For the foreseeable future, the virus will dominate our lives, forcing us into weeks of social distancing and self-isolation. If you’re like me, you’re going a little stir crazy––there’s only so much Netflix a person can binge. And if you have young kids at home, the experience has got to be extra special. *She snickers sarcastically*
Coming to the rescue are businesses, large and small, from near and far, delivering amazing free content to help us deal––content they’ve created to keep us entertained, educated and delighted in an effort to remain connected to the public. I’m talking about concerts, literary readings, kids’ activities, virtual tours, wellness videos, cooking lessons, you name it.
Below is a list of engaging possibilities I found from stories I’ve read, recommendations from others, and my own research. I tried to include a variety of interests.
I’m learning about more every day so I’ll update the list periodically. I recommend bookmarking this page for when you’re in the mood for something new.
Collaborate with Lena Dunham
Lena Dunham is in a wildly creative mood. She’s penning a modern romance called “Verified Strangers” with new updates every morning at 7 am on Vogue.com. If you’re feeling motivated, take part in how the story rolls out by voting for the direction of the plot in the next chapter.
Wellness & Food
The Healing Benefits of Writing
Jayne Portnoy (if her name rings a bell, she’s my cousin), is making her Pen2Paper Project writing workshops free to the public. Normally held in person, Jayne is bringing her helpful exercises to the web. Each group session focuses on a unique theme and uses analog journaling and letter writing to build coping skills in addition to unlocking thoughts and emotions we typically ignore in our fast-paced, overly-digitized culture.
Yoga When You Need It
Corepower Yoga is offering a “special selection” of 10 classes on Demand for free. Each week, a new set will be available.
Prioritizing Self Care
CreativeLive.com is making its Mental Wellness and Physical Health videos available to the public. Titles such as Meditation for Everyday Life, Manage Stress Through Mindfulness, and The Science of Happiness: How to Live Your Best Life. On the workout front, they offer Yoga Strength Basics for Beginners, Achieve Ultimate Human Performance, and Body Strong.
Executive Chef Shares Secrets
Silvia Grossi, the Executive Chef from Il Salviatino in Fiesole, Italy, is teaching from her home kitchen in Florence twice weekly on the hotel’s Instagram feed. She speaks in Italian but it’s easy to follow and recipes, using ingredients you probably already have at home, are included in the description.
Nature Around the Globe
Explore.org, one of my favorite pastimes, is a goldmine of real-time nature plus an array of recorded highlights of amazing animals around the world in their natural habitats, zoos, and rescue environments.
There are numerous live cams showcasing the Northern Lights, adorable bears, bird nests (eagles, hummingbirds, great blue heron, osprey to name a few) a kitten sanctuary, a tropical fish aquarium, a hummingbird’s nest, African wildlife, polar bears. You get my drift. There are dozens of cams from which to choose.
(I previously put together a list of only African-Cams specifically if you’re interested.)
Visit Albuquerque has a nifty 360-degree virtual video tour that begins with a ride down the Sandia Peak Tramway and takes you on brief video tours based on various passions such as art, food, and music. Plus, groovy views of the world-renowned International Balloon Fiesta with perspectives from the ground as well as within the flurry of more than 500 hot air balloons.
Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 10 virtual live cams are not available 24/7 but during the downtimes, there are videos to watch while you wait. (All times are Pacific)
Aviary (10 am – 10 pm); Coral Reef ( 12:30 pm – 8 pm ); Jelly Fish ( 10 am – 9 pm); Kelp Forest ( 10 am – 10 pm ); Monteray Bay ( 24 hrs ); Moon Jelly ( 10 am – 10 pm ); Open Sea ( 10 am – 10 pm ); Penguin ( 10 am – 9 pm ); Sea Otter ( 10 am – 10 pm ); Shark ( 10 am – 10 pm )
Yosemite is closed but not on the web. With the sounds of chirping birds, rushing rivers, and raging winds included, check out 200 locations delivered in 360-degree interactive panoramas.
It’s hatching season in Japan’s Hyogo Park! Watch a pair of Oriental white storks raise their cute little hatchlings in real-time. (Remember, Japan is 13 hours ahead of the East Coast. If you log on during their night you won’t see a thing.)
The Google “Arts and Culture” Collection
A Selfie Worth Taking
“Art Selfies” I can vouch is an addictive time-killer. Snap a classic selfie with the mobile (Android, iPhone) in-app camera and see which famous historical paintings have facial attributes most like yours. (Should I be upset that most of the paintings I resemble are of men? Hmmm).
Gallery Geeks, get ready! Google, in collaboration with museums around the globe, delivers a staggering number of virtual tours of new and permanent exhibits. What you see depends on the institution, but across the board, it’s damn impressive.
Hint: Change your expression or angle in your selfie, and you’ll see a slew of new masterpieces.
Explore Versaille‘s gilded, tourist-free halls with a three-part over-the-top tour. Part 1: includes “fun facts to long reads about Versailles through time.” Part 2: Artworks up close from royalty portraits to iconic interiors. Part three: is touted as “Never-Before-Seen Content with 3D models, virtual tours, and VR experiences.” Magnifique!
Performances, Talks, and Such (Live and Otherwise)
“Ailey All Access”
Alvin Ailey, the legendary dance company, is offering full-length videos of its performances on Thursdays as part of the troop’s series “TheShowMustGoOn.
Party in Your Living Room
Berlin is known for its nightlife and until 4/20 (as it stands right now), you can legit club it from your own living room. United We Stream in alliance with ARTE Concert is has rounded up the city’s best DJ’s and they are mixing it up just for you. Sessions include multiple artists spinning over a five-hour period beginning at 1 pm Eastern (7 pm Berlin time), until 6 pm Eastern ( midnight Berlin time.) A schedule of the DJ’s playing is on the site.
