June 2021

Out of gas … go virtual!

By Dr. Amy L. Holland, Geography teacher
Grimsley Junior High School, Bentonville, Arkansas


Many people around the United States are feeling the effects of rising gas prices. In some regions of the country, gas is nowhere to be found. The frustration is obvious by the newsreels of cars lined up along roads and freeways, waiting for their turn at the pump, only to find out the gas has run out! As summer approaches families may find themselves out of quarantine, but still unable to travel due to gas shortages or rising gas prices. Never fear, once again, the Internet is here!

One of my favorite virtual tours includes George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. This tour is super detailed, with great resolution in every inch of the tour. One gets the feeling of being in the same room, with Washington, during his time of living at Mount Vernon. The tour begins with a look at the front of the estate, followed by links to travel to the East front and piazza, stable, lawn, and finally the gardens. The descriptions even include various quotes from Washington himself. My favorite area at first included the stable, as I am an avid horse lover! However, upon visiting the gardens, I found myself intrigued by the various plants and flowers present. The entire garden’s well-manicured area is so beautiful!

As we travel from the East coast, I can’t help but stop by the Kentucky Derby. As a horse owner and avid fan of the incredible power of this animal, a virtual field trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the derby. Although the actual virtual tour differs from that of Mount Vernon’s tour, it’s still pretty impressive. Visitors can take a picture tour of each area of the derby grounds, including the exhibits. Videos create a more lifelike experience for the viewer. One exhibit featuring women riders from the early 60s to present day definitely caught my attention! This and other exhibits allow viewers to experience the hype surrounding derby racing.

If horse racing gets you excited, to the point of raising your blood pressure, a quick trip to Northwest Arkansas can help settle you back down again. Okay, so yes, I’m a fan! Bentonville, Arkansas is my hometown, born and raised! It’s seen a lot of changes over the years. Perhaps one of the best being the addition of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The museum has beautiful artwork, both from the past and present, and equally beautiful nature areas surrounding its grounds. Crystal Bridges offers virtual reality experiences within many of their exhibits. My favorite includes the tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright House. I haven’t yet toured the house and found the virtual reality option to be an amazing tour!

Another favorite in the same vicinity includes the Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri. The museum is promoting the “Titanic Anchor Story” for those traveling to various areas of the globe. On Thursdays the website hosts “Storytime with Jodi.” This is such a fun experience for students and adults! The website has many virtual items for touring the museum.

Our last stop includes a short trek across the water to the island of Honolulu, Hawaii. Of course since we are virtually attending we are avoiding all the airport lines and turbulence involved in air travel. Iolani Palace is a beautiful, historical building in the city of Honolulu. This palace was a home to many Hawaiian monarchs, hosting royalty from around the globe! The virtual tour gives a detailed, colorful floor plan. It works great with virtual reality goggles as well! I could put myself in the palace itself, as if I were looking outside at the lawn. This last stop in our virtual road trip is definitely a must for anyone who loves to follow royalty!

Although during this time of high gas prices, or no gas at all, one has endless possibilities for U.S. and global travel via the Internet. It is truly a great way to immerse oneself in the history, landscape, and culture while still enjoying the comforts of home!


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