March 25, 2020

11 National Trust Historic Sites and National Treasures to Explore Virtually

It may seem impossible to grasp the grandeur of a Gothic Revival mansion from your home, or the majesty of 1.35 million acres of indigenous lands, but it is not. Exploring these spaces from the intimacy of your kitchen table or a favorite chair can be just as eye-opening, because you have the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in these spaces without worrying about external factors. All you have to do is sit back and decide to explore.

While virtual tours do not provide the sensory experience of driving on Route 66 at night, or touching the packed earth beneath your feet at Bears Ears, they can still open up your mind to new lives and places (if you’ll let them). To facilitate every armchair traveler who is staying safe at home right now, we’ve pulled together a list of some of our favorite virtual tools for you to explore.

1 Though Nina Simone's Childhood Home is not currently open to the public, you can visit it through a virtual reality tour from Google Arts & Culture, narrated by Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist, composer, actress, and playwright Nnenna Freelon.

2 One of the National Trust’s National Treasures, Bears Ears spans over 1.35 million acres and encompasses a wealth of historic sites (including cave dwellings and ancient roads) sacred to Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Zuni Tribe.In 2017, the National Trust joined litigation led by the tribes, along with partners including Patagonia Works, to protect this land. If you haven’t seen Patagonia’s beautiful collection of Bears Ears videos and tours yet, please do. They are exquisite.

Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

photo by: Bob Wick

A gorgeous view of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

3 Lyndhurst has a total of five virtual tours available to explore, including one of the mansion when it’s spooked up for Halloween. There’s also a Christmas tour of the mansion for those of you who prefer red bows and warm lighting to skulls and spider web-covered cakes.

4 If you haven’t visited Montpelier, the lifelong home of James and Dolley Madison (and home to one of the largest archaeology projects on slavery in the United States), take a look around the house in this online tour.

5 Experience Route 66 from anywhere in the world with this Google Voyager tour of ten historic sites along the road. To access Preserve Route 66, open this link through your Google Chrome browser while signed into your Google account. As an alternative, you can also download the Google Voyager application to your smartphone or tablet to explore these sites. For a different view of the Mother Road, you can browse our Route 66 Google Arts and Culture exhibit.

At twilight, the geometric cutouts glow from the light inside.

photo by: Lincoln Barbour

Exterior view of Pope-Leighey House in Virginia at twilight.

6 Visit the Pope-Leighey House, the Usonian home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, via our story map that envisions it as an affordable home for the average Jane Doe.

7 Villa Lewaro isn't usually open to the public, but you can still take a virtual tour from Google Arts & Culture of this historic property, with narration from Madam C.J. Walker's great-great granddaughter A'Lelia Bundles. (Then watch the new miniseries "Self Made" from Netflix.)

8 If you’re into sharp angles and moody, futuristic lighting, enjoy this art installation filmed at Farnsworth House titled “Geometry of Light,” by Luftwerk and Iker Gil. If virtual tours aren’t your style, but you love history that revolves around volatile relationships and lawsuits, consider listening to Alex Beam’s new book (but first, read our Q&A with the author) Broken Glass: Mies van der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight Over a Modernist Masterpiece on Audible.

9 Check out President Woodrow Wilson House’s Instagram, where staff have been posting a variety of quarantine-friendly content, including this virtual tour of the property. Or, if Impressionist art is more your style, dive into First Lady Edith Axon Wilson’s paintings in this Google Arts & Culture exhibit.

10 Explore Chesterwood, the home and studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French, while also learning about a handful of French’s most notable works (including the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial) in this video.

11 Lastly, the National Trust’s portfolio of historic sites also contains a trove of objects. You can explore these at your leisure via our online collections portal, which houses a variety of online exhibits (including this one on how women have shaped American art).

Donate Today to Help Save the Places Where Our History Happened.

Donate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation today and you'll help preserve places that tell our stories, reflect our culture, and shape our shared American experience.

Emma Peters is the Associate Manager to the Chief Marketing Officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A history graduate, she is constantly humbled by the way past lives and societies can alter the way we consume the present.

Announcing the 2024 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

See the List