology).

Keep Calm in Ireland

Preserving our mental health is paramount on our to-do list these days. So we’re profoundly grateful for Tourism Ireland’s new “moment of calm” videos. The six-part series, posted on YouTube, features stunning footage from across the Emerald Isle, starting with aerial imagery over the Lakes of Killarney. You’ll also love part two’s sunrise and springtime-in-bloom time-lapse scenes.

The Lakes of Killarney are calling.
Tourism Ireland

Kid Around in Utah’s National Parks 

Anyone with young children can tell you: The homeschooling wall is real. When it’s time for a timeout, Austin Adventures’ Virtual Adventures for Kids (designed for 6- to 12-year-olds) offer engaging, educational webinars on destinations from South Dakota to Costa Rica and the Netherlands. One of our favorites from the family-owned tour provider lets children digitally stretch their legs while expanding their minds in Utah’s “mighty five” national parks.

Rock on! Take the classroom to Utah’s great outdoors.
Austin Adventures

Awaken Spiritually in India  

Flour shortages, health club closures, pop-up home offices, and improvised homeschooling curriculums. Expert-led wellbeing sessions from Ananda in the Himalayas have never been more needed to help harmonize mind, body, and soul. The destination spa’s virtual classes on Instagram focus on reducing back pain with Hatha yoga, practicing Pranayama breathing techniques, and quieting the mind with Chidakasha Dharana meditation. Namaste to that.
Loosen up at home.
Ananda in the Himalayas

Support Peruvian Craftswomen

Big Five Tours & Expeditions partners with Awamaki to empower Andean women with education and by connecting artisan weavers to global markets. “For every dollar given to Awamaki,” says Big Five president Ashish Sanghrajka, “$4 of income is generated.” Currently sequestered in remote villages, these weavers have sadly seen their cash income disappear as a result of the coronavirus and Peru’s closed borders. Big Five guests can connect with these weavers on future Peru tours, but until the country reopens, you can learn more about their craft and communities by watching the following video. Those able can also provide urgent support through Awamaki’s Artisan Relief Fund.
Give back in Peru.

Groove to Global Sounds 

“The sounds of a new language, people, music, and landscapes,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Jennifer Farmer, “bring destinations to life and stay with us forever.” Farmer has been enduring her own travel moratorium with the help of her newly created Spotify playlist, whose clips range from lively Irish pub music to an Islamic call to prayer. Such sounds provide “a renewed spring in my step while walking in my suburban neighborhood,” she says. “No one knows that I’m secretly strolling along the Seine in springtime with sounds of music in the air.”  

Spy Polar Bears in the Arctic

Our collective social distancing stint may feel like it’s lasting forever. But the world will accelerate again, and when it does, the Arctic will call. “You come to the Arctic to experience solitude. To disconnect from technology and crowds and the speed of everyday life,” says Solan Jensen, a guide with Quark Expeditions. Until the time comes to visit in person, though, Quark’s Why Travel to the Arctic? video provides a worthy virtual alternative. Connect with Inuit people, kayak ancient fjords, spy polar bears, and, says Jensen, “experience the vastness of your surroundings and how small you are in relation to the forces at work here.” 
The ultimate social distancing spot.
Quark Expeditions

Step Out in Florence

Weekly virtual walking tours from G Adventures let you see new cities through the eyes of locals. Start with this tour of Firenze led by Stefano (you can call him Stef), whose tour includes visits to hidden espresso shops and wine windows (order a Chianti), the Duomo, and one of his favorite spots, the San Miniato Abbey. “Every night there is Gregorian chanting in the original medieval crypt,” he says. “It gives me a ‘wow’ moment every single time I walk in.” 
Florence with flair. 
G Adventures

Stroll through Hawaiian Gardens 

You can almost smell the vanilla orchids on this 14-minute garden tour at Hawaii Island’s Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. The hotel’s director of landscaping, Erin Lee, leads guests past birds of paradise and through taro patches and banana groves (try the apple bananas) while lending insight into botanical traditions, from the history of breadfruit to how the hotel’s bartenders muddle leaves from Kaffir lime trees in their drinks. 

Sip a Cocktail in Brazil 

Speaking of drinks. A spike in virtual happy hours has us studying up and expanding our cocktail-making repertoire. Come five o’clock (OK, four), you’ll find us sipping an Aperol Spritz thanks to the bartenders aboard Regent’s Seven Seas Explorer; a classic Negroni in the style of The Langham, London’s Nicola Mangiacapra; and a Batida de Coco (made with Brazilian cachaça and coconut milk) courtesy of tour provider Blumar - Brazil. We’re also working on perfecting the Hanky Panky (a twist on a martini created at The Savoy’s American Bar in the 1920s), included in our picks for cooking and cocktailing your way around the world from home.
Mix it up with a Batida de Coco.
Blumar - Brazil

Cozy Up to a Fire in Finland

Everything in Finnish Lapland feels legendary and larger than life – think Northern Lights, the midnight sun, Santa Claus. The remote subarctic region even takes sheltering in place to extraordinary levels, as evidenced by Visit Finland’s Sound of Lapland video series. Its intimate 360-degree clips let you hole up in a cushy log cabin and ­– if you’re able to tear yourself from the soothing fire – take a peaceful paddle along the Lemmenjoki River, watch reindeer grazing in the wilderness, and listen to Arctic runoff flowing through Vatikuru gorge.
Cabin fever at its finest.

