As much as I love calling out the lame excuses my friends and family try to toss out as reasons for not traveling, I can understand that many people — myself included — aren’t really prepared to drop everything at a moment’s notice for a round-the-world adventure. Thankfully, this is where the Internet steps in.
These scenic webcams helped to (at least temporarily) make me feel like a traveler, regardless of how many vacation days I’ve got saved up (none):
1. Times Square, New York City, USA
Find it: Times Square Cam
Earthcam has several different views of Times Square in New York City, including some that are HD quality and viewer controllable. My personal favorite is Cam 2 on 46th and Broadway, which shows a street-level view of taxis, tourists waving at the camera, and — when I looked, anyway — three dudes in denim vests walking in a row. I watched this camera for no less than 30 minutes, shouting at a guy in plaid who wouldn’t stop walking while texting, cheering when a street vendor finally made a sale, and wondering why so many parents had their children out after midnight.
2. Santorini, Greece
Find it: Caldera view
This webcam view of Santorini’s caldera is taken from the top of the Heliotopos Hotel. While it may not be quite as action-packed as Times Square, it’s definitely a sight for my landlocked eyes. The image refreshes itself automatically every 60 seconds, although not very much changes between reloads. Still, zoning out with this view to watch the clouds float serenely by did wonders to take my mind off the thunderstormy weather here in Mammoth Lakes.
3. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Find it: Eiffel Tower Cam
This live-streaming camera is placed on the balcony of a nearby residence with one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower I’ve ever seen. Filling the frame, the tower is really all you can see here, aside from a few birds flying by and the occasional human on the terrace. I took a look on a gray, overcast day and the iconic tower still looked incredible, spurring immediate daydreams about picnics and baguettes. Judging by the Hall of Fame photos, however, I’ll have to tune back in once nightfall arrives in Paris to see this landmark in all its glittery glory.
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Find it: DonnieCam Amsterdam
This camera streams live from a busy intersection in the center of Amsterdam, where you can watch people go about their daily routines. I tuned in on a rainy morning and got to witness a child in an orange raincoat, a cyclist holding an umbrella narrowly (at least from my blurry vantage point) escape a collision with a trashcan, and very few actual cars. Gotta love a city that still bikes in the rain.
5. Mission Beach, San Diego, USA
Find it: Mission Beach Cam
One of my new favorite things to do in the middle of a snowy winter storm is to open up this webcam view of Mission Beach and hope that it’s raining, just so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on any San Diego sunshine. Unfortunately, the weather is normally perfect and there’s never any shortage of smiling beach-goers walking, skating, or biking by. This webcam is best viewed by day, when you can watch the waves roll in and keep an eye out for any cute puppies out on walks. Bonus points if you happen to catch a glimpse of Slo-Mo rollerblading on the boardwalk.
6. Nkorho Pan, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
Find it: Live Streaming Safari camera
When I first clicked onto this webcam, it was a fuzzy black and white image of something that looked like a big puddle. I didn’t expect much, but I forgot that this is Africa. Live from the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, which is connected to Kruger National Park, this camera actually gives views of real living-in-the-wild wildlife. I left the page running while I went to grab a snack and almost spilled my coffee when I returned to a black-and-white image of a 4-legged critter peering briefly toward the camera before dipping its head to take a drink. Remember to check back at night if you don’t see anything during daylight hours.
7. St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City
Find it: Webcam Basilica di S.Pietro
Aimed straight down into St. Peter’s Square, this webcam shows a clear view of the piazza with the basilica in the background. The camera is a little high off the ground to really see what people are doing, but this is definitely a unique vantage point for crowded events. There’s not much going on in the square this evening, and with the camera set to refresh only every few minutes, it didn’t hold my interest much longer than it took to enjoy the view of the dome. But I’ll be coming back to view again on Wednesday, when the pope makes his weekly appearance.
8. Harbour Hopper Tour, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Find it: Harbour Hopper
Scenic webcams aren’t all completely stationary. This one, positioned on the top of the Harbour Hopper amphibious tour bus, updates every 5 seconds as the views change. It was fun to follow along with the tour through downtown Halifax and the harbor without having to deal with my hair uncomfortably whipping around my face, like the poor lady in the black sweatshirt I sympathized with from home.