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Things to Do While Social Distancing

7 Ways to Enjoy Your Time at Home

Efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak have paused typical social activities — from the closure of museums and attractions and the cancelation of sports events, lectures and theater performances to shutting down restaurants and recreational facilities. The new normal places us at home for many more hours than we are used to.

But that doesn’t mean all entertainment is off.

Although we don’t know yet how long this public health situation will last, we do know that there are many creative ways and activities to enjoy your time at home.

As a bonus, almost every activity we’ve found is free.

Before we get to the list, however, a disclaimer: The world is changing quickly right now, so we apologize if you find a suggested activity changes or is discontinued in the weeks or months ahead.


Many travelers make a beeline for the local art or history museum if they have a free afternoon in their own town or a new one.

This is no longer an option because many museums across the Northwest, the country and in many parts of the world have temporarily closed to the public. But it is possible to visit many museums virtually.

Seattle’s Museum of Flight closed on March 12, with no reopening date yet set, but on its website the museum offers a robust menu of virtual 3D aircraft and spacecraft tours.

The Idaho Museum of Natural History at Idaho State University in Pocatello, is closed until at least March 30, but it too has a virtual museum online featuring many 3D models and images of fossils as well as other treasures from its collection and from other institutions in North America.

Many other museums in our region, including the Seattle Art Museum, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and the Boise Art Museum offer images from their collections and from both current and past exhibitions on line as well.

You also can make a virtual visit to hundreds of great museums beyond the Northwest.

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History has a virtual tour of permanent, current and past exhibits and some cool behind-the-scenes views of specimens in storage. Virtual tours of the Smithsonian Castle and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden are available, too.

The Louvre in Paris, the British Museum, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and many others offer their own virtual gallery tours and many others are available via Google Art & Culture.

Aquariums and Zoos

Zoos, aquariums and wildlife centers may be closed, but the animals still need to be cared for and fed. So the New England Aquarium in Boston is offering a virtual tour and daily videos giving a behind-the-scenes look at animal care. And the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has 10 live web cameras on its site, focused on otters, sharks, penguins, jellyfish, birds and other creatures as well as out to Monterey Bay.

The San Diego Zoo hopes to reopen April 1 but for now its live cams and archived cam footage will let you see what the baboons, penguins, koalas, giraffes, elephants and other animals are up to when no visitors are around.

Movies, TV and Music

If you don’t have cable or subscriptions to video on demand service such as Hulu or Netflix, in most cities you can use your library card to download movies, music, TV series, newspapers, magazines and, yes, books, even though library systems are closed.

Opera and More

New York’s famed Metropolitan Opera has canceled its upcoming performances but is instead streaming complete encore performances from its filmed archives. “Nightly Met Opera Streams” begin at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time and remain on the website for 20 hours.

That concert you bought tickets for a few months back may be canceled, but you can watch hundreds of great performances on the Digital Stage of Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center for free. The line-up includes clips and full-length performances of the best in ballet, comedy, dance, music of all kinds, theater and more.

The Social Distancing Festival

So many art, theater and cultural organizations have had to cancel productions and performances because of COVID-19 concerns. But in the spirit of “the show must go on” everything, from rehearsal videos to taped and live streamed performances, is being gathered on the Social Distancing Festival website set up by a playwright in Toronto, who had his production canceled back in February.

Have a conversation

If cabin fever hasn’t already set in, it soon will. And when it does, Humanities Washington is standing by with a growing list of Cabin Fever Questions such as “What does your utopia look like?” These questions are designed to get you talking about big issues with family, friends or whomever you may be hunkered down with, because, as they point out, “Netflix only goes so far.”

Take a walk, with a distance

Being cooped up at home all day can take a toll on our physical and mental health, so, put on your shoes and go for a walk, run or bike ride. Just keep in mind: be responsible. If your neighborhood begins to get crowded, hold off on your outdoor activity. In addition, stay compliant with your state’s orders. For example, stay-at-home orders in Washington state so far allow people to enjoy the outdoors as long as they keep social distancing and avoid gatherings.

Finally, if you can’t leave home and don’t want to miss the cherry blossoms on the quad at the University of Washington? The UW has a live webcam that will let you see the trees in full bloom.

– Written by Harriet Baskas

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