Ready to go somewhere — anywhere — other than the confines of your residence? While the world outside our front doors remains paused, there exist a few virtual windows into places and worlds of incredible historical and natural beauty.
Below are several virtual experiences for you and your family to enjoy during this time of social distancing. Think of them as gateways to actual visits (with the exception of Mars), for when these uncertain times give way to a world of exploration once more.
Visit the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt
The oldest of the ancient wonders of the world, the Giza pyramid complex in Greater Cairo, Egypt, can now be visited from the comfort of your laptop.
Comprised of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure, and such notable landmarks as The Great Sphinx, the entire complex can be viewed via several high-resolution 360-degree photos. Courtesy of the BCC, you can also enjoy a 360-tour inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.
If these tours inspire you or your family to learn more, check out Discovering Egypt, a site that features such interactive activities as a hieroglyphic typewriter, Egyptian mathematics and much more.
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History in New York City may be temporarily shuttered, but that doesn't mean you can't roam its treasured collection in your pajamas.
Courtesy of Google's Arts and Culture initiative, you can move and click your way through the museum, founded in 1869, and its 45 permanent exhibits. Highlights include "Ahnighito," the largest meteorite on display in any museum, Titanosaur, a gigantic sauropod dinosaur, and a 94-foot-long, 21,000-pound model of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling of the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.
Gaze at the beauty of the Sistine Chapel
Commissioned by Pope Julius II and painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, the gorgeous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is considered by many to be among the greatest artistic endeavors ever attempted. A restoration between 1980 and 1999 removed centuries of grime and soot, restoring the stunning artworks to their original colors (as well as doing away with the fig leafs and loin cloths ordered placed over Michelangelo's nudes by Pope Pius IV in the 1560s).
You can now view it virtually in exquisite 360-degree detail, along with many other virtual tours of Vatican City.
Wander the endless exhibits of the Smithsonian
Take the entire family on a virtual field trip (or just go by yourself) and lose yourself in the extensive virtual offerings courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute. Highlights from its 19 museums, galleries, gardens and National Zoo include the Deep Time Hall of Fossils, the Butterfly Pavilion, the Smithsonian Castle crypt and many, many more.
For those interested in the history aeronautics and spaceflight, you can also embark on a Google "StreetView" tour of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
Take a trek through the solar system
If a vacation from Earth seems more inviting, NASA has you covered with a series of virtual tours of worlds both within and beyond our solar system. The agency's "Solar Treks" allows you explore the icy moons of Saturn, asteroids Ceres and Vesta (home to our solar system's highest mountain), and planets like Mercury and Mars.
If the above whets your appetite for all things Mars, you'll definitely want to check out Google's VR collaboration with NASA. Using imagery collected by the Curiosity rover, still going strong on the planet's surface since landing in 2012, the search giant has created an immersive and audio-guided tour of some of the highlights gathered over the last eight years.
Finally, for those looking to explore many light-years away, NASA has created virtual simulations of what the views on recently discovered exoplanets might look like. Options include Kepler-16b, where two suns keep your shadow(s) company, HD-40307G, a suspected super-Earth, and 55-Cancri-e, where the skies sparkle under an endless lava sea.
Punch a ticket aboard Titanic: The Exhibition
To commemorate the 108th anniversary of the RMS Titanic’s sinking on April 15, 1912, Titanic: The Exhibition is taking the entire 25,000 square-foot collection of artifacts and making it available virtually. Unlike the other tours on our list, this one isn't free (with tickets prices ranging from $5 or $15 depending on features), it's still a great way for fans of the legendary ship to experience the story behind one of the most famous maritime tragedies in history.
According to the site, the tour includes up-close views and information on more than 400 artifacts recovered from the Titanic wreck site, including luggage, the ship's whistle, a piece of its hull, and a full-scale recreation of its luxurious Grand Staircase.
Visit some zoos
The people may be gone, but that doesn't mean you can't check on the animals at some of the nation's zoos.
At the San Diego Zoo, you can choose from a dozen live views of everything from giraffes to koalas, butterflies and even burrowing owls. The Georgia Aquarium meanwhile offers live feeds of piranhas, jellyfish, beluga whales and penguins.
If you're looking to incorporate a zoo visit into your daily routine, check out the Cincinnati Zoo's "Home Safari" series. Each day at 3 p.m. EST on Facebook, a zookeeper will spotlight a particular animal at the zoo live. You can also catch up on past live feeds here.
Bow before the majesty of Versailles
The world's largest royal domain at just over 2,000 acres, the Palace of Versailles in France is a stunning surviving remnant of 17th century aristocracy from just before the French Revolution. Located 12 miles outside Paris, the former hunting grounds became the official residence of Louis XIV in 1682.
Courtesy of Google Arts and Culture, you can explore via StreetView the extensive gardens and the beautiful Hall of Mirrors, as well as collections of artwork, insights into the engineering behind the site's many fountains and lakes, and much more. It's easy (as well as enjoyable) to lose yourself virtually in the details of how Europe's most impressive gardens came to be.
Take a trip across the Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge
Spanning 1,400 feet between two mountain cliffs in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in the northwest of China's Hunan province, the Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge offers heart-racing views more than 980 feet above the canyon floor.
You can take your own personal 360-degree tour of the bridge, engineered to support the weight of 800 people, by clicking through to the YouTube video.
Explore the ruins of Machu Picchu
You can skip the average four-day hike along the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and virtually scour the ruins of the 15th-century citadel from your home. Rediscovered by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911, the 80,000-acre site sits at an elevation of nearly 8,000 feet on a mountain ridge in southern Peru. Due to its hidden location, it survived the Spanish conquest and remains one of the best preserved Inca cities.
You can get a taste of the wonder of Machu Picchu via this virtually guided 360-degree tour.