Summer is here! Put the mouse in drive and take your family on a virtual road trip.
Published: June 12, 2020
By: Shannon Pease-Severance
You don’t have to fill up the gas tank or pack a bag for this excursion, AND you won’t have to hear “Are we there yet?” even once. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
Destination 1: The Florida Keys
Dive into an online adventure that starts at the southernmost tip of the Sunshine State – the Florida Keys. We begin with a trip to the Dry Tortugas. Located on a cluster of islands at the far tip of the Florida Keys, this National Park is home to historic Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century fort made of more than 16 million bricks, surrounded by crystal clear water with a diverse ecosystem. The park is slowly increasing recreational access, but you can go to artsandculture.withgoogle.com/en-us/national-parks-service/dry-tortugas/near-little-africa-tour any time to visually explore the fort or dive down deep to a shipwreck.
Destination 2: Miami
Dry off and buckle up: We’re heading to Miami! Known for its beautiful beaches, art deco style and rich culture, Miami has a lot to offer. You can now venture out as beaches and businesses begin to bustle once again, or stay home and take a virtual tour of one of the area’s top spots. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is a vision that never grows old. The 1916 waterfront estate on Biscayne Bay is a stunning National Historic Landmark with 32 ornately decorated rooms and 10 acres of sprawling gardens.
Take the family on a virtual tour of the home — which includes a “walk” around the rarely seen swimming pool grotto — while learning more about local history at www.vizcaya.org. The website also includes Zoom backdrops, behind-the-scenes videos, zenscapes and more.
Although the Main House portion of the estate remains closed temporarily, the outdoor gardens are now open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Those who are looking for more outside time and less screen time can opt to stroll around the lush gardens for a discounted fee.
Detour – A dozen miles south of Vizcaya on U.S. 1 is the Deering Estate, a 444-acre preserve and historic site. Select portions of the main house and the outdoor gardens are now open to the public, but its normally scheduled tours have moved online, giving virtual visitors access to a wealth of information. Through the Virtual Field Trips link, viewers can learn how to wade out into the seagrass beds of Biscayne Bay to explore the aquatic life, observe a dissection to learn about the unique characteristics of various marine animals, and explore Deering’s natural areas to find plants that have been used by past civilizations. Visit www.deeringestate.org for more information.
Destination 3: The Everglades
Now we follow the River of Grass to Broward County. The Everglades is truly an ecological gem of South Florida. It’s a place to get in touch with nature, see alligators or speed across the wetlands in an airboat. Everglades Holiday Park, a West Broward locale and home to the television series Gator Boys, recently reopened for real-life adventure, but you can also take the family on a virtual airboat ride from the comfort of the couch at www.youtube.com/watch?v=1T9wcGO-Pc8. Visit www.evergladesholidaypark.com or Facebook @EvergladesHolidayPark to learn more.
Destination 4: Disney World
For our final day of virtual vacay, we head to the happiest place on Earth! Disney World’s theme parks have not reopened just yet, but the family can still have a magical time online. Beat the heat and avoid the lines with a virtual tour of Walt Disney World Resort.
Go to www.visitorlando.com/en/things-to-do/virtual-tours/walt-disney-world-resort and use your mouse-power (your actual computer mouse, that is) to guide yourself down Magic Kingdom’s bustling Main Street toward Cinderella’s castle for a 360-degree tour or take a wild ride on Big Thunder Mountain at disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2020/04/disneymagicmoments-take-a-wild-virtual-ride-on-big-thunder-mountain-railroad-at-walt-disney-world-resort/.
Travel Tip: Our summer plans may not have turned out exactly how we envisioned them, but there is always something new to explore. As Walt Disney once said: “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”