Virtual Museum Tours, Performances, and Tutorials to Keep You (and Your Kids) Entertained at Home
Here’s how to stay entertained while you remain home in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
As people in countries around the world are being asked to practice social distancing—to stay home and avoid crowded places—in order to help “flatten the curve” of the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), an increasing number of museums, theaters, and tourist attractions have closed their doors (temporarily), and large public gatherings, such as concerts and festivals, have been canceled or postponed.
While we all learn to adjust to the realities of self-quarantine, a number of cultural institutions and individual artists are bringing their shows to the streaming-sphere so you can feel like you’re venturing beyond home, even though now is truly the time to stay put. These virtual museum tours, live performances, and digital broadcasts—most of which are being offered for free—will help keep you (and any youngsters) entertained while we all do our part to ensure that these trying times are one day behind us.
Where to find virtual museum tours
MoMA, Rijksmuseum, the Louvre and more
While major Paris museums such as the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay are closed until further notice due to the coronavirus outbreak, you can still virtually explore parts of these art institutions, and many others, thanks to Google Arts and Culture. The online platform provides digital tours of more than 2,000 museums and galleries around the world, among them New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, and London’s Tate Britain, all of which have temporarily closed to help halt the spread of the virus.
The platform’s featured collections for each museum vary, but most include digital exhibits (London’s National Gallery offers 10 separate Monet collections), as well as a “street view” that lets you explore inside the institutions, so you can see paintings such da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery (currently shuttered), or Van Gogh’s The Starry Night at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which is also closed until further notice.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
In addition to online exhibit tours, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan is giving free public access to more than 200 art books from its digital archives (until the museum reopens). Available titles focus on a range of renowned artists from late 19th-/early 20th-century abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky to contemporary conceptual artist Jenny Holzer. Other books in the collection examine more general artistic movements, from American pop icons to the history of Italian art.
American Museum of Natural History
Similarly, New York City’s American Museum of Natural History is making its previously recorded tours of the museum halls available on Facebook Live every day at 2 p.m. (EST) throughout its closure. The virtual tours, which are led by museum guides, take viewers through collections in the museum’s Hall of African Mammals, Hall of the North American Forests, Hall of Meteorites, and more. A collection of the museum’s educational materials (for children and adults) has also been made available to the public for free; you can find scientific articles and videos on topics including climate change and human health, as well as science classes, games, and quizzes for kids, on the museum’s website.
Baltimore Museum of Art
The Baltimore Museum of Art is offering virtual gallery walks of several exhibitions currently installed as part of the museum’s year-long 2020 Vision initiative, which is dedicated to highlighting the works of female-identifying artists. Virtual tours of various museum exhibits are available on BMA’s website, including Baltimore-born artist SHAN Wallace’s exhibit, 410, which the photographer describes as a love letter to the beauty, complexity, and resilience of her hometown.
Live performances and concerts to watch
Nightly Met Opera Streams
After canceling all performances through the remainder of its 2019–2020 season due to concerns around the coronavirus outbreak, New York City’s Metropolitan Opera announced that it would stream a performance from its archives for every night through the duration of the closure, starting Monday, March 16. The Nightly Met Opera Streams, which start at 7:30 p.m. (EST), pull from the renowned opera house’s award-winning Live in HD series, which includes encore presentations such as 19th-century French composer Georges Bizet’s Carmen. The recordings remain available to view for free on the Met Opera’s website until 6:30 p.m. (EST) the following day after they’re streamed.
92Y online archives
Another New York City arts institution, 92Y, has made its online archives—which contain hundreds of recordings of readings, concerts, and educational talks—free to the public during this time. On Wednesday, March 18, the cultural organization also livestreamed the last recital from its 2019/20 vocal series, featuring mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron and pianist Myra Huang performing songs by Beethoven and Mahler. You can watch the free livestream online.
Theater-streaming service BroadwayHD is offering a seven-day free trial (before a monthly or yearly subscription) so users can livestream full-length shows from Broadway, which will now remain dark in New York City through Labor Day, at least. The site has a hefty archive of Broadway performances with everything from Cats (1998) and Swan Lake (2015) to Sweeney Todd (1982).