Billboard‘s Magical List
Billboard compiled a fantastic list of live–streams and virtual concerts from up-and-comers to Grammy-winners being offered over the coming weeks and updated as necessary.
A Wonderful Operatunity
Lousy pun, I know.
Never been to the opera? The Metropolitan in New York City will run Nightly encore opera streams showcasing a new performance for free for 23 hours (from 7:30 pm eastern until 6:30 pm the next day.)
Netflix & Sync
Connect with friends and family from afar with a Netflix Party. Download the Chrome browser extension, choose a show, then click “Start Party” to generate a shareable URL enabling everyone to watch simultaneously.
Meet the Met
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Your Digital Digest” brings you “a selection of the Met’s many videos, articles, and online sources.” There’s also a editors’ pick list of ten free art books to read while social distancing.
The artists at the Glass Academy in Detroit are hosting glass blowing demonstrations on Facebook Live every few days, and objects produced will be available for purchase. To that point, the small four-person team wanting to “stay upbeat and proactive,” figured out how to blow the Coronavirus. They’re pretty; I can’t lie.
Why 92nd Street Y
The famed 92nd Street Y is making available a robust list of digital programming, including live-streamed classical music concerts (i.e., pianist Jonathan Biss, Anthony de Mare) and videos of recent “star-studded sold-out talks (i.e., John Mulaney and Bill Hader, Neil de Grasse Tyson with Bill Nye), as well as the Poetry Center’s online archives (i.e., James Gandolfini, reading Maurice Sendak.)
Music from Home
Classical musicians, Grammy-award winners, NY Times best-selling authors, and “influential thinkers” will provide arts programming produced by CultureNet. So far, musicians are playing from their homes on Facebook Live, entertaining viewers with intimate performances as well as giving fans the unique opportunity to chat during Q & A’s.
Kentucky’s VisitLex is going all out to bring their beloved city of Lexington to you beginning the week of 3.30. Daily Instagram + Facebook videos and live streams hosted by local business owners will feature fitness classes, science experiments for kids, Happy Hour cocktail classes with a bartender, as well as musical performances, to name a few.
On another note, it wouldn’t be the “Horse Capital of the World” without a nod to our equine companions. Horse Country Virtual Tours are available now with live and virtual tours of the areas most revered horse farms.
The Grand Oskosh at Home
With the tagline “The Show Must Go On….Line,” The Grand Oshkosh Theater in Wisconsin will post intimate 45- 60-minute performances by national and local artists who are friends of the institution. You can check them out on Youtube.
Comedy, Concerts and More
Arts Quest, a non-profit organization, providing “access to art, culture, and educational programs, in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, is staying true to its mission with a series of streaming concerts, virtual comedy classes, and a live Toddler Storytime.
Meet the Keepers and Their Animal Friends
Every morning, zookeepers from the Lincoln Children’s Zoo are bringing their incredible animals to you on Facebook in brief educational videos. Past Facebook Lives you can see on the feed include a look at how they train the Colobus monkeys (including a new baby) to accept minor commands that allow the team to monitor their health. Another segment featured alligators, while other highlights camels.
Dolly Parton Puts Your Little Ones to Sleep
Beginning April 2nd, Dolly Parton (yes, the Dolly Parton) will begin her weekly “Goodnight with Dolly” series. “The Little Engine That Could” will be the first book she’ll read aloud from her Imagination Library, the country music star’s international book gifting initiative. Readings start at 7 pm Central. You’ll find her on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram.
Budsies Boredom Busters
Budsies, a company that transforms any art into a stuffed animal (who knew?), is using its Instagram and Facebook channels to promote a new live activity for kids each day. Think book readings with authors, dance, yoga, and painting classes in addition to virtual field trips. Check out their Youtube channel for archived episodes or sign up for their newsletter to alert you to new activities
Sea Turtle Love
The Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida, produces a daily virtual classroom on Facebook Live at 2 pm (11 am on the weekends) meant to educate and inspire the next generation of sea turtle lovers and mindful ocean conservationists. Archived classes are available in addition to lesson plans, with resources, lesson objectives, and a vocabulary list. You can find more
Parents, Fables and Fairy Tales Story Time, a local children’s bookstore, ala You’ve Got Mail, in Morgan County Indiana, conducts live readings for children on its Facebook page.
Kids by Design
Also out of the Lehigh Valley, Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites’, distributes a free Sunday newsletter chock-full of “multi-media resources to help kids delve into design.”
Every day at 10 am, Lincoln Center will hold workshops for kids led by renowned artists and educators on Facebook Live from puppet-making to dance lessons. Every session takes into consideration the audience’s limitations and uses materials easily found at home. Don’t worry if you miss a live show; you’ll find the workshops archived on the Center’s feed for easy access.
Keeping Kids Active
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan Provides a day-by-day activity list you can do with your kids at home.
According to the New York Times, author, illustrator, and Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence Mo Willems is holding a daily “Lunch Doodles” video series on Youtube. He draws with the audience, answers questions, and suggests fun games to play. Check out (One called “Super Bounce” in Episode 5).
On Another Note:
Lend Me Your Ears
Give your eyes a rest and let your ears take the lead with an engaging podcast. I’ve put together a compilation of my favorites. The list is up to 32 and crosses a variety of genres from news and tech to great storytelling and true crime.
If you want to recommend content for this list, please do! I can’t promise I’ll add it but I promise to take a look.