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A Social Distancing Survival Kit: Online Freebies

Online Entertainment during Covid
Online Entertainment during Covid


[Updated August 1, 2020]

They’ve been arriving in our email in-box for days—notices from artists, cultural institutions and businesses eager to help us make social distancing more bearable. Exercise classes, concerts and whole archives of online learning have suddenly opened to the public for free or for an extended trial period. What a windfall! For us alley cats, it’s a way to keep learning and exploring the world.

Below are links to some of our favorites. Of course, there are many more. Please leave your own suggestions if you wish, in the comment section below. We welcome them.


 Are you so stressed you can’t bear to read or hear the news?  Music is the alternative. Go to your favorite music service and look for playlists that include the words “chill” “calm,” or “mellow” in them. Or kick back and browse the following sites:

  • Billboard offers a continuously updating page of livestreams and concerts, including its “Live At-Home” series, featuring artists performing from home.
  • The radio station Classic FM has compiled a comprehensive list of classical concerts worldwide, both upcoming and archived.
  • The website Jazz on the Tube is the place to find livestreams (upcoming and past), as well as bios, podcasts and more.
  • NPR’s list of livestreams and online concerts cuts across all genres of music.
  • The Metropolitan Opera is streaming full-length operas on demand, a different one every day.  Check the weekly schedule and  download the Playbill, which has a synopsis of the opera. Interviews with artists and educational articles are also available.
  • Charleston Jazz has placed its April 2019 concert Mess Around: A Tribute to Ray Charles on It features the vocalist and South Carolina native Manny Houston. Find more on the organization’s YouTube site.
  • Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra offers full-length concerts on its YouTube channel. This one, from the 2017 season, celebrates members’  performing, arranging and composing skills.

Museums & Culture

 Need a culture fix? Expand your horizons by visiting a world-class museum:

  • Google Arts and Culture is a grand index of over 500 museums that you can visit virtually. You can take a deep dive into one artist, take a virtual cultural tour across Italy or download the Google Arts & Culture app (iOS and Android) for some cool interactive experiences.
  • Many museums routinely offer access to all or part of their galleries. Here are two that have especially good commentary on select collections and exhibits: The Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, N.C. and The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, S.C.  Notably, The Gibbes’ s mobile app offers tours (also viewable on a computer) of  permanent and special exhibitions like  the current A Return to the Grand Tour: Micromosaic Jewels from the Collection of Elizabeth Locke and Central to Their Lives: Southern Woman Artists in the Johnson Collections.
  • ALL ARTS, the arts and culture hub created by WNET ( parent company of New York’s PBS stations ) is offering free streaming across many genres.  You can search within one genre, like dance, or view a daily schedule. Latest news is that they are unveiling six productions by London’s  National Theatre.
  • Finally, don’t forget to use the hashtag #museumathome to see the universe of museums that are offering at-home programs—from curator-led tours and talks to hands-on projects to keep  the kids happy.
Alley Cats at Home


  Visit these websites to find your essence exercise program:

  • C|Net.com offers these suggestions for cardio and weight training.
  • The YMCA’s national site is offering free online classes now for a limited time.
  • Bestpointe.com has pulled together a list of ballet instructors. It includes one of our favorites—Kathryn Morgan, principal dancer with the Miami City Ballet—who has classes at every level.
  • Lithe Juliana Spicoluk of Boho Beautiful holds yoga, pilates and meditation classes in exotic locations (Nepal, Thailand and Costa Rica, to name a few). A great way to get in shape and travel the world vicariously !
  • Russian ballerina Maria Khoreva, a soloist with the Mariinsky Theatre, has a jam-packed page of  workouts for all levels—from  Pilates-style exercises to basic and advanced barre classes. She even walks you through the steps from your favorite ballet solos. Dial your own level!

Other Resources

  • Take a virtual tour of 113 of America’s national parks and monuments on Google Earth. For example, here’s Arches National Park. Or let a ranger take you on a  guided tour of any of five parks on Google Arts & Culture.
  • Sign up with Hoopla for free e-books, audio books, music and videos. All you need is the number on your local library card.
  • Hone your photography skills by signing up for Nikon School Online’s classes, which stream free during the month of April.

In addition to contributions to the organizations and artists who are helping you get through this time, please support  international efforts to respond to and combat the virus. One is the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund of the World Health Organization  (WHO). Donations are tax deductible. Here’s the link.






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