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Virtual World Tour: Lots of Livestreams to Watch When You Can't Travel

When you’re stuck at home and can’t travel because you don’t have room in your budget or you don’t have enough vacation days or, say, you’re under quarantine as part of a global health crisis, it’s time to acquaint yourself anew with the glories of the internet. Sure, it brought us corporate data mining and social media influencers who ruin superblooms. But it’s also the internet that has made it possible for us to view red pandas whenever we want. Give credit where it’s due. 

The livestreams that follow let you keep tabs on scenic, iconic, cute, and quirky sights across the globe, from the tops of skyscrapers to the bottom of the sea. Lay eyes on architectural marvels, steaming geysers, waddling penguins, and Times Square Elmos, all without leaving home—no germs or jet lag included. 

Red panda
Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Red Pandas, Trevor Zoo at Millbrook School, New York

FACT: Red pandas are nature’s cutest creatures. Native to the eastern Himalayas, the russet-furred, bushy-tailed, white-snouted stuffed-animals-come-to-life make your kitten look like a naked mole-rat. Sorry, it’s just science. At Millbrook’s Trevor Zoo—the country’s only zoo on the grounds of a high school—cameras stay trained on both the outdoor and indoor enclosures inhabited by the impossibly adorable Zhu and Berry.

Naked mole-rat at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
John Brighenti / Flickr
Naked Mole-Rats, National Zoo, Washington, D.C.

But don’t discount naked mole-rats, either. As the only truly eusocial mammals on earth, these East African sand puppies live in a manner similar to bees and ants: in large colonies with a single breeding female. The National Zoo’s naked mole-rat cam (click the link) shows the furless underground dwellers nibbling on lettuce and exploring 25 feet of tunnels. The D.C. facility also has cams for lions, elephants, and the beloved giant pandas

Sydney Harbour in Australia
Taras Vyshnya / Shutterstock
Sydney Harbour

Australia’s most famous building—the Sydney Opera House—can be seen live at any time, along with the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the city’s skyline, and the ferries, sailboats, and cruise ships that crisscross the water. Considering that Sydney is 15 hours ahead of the East Coast of the United States, this webcam (click the link) is a window into the future. Take a look at tomorrow—today!

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica
Don Henise / Flickr
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Once a scientific facility installed to monitor volcanic activity, the Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa is about as close as you can sleep to Costa Rica’s more than 5,000-foot-tall Arenal Volcano. The lodge’s rooms and common areas have primo views of the mist-shrouded conical peak and the surrounding jungle—and you can see what guests see by streaming the hotel’s volcano cam (click the link). 

Zebras at Mpala Research Centre in Kenya
Larsek / Shutterstock
Mpala Research Centre, Kenya

Go on safari in Africa and who knows if you’ll see all the animals on your list? But your chances improve considerably when you stake out the livestream of the watering hole at Kenya’s Mpala Research Centre in the Laikipia region. Elephants, giraffes, zebras, leopards, and hippos all drop by for dips and sips. Sometimes, you might even spot newborn animals curled up on the banks.

Colosseum and Ludus Magnus in Rome
Jastrow / Public domain
Colosseum, Rome

With visitor numbers topping 7 million in a typical year, Rome’s massive 1st-century amphitheater easily belongs on the shortlist for the title of Earth’s Most Popular Tourist Attraction. You can see it whenever you want, thanks to this cam (click the link) set up on the east side of the travertine behemoth. Also in the frame: ruins of the Ludus Magnus, where gladiators trained before entering the arena.

Old Faithful in Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

With many of these livestreams, you never know how long you’re going to have to wait until something happens. But Yellowstone National Park’s best-known geyser isn’t called Old Faithful for nothing. Every 90 minutes give or take (the National Park Service posts more exact prediction times), the geyser erupts for up to five minutes, shooting thousands of gallons of boiling water an average of 150 feet into the air. Yellowstone’s webcam (click the link) gives you a front-row seat.  

Penguin at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California
skveerkamp / Flickr
Penguins, Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California

Above- and below-water cams in the penguin exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California show off the full range of the black-and-white birds. Watching them hop and waddle on a rocky beach, you might classify them as awkward and comical. But then click over to the underwater cam for displays of speed and elegance that will convince you it’s not that penguins are flightless—it’s that they soar through water instead of air.

Elvis impersonator at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel
kalin9999 / Flickr
Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel

A surveillance camera (click the link)—with audio—invites you to attend the nuptials of complete strangers at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel on the Las Vegas Strip. Theme weddings, involving everything from goth getups to Star Trek cutouts, are common, and, if you’re lucky, the officiant will be an Elvis impersonator with a lot of corny jokes about a hunka, hunka burning love. 

