FAMILY & PARENTING

How To Use Google Maps To Take Kids All Over The World When They’re Stuck Indoors

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

Not too many of us were prepped to stay indoors for weeks on end. It’s even tougher for those of us who had to cancel big vacations.

Last year at this time, nobody could have dreamed that the world would be self-isolating in order to stop a virus in its tracks. But that’s where we are.

That doesn’t mean that you’re unable to technically view the world. Watching on screen might not be the same as viewing sites and attractions in person, but it’s better than nothing. These days, plenty of places like museums, aquariums, and historical sites are creating digital experiences that you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home.

But Google Maps has been offering a pretty cool experience for years now.

Its maps are interactive, meaning that you can tour everyday neighborhoods. Curious about the old house that you lived in as a child? Google Maps will take you there in just a few clicks, thanks to images it has gathered from Google Earth. Just make sure to view everything on satellite view to truly enjoy it.

If you have kids and you’re looking for a great way to feel a little less cooped up, here are the best places to visit on Google Maps that you can tour together, plus suggestions for how to make your journey educational.

Show Them the Buffalo in Tanzania

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You can search Google Maps by address or by direct location. To check out the buffalo, use the directions of 4°17’21.49″ S 31°23’46.46″ E. When you punch that in, you’ll magically find yourself in Tanzania.

In particular, these directions will bring you to the Kigosi Game Reserve. Its particular mission is “supporting recreation and prosperity through conservation.” Since you can’t often see buffalo in person, this destination is a treat.

See the Giant Triangle in Arizona

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Wittmann, Arizona, is the home of a giant triangle. It was found on Google Earth, and people were puzzled as to what it could be. While not completely fact-checked, someone on the internet says it’s an auxiliary airfield that was used during World War II. And that would make sense. You and your children can check it out for yourself using navigation points of 33.745111,-112.633645.

Visit Your Old Neighborhood

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If you’ve moved around a lot, Google Maps is a great way to “visit” old places. Google takes a snapshot of neighborhoods, and it’ll often take you down memory lane. You can also encourage your children to “visit” their friends’ houses digitally.

Street View is a pretty incredible tool that can even help you discover new local places. Of course, since you’re staying home, for now, you’ll want to jot them down to visit once this health scare is behind us.

See Ohio's Heart-Shaped Lake

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Right now, we need all the love we can get. And yes, lakes count. Columbia Station, Ohio, has a gorgeous lake that you can view at points 41.303921, -81.901693. But there’s a ton of mystery behind it. Express writes that it doesn’t seem to be open to the public, and it may have been created by someone on their own private property. At least we can all enjoy it from a safe distance.

Check Out the World's Largest Pool in Valparaíso, Chile

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Did you know that Valparaíso, Chile, is the home of the world’s largest swimming pool? It’s pretty intimidating once you get the measurements. Five Star Alliance reports that it’s 3,000 feet long and has a “deep end” that goes down 115 feet. It holds 250 million liters of water. It’s intense. But it’s way less threatening when you view it on Google Maps, using the location of -33.350534, -71.653268.

Check Out the Potash Ponds in Utah

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The potash ponds in Moab, Utah, look absolutely beautiful, thanks to Google Earth. Curious about what potash is? It’s a salt that contains a ton of potassium that’s great for fertilizing farms. The ponds are man-made and dyed blue for a reason. And that is, per HuffPost, so that they’ll end up absorbing more heat. These ponds aren’t great to just walk into, so your view on Google (at 38°29’0.16″ N, 109°40’52.80″ W) is all you need.

Visit Mount Rushmore

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The coordinates of 43°52’44.50″ N, 103°27’35.17″ W will take you to Mount Rushmore. It’s a little hard to actually see the presidents from this view, but the surrounding area is absolutely gorgeous. It’s the next best thing to booking a flight to South Dakota. If you check out the photos on Google Earth, you can zoom in so much that you’ll be able to see tour groups taking their pictures right in front of the display.

Travel to Ayers Rock in Australia

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Also known as Uluru, Ayers Rock is a big sandstone rock that’s treasured by those who live close to it. Supposedly it gets its standout red color due to its iron-bearing minerals slowly rusting. If you’re a fan of geology, or you simply want to visit Australia some day, you can “visit” on Google Maps using coordinates -25.344375, 131.034401.

Ask your kids where they've always wanted to go.

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Google Maps will literally let you travel anywhere for free — and you don’t even have to pack a suitcase. By typing addresses and landmarks, you can get your child interested in geography. And it’ll help them if they’re feeling a little cooped up. It’s a shame we can’t go out and really see the world right now, but this is the next best alternative. There are so many wonderful things to find online.

If you're homeschooling right now, this is a great side project.

If you're homeschooling right now, this is a great side project.

If there’s just a loose itinerary set by your child’s teacher, you can use Google Maps to create a wonderful (and not too time-consuming) lesson plan. Have your child pretend that they’re living in a neighborhood overseas. Have them visit and research some of the top destinations in that city. You can even go further and have them look up which types of food, music, and entertainment are important in other cultures. They can learn all of this without taking one step outside.