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Fun things to do while everything’s closed during the coronavirus outbreak

Everything is closed. You're cooped up at home. There's more to do than Netflix. From live workout classes to virtual happy hours, here's how to make the best of the coronavirus city shutdown.

Yes, this is a cheesesteak cheesecake. Finding ways to keep busy during the coronavirus shutdown means getting creative.
Yes, this is a cheesesteak cheesecake. Finding ways to keep busy during the coronavirus shutdown means getting creative.Read moreTYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer

Concerts are canceled. Museums and theaters are closed. And no one’s having a laugh at live comedy shows. The coronavirus, and the social distance it’s warranting, is making it a little tough to plan out weekend activities. Yet that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun.

We’ve put together an array of ideas to help take your mind off of COVID-19. With safety as the priority, you won’t find any playground playdate or group dinner ideas on this list. Health experts warn against those. You will, on the other hand, find plenty of ways to stay entertained in the comfort of your own home, including some creative ways to remain social.

Take a virtual tour of museums locally and around the world.

Museums across the region and the globe are temporarily closed due to the coronavirus. But thanks to Google Arts & Culture, you can still explore hundreds of them virtually.

From Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum to Seoul’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art to Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology, more than 500 museums and galleries teamed up with Google Arts & Culture to offer a peek inside their doors. On a local level, there are opportunities to browse cubism exhibits at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, explore the sinister halls of the Eastern State Penitentiary, and view Revolutionary War weapons from Valley Forge National Historical Park. If you’re not sure where to start, Google compiled a top 10 list.

Independently, Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution offers a virtual tour, including special, kid-oriented programming that invites you to take a “field trip.” And museums like the Barnes Foundation and the Independence Seaport Museum allow you to browse collections online.

De-stress with an in-home workout.

» READ MORE: Online fitness classes from local gyms you can stream online during coronavirus

If social isolation has you feeling down, try exercise, a proven mood-booster. With doors closed, local studios are starting to stream classes online, including Dhyana Yoga, The Wall Cycling Studio, Bria Method, Tuck Barre and Yoga, Prana Das, and the Greater Philadelphia YMCA. Most are free or donation-based, with options to contribute through Venmo or other online payment platforms. Philadelphia gyms, like City Fitness, have also notified members to look out for online classes in the coming days. For details on how to stream, check individual websites or Facebook pages.

There are plenty of free fitness apps, too, like FitOn, Freeletics, and Simply Yoga. And don’t forget YouTube, offering a wealth of kickboxing, yoga, HIIT, and other video-streamed routines.

Have a fancy picnic in your living room while supporting local restaurants.

While now’s not the time to plan a group dinner at your favorite restaurant, that doesn’t mean you can’t browse menus from afar. Options for carryout and delivery remain available across the region, and delivery services Grubhub, DoorDash, and Caviar are offering “no-contact” delivery options. (Drivers will call or text when they arrive and leave orders in a safe place for customers to retrieve.)

If you don’t feel comfortable ordering out, you can still support local businesses by purchasing gift cards. Consider it something to look forward to in the future, and an excuse to scour the Instagrams of restaurants region-wide. Food photos are a good coronavirus distraction, yeah?

Host an online concert or jam session.

With the increase in concert cancellations, some local musicians are taking to Facebook Live to perform virtually.

“Join us tonight from wherever you are! Social distancing is good for the world right now, but still hard on us as individuals — emotionally, mentally and even physically. So let’s stay connected and, for the love of Pete, let’s keep making music!!” wrote local singer Meghan Carey on her artist Facebook page before performing a virtual concert on Saturday night.

If you’ve got a guitar or keyboard laying around, consider teaming up with some friends to create your own Facebook concert, or use video conferencing platforms like Zoom to host a virtual jam session among yourselves.

Or host an online dinner party, happy hour, or hangout.

Don’t cancel happy hour. Share a drink with your friends, engage in conversation over dinner, or host a group meditation — all without leaving your house. Platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Skype enable you to organize social meet-ups virtually, using video streams or shared screens to connect everyone in the party.

Not sure what you can concoct with your at home supply (since liquor stores are about to close across the state)? Try this: One bartender tweeted that he’ll help figure out a cocktail to make with the ingredients you have on hand.

Are you hosting an online party of some kind? We want to hear about it.

Get some fresh air.

All state parks and forest districts across the state are closing to the public. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get outside.

“There’s nothing healthy about sitting around for 24 hours a day in your house,” says Bucks County health department director Dr. David Damsker. “If you’re healthy and maintain the six to 10 feet distances from others, there’s no reason you shouldn’t go out and get some exercise."

“Just be smart, and avoid going out in groups,” notes Damsker.

Get crafty.

Keep your mind and hands busy by diving into a DIY project. Whether you want to learn how to crochet or build your own wooden pallet coffee table, the internet offers a wealth of free tutorials for almost everything imaginable.

And that includes the Inquirer. Search our website for how-to’s on bath bombs, sugar scrubs, Old Fashioned cocktail kits, fishbowl terrariums, and more. We’ll even teach you how to make your own hand sanitizer

Try that recipe (and stock your freezer with home-cooked meals).

With restaurant dine in availability temporarily ceased, make cooking feel less like a chore and more like a special occasion by picking out some new recipes to try. (Zahav hummus anyone? Or how about Cheesesteak Cheesecake?) Then, curate a playlist just for the kitchen, filled with tunes you can jam out to while you cook.

Consider a few recipes that’ll yield meals you can freeze. Soups, enchiladas, lasagna, pasta sauces, chili, black bean burgers, and casseroles all generally hold up well in the freezer. You’ll thank yourself in the event you do become sick, or simply find yourself pulling late nights at work in weeks to come.

Take note: Brownies also often freeze well, and stressful times call for treating yourself.

Dive into a good book.

While libraries are closed, you can access reading materials online if you have a Free Library card. The virtual library includes e-books, audiobooks, movies, magazines, and music. Likewise, if you have a Montgomery County Library card, you can access e-books and magazines online. Check your local library to see what online collections are available.

Start spring cleaning.

OK, this one may not be fun for everyone. As you pull out the Lysol to wipe down your cellphone, consider doing a deep clean of your entire home while you’re at it. You might as well get a start on spring cleaning now that you’re stuck inside. Use this time to scrub your bathroom floor, raid your bedroom closet, and tackle any other projects that you might’ve been putting off.

Get your shopping fix: Buy local online.

Storefronts are closed, but you can still support local businesses by shopping online. Visit the websites of your favorite neighborhood spots, and see what options are available. You’ll notice some companies offering coronavirus-related discounts. (Examples: Ultimo Coffee is offering 20% off beans, mugs, kettles, and more with the code HIBERNATE. Order online from United by Blue to receive 30% off all purchases.)

Catch up on podcasts (local ones, too).

Binging Netflix is an obvious self-quarantine activity. But don’t forget about podcasts, which you can throw on while cooking, doing at-home push-ups, or taking a stroll around the block. Podcasts are an excellent way to stay up-to-date on coronavirus news, like Vox’s Today Explained or the New York Times’ The Daily. Although, if you feel like distracting yourself, there are plenty of options centered on cooking, true crime, sports, and even sex — including ones curated by Philly-based storytellers, like the Local Mouthful, Sex with Timaree, and Twisted Philly. Check out our list of local recommendations.

Get smarter with a free class from an Ivy League school.

Between Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, and the nation’s five other Ivy League schools, you can find more than 400 free, online classes aggregated on Search “Yale” alone for courses on anatomy, classical music, the global financial crisis, Roman architecture, and beyond.