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9 Virtual Escapes to Make Any Day Feel Like a Vacation

LIFESTYLE

The beauty of webcams is the variety of life you can experience in real time: from adorable pets to breathtaking vistas, this medium tells stories with a perspective that was totally inaccessible, pre-internet. The sheer quantity can be overwhelming, so we (virtually) scoured the globe to compile the list of today’s best escapes worth watching — from beaches and wildlife parks to bustling cultural centers.

How did you know you’d love this? Well, it comes back to our new limited-edition Blonzer (that’s a blush-bronzer hybrid, FYI). When we dreamed it up many, many months ago, we were thinking about the fastest way to get a healthy glow before sprinting out the door; we certainly didn’t realize how much we’d be missing that feeling of coming in from the beach on the first day of vacation and seeing our skin with that flattering kiss of color from running around in the surf. Since all 3 shades keep selling out, we get the feeling you love getting that glow back with one sweep of a brush as much as we do. And let’s face it: these days, when so much of life is in front of a screen, it’s more important than ever to make the most of the goodness the internet has to offer. So today, we’ve got your imaginations covered — treat yourself to a relaxing live stream and a sun-kissed Blonzer glow to bring your virtual vacation dreams to life.

CITIES

Paris

Timeless European cities will be back on peoples’ bucket lists soon — and they’re just as compelling online. Grab a baguette, make a café au lait and take a virtual vacation to the Eiffel Tower courtesy of The Peninsula Hotel. This webcam scans the city at a leisurely pace, bookended by the tower on the right and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the left.

At night, the tower sparkles with its classic lights, and during the day it’s easy to envision a stroll through the city’s hilly arrondissements. The streaming window drops viewers right into the moment, and there are several bonus time lapses and replays. Just consider this a budget-friendly way to spend a romantic evening at home — with a 5-star hotel view.

Milan

We’re still in Europe, but this stream offers a different getaway: this time it’s to the Duomo Milano, the huge Gothic cathedral at the center of Milan. This stationary camera lets audiences meditate on the hustle and bustle of the city around this cultural and historical landmark. We love seeing the piazza come to life as the continuous flow of people around the Duomo makes the stream interesting to watch at any time of day, and the high-quality camera even captures the scene at night.

If you miss sunrise or sunset, the time lapse feature allows viewers to catch up on the day’s stream in just 30 seconds, and the photo tab allows for quick view of the day’s most impressive moments.

New York

Our headquarters are in New York City, and it would be impossible to ignore our home in this virtual travel roundup, especially with a high-quality camera sending a live feed of the Empire State Building for all the internet to see! It clearly defines midtown Manhattan and makes the Empire State Building’s famous lights look even more spectacular than the view from a double-decker bus. Bonus: this camera angle makes for incredible sunsets. We spotted some helicopters flying over the Hudson River in the distance and the webcam snagged a lens flare — an Instagrammable moment for this priceless view.

The toolbar is a little hard to find until you hover at the bottom of the stream window, but pinning it makes it easy to toggle between the live stream and the recording of the past 24 hours. The image capture tool lets viewers share stunning moments of the city that (still) never sleeps.

ANIMALS

Watering Hole in Laikipia County, Kenya

Connecting with nature is another popular getaway theme, and virtual vacations are no different. This 10-year-old webcam was a quick favorite: we immediately saw a herd of elephants drinking water along the beach after clicking on this webcam hosted by the Mpala Research Centre. Not long after, a family of hippos waded out of the water and up onto the shore.

Viewers can choose whether to watch via Explore.org or on YouTube. Both options feature the past 12 hours of recorded content and different discussion features. They recommend tuning in at dawn and dusk East Africa Time to catch the most animal action.

Virtual and IRL safaris have a lot in common — when animals are in their natural habitat, quiet times are common, and it may seem like not much is happening. We recommend playing detective: scroll back through to learn, for instance, that what seemed to be a log floating in the watering hole was actually a bunch of hippos waiting for a good time to emerge with their baby in tow!

