Thursday, March 17, 2011

Virtual Spring Break Vacation

This year we decided to stay home for spring break.  Actually, most years we decide to stay home for spring break.  We've taken a few "big" trips like to Sea World in San Antonio and Disney World in Florida (which was extremely packed and hard to maneuver through the crowds of spring break families!), but most times we are in the Metroplex.  As a mom, I take advantage of the free time the girls have and usually have them clean their closets that have been neglected over the past several months.  I fear losing our cat or dog if they ever wandered into one of the girls closets. Occasionally we will try to find some things to do that we either wouldn't normally do or that we never find the time to do.  This year, however, our youngest daughter got a new job and started training this week and our oldest daughter is finishing up working at a retail job before she starts a more "professional" job next week, so that leaves us with not a lot of time to do anything as a family. Sad, I know, right?

a. zoom bar
This predicament brings me to my "virtual vacation" idea.  My favorite place in all the world (world=US since I've never been anywhere out of the US) is NYC.  New York City captured my heart the first time I visited in 2004 and continues to have a very firm grasp on it to this day. For those that have never been to NYC, it's hard to explain the fascination with the city and I can't even give you a specific reason as to why I love it there.  It's probably because there isn't one specific thing, rather many, many things that make up the one thing...NYC.  So, since travelling over spring break wasn't going to happen this year, I decided to "walk" the streets of New York City from the comfort of my home and with the visualization help from my laptop.  How can I visit my favorite city without ever leaving my home?  I'm glad you asked!  I use Google Maps!  I navigate to the page and at the top of the page I type in "Manhattan, NY" which brings up the map.  In that top right corner you should make sure the little box says "satellite" and not "map". It comes up in a zoomed out view so I use the bar on the upper left corner of the map (a. zoom bar) and click a few bars up towards the "+" sign so that it's zoomed in a little bit more. You can "grab" your map to move it around by putting your cursor on the map and left-clicking your mouse. Holding down on the left button of your mouse, move your cursor around to get to the area you want to view. Once you're zoomed in a little closer, click on the little yellow "person" at the top of that bar and start to move it towards the part of the map you want to look at.  When you start to move it over you'll notice some blue lines light up on the map.  Wherever there are blue lines you can drop that person there and you'll be standing on that street. (unless you're zoomed in too close and then it just looks black!).
b. street level view

When you get to this street level view (b.) you can then turn around in different directions by using the round button in the top left of the screen.  It has arrows pointing north, south, east and west so when you click on one it turns in that direction.  (The whole time there is a little box in the bottom right of the screen that shows you the yellow person figure and which direction you're facing.)  You'll also notice some arrows show up on the street.  If you click on those it'll move you in that direction, like you're walking down the street.  When I'm on my virtual walking tour I "walk" down the street a little bit, stop, and then turn to look in all directions so it makes me feel like I'm really there.  When you move down the street using the arrows you'll also be able to turn down other streets if there are arrows pointing on that street as well. Unfortunately you aren't able to walk into stores and look around but I do think "there's an app for that" on the new iPad ;-)

For the fun of it, sometimes I'll open another tab on my computer and go to the Times Square Earth Cam, turn on the volume and have the sounds of New York while I take my virtual stroll down the streets of Manhattan.  Then, if I truly want the full experience I'll open my trashcan and set it beside me, turn the sound up on my computer and go to NYC. :)

You can visit just about anywhere using the satellite street view on Google Maps.  One other time I used it to visit my friend in NC (Hi Susan!) when she was moving to a new house. She gave me her new address and I looked it up on Google Maps and then strolled through her neighborhood to get a glimpse of her new home. It's kind of fun to play with the Maps application like that so it then gives you a general idea and perspective of things when you're talking with your friend on the phone or chatting on facebook.

So when you're wishing you were on a little vacation somewhere, look it up on Google Maps and then do like I did this spring break and take a "virtual vacation"!  Let me know if you have any questions and I'll try to help you with your vacation :)

My coffee's done brewing so I'll catch you later!

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