By Alice O’Donnell
Did you know you can watch animals at Dublin Zoo all from the comfort of your own bed? Or even take a tour around Disney World without even leaving your house? Due to Covid-19, limiting the number of visitors that galleries, exhibitions, and theme parks can take, many places have resorted to bringing their attractions to the visitor instead.
Although this idea of virtual tours was mainly aimed for the period of lockdown, many museums and theme parks have chosen to leave their virtual tours up. Below are some of the top places you can visit for free all from the comfort of your own home.
As someone who has never gotten to experience the most magical place on earth, I do appreciate being able to go through the theme park Google Street View style. The huge amount of areas to explore is staggering, including Disney Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
Although for obvious reasons a virtual tour of Disney World Resort is lacking the atmosphere, food, and rollercoaster experiences of a real- life visit, it is still a great way to spend a rainy afternoon. The other downside I had was that I found it quite confusing to navigate, and the area map was not as clear as in other virtual tours.
Dublin Zoo, founded in 1831, is now officially Ireland’s biggest family attraction, and welcomes over a million visitors every year. Although no virtual tour has been established yet the zoo does have live webcams from three of their enclosures. The elephant webcam looks out over their pond and visitors are encouraged to look out for the matriarch Bernhardine, her sister Yasmin and their daughters Asha and Anak.
Similarly, the penguin webcam is a fabulous opportunity to see the animals up close, especially if you tune in 2:30pm for their daily feed.
The African Savannah webcam is my personal favourite due to the vast number of animals that call the exhibition home, including rhinos, giraffes, zebras, and the very rare scimitar – horned oryx. These webcams are a lovely thing to pull up and leave on your computer when you are working and quickly put you in a relaxed mood.
Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History
The Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History is one of the most famous museums in the world, ranking as the 11th most visited museum in the world. Founded in 1910, it now holds over 145 million items, as well as being the home of numerous animal specimens, fossils, meteorites, and human artifacts.
The virtual tour being offered by the Smithsonian is well work a look. It is extremely easy to navigate and the picture is very clear. With the 360° camera used you can turn and zoom in on various parts. The only downside I found with the tour is that it is not possible to move through the exhibition using your mouse, and instead you have to jump forward to the next point. However, this can be forgiven due to the huge amount of virtual free tours the Smithsonian offer, including past, present, and permanent exhibitions as well as narrated tours.
To find it simply look up virtual tours in the Smithsonian Museum website.
National Gallery of Ireland
The National Gallery of Ireland is one of my favourite museums in Ireland, and the virtual tour does not disappoint. In a Google Street View manner, you can easily navigate your way around the gallery. If a particular painting grabs your interest you can choose to view it fully, with the website also offering a full biography of each painting.
The virtual tour is well worth the visit. Unlike the Smithsonian Natural Museum virtual tour or Disney World Resort virtual tour, the National Gallery of Ireland’s virtual tour comes very close to mimicking the full experience of being there in person, minus the crowds. It is a pity they have not included their entire collection in the virtual tour but the part they have included is done to an extremely high standard.