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Ways to Explore and Experience the World Safely from Home During COVID-19

Daniel Hautzinger
Georges Seurat. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884. The Art Institute of Chicago
You can explore the collections of many museums from home. Image: Georges Seurat. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884. The Art Institute of Chicago

As experts recommend limiting contact between people and public places and governments order closures of restaurants, schools, and public gatherings in an effort to limit the transimission of the novel coronavirus, you might be going a little stir-crazy. While many things humans turn to for education or entertainment in the public sphere are limited or suspended right now—museums, sports, restaurants—there are still ways you can experience and even explore the world from your home if you have internet access. 

Visit a Museum Exhibit Digitally

Berthe Morisot. Woman at Her Toilette, 1875/80. The Art Institute of ChicagoBerthe Morisot. Woman at Her Toilette, 1875/80. The Art Institute of Chicago

Canvas, the arts hub from PBS NewsHour, has put together a list of 19 immersive museum exhibits you can visit from your couch, including everything from the varied collections of the Smithsonian Institute to Frida Kahlo's diary or a Coco Chanel dress. Closer to home, you can explore the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, and more. 

Take a Field Trip with a Penguin

The Shedd Aquarium is letting its penguins explore the aquarium while it is closed to the publicThe Shedd Aquarium is letting its penguins explore the aquarium while it is closed to the public

With Chicago's Shedd Aquarium temporarily closed, caretakers of the Aquarium's penguins have let them explore the grounds of the institution. Follow @shedd_aquarium on Twitter or visit their Facebook page to watch the intrepid birds and get updates on other animals. You can catch glimpses of the animals at other Chicagoland places like Brookfield Zoo (@brookfield_zoo on Twitter). And WTTW News has put together a list of live nature web cams.

Help Researchers and the Public Understand History

The Newberry Library. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/TonyTheTigerThe Newberry Library. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/TonyTheTiger

Chicago's Newberry Library may be closed (you can still dive into their digital collections or take advantage of their digital resources), but you can immerse yourself in history firsthand and help researchers and scholars by volunteering to transcribe historical letters and diaries online, so that they can be searchable. They're currently only about 38% of the way to completion, so get going!

Tune in to Fascinating Conversations

Studs Terkel. Photo: Chicago History Museum, iCHi-065438; Stephen Deutch, photographerStuds Terkel. Photo: Chicago History Museum, iCHi-065438; Stephen Deutch, photographer

Studs Terkel was an iconic Chicagoan, who talked to everyone from everyday laborers to famed celebrities and scholars for his radio show and Pulitzer Prize-winning books. The Studs Terkel Radio Archive, hosted by WTTW's sister station WFMT, contains more than 1,200 programs over 45 years featuring conversations with some of recent history's most interesting people—and it's all available for you to browse online.

Engross Yourself in a Book

Book coversSome of the books on the list of America's favorite novels from 'The Great American Read'

The Great American Read's list of America's 100 favorite books is a good place to start for a recommendation for your e-reader or for a book to order. Chicago's American Writers Museum also has recommendations, while the Seminary Co-op and 57th Street bookstores are offering free shipping during the coronavirus crisis. Or visit the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation website to discover new poems. Plus, find author interviews and more book-related features at

Stream a Performance

PBS Newshour's Canvas has also put together a list of some institutions and artists offering performances online, even as venues go dark. Chicago's Theatre Wit is one of them, as is the Metropolitan Opera, which is offering free encores of its Live in HD series.

Try a New Recipe

Oatmeal raisin cookies

Even if it's something simple that only requires ingredients you may already have at home, like Phil Ponce's favorite cookie recipe. You can find a list of recipes from America's Test Kitchen, Christopher Kimball's Milk Stree, Chicago restaurants, Rick Bayless, and more at

Or if you want to support local restaurants through this difficult time, you can find a list of who is offering takeout or delivery thanks to Dining at a Distance. Many restaurants that don't typically offer those services are shifting to them during the government-mandated dining-in closure.

Listen to (and Make) Music from Across Time

Math in Music host Eugenia Cheng. Photo: Grittani CreativeWFMT 'Math in Music' host Eugenia Cheng. Photo: Grittani Creative

You can listen to WTTW's sister station WFMT 24/7 online, via the WFMT app, or over the radio. Classical music can be a balm, an emotional journey, an engaging experience, and so much more. Maybe this is the time to try it out. WFMT has also put together a list of streamable concerts, operas, and films.

If you want to fiddle around with making your own music, legendary keyboard companies Moog and Korg are offering their synthesizer apps for free

Explore Chicago, America's history, the planets, and more

The Green Line passes over a mural noting the previous name of Englewood: Junction Grove. Photo: Brendan BrownThe Green Line passes over a mural in Chicago's Englewood, one of the neighborhoods you can explore in 'Chicago by 'L'.'Photo: Brendan Brown

Plenty of PBS and WTTW's programs such as American Experience and NOVA are available for streaming for free, as are extensive websites with additional features, including a new stop-by-stop exploration of Chicago's neighborhoods in Geoffrey Baer's Chicago by 'L' at

Entertain and Educate Your Kids with PBS KIDS

Molly of Denali. Image: WGBH Educational FoundationMolly of Denali. Image: WGBH Educational Foundation

Here's a list of ten PBS KIDS activities and games for your children while they're stuck at home from school. 

Try Doing Nothing

Celeste Headlee, a journalist, author, and a co-host of Retro Report on PBS (which, by the way, you can stream), has a new book called Do Nothing that argues, with research to back it up, that people should unplug and simply rest and think more often in our cluttered world. Now might be a good time to try. 

And if you're still feeling cooped up inside, Dr. Robert Murphy, director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, has said it's OK to go outside, with a few major caveats.