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  • Writer's pictureTravelTomorrow

A Social Distancing Staycation

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

How do we stay home, stay curious, and stay sane? Since COVID-19 has changed everything, we're all going to find out, together. Right now.

Show Notes

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to postpone trips, practice social distancing, and shelter in place, this episode is all about experiencing the world without leaving home. (Be sure to catch up on our previous episodes while you're hanging out at home.)

We'll be updating this list daily, adding new virtual tours, classes, workshops, and at-home experiences to help you rock your coronavirus staycation. We're listing our special features first this week, so those of you who are new here can see what we're about. The activities list starts a couple paragraphs down.

First stop:

Raleigh, North Carolina artist Amber Share has turned one-star reviews of U.S. National Parks into unexpectedly funny art under the handle, Subpar Parks. You can see them in this Atlas Obscura interview, which is a blast.

Here are two of our favorites.

“The only thing to do here is walk around the desert.” Joshua Tree National Park

“Save yourself some money, boil some water at home.” Yellowstone National Park

People. Seriously. (Insert eye roll here.)

Language Love:

Hyggelig (Danish)

A feeling of comfort, warmth and coziness developed by cultivating contentment, calm, and quiet pleasures. We hope you're having lots of hyggelig experiences at home this week!

What about you? Tell us how you're spending this time at home in the comments below, on social media (Instagram, Twitter or Facebook) or at

Current contributors include: Jessica Kovacevich Moore (who is updating an extensive list of kids' activities), JoRelle Grover, Steve and Ann Teget (authors of this post about traveling without leaving home), Lori Leroy (who wrote about virtual vacations with kids), Erin Sparks, Heidi Mann, Sage Scott (author of this virtual escapes story), Pamela Dittmer McKuen (who tipped us off about virtual concerts) and the Ladybosses of Fargo-Moorhead.

Stay safe, stay curious, and please let us know what's new where you are.

- Alicia and Joe

Go on a virtual field trip:

Visit Rome: Take virtual tours of The Colosseum, The Pantheon, and The Roman Forum and take in panoramic city views.

Have virtual Airbnb experiences: Local experts move their immersive presentations online. Meet a magician in the UK, a wine expert in Portugal and the dogs of Chernobyl.

Travel the world through a quiz: The GeoGuessr app and website show images from landmarks and landscapes around the world. Use the clues to figure out where you are.

Go to Antarctica (online): This is the hardest continent to reach, so a virtual tour is perfect.

Tour the catacombs: Visit the famous (and creepy) Paris Catacombs without leaving home.

Visit Ireland: See Emerald Isle attractions like the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle.

Walk along the Great Wall of China: China is off-limits for a bit, so explore The Great Wall of China from your devices instead.

See polar bears: Escape to the tundra town of Churchill, Manitoba, where polar bears reign.

Arrive on Ellis Island: See the world through immigrants' eyes with a virtual tour of Ellis Island.

Visit a farm: Get a sense of what a workday is like on a Canadian farm through video and 360-degree images. Choose from a sheep farm, dairy farm and more.

Travel via playlist: If audio is more your thing, listen to the sounds of the waves in Jamaica or experience Korea via a K-Pop playlist.


Learn a language:

Take a travel language course: Rick Steves’ site includes basic travel language lessons for travelers in Spanish, Italian, French and German.

Go deep with Mango Languages: Mango offers lessons in more than 70 languages. It’s free during the outbreak and usually free in the app store or Google play with a library card.

Interactive language learning: Duolingo makes learning dozens of languages (including Arabic, Chinese, Navajo and Hawaiian) so simple that Alicia’s first grader can do it.

Learn an indigenous language: University of Wisconsin Eau Claire offers Ojibwe lessons.(Sault College Ojibwe YouTube lessons are featured our "Have You Always Been Native?" And Other Dumb Questions episode.) Or study 39 indigenous languages from around the world at


Go to theme parks without leaving home:

Hop on a rollercoaster: Both Theme Park Review and TheTimTracker offer POV ride alongs on coasters all over the world.

Ride the rides at Disney: Disney theme parks are closed, but you can experience some of your favorite rides on YouTube.

Tour Disney's Hollywood Studios: Get an insider's view of Hollywood Studios in Florida.

Go inside Epcot: See Epcot at street level, thanks to Google Maps Street View.


