With rates of COVID-19 on the rise again, parents are preparing for the possibility of another round of stay-at-home orders. Or, even if the official word to stay indoors isn't coming down from local governments, careful families might be planning for a winter at home, just to be safe.
While your kids may be home physically, online tours still give them some access to the rest of the outside world. The same way school has gone digital — with remote homeschooling, live-streamed extra-curricular classes, and learning-at-home portals wherever you look — class trips have moved online, too.
These virtual field trips for kids will have them gazing at world-class art, learning about history, discovering science, and even checking out what it's like in outer space. No matter their interests, be it history, art or science, you'll be able to take a "trip" to match.
Of course, these are still screen experiences. If you want to make the most out of a virtual field trip, try to get your kids to continue to engage with the material even after they've turned off their devices with a fun learning activity. Depending on their age, they could either draw what they most remember or what their favorite part of the "trip" was, or write out a couple of facts that they've learned. If you plan on doing many of these, you can even create a binder to act as a log for your virtual explorer.
Tour collections and learn about the history of art and artifacts with these online museum experiences.
- American Museum of Natural History: Brian Selznick, author of Wonderstruck, leads a virtual tour of the museum, meeting field experts along the way.
- British Museum: This cool, interactive site lets kids browse the museum collection by time period, not by room, so kids can focus in on the era they're most interested in.
- Colonial Williamsburg: Eight different webcams let viewers peek in on what's happening at places like Merchants' Square or Raleigh Tavern.
- Frida Kahlo Museum: You might not be able to get to Mexico City, Mexico, but you can still explore the work of artist Frida Kahlo and imagine her life in the "Casa Azul" (Blue House).
- Historic Hudson Valley: This site offers many history-themed online experiences for kids, from "Traders and Raiders," which looks at the history of pirates in the greater New York Area, to "People Not Property," which teaches kids about slavery. There are also lots of ideas for at-home historical activities, like cooking with cornmeal or "tinsmithing" at home with aluminum foil.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: The #MetKids site is geared for little ones, and lets them explore a cute, illustrated map to find treasures in the museum's collection.
- Musée du Louvre: The world-famous museum offers virtual tours by subject, from the body in art to Egyptian antiquities.
- Museum of Science: The #MOSatHome page offers virtual looks at the Boston museum's exhibits and hosts daily livestreams and webinars.
- National Baseball Hall of Fame: Browse through the collection of photographs, memorabilia and more to learn more about America's national pastime. The museum also offers virtual programming on its YouTube page.
- National Constitution Center: Explore exhibitions about constitutional conflicts through the years, including "Hamilton: The Constitutional Clashes That Shaped a Nation." For a fee groups can also participate in live, virtual guided tours for up to 300 people.
- National Gallery of Art: The National Gallery has 50 video tours specifically geared towards kids, focusing on a work and the people, places, and scenes surrounding its creation.
- National Museum of Computing: Located in Bletchley Park in the U.K., home of the famous WWII codebreakers like Alan Turing, this museum offers a virtual tour that takes visitors through the history of computers.
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: You can bookmark this one to visit over and over, since it offers virtual version of every exhibition in the museum.
- The Vatican Museum: You can get 360 looks at nine rooms in the Vatican — including the magnificent Sistine Chapel.
See how food grows, is harvested, and gets to your table with these farm tours.
- American Egg Board: The Egg Board has virtual tours of different egg farms, and many of them let you choose different videos for elementary and middle school students.
- Bonnie Plants: Home Depot takes kids on a multi-part virtual field trip to this grower, hoping to inspire kids to get into gardening themselves.
- Bright Farms: A farm grower in Irvington, NY shows kids how food goes from the field (in this case, an indoor grower) to the grocery store. There's even a quiz at the end!
- Farm Food 360: Kids can see 11 different sorts of farm and food plants, including dairy cow farms, egg processing facilities and an apple orchard.
You might not be able to go on your sightseeing vacation at the moment, but these virtual landmark tours are the next best thing.
- Buckingham Palace: Go room-by-room and see all of the amazing historical objects in the palace.
- Ellis Island: See the island the way the 12 million immigrants did between 1892 and 1954 through a virtual tour with lots of first-hand stories.
- Mount Rushmore: The virtual tour of Mount Rushmore was created through 3D scans of the mountain.
- Mount Vernon: Take a look inside George Washington's home the same way you would click through Street View on a Google Map.
- Plimoth Plantation: Take a tour of the site of the first Thanksgiving, and learn the history behind the event.
- The White House: President Obama narrates a tour of "The People's House," and you can scroll around and click on points of interest.
Zoos and Aquariums
These zoos and aquariums have live cams where kid can check in with the animals.
- Atlanta Zoo
- Bronx Zoo
- Cincinnati Zoo
- Georgia Aquarium
- Houston Zoo
- Reid Park Zoo
- Shedd Aquarium
- San Diego Zoo
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
- National Aquarium
Even More Fun
From a candy factory to the surface of Mars, these tours take kids to places that aren't available to them even in normal times.
- Discovery Education: The site hosts virtual field trips for kids, from engineering plants that make the cars of the future to a lab that researches nuclear energy.
- Johnson Space Center: Boeing leads the tour through the Houston, Texas facility, covering the history — and future — of aerospace innovation.
- M&Ms Factory Tour: The Food Network hosts a virtual tour of the M&Ms factory and shows how the delicious candy gets made.
- Outer Space Tours: Kids can see the real surface of Mars, courtesy of the Curiosity rover. NASA also does virtual tours of the Moon, along with the International Space Station.
- Recycling Simplified: Take kids on a tour of a modern-day recycling center or landfill, and teach them about environmental sustainability.
- Sơn Đoòng: National Geographic offers a 360-degree tour of the world's largest ave, situated in Quảng Bình Province, Vietnam. You can even hear the water as it runs over the rocks.