Last summer, my parents and I went to Fayetteville, NC and checked out The U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum. We absolutely loved it and spent way more time there than we anticipated. Right now, it’s closed to the public, but you can still check it out. Right now, you can take free virtual museum tours from places around the world, including The U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum.
There are a lot of virtual art museum tours as options, but I did includes museums that aren’t just of paintings because that would get kind of boring.
20+ Free Virtual Museum Tours
Some museums are doing this independently, like The Airborne & Special Operations Museum, and some are part of the Google Arts & Culture project.
That project is amazing. You can virtually tour over 2,500 collections from museums to paintings to planetariums. You can even virtually explore the Egyptian pyramids.
Even better, there are some things like Van Gogh’s Terrace of a Cafe at Night that when you zoom in, you get facts and details about the painting.
And, with the tour of the tank room at the Natural History Museum in London, there’s actually a YouTube video where Senior Curator of Fish, Oliver Crimmen explains fish and shows you them up close. But it gets better. Because if you’re anything like me, even when someone is talking, you get distracted and start looking around the room. You. Can. Do. That. The YouTube video is actually 360, so you can use your mouse to look around the room while Oliver Crimmen is talking (sorry Oliver!).
Some of the museums that are part of the project are offering in depth tours, like mentioned above, and some are letting you look around via Google Street View. That’s actually really cool too.
I put together two top ten lists for this. The Top 10 US Museums You Can Visit Virtually and the Top 10 World Museums You Can Visit Virtually. I’ll be completely honest. This is totally biased based on my likes and interests and how I want to spend my self-quarantined time. You might prefer to virtually visit a different museum. And that’s cool. Be sure to leave us a comment below to let us know your faves.
The Top 10+ US Museums You Can Visit Virtually
Now, keep in mind these are my top 10 US-based free virtual museum tours is based on my life, my likes, and what I would like to see domestically. This list is also in alphabetical order, not in order I would advise you check them out.
Bandelier National Monument (Los Alamos, NM): There are a lot of places I probably won’t go any time soon, and New Mexico is one of them. So I love that the Bandelier National Monument is on this list. You can see the outside of the modest building via museum view, but I wish you could see the 33,000 acres of canyon and country its set on. You can flip through images and see artifacts from the Ancestral Pueblo people. I guarantee you’ll start planning a trip to New Mexico once you see them.
Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, NY): I haven’t watched that glass blowing show on Netflix yet and honestly, it might be a good one to start now that everyone has a little more time of their hands. It would probably give me a much better appreciation for the displays in the Corning Museum of Glass. The museum is all about the art, history, science, and design of glass, spanning over 3,500 years. There’s a museum view of this one, which is super cool.
Ford’s Theatre (Washington, DC): I didn’t think I had any desire to look in Ford’s Theatre until I actually looked in Ford’s Theatre via Google’s museum view. It was actually really interesting to look around the theater, then to check out the museum portion. I wish I knew how interesting it was a long time ago because I would have definitely added it to my last Washington, DC trip.
Hudson River Museum (Yonkers, NY): Pete lived in Yonkers, NY when we started dating, so I have no idea why we didn’t check out the Hudson River Museum then. The museum has contemporary galleries, a planetarium, an environmental learning gallery, and more, so it’s a shame we missed it. There is a museum view option for this, so you can virtually walk through the museum, which is exactly how I’ll be spending this afternoon.
Kennedy Space Center (Merritt Island, FL): I’ve always wanted to go to the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. They’re different places, located adjacent to each other. Cape Canaveral launches rockets and the Kennedy Space Center teaches you about space and rockets. Basically. You can’t virtually tour Cape Canaveral, but you can look at images from the Kennedy Space Center online and that’s cool enough for me.
MoMA The Museum Of Modern Art (New York City): I lived in New York, right outside of the city, and never made it to MoMA. That’s a huge regret, so I’m glad I can check it out remotely. You can click through some of the most famous paintings, like Van Gogh’s Starry Night. You don’t get to see the museum virtually, which is a bummer.
Newseum (Washington, DC): When I was really young, I would make up my own newspapers, writing about what was happening in our home. I loved magazines and would read them until the covers fell off. After college, I worked for newspapers for about a decade before eventually blogging full time. So Newseum in Washington, DC, where you can check out newspapers and magazine covers is so cool to me. I wish we had gone on our trip to DC because Newseum closed in December 2019, but at least now I can see them virtually.
Norman Rockwell Museum (Stockbridge, MA): It’s impossible to not love Norman Rockwell paintings. They capture moments in time that just feel simpler. But he painted more than just that super famous self portrait. Via the virtual museum tour, you can check out his paintings during the Civil Rights Movement. You can’t see all of the museums’ 574 original paintings and drawings online, but you can see a lot.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Washington DC): When we went to Washington, DC a couple years ago, we wanted to check out the National Museum of Natural History, but the line to get in was so long so we went to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. So I’m pretty excited we’ll get to check the Museum of Natural History out virtually. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History does have a museum view option, so you can virtually walk around and tour the museum.
