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Best free virtual events: explore museums, zoos and more from your living room

While we’re all practising social distancing and in-person events all over the world have been cancelled, many organisations are turning to virtual events to inspire people to stay curious and occupied.

The team at Uswitch have compiled a list of the best virtual events and activities you can stream from the comfort and safety of your own home. You can (digitally) attend Little India’s Diwali festival, view a spectacular firework display from Winchester, or relax by watching the sunset off the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

Virtual events to celebrate Diwali from home 

With just a click of a mouse, you can take part in Diwali celebrations from around the world for free. Many of these virtual events have educational aspects, perfect to keep the whole family busy when they are stuck indoors.

1. Leicester Diwali Day

Skip the crowds and enjoy Leicester’s annual Diwali celebrations from the safety of your home. An hour-long program will be streamed on Saturday 14th of November featuring music, storytelling, dancing and footage from previous years’ firework displays.

2. Little India Deepavali Celebrations

Several virtual workshops are being held over the Diwali period, including a Deepavali masterclass where participants can learn how to prepare traditional delicacies along with Rangoli and Henna art workshops.

3. Edinburgh Digital Diwali

Edinburgh Digital Diwali will be hosting a 2-hour virtual event, featuring performances from the world-famous Srjan, ceilidh by kids and a performance by Bharatiya Ashram.

4. Diwali on the Screen

Those who tune will be able to enjoy a headline act from Shin, who will be performing a Punjabi pop song, an interactive dance workshop from Bollywood Dreams Dance and a piano and violin piece from Rakesh Chauhan and Nandini Shankar. 

5. Diwali Family Day

New York’s Asia Society is celebrating Diwali in style with a variety of events suitable for all the family, join the Culture Tree for a festive shadow puppet show, Kathak performance from Parul Shah Dance Company and Raga Kids introduces viewers to the classical music of South Asia, through traditional instruments and singing together. 

Virtual events to celebrate Bonfire Night 2020

Bonfire Night is upon us, but sadly the usual spectacular celebration will be toned down this year due to the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean there’ll be no fireworks – the events will just look a little different in 2020.

1. Lancashire Fire and Rescue’s Digital Bonfire

Lancashire’s virtual firework display is expected to last approximately 30 minutes, with guests Rue the investigation dog and Sidney the search and rescue dog making a special appearance. The Livestream will then be rounded off with a virtual fire engine tour, and a children’s bedtime story read by Burnley fire station’s one and only Lee Clough. 

2. Northampton’s Virtual Bonfire Night Celebrations

You can watch Northampton Borough Council’s firework display live from their Facebook and YouTube pages on the 5th of November.

3. Morecambe Town Council Virtual Bonfire Night

Skip the crowds and grab your headphones to be immersed in the virtual firework display hosted by Morecambe Town Council across their YouTube platform. 

4. Winchester Bonfire  #LIGHTUPWINCHESTER

In light of their annual bonfire night event being cancelled, Winchester Bonfire has announced #LightUpWinchester, a magical firework display that will take place from three secret locations around the city and streamed via their Facebook page on the 7th November. 

5. Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council Firework Display

Get cosy, grab some glow sticks, traditional toffee apples and enjoy the bonfire night festivities streamed from Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council. 

Five free virtual tours for when you just need to relax

During this stressful time, it is important to safeguard your emotional and mental wellbeing since you’ll be spending a lot of time indoors. 

A way to help relax your mind and escape from reality is through virtual tours and many aquariums, parks and tourist attractions around the world are offering these tours for free to help people stay curious and occupied.

1. Cliffs of Moher, Ireland 

Relax during golden hour by viewing the sunset off the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. You can take a virtual tour of the famous Irish geological landmark on the Cliffs of Moher website.

2. The National Aquarium, Baltimore  

The National Aquarium strives to enhance ocean and climate literacy for everyone, drawing from environmental justice principles in their ongoing work around climate change. 

3. National Parks, USA

Discover the hidden worlds of the National Parks with a virtual tour that explores five of America’s most beautiful parks. From Kenai Fjords in Alaska to Dry Tortugas in Florida, these virtual tours will transport you to another world. 

