These historic places are offering virtual tours during the coronavirus pandemic
By DREW JONES | The Washington Post | Published: March 18, 2020
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As governments across the world implement "social distancing" efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus, in some cities, bars, restaurants and other public spaces have been ordered to close. That leaves self-quarantined people with a lot of free time and nowhere to go.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended postponing all large gatherings or events of 50 or more people until May, which left operators of tourist attractions with few options. Museums, historical sites and national parks have stepped up to deliver their signature experiences by offering virtual tours to anyone from the comfort of their homes.
Here's a list of few places travelers can tour — without having to leave the couch.
Last year, the world's most visited museum was the subject of lamentations over overcrowding and peculiar guest behavior. Now because of its closure, visitors to the Louvre can check out virtual tours of the Egyptian antiquities collection, remains of the Louvre's moat and the Galerie d'Apollon without having to brush by anyone's shoulders.
The national lockdown in Italy has forced the country to a near-standstill, shuttering public events, soccer stadiums and even the Vatican. Now, visitors can tour the interior artworks of the chapel, including its renowned ceiling and "The Last Judgment," by the Renaissance-era painter Michelangelo.
The Guggenheim is offering VR access to its entire contemporary arts collection through a partnership with Google Arts & Culture. Using the Street View feature, visitors can tour the museum's iconic architecture, sprawling design and any of its galleries.
While parts of the park are still open for the season, those who can't make it to California's Sierra Nevada region can still tour the park — complete with sound — and visit some of Yosemite's iconic landmarks, including the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the top of the Half Dome and the eponymous Yosemite Falls.
The largest Van Gogh collection in the world — 600 artworks and 700 letters — is housed in this Amsterdam museum and can be viewed via a virtual guided tour. View the inside of the museum along with insights into the Dutch postimpressionist artist's life through paintings including "Sunflowers" and "The Yellow House."
China's most famous attraction offers virtual tours of some of the most visited sections of the wall, 3,000 miles of which are walkable. With much of the country under quarantine measures, the virtual tour offers a reprieve from the crowds who normally come from all over the world to see the 2,000-year-old marvel.
The Smithsonian is offering virtual tours that let visitors take a self-guided, room-by-room trip through the museum's slate of exhibits. The current exhibits include the Butterfly Pavilion and the David H. Koch Hall of Fossils, and visitors can even journey through past exhibits, on topics including the last American dinosaurs, the universe, and DNA and genomics.
National parks are known for their dazzling views and historical landmarks, and Yellowstone holds some of the nation's most iconic ones. The virtual tour takes visitors through the first national park, showing Wyoming's most treasured sites including its canyons, hot springs and geysers, the most famous being Old Faithful.
The MoMa is one of over 500 museums and galleries Google Arts & Culture has partnered with to offer an interactive experience of the gallery space. The nearly 100-year-old museum is home to some of the contemporary art world's most famous pieces, including Claude Monet's "Water Lilies," Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night" and Pablo Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon."
The most visited zoo in the country is known for its open-air, cageless natural habitats and is famous for being one of the few zoos in the country that spearheaded conservation efforts of giant pandas. Even though pandas are no longer in the United States, the San Diego Zoo has set up live streams of its habitats for anyone to view the koalas, baboons and penguins that call the zoo home.
The world's oldest national public museum is another space that has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to showcase a virtual, interactive gallery. Visitors can roam the halls of the museum, peruse the exhibits and see famous objects like the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures and Egyptian mummies. Just don't expect to see any Banksys lying around anytime soon.
The Met in New York will host nightly encore performances of some of its most iconic shows throughout its season. The free streams will go live at 7:30 p.m. each day and be available for 20 hours after the performance. The slate includes the likes of Puccini's "La Bohème" and Verdi's "Il Trovatore" for viewers on-demand.
"We'd like to provide some grand opera solace to opera lovers in these extraordinarily difficult times," Met General Manager Peter Gelb said in a statement.