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A Virtual Visit to New York City: Part 2 – Beyond the Arts

A Virtual Visit to New York City: Part 2 – Beyond the Arts

A few weeks ago, we here at New York City Vacation Packages (NYCVP) discovered that although New York City is closed for tourism as we know it – it certainly is not closed for 2020’s most popular way to experience sought after destinations – virtually. In fact, after searching through emails and various travel websites we found that the arts are alive and well in cyberland and proceeded to take our travel advisor community on a virtual tour of the them (think museums, opera, ballet and of course – Broadway). Since then we have discovered so much more going on that we could quite possibly create Parts 3, 4, 5, etcetera – much of it thanks to our fabulous friends at NYC and Company.


That being said, we have decided to whittle down our second installment into six more topics that are available to everyone, everywhere via desktop, laptop, phone or tablet. Once again we invite you – our valued travel advisors – to use the information to keep up on your own New York City knowledge, to share with your clients who may have had to postpone their visit (or have planned or are planning one post-pandemic) or simply for your own enjoyment. 


Now sit back, fasten your virtual seat belt and enjoy this journey intended to highlight just a few more areas of interest still happening – albeit virtually – in our favorite city.


Animals and Aquariums


The Bronx Zoo now has an entire page on its website devoted to their virtual viewing offerings. Among the virtual exhibits you will find three live cams – one at the Sea Lion Pool, one at the Aquatic Bird House and the other in the Madagascar! Exhibit (where you can watch the delightful lemurs climbing trees and swinging from ropes). Bonus – you can also tune in to see two daily feedings at the Sea Lion Pool (11:00am and 3:00pm EST) as well as at the Aquatic Bird House (12:30pm and 3:30pm EST). That’s not all – this page also features a virtual visit video series that updates frequently allowing you to get an up close and personal look at what goes into the care of the animals behind the scenes of the zoo.


Creatures of the aquatic nature more your speed? The New York Aquarium’s website is also offering live cams – two to be exact – operating daily from 10:00am to 4:00pm EST and guaranteed to keep you captivated. The first – Ocean Wonders – features sharks, sturgeons and rays. The second – Spineless – showcases its giant Pacific octopus among other invertebrates. You’ll also want to check out their social media accounts (think Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) for frequent pop-up live feeds and videos.


And for plenty of interesting stories and updates on life at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s zoos (which include those above as well as Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo – plus the aquarium) check out their blog Wild View – An Eye on Wildlife. You will find more here than just features on the zoos and the aquarium – there are plenty of tales of wildlife in their natural habitats as well. Here you will also find an interactive section called Assignments that gives you an excuse to get outside, take some pictures and show off your photography skills all while social distancing.



Parks and Plants


If you are longing for the days of strolling through the city’s many green spaces the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation website is home to virtual tours of many of the 30,000 acres it oversees – including Riverside Park, The Greenbelt (located on Staten Island), Fort Washington Park and more. To experience the City’s most recognizable park – the Central Park Conservancy has divided Central Park into six sections to tour virtually – as well as monthly mile-long walks, tree walks and even guided tours. And the historic elevated railway turned park – the Highline – has an app (available for Android and iOS) that you can download to experience its uniqueness from the comfort of your home. 


And speaking of parks – don’t forget the amusement type! Back in 2004 Coney Island put together the Coney Island History Project. One fabulous inclusion is an online collection of stories told by those who lived them – all housed in the section titled Oral History Archive.  The recorded interviews (last tally was 360!) recount memories from as far back as 1870 to as recent as last year and include such participants as shopkeepers, sideshow proprietors, ride operators and “polar bears” – all guaranteed to give you hours of listening pleasure. 


Even though it often feels as though the world has come to a standstill these days – the seasons have still come and gone as usual. Thankfully, we do not have to miss out on the beauty of nature shedding its winter coat in New York City this year simply because we are homebound.  First, there is the New York Botanical Garden. Although they are closed during the pandemic – they are inviting everyone to see spring come to life right before their eyes with a series of both video and picture highlights of the seasons most beautiful blossoms. In addition, they also have online classes to participate in, children’s activities that are fun and educational and Facebook Watch Parties too.


If you are missing cherry blossom season the Brooklyn Botanical Garden has you covered with their virtual tour of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and the Cherry Esplanade and Cherry Walk. Wave Hill in the Bronx (a public garden and cultural center) is also keeping you close to nature with their Neighborhood Naturalist series narrated by Gabriel Willow.  And finally, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden also has a section devoted to our “new normal” called Snug Harbor at Home. Here you can find videos, live events, virtual tours and explorations as well as hands-on educational activities – in fact, there is pretty much something here for every age group!


Books and Booze 


For all of you bookworms out there you will be happy to hear that the New York Public Library has a page on their website devoted to all of the remote content they have available – including a free e-reader app on which to enjoy any of the more than 300,000 e-books and e-audiobooks they have on hand for you to borrow. Over at the Brooklyn Public Library you can find virtual programming taking the place of face-to-face events. These presentations range in topics from financial guidance to social issues and from yoga to knitting groups – and are offered via a variety of mediums including Facebook Live and Zoom. The indie bookstore Books Are Magic out of Cobble Hill in Brooklyn is keeping previously scheduled in-store events going via Zoom as well. And the little ones have not been forgotten! Bravo’s Book Nook (at the Players Theater out of Greenwich Village) is hosting weekly story times with Bravo (an adorable pup) on Facebook Live for the kids – or those who are simply kids at heart.


Just because New York’s wineries and breweries are closed to the public does not mean you still cannot imbibe. Over at the Brooklyn Winery they are holding virtual wine tastings in which you can participate with or without wine (which is sold in 4-packs and vary in cost). Each wine tasting will be held on Facebook Live, will feature two of the four wines purchased and is a totally interactive experience where you are free to ask questions and get responses live. Afterwards, a recording of each session will be added to their Facebook page and available for you to reference any time you would like. If your taste buds are more fans of hops rather than of grapes, then you too have a virtual option. City Brew Tours is holding beer events at home including topics such as home brewing and cheese and beer pairings. You can book these events for private or group participation – all while donating to a good cause – as 5% of all event proceeds will go to Feeding America to help fight hunger during the pandemic. Both events are held via Zoom with an option to get the supplies shipped right to each participant’s home.


So, as you can see, the City That Never Sleeps has come up with plenty of at-home options to help pass the time until we can once again take a real bite out of the Big Apple! 





New York City Vacation Packages has been a trusted NYC travel information authority since 1983 and is the only major independent tour company in the United States devoted exclusively to NYC travel.  NYCVP offers services to make sure your custom New York City vacation is safe and secure, and is a member in good standing of NYC & Company (New York City’s marketing and tourism organization), the National Tour Association, Better Business Bureau and the American Society of Travel Agents Tour Operator Program.