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Freeform Friday: Get (virtually) cultured

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Let’s explore the world without leaving the house.

Crowds Enjoy Sunny Day During Coronavirus Outbreak In Amsterdam Photo by Paulo Amorim/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There might be some hope on the horizon for coronavirus treatment, but prevention and widespread testing remains a long way off, meaning that any return to “normal” still requires some significant hurdles to be cleared. Spring is often the time when people start planning their summer travel, but with so much uncertainty and financial strain a lot of us might be spending our summer traveling to our patio rather than our favorite tropical island.

Fortunately, the internet age has changed the way we can experience the world, bringing many otherwise unreachable destinations and vast amounts of culture to our fingertips. During the coronavirus pandemic many museums and cultural sites have shared more of their collections online, and large providers like Google and YouTube have vast archives available. But like everything on the internet, there’s simply too much and it can be hard to know where to begin, so let’s share some of our favorites.

For art and history, it’s hard to top the absolutely immense collection of galleries and museums that have teamed up with Google to present collections – over 2,500 of them have some sort of digital tour or portion of their collection digitized and available freely while they remain closed to the public. You can travel from London to Tanzania to Tokyo to Buenos Aires and beyond, all in the span of a few hours. It might not perfectly replace being there and seeing the exhibits in person, but that’s a lot more museums than I could otherwise visit in a lifetime. Many big names are on the list (MoMA, The Met, Van Gogh Museum, Uffizi, Versailles), but there are a ton of off-the-beaten-path options to explore, as well.

If you prefer active life to still life, a lot of zoos and aquariums have webcams and virtual tours available, including our own Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Aquarium, plus big names like the San Diego Zoo and Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s very important to check in on the otters now and again.

If you’ve got some VR gear, there are some interesting 360° tours available for destinations like Angkor Wat and the Sydney Opera House. Many are still viewable on a regular monitor, but the experience isn’t nearly as immersive. And there’s always the old stand-by of picking a location on Google Maps and using street view to walk the streets or trails.

Obviously nothing replaces actually being there, but during this time when we don’t have that option you can still get out of your house for a bit, even if only virtually. What are some interesting places you’ve explored?