Zoos and Museums Have Gone Virtual—Here’s How to Explore Them at Home

With three out of four Americans across the country under stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic, most museums and zoos are now shuttered and we’re even being told not to visit most national, state and regional parks. Being stuck inside all day has left us all longing to experience nature and culture in any way we can. Fortunately, museums and zoos across the country have heard the call and answered it, providing virtual access to exhibits the public can’t see on their own right now. We’re sharing a few of our favorite virtual museum and zoo visits. Check them out, plus see how you can support these critical institutions. Beyond the resources listed, you can find many more animal webcams and more museum experiences at #MuseumFromHome.

Shedd Aquarium penguin
Alicia Atkins / Shedd Aquarium


Shedd Aquarium, Chicago

For cuteness overload, nothing beats watching Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium’s penguins take “field trips” to visit other animals and exhibits at the aquarium. See this and more at the museum’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. There is also a Sea Curious YouTube series for kids and access to the “Underwater Beauty” exhibit.

SUPPORT: Adopt  an aquatic animal or make a  donation.

Field Museum, Chicago

Field’s goal is to inspire visitors to become curious and learn about nature and culture. Online, watch videos by chief curiosity correspondent (now isn’t that a cool job title?) Emily Graslie or take short lessons on topics like dinosaurs, science and world cultures. But before you do any of that, be sure to first ask a few questions of Máximo the Titanosaur — he’s the largest dinosaur to have roamed our planet.

SUPPORT: Become a member or donate.

San Diego Zoo

Would you believe that 11 groups of animals at this world-famous zoo have live cams? Get wild with baboons, penguins, pandas, polar beers, apes, koalas, giraffes, burrowing owls, elephants, tigers and condors. The hardest part is choosing which animal to start with.

SUPPORT: Shop or support one of these top funding priorities.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Beyond the exhibits, this aquarium also conducts world-class research and conservation and helped create momentum for the establishment of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Online, check out the Animals A to Z section to learn about more than 204 creatures or explore 10 different webcams featuring everything from jellyfish to sharks.

SUPPORT: Donate or join a donor circle.

Oakland Zoo

Founded in 1928, the zoo now sits on 100 acres and has 750 animals in its picturesque Oakland hills location. It also operates a LEED-certified, 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art veterinary hospital. Online, visitors can watch black bears, elephants, sun bears and condors on the zoo’s webcams. There are also almost daily postings on the Facebook page.

SUPPORT: There are several ways to donate and the zoo just launched a subscription-based Behind the Scenes Live platform.

Working on the Lemur Cam / Oakland Zoo


MoMA, New York

Artist Louise Lawler has made 12 downloadable black-and-white line tracings of her photographs for children and adults to print and use as coloring sheets. Color and post at #DrawingwithMoMA and the museum will select a few to share on its channels.

SUPPORT: Become a member.

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Find plenty of content from the de Young and the Legion of Honor on YouTube. Watch Halima Aden explain how she got her start in the fashion industry or see artist Julian Schnabel talk about his artistic process and materials.

SUPPORT: Become a member or donate.

“A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” by Georges Pierre Seurat / Art Institute Chicago

Art Institute Chicago

Founded in 1879 and located in Chicago’s Grant Park, the museum is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the US, hosting approximately 1.5 million people annually. While closed, online visitors can peruse thousands of artworks, writings and resources, or take interactive virtual tours.

SUPPORT: Choose a membership level that is right for you.

The British Museum

Here you can find the largest indoor space on Google Street View. Yes, that’s right, navigate through more than 60 galleries just like you normally would on Street View. Why not start with the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery?

SUPPORT: Join the American Friends of the British Museum.

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The nation’s museum was established in 1937 for the American people by a joint resolution of the United States Congress. Online it is offering education resources for children created by museum educators, an NGAkids Art Zone app for iPad (download from the app store), collection highlights and even a portal where more than 51,000 open-access images are available for free download.

SUPPORT:  Become a member for as little as $50.

And, here’s more from Better on how to stay connected and engaged while indoors:

Quarantine Book Club: How to Start A Digital Book Club

Panic Baking? Delicious Recipes to Keep Your Hands (And Mind) Busy

6 of the Best Apps to Help You Stay in Touch During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Dan Jewett HeadshotDaniel Jewett has been a Bay Area journalist for more than two decades, getting his start as editor of his hometown newspaper, the Foster City Progress. Jewett went on to serve as Associate Editor for Oakland and Alameda magazines before crossing the bridge to serve as Marin Magazine and Spaces’ Managing Editor. Jewett still calls Oakland home, where he writes and plays music with his wife in My Little Hum and hangs out with his chickens, bees and cats, Holly and Maple.

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