Get goodies from all over the globe:

Support local artisans: Causebox brings sustainable products made by female artisans in Columbia, India, etc. right to your mailbox. GlobeIn offers themed Artisan Boxes like "Cozy" or "Spa" that are packed with pretty and functional gifts and home decor. Find more subscription box ideas here.

Get snail mail from around the world: Artist Tiffany Christopher send notes and digital prints from the American Southwest, Janice MacLeod Studio offers Paris Letters through December 2020, and Letters from Afar features gorgeously illustrated missives from a different country each month.

Eat local -- remotely:

Kizuna Box is packed with snacks from Japan, the Explore Local box features nibbles from a different U.S. city every month and Universal Yums sends snacks from a different country or region monthly. (This is an affiliate link because Alicia just subscribed and is now obsessed with international snack foods.) Spice Madam sends spices, recipes and a playlist. Try The World offers a monthly selection of snacks, tea and from different nations.


Read for free:

Check out virtual library books: Many local libraries already offer eBooks, so check your library's website. You can also access more than 300,000 titles from the New York Public Library on iPhone or Android.

Read cultural works: Project Gutenberg has digitized more than 60,000 free epub and Kindle eBooks in many languages, from Afrikaans to Yiddish.

Listen to audiobooks: Audible is offering free audiobooks for kids and teens (and adults who like YA titles) while school is out.

Story time with celebs: On Instagram, celebrities like Ron Howard, Amy Adams and Jennifer Garner read to kids at #SAVEWITHSTORIES. The movement will help kids access food while school is out.


Tour a museum from home:

Smithsonian Museum of National History: Browse through several galleries at this treasured museum.

The Louvre: You can't visit this Parisian gem in person at the moment, so experience The Louve's extensive collections online instead.

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art: This museum in Seoul offers all kinds of great visuals for modern art fans.

The Van Gogh Museum: This Amsterdam museum is fantastic. The online tour takes you inside and also gives you a very good overview of the painter's work.

Minneapolis Institute of Art: Explore more than 5,000 years of art through a virtual tour, mini-podcasts, multi-media explorations, 3-D models, and verbal descriptions for the blind and those with low vision.

See more than 500 more: Yes, you read that correctly. This Travel And Leisure article lists additional virtual tour options. Google Arts and Culture highlights hundreds of museums.


Prepare foods from around the world:

Skype with a chef: Top chefs show you how to prepare signature dishes from many countries, including Brazil, Thailand, Turkey and more at The Chef and The Dish.

Download a cookbook: Amazon has suspended all non-essential shipping, but you can download a Kindle cookbook. There are lots of Nook Cookbooks as well.

Pick-up a cookbook: Barnes and Noble offers in-store pick-up in select locations, so you can order online and minimize human contact. We also recommend contacting your favorite indie bookstore and ask if they offer pick-up services. Find one near you here.

Make kid-friendly dishes: If you're cooking for picky eaters (of any age) these Epicurious recipes are an easy way to introduce tastes from around the world.


Travel the word through art:

Discover new artists: Museums might be shut down (see above for virtual tours), but artists are still creating. Buy direct from artisans on Etsy, support artists directly on Patreon to score cool stuff or follow #MarchMeetTheMaker on Instagram to see what creatives are up to.

Take an online art class: Take virtual art classes from Plains Art Museum, or try Unglued's online crafting workshops. Skillshare emphasizes fine art and design, while Joe Wos teaches you how to cartoon. Deepen your skills with Domestika or try free courses in mediums like pen and ink, watercolors and pastels. Captain Underpants author Dav Pilkey hosts weekly drawing classes every Friday at 8 a.m. Find even more ideas here.

Get crafty: Blueprint offers culinary and textile classes and patterns and projects too.

On YouTube, Hayden’s Art Party does kids crafts with household objects. Wattle and Loop helps stitchers create pretty projects with iconic Liberty of London fabric.

Make your own art with a subscription box: Create art at home. Choose from watercolor, art journaling or lettering projects at Let’s Make Art or try Pinterest-perfect craft projects from Cratejoy or The Crafter's Box. KiwiCo art and design boxes let ages 0-16+ create interactive projects they can actually use. Find more ideas for specific interests here.


Get outside, physically or virtually:

Actually go outdoors: If you're not under quarantine, ill, or member of a high-risk population, a little fresh air and physical activity will help physically and mentally. Skip playgrounds and public bathrooms (the virus can live for days on hard surfaces) and explore your neighborhood, hiking trails and walking paths instead. Remember to get six feet between yourself and other people!

