Editor’s Note: This story was edited to add more online resources and activities on March 25, 2020.
While all sorts of entertainment and enrichment centers around the Great Lakes are closed in response to the coronavirus crisis, many of them are offering free online programs, activities and tours for the public to enjoy.
At the Shedd Aquarium, staff used the shutdown as an opportunity for animal enrichment when they let the aquarium’s penguins take a stroll around the empty facility, which can be seen online here.
Shedd Aquarium is also taking steps to increase virtual opportunities for human visitors. The aquarium is offering daily updates on their social media pages, learning opportunities through the “Sea Curious” YouTube series and livestreams from their sea star and sturgeon touch exhibits.
Ripley’s Aquariums has daily live content available free online, including story time, penguin and shark feedings, Q&As with staff and more.
Some museums are offering online learning opportunities for people sheltering at home. The Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin is offering lesson plans for at-home learning with podcasts and livestreams from inside the museum. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland is providing free educational resources and lesson plans as well.
The Frederik Meijer Gardens will be livestreaming its popular butterfly exhibit.
The National Park Service has live webcams for wildlife on its website as well as a series of educational videos called “Outside Science (inside parks)” that show students engaging in science in various parks, including Isle Royale National Park and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Pure Michigan has live webcams available showing popular tourist destinations including Alpena, Holland, Frankenmuth and various west Michigan locations. Pure Michigan will be sharing other opportunities for virtual experiences under the #VirtualPureMichigan tag on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
How long these places will be tentatively closed varies significantly by the museum, aquarium or facility. Chicago’s Field Museum website lists a reopening date of May 1, nearly two weeks after Shedd Aquarium, also in Chicago, which plans to remain closed until at least April 20.
Additional aquariums in the Great Lakes region that are temporarily closed to the public include Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit (until April 13), Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth (until April 15) and the Reiman Aquarium at Discovery World in Milwaukee (until further notice) and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada (until further notice).
Seasonal museums in the Great Lakes, like the Little Traverse Historical Museum in Petoskey, Michigan, are still closed but expect to open after Memorial Day as usual.
Access to state parks during the coronavirus crisis is available but varies. New York and Indiana have waived park access fees. Michigan parks are accessible for vehicles with recreational passports while Minnesota and Wisconsin have self-registration kiosks. Check with state DNR websites before visiting for current updates.
Starting midnight on March 25, Parks Canada is suspending access to all national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas until further notice. All motor vehicle access by visitors, visitor services and visitor facilities are suspended, including parking lots and washrooms.
Highways and roadways which pass through Parks Canada places will remain open.
Ontario provincial parks are closed to the public, from March 19 until April 30, including car camping, backcountry camping, roofed accommodations, day use opportunities and all public buildings.
More COVID-19 coverage from Great Lakes Now:
Featured Image: John G. Shedd Aquarium, Photo by Sandra Svoboda