Travel insights from Andrea Sedlacek, editor of The Compass

Virtual Vacation: National Parks Edition

Our National Parks are some of the most incredible places in the U.S. Even though we can’t visit them in real life right now, we can visit them virtually. Many of these experiences have been available for a while, but there’s no better time to take advantage of them than now.

360-Degree Tours

In 2016 in honor of the National Parks’ centennial celebration, Google Arts & Culture partnered with the National Parks Service to create a series called The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks that tours five national parks that are not as well-known as Yellowstone or Mount Rushmore. The tours are led by a park ranger and they are really cool.

Google Arts & Culture also created 360-degree tours of 113 national parks, giving you the chance to take a self-guided tour of national parks, historic sites, national monuments and seashores.

The National Parks Service has 360-degree tours on its own website for a few parks. Arches National Park in Utah has more than 2,000 natural arches and countless balanced rocks, making a geological wonder. It also has multiple 360-degree tours you can take. Canyonlands National Park is also in Utah and also has a 360-degree experience. On the west coast, Lassen National Volcanic Park in California has 360-degree experiences for three of the park’s hydrothermal areas: Bumpass Hell, the park’s largest hydrothermal area; Sulphur Works, a rapidly-changing hydrothermal area; and Boiling Springs, a bubbling lake.

Live Webcams

Don’t want to miss out on this year’s cherry blossom season? There’s a live webcam for that, called the BloomCam, and it’s made possible by the Trust for the National Mall, EarthCam, the National Park Service and The National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Go under the sea at the Channel Island National Park off the coast of southern California with the Ocean Webcam. The park encompasses almost 300,000 acres, half of which are under water, and is home to 145 species of animals that are unique to the islands and found nowhere else in the world.

Feeling patriotic? See what Lady Liberty is up to with this live webcam of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and see where nearly 12 million immigrants came through from 1892 to 1954, the years Ellis Island was in operation.

Yellowstone National Park, located primarily in Wyoming but with some land in Idaho and Montana, has nine live webcams to choose from. Make a note on your calendar for Old Faithful’s next predicted eruption and tune into the geyser’s dedicated webcam for the main event. If you want to really get to know Old Faithful and a few of the park’s other geysers, these 3-D models will help you understand how they really work.

The National Parks System has almost 200 live webcams to check out, giving homebound travelers a way to escape.

Virtual Tours

The National Parks Service offers virtual tours of many parks and historical sites. They may not be as interactive as a live webcam or 360-degree tour, but you can take your time while watching videos and reading their resources. Here are some cool ones:

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