WRITTEN BY Alejandra Saragoza
Alejandra is the managing editor of California.com. She's a California native based in the Bay Area and enjoys writing about all things food and travel related. Her work can also be seen in Diablo, T…See full bio
As communities across the world and in California mitigate health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are shifting our content strategy and will not encourage any travel or social activities during this time. We will, however, continue to shine a light on and celebrate the many beautiful aspects of our State with the intention of being a source of inspiration and joy during this difficult period. We will also be providing tips and resources specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic safety measures in the coming weeks. Thank you for reading, and stay safe!
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact our daily lives, many of us are hunkering down at home and spending a lot more time on our couches than we normally would. While we can pass the time in self-quarantine by doing virtual online workouts, learning a skill, cooking a new dish, or binge-watching California-made movies and TV shows to keep our minds occupied, it’s tough to stop thinking about all the adventures we could be having instead of practicing social distancing and sheltering in place indefinitely.
Indeed, wanderlust is hard to fight these days; the longer we stay indoors, the more we want to go out and travel. But luckily, we can still do it—virtually. Even though we’re staying inside our homes, modern technology makes it possible for us to experience the culture, history, and natural wonders of the Golden State from our computer screens.
Whether you want to wander through a world-famous art museum, see mysterious attractions, or travel to a national park, these entertaining live streams and online experiences can help you escape into another world for a little bit—without you having to ditch your PJs and leave the comfort of your cozy throw blanket. And who knows? These virtual experiences may just inspire you to plan your next IRL California adventure.
For all you cool cats and kittens, make a virtual visit to California’s acclaimed zoos for glimpses of lions, tigers, and bears—oh, my! The Oakland Zoo and the San Diego Zoo have live cams dedicated to grizzly bears, pandas, penguins, elephants, and baboons, among other animals.
Both zoos are also offering unique virtual experiences for a subscription fee. The Oakland Zoo recently launched Behind-the-Scenes Live, which takes you inside the zoo five times a week, giving you the opportunity to see animals up-close, meet the animal keepers and veterinarians who care for them, and ask questions in real time. Meanwhile, the San Diego Zoo is providing several different Upgraded Experiences, allowing you to enjoy guided tours and see your favorite animals in action.
For another instant mood boost, check out the cute and furry farm animals at Charlie’s Acres. This nonprofit animal sanctuary in Sonoma is giving educational, family-friendly tours to show how intelligent the animals are, share their stories of resilience, and display their distinct personalities. Tune in every Tuesday and Thursday from 2 to 2:30 p.m. to view the animals from your home. (If you fall in love with a furry face, you can sponsor an animal and visit him or him in person once the shelter-in-place mandate is lifted.)
Children may also experience a sense of wonder and connection to the natural world through the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. They can see sea otters frolic in the waters, watch for birds, meditate with some medusas, play educational games, make natural history posters, and take online courses to learn about everything from tidepools to kelp forests.
Another one to bookmark for the little ones: The Aquarium of the Pacific is offering a variety of online programming, including virtual classroom sessions and livestreams of exhibits where you can spot penguins, sharks, and jellyfish. Listen to whalesong at the online Whales: Voices in the Sea exhibit, watch lectures on a plethora of topics, and keep those brain cells from turning into mush with the Online Learning Center.
As the weather warms up, sheltering in place gets even harder, and many of us would give anything for a beach vacation right now. Luckily, Live Beaches delivers an at-home beach experience. Whether you’re dreaming of (virtually) lounging on the shores of Santa Barbara, hitting the San Francisco surf, strolling along the Santa Monica Pier, or taking in the stunning Malibu views, you can find some solace in the impressive collection of California beach cams.
While it’s not quite the same as feeling sand between your toes and sunshine on your face—save that for once we’ve officially flattened the curve—pour yourself a beverage and don your bathing suit for an online beach getaway that’s as close as you can get to the real thing (at least for now).
From towering redwoods and granite monoliths to striking desertscapes and snow-capped mountain ranges, the state’s national parks are home to some of the world’s greatest natural wonders. While you may not make it to your favorite national parks in person anytime soon, you can still go on an adventure—albeit virtually—by taking digital tours with Google Earth.
Thanks to advanced mapping technology and 360-degree cameras, you can explore the highest peaks, descend into the deepest valleys, and watch the stars from afar—all from the convenience of your phone, tablet, or computer. Sure, it may not be the same as lacing up your hiking boots and inhaling the crisp, clean air of the wilderness, but it’ll help scratch the wanderlust itch for now.
To take a digital hike, so to speak, go to Google Earth to see a list of the parks with tours available. Simply click on the one you want to see, and you’ll be whisked away to view a series of interactive photos featuring breathtaking trails and vistas. From Joshua Tree National Park to Yosemite National Park, here are the California national parks to explore from the comfort of your couch:
Tired of streaming hours of cringey but strangely addicting reality TV shows? (Love Is Blind, we’re looking at you.) Get cultured and expand your mind by exploring some of the state’s renowned museums and arts institutions. Many are opening their virtual doors during this time by offering educational videos, supplementary photos and information about exhibits, curated tours, and other online resources for people to enjoy during this time. Here are a few of the best virtual California museum tours and exhibits.
Speaking of entertainment: Many prominent Californians are taking to social media to share their talents and lift spirits during this challenging time. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres is hosting her show from her living room, Big Bottom Market co-owner and cookbook author Michael Volpatt is offering virtual cooking classes every day at 3 p.m., and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton is leading weekday drawing classes on Instagram Live.
Several California musicians are also giving people near and far a reason to sing and dance, so check out these performers the next time you need to shake it off.
Share your favorite virtual experiences with your friends and family so you can enjoy them together and stay connected, wherever you might be sheltering in place.
Which live streams and virtual tours do you plan on trying? Let us know in the comments.
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