22 best virtual field trips for culture, education, entertainment, art, travel
In the third grade, my class took an overnight field trip to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. From the trip, my strongest memory is when I was chosen from the class to help churn butter. I can recall the humid spring air and my sympathies for the labor of colonial women as my small arms struggled to turn the heavy wooden crank attached to a barrel containing what seemed like an incredible amount of cream.
While this may seem a small moment in the landscape of my schooling, the physical interaction with the recreated historic environment was meaningful to me. The emotional connection engaged a memory and a type of learning that has lingered for many years.
What are some of your strongest memories of school field trips? And where would you like to take a field trip now if physical limitations were lifted? With virtual reality (VR), the days of crowded school buses and lost or forged permission slips may be limited.
Technology and the use of virtual reality in education now allow students and learners to travel around the world and across time in virtual spaces. This article will provide an overview of some of the best virtual field trips you can take, how to access the technology and explain some of the benefits whether it is for education or just entertainment
Virtual Field Trips – Overview
With virtual field trips, classrooms or individual learners can obtain technology as a doorway to enter a predesigned virtual space. VR simulates three-dimensional environments through virtual sounds and images. These environments can replicate parts of the present world, an environment from the past, or something newly imagined.
Benefits – VR field trips can take learners across time and space. Hence, the benefits of VR learning, and virtual field trips, can range from financial and logistical to emotional, cultural, social and intellectual aspects.
Budget-friendly – For many educational institutions, schools, home schools and individual students, money is an issue. High costs of tuition and oftentimes dwindling school budgets can limit options. While the costs of VR technology and applications vary, they are likely significantly less costly than in-person field trips.
Logistics – Organizationally, the process is simpler and more efficient than traditional field trips. And, as mentioned, VR offers options that just would not be otherwise available to visit, such as historic moments and places.
Learning – Virtual field trips and unique engagements help aid learning. Eliciting emotions and engaging with stimulants can help connect with memory prompts1 in our brains, supporting a more meaningful learning process.
Best Virtual Field Trips and 360° VR movies
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What are some of the best virtual field trips available right now? The following list suggests some great options to help to learn through visiting cities, countries or virtual theme parks, viewing natural wonders, exploring space and museums or engaging with science.
The technologies and platforms explored here vary; some are fully immersive, and others are partially immersive. Keep reading to see which VR field trips are suitable for you.
Best Virtual Field Trips – Travel
1. Visit Japan
Japan boasts one of the oldest cultures of the world, merging tradition and modernity. With VR goggles, such as Google Cardboard and platforms including YouTube, you can engage with a movie to offer an immersive trip to connect with Japanese customs.
You can explore natural sites, such as Sagano Bamboo Forest Road, and live the city life with trend-setting fashion and lifestyle in the Shibuya area of Tokyo. This VR field trip also includes Sumo wrestling, Kabuki theatrical dance and how Japan embraces technology.
Visit Japan is one of the most popular and best virtual field trips for anyone interested in culture, new experiences and, of course, Japan.
2. 360° Cities
Passionate about travel and photography? 360 Degree Cities offers panoramic views of some of the world’s most beautiful and historic cities and sites. The online platform is a collection of VR photography and video so the viewer can feel as though they are traveling around the world.
Whether you want to explore underwater coral reefs or the Nuñez neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina, it’s available online now at no cost.
Best Virtual Field Trips – Cultural Sites
3. The Great Wall
Largely regarded as one of the world’s wonders, the engineering and cultural significance of the Great Wall of China is profound. With a history dating more than 2,000 years and a physical presence covering thousands of miles of northern China, the Great Wall is a great option for a VR field trip.
The China Guide offers guided virtual tours of the landmark with panoramic views and the options to ask questions. This could be among the most exciting and best virtual field trips for those who are physically or financially unable to visit China at the moment.
4. Buckingham Palace
The home to the United Kingdom royals since 1837, and home to the present Queen, Buckingham Palace is one of the main attractions in the city of London, England.
There are several virtual tours to explore inside the palace, which has 775 rooms. You’ll get to virtually walk through the Grand Staircase, the Throne Room, the White Drawing Room, and the Blue Drawing Room.
Using a computer or tablet, you can feely access full-circle views of the elaborate rooms, decorated with rich tapestries, historic portraits, and ornate architectural detail.
