Travel from home: 13 virtual museums and galleries to tour

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Museums, movie theaters, concerts and other events have all taken a hit since COVID-19 emerged. Luckily, the creative world has gotten — creative — and found new, alternative ways to provide virtual cultural and educational experiences during these challenging times. If you’re hankering for a little art immersion, there are a variety of virtual museum tours you can take, all from the comfort of your home. Best of all, you won’t have to navigate a sea of crowds and selfie sticks to get a closer look at a Van Gogh or Monet.

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Insider Secrets

If you don’t see a particular online art museum or virtual art gallery here, you may still be able to get special access. Certain card providers and banks have credit card rewards programs which provide you with free or discounted admission to a number of events.

Visitors exploring halls of Vatican Museums
Many museums are offering virtual tours. (Photo courtesy of Kieve Victor / Shutterstock.com)

13 Virtual Museums and Galleries

The following list of virtual museums and galleries are organized based on interest: 

  • Virtual Art Museums
  • Virtual Tour for Kids
  • Virtual Natural History and Science
  • Weird Virtual Museums

Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art |  metmuseum.org

Image courtesy of The Catacombes | catacombes.paris.fr

Virtual Art Museums

The Louvre

Paris, France | Best for Viewing Classic Iconic Art and Fashion | Online Tours

The Louvre is one of the best museums in the world  — and the most-visited one. If you don’t book your Louvre tickets before your airfare, you may miss out on a peek from the crowd of the Mona Lisa or Venus de Milo. There’s a better way to view the iconic works of art — through virtual tours. You can admire a painting without getting turned away because of capacity or worrying about socially distancing from the large crowds.

The Met

New York City, NY | For the Ultimate Virtual Art Museum Tour | Virtual Exhibits

The Met is the largest museum in the U.S. — and now you can view its wings of art without your feet aching. There are 31 virtual exhibits in the Met’s digital museum, available through Google Arts & Culture, for a total art immersion featuring over 200,000 items. There’s something for everyone — classic or modern art, fashion exhibits and behind-the-scenes tours are the most popular.

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

New York City, NY | Best for Modern Art Lovers | Virtual Exhibits

If Warhol, Picasso, Monet and Van Gogh are more your speed, you can have VIP access to the MOMA from the comfort of your home.  View over 90,000 works of art online or take a virtual stroll of select online exhibits through Google Arts & Culture.

Virtual Tours for Kids

Children’s Museum Houston

Houston, TX | Best for Activities | All-Time Access

The Children Museum in Houston has developed the All-Time Access program so kids can experience interactive learning wherever they may be. There are 3D or virtual field trips, daily broadcasts kids can tune in to listen to a story or learn how to create something, or explore a long list of videos, all designed to answer the questions curious kids ask. 

Easter Island 

Rapa Nui (Easter Island) | Best for an Outdoor Exploration | Free Google Tour

Kids love the scene in the movie Night at the Museum when the giant moai statue says “Dum dum give me gum.” Now they can explore the actual site on Easter Island where these giant mysterious statues originated. Google provides webcams of the scenic, tropical island, as well as a little history of the origins of the large carvings.

MetKids by The Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York City, NY | Best for an Immersive Virtual Experience for Kids | Free Tour

MetKids was developed for (and by) kids of ages seven to twelve. Kids can hop in time machines, watch videos or navigate a map to learn more about some of The Met’s most popular art. Masha Turchinsky, Series Producer and Senior Manager of Digital Learning for the Met explains: “We worked with #MetKids contributors from around the world. They told us they saw the Met as a huge time machine that they wanted to jump into and explore, in terms they could understand.”

Museum of the World by The British Museum

London, United Kingdom | Best for History Lovers and Time Travelers | Free Tour

The British Museum’s website for its Museum of the World is a stunning way to travel through time by clicking on interactive locations on the web page. Kids of all ages could get lost for hours exploring topics such as Art and Design, Living and Dying, Religions and Beliefs and Trade and Conflict. Travel as far back as 2,000,000 BC and choose the continent you’d like to explore, all with a point and click of the mouse. 