4. Georgia Aquarium, Georgia 

Sea-dwellers like African penguins and Beluga Whales are the stars of this aquarium's live cam. With lots of different live webcams from the Georgia Aquarium such as a Jelly webcam, African Penguin, Beluga Whale, Ocean Voyager, Piranha, Otter, Underwater Puffin and Sea Lion. You’ll have plenty of relaxation time to sit and watch all the interesting animals at this aquarium. 

5. New England Aquarium, Boston

Join New England Aquarium for live presentations, new videos and activities that you can get involved in from home. Their daily presentations are posted every day at 11 am. Watch as they feed the penguins and octopus and all the other animals that the aquarium has to offer, and unwind with the live stream from inside the giant ocean tank exhibit. 

World-class museums you can visit online

Our much-loved museums and art galleries may be closing their doors due to the current outbreak, but don’t despair. You can now visit your favourite museums and access their collections from the comfort of your front room.

1. The Louvre

Explore Egyptian antiquities and step back in time to view the remains of the Louvre’s Moat in these comprehensive virtual tours. 

2. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

This online collection features more than 1,700 artworks from over 600 artists. This is a searchable database, so if there’s a particular piece you’d like to see you can search by name. 

3. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Explore nature from your living room with these high-quality virtual tours. Use your mouse to navigate each room in the museum and click the camera icon for an up-close view of exhibits on display.

4. Van Gogh Museum

Part of Google’s Art and Culture Network, the tour takes you through the Van Gogh Museum allowing you to view the artworks up close.

5. Getty Museum

Available through Google’s Arts & Culture programme, the Getty Museum is home to an eclectic range of impressive artworks and photography. 

6. The Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museum website contains seven virtual tours, which includes a 360 view of the famous Sistine Chapel. 

7. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Rather than a 360 tour, the multimedia section of the Thyssen-Bornemisza features short videos that delve behind the scenes.  

8. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Browse artworks from modernist artist Georgia O’Keeffe using Google’s virtual gallery.

Visit the seven wonders right from your living room

From the Great Wall of China to the Taj Mahal, these historical man-made sites will have fuelled wanderlust for many travellers. Here’s how you can visit them all in an afternoon. 

1. Great Wall of China, near Beijing, China

This Virtual Tour provided by The China Guide allows you to ‘walk’ along the wall with just a click of your mouse. 

2. Petra, Jordan

Leave your passport in your drawer and grab your headphones to be immersed in this stunning city steeped in history and impressive architecture.

3. The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Skip the crowds and take a virtual tour on YouTube — this hour-long walking tour of the Colosseum is filmed in pin-sharp 4K, immersing you into the action.  

4. Chichen Itza, Yucatán, Mexico

Attracting more than 900,000 visitors each year, Chichén Itzá continues to be a historical wonder that is popular with tourists. Situated just 2 hours from tourist hot-spot Cancun, it’s a popular cultural excursion for many visiting Mexico.

5. Machu Picchu, Cusco Region, Peru

This virtual tour comes complete with a voiceover, educating and entertaining as you take in the spectacular scenery of Machu Picchu.  

6. Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Go behind the scenes of India’s Crown Jewel with this virtual tour from Google. 

7. Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

To reach the statue on foot, you’d scale around 200 steps, but you don’t need to with this virtual tour of the statue. This 360-view includes a guided tour with some interesting facts about the origins and construction.  

10 virtual events to enjoy this Christmas

Experience the excitement and wonder of Christmas from your couch. From a virtual visit to Santa’s Grotto to a carol concert, here are 10 virtual events to keep the magic of Christmas alive throughout November and December.

1. New Wave Events, Festive Cooking Shows 

New Wave Events have no shortage of online activities to make sure you don’t miss out on the indulgent treats that come with all the food at Christmas. Participants can learn amazing cookery skills and create some delicious goodies that can be recreated on Christmas Day. 

2. Super Market Events, Festive Online Market

Super Market is a Scottish based company offering the UK’s first ‘immersive’ online Christmas market. The market experience guides you through an online gallery featuring 150 independent Scottish brands, selling products that range from food & drink, candles, plants, and children’s gifts.