Whether you are a fan of the drama on the Netflix series “The Crown”, a history buff, or just looking for an interesting way to spend an afternoon, these virtual tours provide a glimpse into the life of the past and present monarchs.
Did you know the Vatican was hosting up to six million visitors2 each year? Visits were getting so crowded that there were safety concerns3, including guests fainting or the threat of stampedes. What is one great way to avoid the crowd? Take a virtual field trip tour.
Available free online are 360-degree tours of fifteen different areas of the massive walled area. For example, you can tour the Sistine Chapel4 which houses the iconic ceiling painted by Renaissance artist Michelangelo.
The learning motivations for visiting the Vatican include religion, art and architecture and history. Whether viewed as part of a religious class or group, to inform a history project or simply for personal reasons, these online resources offer a wealth of information.
Best Virtual Field Trips – Museums and Arts
6. British Museum
Museums are a popular in-person choice for field trips, but now VR provides new and unique options. For example, the British Museum and Google Cultural Institute have collaborated to create the interactive Museum of the World. Users can virtually move across time to explore diverse museum relics accompanied by curator insights.
Moving across time and world regions, users can view, read and hear about unique items representing human history, art and culture. Particularly as more schooling moves online and virtual learning, these tools can increase accessibility to artifacts and information across physical barriers. One of the best virtual field trips to explore a famous museum.
7. Louvre Museum
The Louvre in Paris, France is the largest museum in the world5. There is so much art to take in, it’s not possible to cover it all in one day; some estimate it would take 100 days6 to see it all! Luckily, there is a logistically easier option: virtual tours.
The museum’s galleries and exhibitions are accessible online in the form of virtual tours, which allow users to self-navigate through images and accompanying information from inside the Louvre.
8. National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art provides resources for virtual and online learning including a virtual field trip option, online art analysis and school curriculum activities.
The museum provides 50 videos for virtual children’s tours7, exploring works of arts, people and places from across history and the museum’s diverse collection. With videos for iconic artists including van Gogh and Monet, the videos offer a supportive tool for primary school children learning in classrooms, at home or in social settings at no cost.
9. Google Arts & Culture
Google Arts and Culture is an online resource suitable to take virtual field trips and allow users to access games, works of art, museum exhibitions, music and more.
Some of the best virtual field trips include touring Stonehenge, England, Pumapunku, Bolivia or visiting the Surfing Museum in Australia. Through downloading additional applications, you can engage augmented reality to view galleries of famed artist’s works.
Google Arts and Culture is distinctive in its diversity and cooperation with other institutions.
Best Virtual Field Trips – Nature and Science
10. Visit a Finnish Forest
With climate change accelerating, environmental stewardship and sustainability are now more important than perhaps ever before. One way to foster environmental care may be to help individuals connect and learn about natural environments.
UPM Forest Life provides virtual field trips through the forests of Finland. With captivating images and engaging sounds, users navigate the landscape, learning about different species and forest professionals along the way.
Each visit is customizable, and learning can be catered to interests.
Responsible and sustainable forest management is key to our personal and planetary wellbeing. This free resource is a great option for helping to ground vast concepts, such as sustainable agriculture and climate change while allowing children or adult learners to engage with a new environment.
11. Farm Food
How much do you know about where your food comes from? If you’re similar to large portions of the population, the answer is probably not a lot. Considering food is an absolutely vital element of our lives, having a foundational knowledge of how and where what goes on our dinner plates is produced is an important part of human and environmental health.
Through Farm Food, you can virtually tour Canadian farms, ranging from apple orchards to dairy cow farms. Each tour offers panoramic views accompanied by educational facts.
As mentioned, farm tours are great for those keen to learn more about physical health and environmental systems. Whether an agricultural student, an aspiring chef or just curious, these tours might be worth checking out.
12. National Aquarium
Keen on aquatic life? If so, consider an online virtual field trip to the National Aquarium. Using your mouse, you can virtually walk through the aquarium and zoom in on interesting sites and scenes.
Notable attractions include sea turtles, alligators and species from the Amazon River. The resource is available online at no cost, making it a largely accessible option.