Step into an Italian Kitchen

Our current picks for Italian-comfort-fooding your way through quarantine: Perfect a creamy mozzarella-pesto spread and penne alla vodka with Crystal Cruises’ chef Jon Ashton, plus saffron risottotiramisu, and this bellissima pizza in Florence with Il Salviatino’s executive chef Silvia Grossi. You’ll also love these home-kitchen-friendly recipes from some of our favorite hotels and destinations, beginning in Umbria with meatballs and sauce from Palazzo Seneca’s chef Valentino Parmissano.
Get cooking: Pasta alla vodka with chef Jon Ashton.
Crystal Cruises

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

From the Empire State Building’s EarthCam to comedy show livestreams, curated experiences at Virtual NYC let you travel to all five boroughs, sans the schlepping. We recommended walking across the Brooklyn Bridge (beware of the biker at 18:49!) via a 30-minute POV video, following a guide through Central Park, and virtually touring the New York Botanical Garden’s Orchid Show.

Bliss Out on Saint Bart’s

With its postcard-worthy beaches, laid-back Caribbean vibe, and dynamic French and Creole dining scene, Saint Bart’s ranks high on our “where we want travel when it’s time to travel again” list. For now, we’ve been playing this video from Le Barthélemy Hotel & Spa on repeat, lulled by the tranquil sounds of seabirds and turquoise waves.
Caribbean calling: Beach time on Saint Bart’s.
Le Barthélemy Hotel & Spa

Tune In and Track African Wildlife 

“A birdsong can even, for a moment, make the whole world into a sky within us,” the poet Rainier Maria Rilke wrote. Avian orchestras from the African bush can be especially uplifting, including this soundtrack from eco-lodge operator Singita, which also posts live game drives (think tracking lion prides in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve) on its Facebook page.

Wild times: Head out on an African safari – from home.
Wild times: Head out on an African safari – from home.
Photo by Singita

Sail Past Fjords in Norway

Leave it to Norway (aka the world’s fifth-happiest country) to create a television genre that can actually reduce stress. If you’re new to Slow TV – which covers everyday events in superbly meditative, marathon sessions – we suggest starting with Hurtigruten’s 1,100-mile voyage along Norway’s coast. Spoiler alert: A sublime sunset paints the horizon at the 3:36:28 mark. Need to speed things up? The following time-lapse condenses the voyage to 37 minutes. 

Hurtigruten’s six-day sailing in time-lapse.
Marten Dalfors

Get Wild in the Galápagos

Daily programing on Lindblad Expeditions’ Facebook page lets you listen to live concerts curated by the cruise line’s ethnomusicologist, step inside design studios of global artisans whose crafts are featured in onboard galleries, and take nature excursions in places such as the Arctic and Galápagos Islands.

A deep dive into the Galápagos Islands.
Lindblad Expeditions

Gallery Hop at Top Museums

Taking virtual tours of the LouvreSmithsonian, and myriad other museums means you can browse at your own pace and without barriers (read: other people). We’re also loving online exhibits from Google Arts & Culture, featuring everything from France’s Chauvet Cave to L.A.’s J. Paul Getty Museum. Another must: Visiting Viking Cruises’ new Viking.TV site for its Museum Mondays series, including a video tour of Oslo’s Munch Museum.

Journey to Japan 

The 2020 Summer Olympics may have been postponed, but Tokyo still ranks high on our list of this year’s top places to visit. A live cam of Shibuya Crossing puts you right in the city, but when it’s time to delve more deeply into Japan’s culture and countryside, this 360-degree VR movie (smartphone and VR goggles are required) from the Japan National Tourism Organization also features Sumo wrestling, sushi counters, and strolls on the Sugano Bamboo Forest Road.
Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing.
Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing.
Photo by Getty Images

Explore U.S. National Parks

Writer and historian Wallace Stegner called America’s national parks “the best idea we ever had.” Here’s another: Connecting (literally) with nature via National Park Service webcams (check out this live underwater cam at Channel Islands National Park). At The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks, interactive, 360-degree videos also let you explore lava tubes at Hawaii Volcanoes, crevasses in Kenai Fjords, and more.

Step Foot on Antarctica

Blue ice, breaching whales, penguin parades. Seabourn’s epic Ultimate Antarctica & Patagonia film takes you as far as the Seventh Continent to commune with its remote and rugged wilderness (bonus: no oversized parka or Drake Passage crossing required). 
Super chill: Exploring Antarctica from your living room.

Embrace Continuing Education 

Our suggested curriculum for homebased classes that take you far away via Facebook Live: Aqua Expeditions’ Pisco sour and ceviche masterclass with Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino (look for updates on the cruise line’s future cooking classes here). Mindfulness Meditation from Spas at Six Senses Hotels and Resorts (follow its regular wellness classes at #AtHomeWithSixSenses). And Nihi Sumba’s Surf Survival session on May 2 (tune into the Indonesian resort’s culturally themed, daily live classes here). 

Toast California Wine Country

Cab savs and pinot noirs are playing a big part in helping us take the edge off social distancing. But until we can revisit California wine country, we’re raising our glass to virtual winery tours. Meet us at the Russian River Valley’s La Crema estate, set in a restored nineteenth-century barn, and Napa Valley’s 130-year-old Freemark Abbey, home to one of the world’s largest libraries of cabernets. In Oregon, a tour of the Penner-Ash estate provides panoramic views of the Willamette Valley. 

Cheers to that: Napa Valley at sunset.
Cheers to that: Napa Valley at sunset.
Photo by Getty Images

Look to the Stars

At last, the heavens call. See live telescope feeds from Chile to Morocco at Slooh (subscription required) and take a tour of the cosmos with Google Sky