3. Santa’s Calling You, Zoom With Santa

Visiting Santa’s Grotto is a rite of passage for many kids, who love the wonder and magic of visiting Father Christmas in his festive grotto. This year, Santa’s Calling You, is offering a digital experience for families, providing a Zoom call with Santa, Mrs. Claus, or one of Santa’s elves, who will join the call right from the North Pole.

4. Wigan Council, Frost Fest

Wigan’s 2020 ‘Frost Fest’ will come in the shape of a pre-recorded show streamed across a number of social platforms on the 21st of November at 7pm. 

5. Evolve Events, Christmas In A Box

Evolve Events are trying their hardest to make sure that the infamous office parties go ahead this year with ‘Christmas In A Box’. Evolve offers a choice of two different boxes that are delivered to the party-goers home, the ‘Aperitivo’ or the slightly more luxurious ‘Primo’ box. 

6. GOTO Events, Christmas Escape Room

There’s no team-building or family challenge quite like an Escape Room, which is why GOTO has set up its first fully virtual Christmas edition, with challenges that can be shared with families kept apart due to travel restrictions.

7. St Teresa's Hospice, ‘Christmas From Me to You’ Market

St Teresa Hospice has launched a major event ‘‘Christmas From Me to You’, that will not only support the hospice, but hopefully allow businesses taking part to generate some of the footfall and income they’ll miss out on in the lead up to Christmas.

8. Santa’s Lapland, Live Video Call with Santa

Santa’s Lapland is hosting a virtual call straight from Lapland, where you’ll be led through the snow and see a reindeer close up before going live to Santa’s Log Cabin and speaking with Santa himself. 

9. CancerCare, Santa Dash

CancerCare’s annual Santa Dash has gone digital this year. You can enter the dash for as little as £5, and download your own sponsorship form to raise funds for CancerCare. 

10. Shelter, Free Virtual Carol Concert

This December the Shelter Charity is hosting the UK’s biggest virtual carol concert, to bring the nation together and show support to the people facing homelessness this winter. 

Virtual retail-ity: Five online Christmas shopping experiences

Now we are shopping almost exclusively online again, various big-named retailers have been trying to bring us some of the thrills of shopping in-store to our homes instead. Here are five virtual retail experiences to help you browse safely from the comfort of your sofa. 

1. John Lewis, Virtual Store Tour

To help get our Christmas shopping done easily and safely, John Lewis has launched an online feature that means customers can virtually visit its Oxford Street department store without leaving their sofa. Yes, that means you get all the magic of Christmas shopping without any of the mayhem. 

2. Liberty London, Online Christmas Shop

In response to the pandemic, Liberty London has introduced a virtual Christmas experience to help make customers’ shopping journeys safe, seamless, and festive. 

3. Josefina, Virtual Christmas Shop

Josefina, a furniture shop local to Uckfield, East Sussex, has quickly adapted for all of your festive shopping needs. Offering personal shopping via Zoom where you can explore the Josefinas’s Christmas 2020 collection in full. 

4. Charlotte Cornelius Jewellery Design, Online Design Appointments

Already got your decorations up and moving on to the all-important gift shopping? Charlotte Cornelius has you covered if you’re looking for a shiny piece to surprise that special someone (or you just want to treat yourself this year). 

5. Fenwick Concierge

Fenwick Concierge is providing a digitised version of their iconic brick-and-mortar store with their exclusive festive concierge service. Too busy to wrap your presents? Fenwick can do that. Need an expert’s advice on what’s the gift to give this year? Fenwick can do that, too - with their virtual personal shopping experience. 

Eight relaxing virtual tours to help you fall asleep 

Struggling to fall asleep? We’ve rounded up the most relaxing virtual tours, from deep ocean dives to NASA space station tours, to help you drift off. 

1. David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef

Spend your downtime before bed virtually ‘snorkelling’ off OceanX’s marine vessel; The Alucia. Drift off whilst naturalist Sir David Attenborough explains how the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most fragile, but fascinating eco-systems in the world.

