How to have a grand day out – at home
From museums and galleries to some of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders, here’s our guide to the best virtual days out this Easter
We might be spending more time at home at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still go on the odd adventure. Whether you’re looking for something to do with the kids, or planning a date night with your partner, it’s easier than ever to enjoy a day (or night) out in the comfort of your own home via virtual tours, interactive events and live streaming.
‘It’s a great time to get a little preview of things you might want to explore in the future and start planning for your next great staycation,’ says Visit England’s Patrycja Woda. ‘There are also lots of opportunities to master new skills and keep your kids entertained – from getting green fingers and learning how to create a miniature secret garden on your balcony to sitting back, relaxing and watching a penguin pool party through a webcam.’
Here we round up some of our favourite ideas for your next grand day in…
Get outside, inside
‘There’s good evidence to show that connecting with nature improves our health, happiness and wellbeing,’ says Liz Carney, senior media and communications officer at The Wildlife Trusts. ‘Our horizons have shrunk during lockdown, but taking time to watch wildlife or listen to birdsong is hugely beneficial. Our wildlife webcams are a fantastic way to connect with nature without leaving home – bringing the wider world to you whenever you tune in.
Visits to the webcams of the Wildlife Trusts increased by more than 2,000% in 2020. ‘Webcams are so exciting, says Liz. ‘You never know what you might see – osprey chicks growing and fledging, badgers playing or cleaning out their sett, or puffins billing as they bond and nest.’
Why not make a a visit to their webcams feel like real day out? You could make sandwiches and a flask to create the atmosphere of an actual trip.
Feeling inspired to create a natural space of your own? Sign up for a live make-your-own terrarium masterclass with the Botanical Boys.
Get your culture fix
Visiting a museum, gallery or exhibition is a great way to get kids excited about art, history and culture, and to create family memories to treasure. While the doors might be closed IRL, there are some great opportunities to take a look behind the scenes.
‘Our interactive Nature Live Online programme gives children and adults a fascinating insight into the natural world,’ says the Natural History Museum’s Charlotte Newell. ‘You can tune in live and pose your own questions to the museum scientists as they discuss everything from dinosaurs to dragonflies.’
Head over to the website at 3pm on Tuesday afternoons to get involved – you can also catch up with anything you’ve missed so far on YouTube. While you’re there, why not take a virtual tour of the museum while there are no crowds? With 300,000 specimens, 14 digital exhibitions, an interactive experience about Hope the blue whale and audio guides narrated by Sir David Attenborough, there’s plenty to keep you busy.
Art lovers can take a peek behind the scenes at the National Gallery. Their online programme is packed with interactive family tours and workshops, from mindful looking and sketching with artist Jo Lewis to creating story-inspired artwork with artist Julia Deering.
You can also delve into two million years of human history, culture and – of course – mummies at the British Museum, visit the British Library’s spellbinding Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition, and even explore the Louvre in Paris or the Guggenheim in New York from your home.
Become a virtual tourist
It’s well worth spending time exploring the UK’s other homegrown attractions, too. Virtual tourists can take 360º tours of iconic British locations including the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s, Canterbury Cathedral and Buckingham Palace, and even explore Highclere Castle – aka Downton Abbey – on a guided tour narrated by none other than actor Jim Carter (aka Carson the Butler).
If you”re longing for the great outdoors, you can take a trip to the beautiful Lake District via webcam, move among the great pillars of Stonehenge or take in Northern Ireland’s spectacular Giant’s Causeway.
In the mood to venture further afield? Good news: you don't need a jet to join the jet set. You could hop over to Rome to admire the magnificent ceilings of the Vatican, explore the stunning Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and fly over the Grand Canyon en route to the Acropolis, with a quick stop-off to take in the Pyramids.
Have a night out
Planning an at-home date night, or a virtual night out with friends? You can now rent recordings from the National Theatre's performance archive, or subscribe to NT at Home for unlimited access from £8.32 per month. New plays are added every month. ‘We wanted to share some productions from our back catalogue with those at home during this time of theatre closures,’ explains NT spokesperson Elaine Jones. ‘We hope to give people some escapism and entertainment at this difficult time.’
You can watch homegrown ballet and opera performances from the Royal Opera House on Marquee TV from £8.99 per month with a 7-day free trial, while Shakespeare’s Globe is offering theatre fans a peek behind the scenes on its virtual tour – performances are also available to buy or rent on Globe Player. And if you’re inspired by the Digital Stage programme at Sadler’s Wells, which is packed with full-length dance performances and films, why not take part in one of the brilliant Get Into Dance workshops on their YouTube channel?
Main image: Visit Britain