The Met – The Metropolitan Museum Of Art (New York City): My school went on field trips to The Met, and I have no idea why I never was in a class that actually went. I would have loved to go. But at least now I can virtually check out Christian Dior ball gowns and over 200,000 other items in the museum. You can actually check out two museum views for this one, which is awesome. You can virtually tour The Met itself and then virtually tour the Breuer Building, although it does look under construction so I’m a little confused about that one.
U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum (Fayetteville, NC): This museum kicked off me writing this post, so of course it had to be included. When we visited the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum this summer, we loved it. There are so many models and scenes set up, it feels like you’re in a Disney theme park. Just about the Army. What I love is you get a street view of this one, so you can move around and actually see the museum itself, not just the items inside.
Top 10+ World Museums You Can Visit Virtually
As with the list about, these top 10 world-based free virtual museum tours are based on what I would like to see, not based on any popularity list. It’s also in alphabetical order because that’s easier.
Anne Frank House (Amsterdam, Netherlands): The Anne Frank House is now a museum, but it was where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for over two years during World War II. Looking at it via museum view may not exactly give the dynamics of how little space was occupied by so many people, but it definitely gives you an idea.
Chichen Itza (Yucatán, Mexico): When we went on vacation in Playa del Carmen, we had the option to go to downtown or Chichen Itza from our resort. I wanted to see the beach and do some shopping, so we went downtown. My parents went to the same resort and picked Chichen Itza. Joke’s on them, though, because you can virtually tour the Mayan ruins — and it’s a lot less walking up steps than if you go in real life. Also, yes, this is more of a landmark than a museum, but this is my list so I’m allowing it.
Eiffel Tower (Paris, France): Is the Eiffel Tower a museum? I don’t know. But we’re gonna be a little lenient here because it’s the Eiffel freaking Tower. It’s somewhere I would love to see one day, but it’s not happening any time soon. The museum video of this puts you out on a ledge at the Eiffel Tower and you can look up, down, and out over Paris. It’s amazing, just to see the city right at your fingertips.
Museo Larco (Pueblo Libre, Peru): I don’t know a lot about Peru, but it has been coming up a lot lately, so I’m taking it as the universe’s way of telling me to use some down time to learn about it. And a virtual tour of Museo Larco is a good way to start. It’s all about ancient Peru and its development of 5,000 pre-Columbian years. What I really like is the museum view is so detailed, you can zoom right up to the glass cases and really get a good look at the artifacts.
Osaka Castle (Osaka, Japan): This one is completely selfish, but I already told you this is my list based on things I want to explore. I call Osaka Castle my family’s castle. My family in Japan lives in Osaka, so I’ve claimed it as ours. And every time we go to visit Japan, we take a trip to Osaka Castle. So to be able to virtually scan around, see where the snack and souvenir shop is, and to know the exact way to turn to see the castle, well, that’s exactly what I need right now.
Sculpture By The Sea, Cottesloe (Perth, Australia): My favorite type of art, to view, is sculpture. I don’t “get” modern art and I like realism more than abstract art. So sometimes, art museums are a little lost on me. But sculptures. I could look at them all day. So Sculpture By The Sea, Cottesloe is right up my alley. Just a really far away alley because I live nowhere near Australia. Plus, every sculpture has the sea behind it, so you can just get lost in the background if the sculpture doesn’t grab you.
Shanghai Auto Museum (Shanghai, China): This museum’s not for me. I don’t care about cars enough to go all the way to China to look at them. Get me some yakimeshi and gyoza and let me sit and eat all trip. But, I know a lot of people who would love to visit this museum. And I’m sure you know a few too. So, check it out virtually so that when you go to China, you can go for the architecture and food.
The Lourve (Paris, France): The Lourve museum virtual tours are not associated with Google, so the virtual museum tour will look different than the other sites look. There are a bunch of virtual tours and room descriptions. And, what’s great is the page automatically translates so it’s all in English. So you don’t have to learn French before you can check it out.
The National Gallery (London, UK): I’ll be completely honest here. If I’m going to England, it’s only so I can watch TV and get episodes of my favorite shows sooner. At least, that’s what I say every time I talk to Pete about planning a trip there. Of course, I would visit Big Ben and London Bridge, but I can just virtually check out The National Gallery and some of its 2,300 works of art now, and skip it when we get to Jolly Ol’ England.
Tokyo National Museum (Tokyo, Japan): Arguably one of the most famous paintings in the world is The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa. And you can see that hanging at the Tokyo National Museum. You can’t see it in real life right now because the museum (just like so many other things) is closed right now, but you can see it virtually. And I was scrolling through the museum via museum view, found it (without realizing it was in this museum) and gasped. So of course, I had to add this one to the list.
Vatican (Rome, Italy): The Vatican has its own virtual tours, so it’s not gonna look like the ones from Google. It’s also not like The Lourve, which auto-translates to English. So, you’re a little bit on your own when it comes to reading comprehension for the online museum exhibits, but really, you get a virtual 360-degree view of the Sistine Chapel. You don’t need words or translations to understand the beauty there.
Which of these free virtual museum tours will you take first?