Note: The Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic (March 2020). 

Loch Ness in Scotland
Wieslaw Panek Photography / Shutterstock
Loch Ness, Scotland

Keep an eye out for the Loch Ness Monster with this livestream (click the link) operated by Nessie believers in the Scottish Highlands. Up to now, nobody has been able to prove that a long-necked reptilian thing lives in the deep freshwater lake outside of Inverness. But hey, you never know. And even if you don’t spot any world-famous mythical creatures, you can still enjoy pastoral scenes of grazing sheep. 

April the giraffe at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York
Forsaken Fotos / Flickr
Giraffes, Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York

April the giraffe (pictured) became a ruminant celebrity in 2017, when New York State’s Animal Adventure Park, where she lives, broadcast the late stages of her pregnancy on YouTube. Millions of viewers eventually watched April give birth to a nearly 6-foot-tall male calf later named Tajiri. Though April is now retired, the park’s webcam (click the link) remains focused on her successor so that fans don’t miss any future developments. 

Times Square in New York City
Joe Buglewicz/NYC & Company
Times Square, New York City

Manhattan’s shrine to sensory overload is visible from aerial views as well as a street-level cam (click the link) equipped with audio. Tune in after dark to see the flashing lights, splashy billboards, giant TV screens, and crawling news tickers at their brightest. If you’ve ever wanted to see what the world would look like if it were reimagined by an advertising exec with ADHD, here’s your answer. 

Banff Gondola in Alberta, Canada
Akshay-PhotOvation / Shutterstock
Banff Gondola in Alberta, Canada

A rotating 360-degree view (click the link) from the top of Sulphur Mountain shows off what you'd see if you rode the Banff Gondola in the Canadian Rockies. Among the highlights: dramatic peaks (helpfully labeled on your screen), the cozy resort town of Banff, and the Bow River as it wraps around Tunnel Mountain. On certain nights in winter, you may even catch glimpses of the Northern Lights.

Giant panda at Zoo Atlanta
Stephen Rahn / Flickr
Giant Pandas, Zoo Atlanta

Like Homer Simpson, giant pandas manage to be compelling despite not doing much beyond eating, lying around, and eating while lying around. Zoo Atlanta’s panda cam ensures you don’t miss a second of the roly-poly, bamboo-chewing inaction in the lives of a panda family that includes twin sisters Ya Lun and Xi Lun, born in 2016. 

Space Needle in Seattle
David Barnes
Space Needle, Seattle

If you’re unable to go for a spin on the revolving glass floor near the top of the Space Needle, the tower’s twirling “panocam(click the link) will give you a similar sensation from its spot 605 feet over Seattle. The city’s skyline, Puget Sound, and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains all scroll past. A timeline flags especially memorable views captured on days when visibility was crystal clear or the city was cloaked in an eerie fog. 

Underwater kelp forest at Channel Islands National Park in Southern California
Ethan Daniels / Shutterstock
Kelp Forest, Channel Islands National Park, Southern California

More than half of Channel Islands National Park lies underwater off the coast of Southern California. Here, a giant kelp forest helps sustain life for more than 1,000 kinds of marine organisms, including fish, invertebrates, seals, and sea lions. Because there’s an underwater cam down there, you can dive into the hypnotically undulating amber forest and visit its colorful denizens any time you want—and you’ll stay bone dry. 

Miami's South Beach
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Miami's Beaches

Of course, gazing on an ocean from above the waves can be pleasant, too. Miami’s tourism office can provide those moments of zen via webcams (click the link) overlooking sand and sea on South Beach, yachts and sailboats in Biscayne Bay, and towering palm trees on Sunny Isles Beach. For a taste of the city’s vibrant street life, there’s even a cam set up over Calle Ocho in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. 

Abbey Road Crossing, London

The zebra-striped pedestrian street crossing traversed by John, Paul, George, and Ringo for the cover photo of the Beatles’ next-to-last album lies just outside the London studio where the album was recorded. A webcam (click the link) has been broadcasting the crossing since 2011, so in addition to seeing Abbey Road right now, you can click through past attempts by fans to re-create the 1969 photo. Bonus points to Paul stand-ins who go barefoot. 

Koala at San Diego Zoo Community
San Diego Zoo

Given how impressive the San Diego Zoo is, it’s no surprise that the institution has an equally impressive array of animal cams (click the link) to choose from. Penguins, apes, polar bears, koalas, giraffes, elephants, tigers, and condors can all be spied on. Though the giant pandas who were once star attractions here have been sent back home to China, you can relive their glory days with a feed of archival footage