Take a virtual tour of a National Park: A virtual tour of Yellowstone National Park has been a popular recommendation for those who can't make a trip. Google Earth has 33 National Park virtual tours to choose from. Or take advantage of at-home National Park activities, including mail-in Jr. Ranger certification and listening to the parks.

Bring the outdoors in: If you must remain isolated, sit on the porch, front step or balcony to feel the sun on your face. Work, dine or read in front of the window or pull up images of landscapes on your computer -- scientists tell us that just seeing images of nature can have a positive effect. Open windows, nurture indoor plants, plant seeds and watch them grow.


Take an online course:

Try a Masterclass: When they say Masterclass, they're not kidding. Popular courses include acting with Natalie Portman, conservation with Jane Goodall, scientific thinking from Neil deGrasse Tyson, and cooking with Gordon Ramsay.

Take music lessons: Kids can learn from the rock gods of Megadeath, Sevendust, and Five Finger Death Punch through School's Out! Ellefson Youth Music Foundation. MacPhail Center For Music offers online lessons for kids, adults, K-12 teachers and senior living centers.

Try a new workout: Cleveland Inner City Ballet is offering free ballet classes on its Facebook page each Wednesday at noon EST. And this "Nurture" yoga series is perfect for the present moment and perfect for beginners.

Study Journalism: Poynter's News University offers courses in broadcast, print, and visual journalism. Some are free.

Enroll in free Ivy League courses: Challenge yourself with free online classes from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and more. (Tips for accessing them are included.)

Attend virtual college lectures: Watch more than 11,000 (!) college lectures on topics like mathematics, philosophy, economics, and history.


See super cool space stuff:

Storytime from space: Stories from space, people! This is not a drill. Kids (of all ages) can listen as astronauts read aloud from the International Space Station.

Ponder the surface of The Red Planet: Check out a digital view of the surface of Mars, as seen from the Curiosity Rover.

Explore aerospace: Go to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas to meet the employees who are working on the Starliner/CST-100 spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS).

Tour Space Center Houston: Get the app to take astronaut selfies, try virtual reality simulations and tour the center.


Enjoy a performance -- for free:

Go deep with contemporary artists: The Grammy Museum features sets from artists like Billie Eilish and Brandi Carlile. Columbia Records' Instagram livestream features different artists each week, from John Mayer to Diplo. Nashville Music City links to dozens of virtual concerts and live streaming events.

Go to the theatre (remotely): London's National Theatre is streaming a play every Thursday. Black Hills Community Theatre performers share musical theatre numbers and Shakespeare soliloquies on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The International Online Theatre Festival features 25 productions from international companies through May 15.

Experience the opera: Weiner Staatsoper (The Vienna State Opera) is sharing free performances from its archives, while the Metropolitan State Opera reveals daily selections at 7:30 p.m. ET. Munich’s Bayerische Staatsopera offers opera and ballet.

Listen to an orchestra: The Berlin Philharmonic's live stream and archives are free in March. The Seattle Symphony Orchestra will post free streaming concerts as they're scheduled, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center offers audio, video and live streaming events.


Have an animal encounter:

Go birding: Audubon's Backyard Birding helps you identify birds outside your window and offers activities, DIY projects, and feeding info. AAA State of Play lists the calls of 50 common North American birds and you can listen to a few notable ones.

Go on a Home Safari: The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden staff introduce viewers to animal residents with a daily interactive Home Safari and activity on Facebook at 3 p.m. CT.

Find some fish: Watch all kinds of creatures swimming at Georgia Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (There are soothing bay views and jellyfish meditation too.)

Go on safari: Head out on a virtual safari in Africa with WildEarth.

Let the zoo come to you: Zoo Atlanta's Panda Cam lets you see what the pandas are up to, while the San Diego Zoo's animal cams feature apes, koalas, tigers, condors, owls, elephants, giraffes, polar bears, penguins, and baboons. (Whew -- that's a lot.) Giraffes, gorillas, elephants, ants, rhinos, and chimpanzees are the stars at Houston Zoo, while the Detroit Zoo features monkeys, otters, penguins, wolves, and falcons.

Become a citizen scientist: Volunteer with Zooniverse to assist with elephant research in Botswana, work with raccoons in Wyoming, and participate in animal counts around the world, all from home. There are projects in history, art, and medicine available as well.


Questions about COVID-19? Please consult The Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization for detailed updates.

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