New York City Ballet’s spring 2020 season
New York City Ballet (NYCB) is going digital for its now-canceled spring 2020 season by streaming recorded performances from its repertory every Tuesday and Friday at 8 p.m. (EST) through May. The virtual performances spotlight classic works filmed during recent seasons at the Lincoln Center, including classic ballets such as George Balanchine’s Apollo (filmed in January 2019). Each performance will be available on NYCB’s YouTube channel, Facebook, and homepage for 72 hours after it streams.
National Theatre Live at Home
Every Thursday at 2 p.m. (EST) through May, the United Kingdom’s National Theatre is streaming a different stage production from its archives as part of its “National Theatre Live” program, also called “National Theatre at Home.” The London institution’s online offerings have included popular British plays such as One Man, Two Guvnors (which features a Tony Award–winning performance by James Corden). Full-length plays are uploaded to the National Theatre’s YouTube channel each week and remain available for seven days after they air.
The Berlin Philharmonic, Paris Opera, and more
The Berlin Philharmonic, also temporarily closed to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, dropped the subscription fee to its online video streaming service, known as its Digital Concert Hall. The legendary German orchestra is currently offering archival performances to home audiences for free through April 30. Other major opera houses and concert halls around the world are similarly streaming free archival performances, among them the Paris Opera, London’s Wigmore Hall, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera, the Vienna State Opera, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Where to stream TV shows and movies for free
This live TV streaming service is offering new users in the United States free access to more than 50 cable channels and 50,000 on-demand movies every night during “primetime hours,” from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. (EST). All you have to do is create a Sling TV account with your email and zip code—unlike most other free trials, you don’t have to enter payment details for access.
Amazon Prime Video (for kids)
Amazon has also lifted its Prime Video paywall for more than 40 children’s shows, including Amazon originals, such as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, as well as popular PBS Kids series, such as Arthur.
Rent new theatrical releases at home
Even if you’ve already prepared a long list of TV shows and movies to stream during this time of social distancing, there might’ve been an upcoming movie release you were really hoping to see when it hit theaters. On Monday, March 16, Universal Pictures made a groundbreaking announcement: Due to coronavirus, the studio is making movies available at home on the same day as the films’ global theatrical releases, starting with DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour (which opened April 10 in the United States). The movies will be available for a 48-hour rental period on a variety of on-demand services such as iTunes and Google Play at a price of $20.
Free online dance parties and workouts
Virtual museum tours and movie marathons can help pass the time, but it’s important to stay healthy by moving your body, which proves more difficult for some from the confines of home. To blow off some steam and get your endorphins going, tune into a daily Instagram Live dance party hosted by Lady Gaga’s former backup dancer (follow him at @mkik808), or try these livestream workout classes and virtual dance parties.
Down Dog Yoga
The Down Dog iOS and Android app is offering its virtual workout classes (yoga, HIIT, and Barre) for free to new users until June 1. The fitness app is also extending completely free access for students and teachers (K-12 and college) and healthcare professionals until July 1.
“Dance Church Go!”
Dance Church is a free, biweekly fitness class that’s part aerobic workout, part virtual dance party. Led by Dance Church founder, Kate Wallich, and two other instructors, the “Dance Church Go!” livestreams take place every Wednesday at 8 p.m. (EST) and Sunday at 1 p.m. (EST) and often have up to 12,000 people in virtual attendance.
DJ D-Nice’s “Club Quarantine”
DJ D-Nice started his “Club Quarantine” Instagram Live dance parties with an eight-hour live DJ set on Wednesday, March 18. Within a few days, word about the livestream spread around the internet, and by that Saturday the live DJ session hosted over 100,000 viewers on Instagram Live. Previous attendees have included Rihanna, Drake, Jennifer Lopez, Ava DuVernay, Dave Chapelle, and Oprah Winfrey—even Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Mark Zuckerberg. Follow DJ D-Nice on Instagram (@dnice) for scheduling updates about his hugely popular nightly jams.