Virtual Field Trips – Space
Many of us aren’t lucky enough to live in locations with clear night skies and great views of the stars. If this is the case for you, or if you’d additional information to accompany your stargazing, check out Stellarium. Offering a website, software and a mobile app, Stellarium is an open-source and no-cost planetarium.
You can view constellations and write down your observations to share with fellow enthusiasts. The mobile app provides an extensive catalog of all deep-sky objects, comets, planets and their satellites, and more.
The Stellarium software shows users a realistic night sky in 3D, as seen with the naked eye, binoculars, or a telescope. This is among the best virtual field trips to explore space.
Best Virtual Field Trips – Education
14. VR Trips through Arizona State University
Arizona State University has created a variety of virtual field trips (VFTs) for use by high school and college students on a variety of topics, from science to history based on real expeditions from scientific researchers.
Some of the field trips are adaptive, allowing varying experiences and tailored input. This allows each user to have an immersive and individualized virtual field trip. Using Google Cardboard, students can visit a variety of places8 including ancient lake environments, Hawaii, Grand Canyon, Teotihuacan in Mexico or the Red Rocks on Mars.
These VFTs are a great option for high school, college or virtual classrooms, particularly those who may have newly adapted to at-home learning.
15. Virtual Field Trips – ORG
virtualfieldtrips.org is an educational platform that hosts a range of videos covering various topics from social studies, science and geography to nature, civilization and languages.
However, most of them are not free, and teachers, schools, homeschooling parents will need to sign up for a subscription plan giving access to all of the platform’s content including videos, quizzes, and learning resources.
Virtual Field Trips – Theme Parks
16. Disney World
Using a VR headset or a smartphone and virtual headset, you can visit Disney World in a whole new way. You can navigate the attractions, choosing which direction to go, as you virtually go through the theme park.
Whether you’re a longtime Disney lover who wants to revisit sites filled with memories, or you’ve never been and are longing for a vacation, consider exploring Virtual Disney World.
Virtual Field Trips – Access Requirement
All virtual field trips require some technology. For the panoramic tours or videos, a computer, tablet or smartphone will suffice. For field trips using VR, you may need additional tools, such as Google Cardboard or a VR headset.
Some VR field trips also require additional downloads, such as applications or software. And while many are no cost, some have fees, and these are worth noting and comparing with your budget and needs.
Choosing The Best Virtual Field Trips
Once you know some of your options and have taken the time to explore more, the next step is choosing the best virtual field trips suitable for your project, goals or audience.
Key factors – The decision should take into consideration several elements. Is this trip for a group or an individual? If choosing for a group, try to ensure there are different elements that would appeal to diverse interests. And consider how the virtual field trip aligns with the already established class curriculum and group knowledge.
Age – Age group is another key consideration. While an art museum is an option that spans across generational interests, the presentation of the trip and accompanying information will differ greatly between third and tenth graders.
Logistics – Maybe the virtual field trips are for a family or group of friends. Consider logistics such as time, materials and cost needed, and how the trip will appeal to everyone.
The decision can also be informed by first identifying the learning goal or intended knowledge outcome. What do you want to learn? How will those VR field trips facilitate that learning?
There are many options available, and here are a few additional resources to help you choose a trip: School Library Journal9, Mobile Permissions10 and Virtual Field Trips11.
Best Virtual Field Trips 2021 – Conclusion
Virtual field trips have benefits for both students and educators12. For students, these trips are inclusive environments that can be used to build confidence and new skills.
For educators, there are logistical advantages to consider implementing virtual field trips as a teaching method including lower cost and the ability to customize learning.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, travel options can be disrupted. With technology, there is a new world of experiences and opportunities. How will you use virtual field trips in your learning?
Best Virtual Field Trips 2021Travel
- Visit Japan
- 360° Cities
- Google Expeditions
- The Great Wall
- Buckingham Palace
- British Museum
- Louvre Museum
- National Gallery of Art
- Google Arts & Culture
- Visit a Finnish Forest
- Farm Food
- National Aquarium
- Atlanta Zoo
- NASA VR
- VR Trips through Arizona State University
- Safety Driving
- Visit Arctic
- Disney World
Other best virtual field trips to consider
What are the best virtual field trips 2021? There are so many out there and it is impossible to list all of them. Please add more suggestions in the comments below.
Words: Mary Carenbauer