Virtual Natural History and Science Museums

NASA

Washington, D.C. | Best for Space Lovers | Online Exhibits

NASA’s library of online exhibits, videos and resources is pretty extensive. You can follow the Mars 2020 mission, virtually visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory or have a closer look at the rings of Saturn. There are 41 exhibits to view through the Google Arts & Culture page, perfect for a rainy day, or two or three.

Natural History Museum

London, United Kingdom | Best for Historical Artifacts | Virtual Museum

First opened in 1881, the Natural History Museum houses objects including plants, fossils, minerals and dinosaur bones. There’s a large collection of items collected by Darwin during his travels and research. You can take a fascinating tour from behind the screen to explore Hope the Blue Whale, which is over 80 feet long. Best of all, the museum includes the capability to view Hope in augmented reality. 

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Washington, D.C. | Best for Mineral and Gem Fanatics | Smithsonian Virtual Tour

The Smithsonian is the most visited natural history museum in the world. You’ll find a massive collection of fossils, stones, minerals, meteorites and rare jewelry such as the Hope Diamond. Traveling to D.C. isn’t easy right now, but you can always access a variety of narrated tours, as well as permanent and temporary exhibits online when you take a Smithsonian virtual tour.

Weird Virtual Museums

Dali Theater Museum

Figueres, Spain | Best for Scratching Your Head in Wonder | Virtual Visit

Some call Salvador Dali’s art “avant-garde”. Others just say the artist’s interpretations were just plain weird. Take a virtual tour of Dali’s museum and you’ll realize his art was imitating life. Insert one Euro into a car Dali transformed and it comes to life. Check out the room with the large lip sofa and nose cabinet. And although his art was over the top, Dali is buried in the center of the theater’s atrium under an unmarked slab you’d probably never notice among all the oddities.

Mütter Museum

Philadelphia, PA | Best for Macabre Lovers | Virtual Tour

The Mütter Museum is part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and houses 19th Century medical instruments, anatomical specimens and models. You’ll find Einstein’s brain preserved there, as well as John Wilkes Booth’s vertebra and the jaw tumor of President Grover Cleveland. The current exhibit, “Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia” takes a look at last century’s Spanish Flu pandemic. Philadelphia was the hardest-hit city in the United States at the time. 

Paris Catacombs

Paris, France | Best for a Scary Adventure | Virtual Visit

Five stories underneath the grand, elegant streets of the City of Lights is a whole underworld where over 6 million people rest. Consecrated in 1786, the overflowing bodies of those buried in the limited cemeteries of Paris were moved over 12 years to a subterranean maze of claustrophobic tunnels. The tunnels lead to sections displaying neat stacks of unnamed skulls and bones.

How to use your credit card points for museums

You don’t have to break the bank to visit a museum or book the best virtual tours. Many galleries and museums offer free virtual tours. For those that don’t, travel credit card points can often be used to buy museum tickets or book an exclusive museum tour. 

Before you cash in your points or miles, do a quick calculation on whether it’s worth itpoints may be better used for airfare or travel instead of museum tickets. Some cards provide special perks for cardholders interested in cultural events and experiences.

American ExpressKeep an eye out for exclusive events only available to cardholders.
Bank of AmericaTheir Museums on Us program allows primary cardholders free admission in many museums. You can check out the full list of participating locations here.
ChaseOffers seasonal in-person and virtual museum tours. You can book experiences and museum tours with Chase points through the Chase Travel Portal.

Bottom line

There’s a silver lining to the pandemic — museums and galleries are more accessible to all. As long as you have a screen and an internet connection, you can admire famous artwork or go on a virtual travel adventure to places that may be located on the other side of the world. And best of all, you can experience it right from your living room.

Cynthia Paez Bowman is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets where she covers credit cards and general travel. Her work has appeared in Bankrate, GOBankingRates, Freshome, The Cheat Sheet, The Simple Dollar and Reviews.com.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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