The next time you’re packing for a vacation, stop to fire up your computer and dig around the Internet for some podcasts to load into your preferred MP3 player. No, not those podcasts. Travel guides.
A growing number of tourism promotion agencies, cultural institutions and even national parks are providing these portable recordings, though sometimes you have to dig around a Web site to find them, or type “podcast” into a search box. Some provide information that might be useful to know before you get there, and others are travelogues that can enhance your visit after you arrive. If you don’t want to take them along, you can just listen on your computer.
For example, are you planning to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium — http://www.mbayaq.org/ — the sea life complex on the California coast? Click on “What’s New & Events” and look for items such as the rare jellyfish exhibit, which has a podcast by a staff expert describing the “extraordinarily beautiful” creature and its way of life. Then look on that page for the “Aquarium of the Air” podcasts that cover everything from the aquarium’s Great Tide Pool to sea otters, sharks and gray whales, and a guide to wildlife viewing on the local Coast Guard Pier. Download them individually, or subscribe to the whole series.
For other things to see and do in the area, visit the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau — http://montereyinfo.org/ — to learn about Cannery Row, Pebble Beach and Monterey Wine Country. One of the towns to visit in the area is Carmel-By-the-Sea — http://www.carmelcalifornia.com/ — which has a video podcast on the local history. dating back to 1771.
Kids demanding that you take them to the theme parks in the Orlando, Fla., area? Before you go, surf to the Orlando/Orange County CVB — http://www.orlandoinfo.com/ — click on “Visitor Information,” then on “Vacation Planning” and look for “Orlando Podcasts.” These audio guides, plus one video podcast, have tips for planning a family vacation to the area. And if you don’t want to bother downloading them, they provide transcripts to read.
As long as you’re in Florida, plan to visit Everglades National Park — http://www.nps.gov/ever/ — where clicking on “Photos & Multimedia” will take you to podcasts that include an audio tour.
you can listen to while you drive through the main visitors’ areas. The Paurotis Pond to West Lake drive “winds through a botanical wonderland,” and provides access to several canoe trails, the narrator says.
A little farther north, the “Photos & Multimedia” page at Great Smoky Mountains National Park — http://www.nps.gov/grsm/ — directs you to the nonprofit Great Smoky Mountains Association — http://www.smokiesinformation.org/ — which offers a collection of free podcasts on bears, hiking, bird watching and more.
Want to get away from urban life in the Upper Midwest’s woods and lakes? Go to Wisconsin’s Door County — http://www.doorcounty.com/ — and take a little modern life with you in the form of podcasts. Run down the page to the “video and audio podcast” link to find downloadables about the local activities and attractions, entertainers and arts. There’s supposed to be a set of Door Audio Tours you can listen to as you explore the area, but most of them aren’t available yet.
Podcasts also are available for some entire states, such as Arkansas — http://www.arkansas.com/ — where you look on the right side of the page, for historic sites such as Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello — http://www.monticello.org/podcasts/index.html — and for historic Philadelphia — http://www.gophila.com/ — where you click on “Travel Tools” and look for “Podcast Tours.”