Our lives as we know them have been fundamentally changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are not working or working from home, parents are homeschooling their kids, and, even with Florida’s new, looser restrictions, many of us are still unable to do the things we enjoy that require us to leave our homes. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to spend that time (and entertain/educate the kids!) thanks to online offerings that capture our imagination and give us options beyond binge-watching “Tiger King” or hours spent playing Candy Crush.
Best of all, the suggestions below are free.
Visit a Museum
Local museums are offering “at home” options for viewing from the comfort of your couch.
The James Museum offers a weekly theme to explore such as “Cowboys,” “Wildlife” and “Spring.” The newest theme is “The Sky,” from cloud formations to celestial bodies and curated suggestions of art, books, movies, and creative activities based on the theme (jamesmuseum.org/jmfromhome-sky/).
Take a virtual tour of The Dali Museum at thedali.org/virtual-tour to browse through the Dali’s online exhibits that range from Midnight in Paris, 1929 to Record Mania with a link to sound clips from some of the featured albums (thedali.org/exhibits/online-exhibits/)
Another local favorite, the Museum of Fine Arts lets you enjoy offerings via MFA From Home featuring Art Break activities for kids, puzzles for all ages, music and book suggestions (mfastpete.org/mfa-from-home/).
Those who want to venture out a little further (virtually, of course) can tour The Louvre (louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne#tabs); the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History offers live videos and tour options (naturalhistory.si.edu/education/live-video-programs) or check out the Space Center Houston (download the free app at spacecenter.org/app/).
For more, check out artsandculture.google.com.
Check Out a Zoo or Aquarium
Some of the most famous zoos in the US offer virtual tours or live feeds.
The San Diego Zoo has live cam options that lets viewers choose between koalas, polar bears, tigers, and more (kids.sandiegozoo.org/videos).
Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium shares behind the scenes videos on their Facebook page (facebook.com/sheddaquarium).
Shark Week never ends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams) with 10 different live cams ranging from sharks to sea otters and more.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
We all yearn for the outdoors beyond our own backyards. These sites offer the perfect escape.
Thousands of Sandhill Cranes migrate through Nebraska each year. Catch them via webcam just before sunrise or sunset, the best viewing times (rowe.audubon.org/birds/crane-cam).
Our beautiful national parks are closed during this time but it’s almost like being there with the offerings provided by the National Park Service where you can browse through hundreds of web cams including Bears Cams and Bald Eagle Cams or the parks themselves (nps.gov/subjects/watchingwildlife/webcams.htm).
Check out Gatorland’s School of Croc, live at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily on their Facebook page, featuring gator wrangling, pythons, turtles, and baby animals. The Gatorland staff takes live questions from viewers, making the whole experience interactive: Check it out here.
We’re all looking out our windows a lot more these days. The Facebook page View From My Window, a public group consisting of over two million members from around the world sharing the view from each person’s window: facebook.com/groups/viewfrommywindow
While travel plans are sidelined for now, it’s a great time to learn a new language or brush up on your language skills. Duolingo is a free app that offers over 30 languages, with games and exercises and weekly progress reports (duolingo.com). The king of video services, YouTube, offers an Easy Languages channel channel which features short videos of native speakers around the world with subtitles. (Search “Easy Languages channel” at youtube.com).
Ever have the urge to learn an instrument? Access lessons for piano, guitar, ukulele, and even voice lessons with a seven-day free trial at yousician.com. Gismart Piano Free is an app for Android and iOS made by musicians for musicians with cool features like an 88-key set and double keyboard (available in the App Store or Google Play).
Keep It Local
Unable to watch our beautiful sunsets over the water from your yard? The City of Gulfport has solved that problem. A web cam points west from the Gulfport Casino Ballroom to provide a stellar view of the sun setting over Gulfport Beach – or any hour of the day: mygulfport.us/pc.
Check out the Gulfport Public Library’s Facebook Live and virtual programs on their Facebook page featuring crafts, bedtime story links read by celebrities like Dolly Parton and Betty White, and music sure to get you singing and moving. This week the library is gearing up for summer programs, but they will be streaming Planting Patience on Wednesday, Storytime with Miss Cailey on Thursday, and Babytime stories and songs on Friday. See more at facebook.com/GulfportLibraryFL
Former Gulfport City Councilmember Yolanda Roman has created “Miss Yolanda’s Reading Room” on Facebook where she shares “short fun stories from wonderful books for our little ones safe at home during this challenging period.” Roman has read forty-four books for kids, most recently “By the Light of the Moon,” by Frann Preston-Gannon. “Best is hearing from grandparents, aunts/uncles, family and how they share with young families/kids,” said Roman. “Our Gulfport Library (Dave Mathers) has been great sharing tons of books with me! I’ll keep reading…soon, summer fun books.” Watch at facebook.com/MissYolandasReadingRoom
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