If there's one silver lining that the last couple of months has brought us, it's that countless businesses have started offering virtual experiences, meaning that ironically we're now able to see and do way more than ever before.
Museums across the globe are offering free virtual tours online, experts in interior design, gardening, cooking and more are offering free classes online, even wine tasting has moved online with real-time video calls with sommeliers, and famous national parks in America are letting visitors explore landmarks like the Grand Canyon – all without having to leave the sofa. Theatres and cinemas might be closed for now, but many are offering free virtual experiences online, giving us access to plays and shows from their archives as well as sold-out shows like Fleabag.
So whether you're just looking for something fun to do on a rainy day, or looking for inspiration for a date night at home, the internet has opened up a whole world of opportunities.
1. TRY SOMETHING NEW
Airbnb recently launched their Online Experiences which are Live interactive sessions conducted over Zoom by guides around the world, so you can learn a new skill, pursue an interest, or embark on an adventure to faraway places.
Try an Indian cooking class with a local in New Delhi, learn to make sourdough, take your kids to virtually meet some woolly sheep on a Scottish farm – or make goats cheese with a mother goat and her kid in Malibu, and you can even recreate a jazz club at home while learning how to make cocktails and enjoying live jazz pianist and vocalist.
These classes are not pre-filmed – they are live and two-way, and you are part of a group video call where you can interact and ask questions.
Can't make it to Italy? Learn how to make colourful, homemade pasta with Chiara and her Nonna. Always wanted to visit Alaska? Go salmon fishing in real-time with a local. Fancy becoming a bit of a wine expert? Taste Wines with a Certified Sommelier –all you need is two bottles of red and two bottles of white wine from the selected grapes that the hosts have chosen for your tasting group.
That language you always wanted to learn? Now is the time.
There are plenty of apps that help you learn a language for free, just download one, and spend 30 minutes a day teaching yourself how to speak French, Swedish, Italian, or whatever language takes your fancy. EDX are also offering online courses, as well as
Improve your culinary skills (perfect for your next virtual dinner party) from fresh pasta to paella and pretty mosaic-inspired sushi rolls, as well as Pad Thai, curries, and even Brazilian style steak with free classes on The chef and the dish or Delia's cookery school.
Being stuck at home offers a great opportunity to research your own family history. There are so many online resources available, including Ancestry, currently offering a free two-week trial.
New York's MoMA museum is offering online classes for free, covering everything from contemporary art to fashion and photography.
Have any paint and brushes lying around? You’ll be pleased to know that 403 episodes of Bob Ross's timeless Joy of Painting have been added to YouTube so you can listen to his soothing tones while you paint 'happy little trees' and enjoy the beauty of imperfections.
For an at-home culture fix, a huge number of art galleries and museums around the world have digitised their collections and are now offering free virtual tours,from the Louvre in Paris to the Vincent van Gogh and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Take an armchair journey through the wonders of these awe-inspiring institutions, discovering the Old Masters and iconic pieces like the Mona Lisa and Rembrandt’s Night Watch.
Thanks to the extensive Google Arts & Culture project, more than 2,500 spaces from around the world are now accessible online, and many offer virtual tours of their holdings.
Take a break from your Netflix series and try a night at theatre, cinema or opera instead – without having to leave the house.
Multiple opera houses like the Royal Opera House and Met Opera have started streaming performances. The iconic Royal Opera House is also putting archived shows on their YouTube channel for free. You can see more here.
Opera North is streaming its production of the hit Bernstein opera for a full month on its YouTube channel.
Perfect if you’re a long-time opera lover or even someone who’s never been to the opera but has always been curious about it.
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Missed out on the chance to see Fleabag on stage? Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s award-winning play is now available online to raise money for the NHS and a number of coronavirus charities. The one-woman show, which was made into an internationally lauded series, will be available to rent for 48 hours for just £4 from the Soho Theatre, where it was originally staged.
Meanwhile the National Theatre has dug into its archives to share plays for free with the public, which go live on Thursday at 7pm each week and on demand afterwards. The Southbank venue has put some of its biggest hits including Corden’s star turn in One Man, Two Guvnors on YouTube.
The National Theatre's Frankenstein production with Cumberbatch as the Creature can be watched here:
Browse all National Theatre videos here.
Andrew Lloyd Webber is also getting in on the free streaming act in a new series for West End and Broadway fans; every Friday he presents a brand new show for free on his YouTube channel. Entitled "The Shows Must Go On", the series began with the 2000 adaptation of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond, Maria Friedman, Richard Attenborough and Joan Collins.
Shown so far have also been Jesus Christ Superstar with Tim Minchin, Melanie C and Chris Moyles, the 25th-anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera and the Australian version of Love Never Dies. View them all here.
Though live circus might be unavailable, the world-famous circus troupe is streaming highlights from their back catalogue of shows via a new online hub, CirqueConnect. Everything is free to stream and family friendly. Browsehour-long free shows on the Cirque du Soleil's YouTube channel.
Lionsgate live streams a movie every weekend, this weekend is Eddie The Eagle.
Yes, that's right: you can even travel while staying home. Journey all around the world (and even out of this world, into space) — without leaving the house.
Or cross a few destinations off your bucket list via virtual tours; America has opened up it's national parks for virtual exploring. Explore Volcanoes via webcams on Hawaii, and finally tick Arizona's Grand Canyon off your bucket list. From the Glacier Bay in Alaska, to Yosemite park in California, and the Arches in Utah, explore all virtual tours here.
The sky is the limit – quite literally, in fact, as you can even explore outer space and the surface of Mars, with the help of NASA's Curiosity Rover.
5. WINE TASTING
Why not sign up for a webinar on wine tasting? Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens offers webinar wine tastings every Sunday at 4pm. Just go to their website and order your wine bottles.
There are many other wine tasting workshops and wine clubs to join too, all from the comfort of your home. The Wine Workshop is hosting a series of virtual tastings, designed to help people at home expand their palates. The first class has already taken place, but this weekend is a good time to sign up for the second, which is being hosted by Douglas Blyde on May 7. Get your name down in good time and you’ll be sent a hamper for two with three wines, three dishes and a log-in code to access the session.
Prefer something sparkling? The Comité Champagne, the organisation that represents all Champagne houses globally, has launched its brand new online learning course, the MOOC, for wine enthusiasts, students & even sommeliers.
Covering the Champagne making process, the terroir, economics, 300 year history of Champagne and crucially, tasting. To sign up, visit champagne-mooc.com, and take a virtual tour of the Champagne region here.
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Every May for the last 30 or so years, the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts has descended on the Welsh enclave of Hay-on-Wye. Rather than ditch a yearly highlight of the cultural calendar, this spring marks its first fully digital iteration, promising free live talks and interactive Q&A sessions with over 100 writers and incisive thinkers. It's on from 22–31 May 2020, view the full line-up here.