Virtual Visits to Places Near and Far
By Victor Block
If you've pushed dreams of visiting the Big Sur region of California, relaxing on a beach in Australia or mingling with Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World to the back burner, turn up the heat.
You may not be able, or wish right now, to travel to those and other bucket-list destinations. However, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy them virtually.
At this time of limited travel, theme parks, museums and entire countries have the fear of an "out of sight, out of mind" attitude. In an effort to persuade people not to forget what they have to offer when they make future travel plans, many have created YouTube and other ways to visit online that provide a taste of their attractions.
Among reasons why many people go to the Monterey region of California during normal times is to visit its world-class aquarium, watch waves crashing against the rocky shoreline and observe seals, sea otters, condors and other wildlife that call the place home.
These numerous virtual visits via live webcam are the next-best thing to an in-person stopover. Golfers are likely to enjoy views of the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Course, literature buffs may long remember a stop at the John Steinbeck museum and artists at all levels of expertise have an opportunity to take free online classes.
Near the other U.S. coastline, YouTube videos, Facebook Live broadcasts and streamed films offer a simulated stay in Orlando, Florida. They demonstrate why the destination lives up to its claim to be the "theme park capital of the world." From the comfort of home thrill-seekers can speed down a 200-foot roller coaster drop, zip-line over a congregation of alligators (yes, that's the correct term) and get tips from an expert about how to draw a lifelike likeness of Mickey Mouse. Other near-real experiences range from hanging out with Harry Potter to exploring the resort castle at Legoland.
The tourism folks in West Virginia thought big when they selected "Almost Heaven" as the state motto but small when it came to posting videos on their website. Views of a waterfall and a soaring pinnacle rock serve as an introduction to the state's natural beauty, while a pair of adorable kangaroos may prompt people to consider a visit just to learn why they're there. What the mini-video segments lack in length they make up in the variety of things to see and do in the Mountain State.
Farther away, the ocean plays a major role in videos that provide hints of much that Australia has to offer. From strolling along a deserted beach to snorkeling over the Great Barrier Reef, chuckling at the antics of cavorting penguins to marveling at the beauty of the Sydney Opera House reflected in the harbor water, a virtual visit can fill the void until it's time for the real thing.
Countries in Europe may be off-limits at this time for in-person visits, but that doesn't mean you can't travel to them vicariously. In Germany, for example, you can imagine yourself marveling at the ambience of medieval towns, admiring regal palaces and fairytale castles that dot the landscape or hiking or biking through unspoiled stretches of nature.