Harbour Village Bonaire Coral Reef

For a trip under the sea, dive into the colorful world of this Caribbean coral reef. If you enjoyed the Academy Award-nominated documentary My Octopus Teacher, this live stream is definitely for you. Stationed in 16 feet of water north of Venezuela at the entrance of Harbour Village Marina, the webcam automatically moves through a dynamic 180-degree panorama. Thanks to Youtube’s user-friendly hosting platform, viewers can dial back up to the last 12 hours and engage with the different community aspects of the stream.

The deep blue water contrasts with the reef restoration structures built in 2015, where dozens of fish seek shelter and flit around. We love the group chat — veteran viewers help identify the regular stars of the stream and inform newcomers that the fish have names (bareMinerals family, meet Chad!) — and the additional resources in the description: one spreadsheet documents the most exciting moments of each day, and another one lists the different species spotted on the reef.

Hungry Hens Chicken Coop

If you doubt chickens would make for an exciting live experience, these dare you to get involved! They’re hilarious, hungry, and opinionated. The feed, hosted on YouTube by a user named Joe Did It, is an extremely interactive experience and makes the most of their quirky feathered characters.

Every chicken is introduced in an onscreen ticker (Cluck Norris is an obvious favorite) that alternates with an egg collection tally that is updated in real time. Audiences can see three different cameras at once: the coop, nesting box, and chicken run. The sophisticated chat function dispenses treats to the chickens, who are also automatically fed every time 20 new subscribers join the growing channel of over 10,000. We can see why Joe calls this “the most advanced live animal camera in the world”!

LANDSCAPES

Zanzibar

For a moment of Zen sprinkled with fun beach activities, make your way to Tanzania’s Kite Paradise Paje Beach. The crystal blue water, tropical thatching and glowing sand (clearly visible, even at night!) will transport you from whichever screen you’re staring at to this picturesque island. It’s a continuous video feed updated in real time, extending from the beach out into the water.

There’s no “rewind” function to see what happened earlier, so we encourage you to plan your viewing around East Africa Time to glimpse of kite surfers taking off and cruising around out into the Indian Ocean during the day — and don’t miss the pastel sunset colors reflected in the sky at sunset. Of course, the east-facing angle makes for great sunrises, too.

We love the abundance of information that begs you to scroll and learn more: weather and climate info, local context about Zanzibar, details about broader Tanzania, and links to other Baltic Live Cam sites — which we encourage exploring!

Val d’Isère

On the other side of the equator, the French Alps were quiet this year due to chairlift closures, making the ski season arguably the most subdued in recent memory. We are pleased to report that the live stream game is red hot in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, making for a pleasantly snowy virtual vacation.

Val d’Isère, a frequent World Cup host, lies close to the Italian border. The resort’s website boasts amazing quality, allowing for that après-ski life while you’re sitting at home with a glass of wine or a mug of cocoa, perusing their 10 webcams (updated at all hours with still snapshots), which pan to get the full experience of the ski town, from glaciers shining during the day to bright stars at night. Our favorite is the Bellevarde cam: this pristine view of the mountains will appeal to novice and advanced skiers alike. We also love the full 360 Solaise cam for dramatic sunsets. The images are updated throughout the day, but some will hold the day’s best for a little longer than others — and we’re not complaining!

International Space Station

We can say for certain that this stream from outer space is a virtual experience like no other! As the ISS completes an orbit every 90 minutes or so, the camera installed on the station’s Node 2 records the High Definition Earth Viewing experiment, which streams an astronaut’s view down to Earth (for over 300 million viewers and counting!).

Settling down and watching is a soothing meditation of clouds, oceans, and topography from the most unique perspective in the universe. If Node 2 goes offline, a continuous loop of previous recordings will populate the window. Click through the tabs beneath the window to learn more about HDEV and Node 2, and to see beautiful images from the stream going back several days — captured in still photos. The best part is that no matter what time of day you tune in, the view is truly breathtaking.