Note: We know COVID-19 is impacting travel plans right now. For a little inspiration, we’ll continue to share stories from our favorite places around the world so you can keep daydreaming about your next adventure.
Productivity at Thrillist Travel was disastrously derailed recently when an editor dropped a brown bear live cam into a group Slack, sending us all into a tailspin of staring at a globe-spanning array of adorable animals before we clicked over to find ourselves in... space. This sort of thing is hard to fight these days -- the less travel we’re doing physically, the more travel we want to enjoy virtually.
To scratch a little wanderlust itch, we gathered some of the of the most relaxing, satisfying, bizarre, and/or energizing live streams to help you explore the world around you in highly specific, endlessly hypnotic ways. Come for the bears. Stay for to send bubbles to folks in Florida.
Behold, the brown bear cam
This cam is trained on Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska, where we recently observed a dozen grizzlies, shoulder-deep in an Alaskan stream, surveilling untold scores of salmon furiously trying to fling themselves up a waterfall. Why salmon have simply not evolved to be able to lay their eggs in the saltwater where they spend their adult lives rather than swimming 1,000 miles upstream past all these bears is beyond me, but then there are many things about this world we do not understand. Regardless, as I thought about this I sent the cam to eight separate friends and relatives accompanied by the text, “IMPORTANT.”
After returning to this multiple times over the course of the previous 24 hours and realizing that it was always daytime for the bears, I realized this isn’t a current live stream, but a three-hour-plus loop of a live stream from 2019. The emotional impact remained unchanged.
Visit multiple zoos and aquariums at once
Among the many zoos currently offering choice live cams of the critters they house are the Oakland Zoo and the San Diego Zoo, plus the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Between these you’ve got live cams dedicated to -- and this isn’t even a complete list -- penguins, pandas, baboons, polar bears, elephants, grizzly bears, sun bears, black bears, jellyfish, sea otters, and sharks.
Go vampire hunting in Transylvania
Transport to the Old Town of Brasov, located in the vampire region of Transylvania. Brasov is surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains -- which you’ll see in this live stream -- and dotted with distinct European architecture, including Dracula's castle. The stream, like his love for Winona Ryder, is eternal, so feel free to stare at it all night monitoring for bats.
Become a wolf watcher
If you prefer lycanthropy instead of vampirism -- but aren’t looking to actually get bitten by a wolf -- watch them play in their den all day instead. Red wolves, Mexican gray wolves, and ambassador wolves are the furry canines you’ll see lingering around the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, New York.
Drop in on wild elephants, lions, and leopards
Africam features a number of live cams you can choose from, all trained on different wildlife watering holes and other hotspots in South Africa. Bliss out to scenes of wild dogs tearing apart a hippo carcass. You’ve earned it.
Don't worry, there's a cam for pretty much every animal
Here we have, uh, sloths, lions, burrowing owls, penguins, and pandas both red and giant. Open multiple windows and you'll have a virtual zoo that might inspire Joe Exotic to write a highly accusatory country song about you.
Get schooled in science and embrace your inner psychic
The Pacific Science Center is offering live streamed science shows, which are a handy way to keep your brain from turning further into oatmeal during self-isolation. Upcoming shows include the likes of “Amazing Psychic Powers” and “Live Snakes.”
Blow some bubbles
Time to virtually meander over to Andie & Mike’s bubble cam, located in this couple’s backyard in south Florida. In a fun interactive twist, you control a stream of bubbles floating across their patio by hitting (clicking) a button labeled “Bubbles.” A bubble machine will respond accordingly. Sometimes, life's about the simple pleasures.
Hang out at an iconic Caribbean bar
The Soggy Dollar, iconic beach bar of the British Virgin Islands and birthplace of the Painkiller cocktail, turns 50 this year. Celebrate by visiting the bar’s live webcam, which you can have playing in the background while you mix up one of the cocktails yourself like a boozy version of Netflix's beloved Netflix’s Fireplace For Your Home. Check your cupboards for dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, orange juice, and ideally fresh-grated nutmeg.
Now that you've got your beach cocktail game on lock, you can plug into the beach of your choice. Thanks to 360-degree virtual reality, you can visit many of them from the comfort of your home. Whether you want to pretend you're in the Maldives, beam into the Greek Isles, or just go full Lauren Conrad, there's a beach for you.
Watch birds get their grub on in some rando's yard
According to our absolute buzzkill of a legal department, it’s socially unacceptable and illegal to wander into a stranger’s backyard, even if its for purely ornithological purposes. This live stream of a bird feeder in Ohio near Cuyahoga Valley National Park lets you observe nature the safe way. See over 20 bird species, including blue jays, mourning doves, and red-bellied woodpeckers without those pesky trespassing charges.
Kittens! We forgot to mention the kittens!
Ok, last adorable animals, we swear. If this live stream of adoptable shelter kittens lounging around doesn’t give you a minor endorphin rush, you should have your heart checked to make sure it’s still there. This one isn’t on 24/7, so keep checking back if you don’t see anything at first. Very worth it.
Get behind the wheel of a big rig
If you always felt like you missed your calling as a truck driver, tune into Big Rig Travels to see what you’ve been missing. It’s a live first-person account of what it’s like to criss-cross the country in an 18-wheeler from a driver named Steve.
Literally watch the grass grow
Have you ever watched grass grow? Have you ever watched grass grow... online? This Colorado-based cam started in the early aughts as a way for a homeowner to track how his drought-ridden lawn was recovering. If you’re lucky, you may even catch him... gasp... cutting it!
Wait for the Loch Ness Monster!
Some people say the Loch Ness Monster is nothing but a naturally occurring wind-swept ripple in the water, others claim they’ve seen some Diplodocus-esque beast breach the surface several times. Now you can keep a watchful eye on the storied waters all day and night if you want thanks to this cam, which is perched atop a lakeside pasture.
Let’s go ahead and check in on this active volcano
Here we have a Costa Rica volcano cam. This live cam is trained on the Arenal Volcano, the youngest volcano in Costa Rica and also one of the most famous. It’s spent the past few years in a resting phase, but you can sometimes see spews of water vapor and gas to keep you on your toes.
And, finally, take yourself all the way to the International Space Station
Check out the views straight from Node 2 of the ISS, which in addition to being incredibly soothing might help you keep your social distancing in perspective.