2. Tembe Elephant Park Livestream

Nature lovers can tune into 6 different live streams of Tembe Elephant Park, based in Northern Tongaland, Africa - home to some of the biggest elephants in the world. 

3. Vatican Museum’s Virtual Tours

Explore all of the incredible murals and tapestries on display inside, and then take a virtual stroll around the remaining Vatican City, all from the comfort of your bed. 

4. Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall 

You can access over 40 live broadcasts and hundreds of concerts covering six decades which feature some of the greatest conductors and soloists from around the world. 

5. Conservation International’s Under The Canopy

There’s no substitute for real wildlife encounters, but you can stay connected to nature with this virtual tour of the Amazon, narrated by indigenous guide Kamanja Panashekung and actor Lee Pace. 

6. NASA’s International Space Station Livestream

NASA’s live stream of their International Space Station will have you falling asleep and dreaming of the stars in no time. 

Witness the sunrise as the station orbits around the earth and listen to conversations between the station’s crew and mission control. 

7. National Marine Sanctuaries’ Virtual Dives

The National Marine Sanctuaries offer several virtual dives - notably, the extraordinary exploration of Shipwreck Alley at Thunder Bay. 

Immerse yourself in some of the world’s greatest underwater locations, and stay dry, warm, and cosy in bed whilst you do so. 

8. The Royal Academy’s ‘Gauguin And The Impressionists’

‘Walk’ around the gallery, a goldmine of Impressionist art, and admire work from the likes of Renoir, Monet, Manet, and Pissarro whilst accompanied by peaceful classical music -  from the comfort of your bed.

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Dreamy Destinations: Visit the holiday hotspots lighting up the ‘gram - virtually

From the Switzerland Alpine landscape to the sun-kissed beaches of Capri, you can now visit the top bucket list destinations virtually before you jet off on your travels. 

1. Tuscany, Italy - #tuscany 8.7m posts

Tuscany's many attractions include historic cities, art-filled museums and churches, great wine and food, medieval hill towns, beaches, and beautiful countryside. Before you book your next summer vacation, check out the virtual tour of Tuscany here. 

2. Alaska, USA - #alaska 8.1m posts

To inspire wanderlust, Explore Fairbanks has launched a virtual tour of the Alaskan Northern Lights so you can experience the phenomenon before you book your visit. Check out the virtual tours of Alaska here 

3. Capri, Italy - #capri 3m posts

Right now, Capri is granting access to an array of virtual tours for armchair travellers, including one that takes you into the incredible magic of the Blue Grotto. Check out the virtual tours of Capri here

4. Byron Bay, Australia - #byronbay 2.8m posts

The small town on the north coast of the Australian state of New South Wales has always shifted with the time and now is one of Instagram's top bucket-list destinations. As a sampler, take a look at Byron Bay's tour of the incredible town, look for dolphins, whales and enjoy a ‘walk’ through the local coffee shop. 

You can check out the virtual tour of Byron Bay here 

4. Petra, Jordan - #petra 1.3m posts

With just one click, Google is offering users the opportunity to explore the city’s sights using Google Earth, including the Hidden Tomb and The Great Temple. Check out the virtual tour of Petra here

5. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania - #kilimanjaro 619k posts 

Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant, snow-covered volcano in Tanzania and is the highest mountain in Africa. 75,000 mountaineering enthusiasts climb Kilimanjaro every year. 

If you have an interest in mountaineering, then this hike could be the perfect opportunity. You can now watch a virtual tour of Mount Kilimanjaro ahead of your visit, here

6. Bryce Canyon, Utah - #brycecanyon 576k posts

Guide your way through the canyon’s peaceful, stunning and immense scenery on a virtual tour. Check out the tour of Bryce Canyon National Park here.

7. Mount Pilatus, Switzerland - #pilatus 253k posts 

Head to Mount Pilatus for breath taking views across Switzerland’s Alpine landscape, from the bright green and blue of the lake-dotted countryside to the snow-capped mountains. On a clear day, the Pilatus mountain offers a panoramic view of 73 Alpine peaks. 