#BareFeetLIVE with PBS TV host Mickela Mallozzi
Mickela Mallozzi, professional dancer and Emmy Award–winning host of PBS’s Bare Feet TV series, offers a weekly #BareFeetLIVE at-home edition featuring interviews with musicians and dancers from around the world. Every Tuesday on Facebook Live and Thursday on Instagram Live—at 1 p.m. (EST) for both—you can tune in for real-time lessons on global dances including the Irish sean nos, a Haitian folk dance, and the Brazilian samba.
Quarantine cooking classes
Chef Massimo Bottura’s “Kitchen Quarantine”
Another important aspect of staying healthy under quarantine is to prepare nutritious meals with the food you have available. Renowned Italian chef Massimo Bottura—the restauranteur behind the three-Michelin-star Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy—is offering up his culinary insights through daily cooking classes on Instagram Live for self-isolated viewers. During the English-language livestreams, which Bottura named “Kitchen Quarantine,” the chef demonstrates how he’s preparing his own dinners while under quarantine. Head to his Instagram (@massimobottura) to catch each livestream at 2:30 p.m. (EST); after he prepares his dinner, Bottura addresses recipe questions from tuned-in viewers.
“Quar Eye: Cooking Lessons in Quarantine” with Netflix’s Antoni Porowski
In mid-March, Antoni Porowski from Netflix’s Queer Eye launched a similar cooking tutorial series dubbed “Quar Eye: Cooking Lessons in Quarantine.” During the roughly 10-minute videos, which Porowski posts to his Instagram (@antoni) weekly, the Fab Five’s food guru teaches viewers how to prepare simple meals while staying at home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The first episode, for example, shows Porowski making an omelette using canned foods and pantry staples, a dish he dubbed “The Keep Calm-lette” in the caption.
Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi’s “Baking Club”
Christina Tosi, founder of the popular bakery chain Milk Bar, hosts a “Baking Club” Instagram Live series on her personal account (@christinatosi) at 2 p.m. (EST) daily. The day before each livestream baking class, Tosi posts a “shopping list” of the ingredients you’ll need to whip up her sweet snacks, such as french toast muffins and oat cookie bars. (Most of the ingredients are staple pantry items that you might already have.) You can watch the step-by-step classes on Tosi’s IGTV after they air and also find the recipes on her website.
“Quarantine Quitchen” with Food Network’s Alton Brown
Food expert and TV personality Alton Brown is hosting live cooking classes on his YouTube channel every Tuesday at 7 p.m. (EST). The livestreams involve two series: “Pantry Raid,” which sees Brown outline recipes that use pantry staples for easy-to-make snacks such as onion dip. The other videos, “Quarantine Quitchen,” bring at-home viewers along with Brown and his wife as they livestream cooking escapades from their kitchen.
Free virtual art classes for adults
MoMA’s free online art courses
MoMA is offering a series of free online art courses for at-home audiences amid the coronavirus pandemic. The nine courses, which are available through the online learning platform Coursera, explore everything from photography and fashion to postwar abstract painting, as well as more general examinations of contemporary art. New sessions begin every four weeks and can be completed at your own pace.
Daily drawing lessons for kids
New York Times bestselling illustrator and graphic journalist Wendy MacNaughton is offering free, weekday drawing classes on Instagram Live through the rest of the school year. “The class is for kids of all ages, parents of kids, parents of parents, aunties/uncles, friends, and pets,” the artist shared on her Instagram (@wendymac) in an announcement post.
The livestreams air at 10 a.m. (PST) and last about 30 minutes—which is “long enough for parents to get a little work done or take a shower and take a couple deep breaths,” MacNaughton wrote. After each class, you can check out the #drawtogether hashtag, where MacNaughton has asked that participants post photos of their drawings so that everyone can check out one another’s work. The live drawing lessons are also uploaded to MacNaughton’s Youtube channel 24 hours after they air.
Educational courses for at-home kids
School closures across the nation due to the coronavirus mean millions of students and young children are out of classes and at home. Because of this, the educational company Scholastic launched a “Learn at Home” website that offers daily courses for students from pre-kindergarten to grade 9, providing online educational content such as virtual field trips, writing and research projects, and geography challenges. The website, which is accessible on any device that has internet, will remain free and open indefinitely.
This article originally appeared online on March 16, 2020; it was updated on April 29, 2020, to include current information.