Before you book your dream vacation, check out the virtual tour here, where you can watch the Pilatus sunrise and sunset.

Explore hidden holiday gems from the comfort of your couch with 10 virtual tours

As we ready ourselves for 2021, we’ve compiled a list of alternative virtual tours at your favourite holiday spots that aren’t so touristy. 

1. New York, United States - #newyork 106 million Instagram posts

Start with a virtual graffiti art tour in Brooklyn that allows you to roam the streets as if you’re actually there, as well as experience the trendy side to the city.

Eat like a local at Kat’z, which is home to some of the best sandwiches in New York, that even have people forming queues out the door!

Try out the nightlife and party like a socialite with a virtual tour of 230 Fifth, New York’s largest roof-terrace bar, or mix it up with a virtual pub crawl tour in Greenwich Village and learn some LGBTQ+ history along the way.

2. Milan, Italy - #milan 20 million Instagram posts

Take in the history at La Vigna de Leonardo, where you can explore every room of his former home including where he most likely sat to paint the famous Last Supper painting.

The Guastalla Garden is one of a few quieter gardens that has some beautiful 17th Century buildings and flowers to enjoy virtually.

3. Kyoto, Japan - #kyoto 16 million Instagram posts

Beat the 3-hour queues at Rurikoin Temple, which is known for its red forests and stunning views. This temple is a place that needs to be experienced - even virtually.

Follow it up and experience some typical Japanese food preparation Nishiki Market, which is over 400 years old and loved by the locals.

You can even take a private virtual tour down the Hozugawa River, where you’ll have a front seat to the rapids and views of the far-reaching river. 

4. Venice, Italy - #venice 15 million Instagram posts

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the main streets sits a floating bookshop that is home to many cats and a staircase made entirely out of books.

St Zaccaria Crypt is one of the standout works of the Venetian renaissance and has notable works of art on show. Explore virtually and avoid the floods that often happen here.

5. Budapest, Hungary - #budapest 13 million Instagram posts

To check out the views from the top of the city, the virtual tour at Gellert hill takes you all the way along Liberty Bridge and right to the top of the Citadel. 

Or why not see how the locals really live by experiencing the virtual flea market tour at Ecseri Parc, with plenty of food, drink and antiques on offer. 

6. Oahu, Hawaii - #oahu 6.4 million Instagram posts

Enjoy stunning beach sunsets with 360° views and a gorgeous backdrop of the glistening sea in this aerial tour of the island.

This virtual tour of the Makapu’u tide pools and the lighthouse trails will have you feeling out of this world thanks to the stunning natural formation of the rocks and impressive blowholes. 

7. Mykonos, Greece - #mykonos 4.4 million Instagram posts

A popular island for partying and watersports, why not take in some of the culture instead with the 360° virtual tour which talks a bit about the history of the island as well as taking in its natural beauty.

8. Northern Lights, Iceland - #northernlights 1.7 million Instagram posts

Enjoy live streams in real-time from Iceland, Alaska and Norway via the Live Aurora Network Website, where you’ll be in with the highest chance of seeing the lights.

But there are some lesser known attractions in Iceland, such as the virtual tour of one of Iceland's beautiful cathedrals where you can soak in a bit of history. 

Or take a hike over to Dettifoss Waterfall, and witness Europe’s most powerful waterfall.

9. Bora Bora, French Polynesia - #borabora 1.7 million Instagram posts

If you have always wanted to go snorkeling, try exploring some of Bora Bora’s lesser known coral gardens tucked away on the Southern tip of the island. Marvel at some of the island's stunning wildlife all from the comfort of your sofa. 

10. Bern, Switzerland - #bern 13.5k Instagram posts

Soak up some of Bern’s famous art pieces by discovering Bern’s Fine Art Museum, established in 1879.

Or climb the tower at the Cathedral at Munsterplatz and see views right across the beautiful city of Bern. With so much fun to be had online, it’s worth doing a broadband speed test to make sure you’ve got a fast and reliable broadband connection. Compare broadband deals to see if you could be getting better broadband at a cheaper price.