16 Virtual Museums and Concerts to Entertain Your Kids
From museums and cultural sites to famed performance centers, keep the kids (and yourself!) occupied with these virtual experiences.
COVID-19, a novel strain of the coronavirus, has grown into a full-fledged global pandemic and “social distancing” is the new normal. It’s not always easy, but being stuck at home with the kids doesn’t have to be completely isolating. You can all partake in the arts and music from anywhere. Many museums and concert halls have opened their archives to bring your family the best in culture and entertainment, delivering it right to a TV or laptop.
So today, instead of curling up for another round of classic re-runs on Netflix, visit one of the great art museums in Europe or stream a professional opera. Here’s your list of some of the best and brightest virtual tours and concerts available now. You can also grab the kids and learn how to make pasta from an Italian grandma online.
Paris is under lockdown, but your family can still virtually roam the halls of its most iconic art museum. The Louvre is offering three online tours including Egyptian Antiquities, Remains of the Louvre’s moat and Galerie d’Apollon, a recently restored gallery of decorative arts. Highlights of the Egyptian room include a statue of Akhenaton and Nefertiti standing hand in hand and an ancient amulet that belonged to Paser, the son of the high priest of Amon. Speaking of history, dive into the fascinating history of chocolate.
New York’s Metropolitan Opera
The Met’s season was scheduled to end May 9, 2020. But as schools and workplaces closed across the country, the Met, in New York City, followed suit. Along with a message from General Manager Peter Gelb, the prestigious venue announced, “During this extraordinary and difficult time, the Met hopes to brighten the lives of our audience members even while our stage is dark. Every day a different encore presentation from the company’s Live in HD series is being released for free, on-demand streaming.” The nightly performances began on March 16 with Bizet’s Carmen. The full upcoming schedule is available at MetOpera.org. Here are some of the essentials you didn’t know you needed while stuck inside.
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation
An internationally recognized destination for inventors and curious automobile lovers, The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, is perfect for a family-friendly virtual pit-stop. For older students slogging through e-learning homework, visiting The Henry Ford brings back some of the fun and wonder of field trips. Virtual visitors can explore artifacts like the bus where Rosa Parks protested segregation laws and the first car built by Henry Ford. The museum website also includes episodes of the Emmy award–winning Innovation Nation TV show, which highlights modern innovators who have come up with creative solutions to real needs. By the way, Joanna Gaines is giving free mini cooking classes online!
Cook up a plate of wiener schnitzel and settle in for a free daily stream of one of the archived performances from the Vienna State Opera in Austria. A new archived show is unlocked each day. From Falstaff to Romeo et Juliette, the Viennese performers will whisk you away from your living room and into the magical world of opera. You’ll need to create an account to log in, but the daily streaming is completely free (for now). Here are some free Broadway shows you can stream right now.
The Palace Museum in Beijing
The Palace Museum is here for you, wherever you are. Explore the Treasure Gallery, Gallery of Clocks, the Lantern Festival in the Forbidden City, and more. Once you “walk out” of the Palace Museum, head over to TheChinaGuide.com for a tour of the Great Wall of China, available for anyone who’s ever wanted to visit this wonder of the world.
The British Museum
Anyone who’s ever stepped foot in the British Museum knows that it is a treasure trove of history—from ancient times to modernity. The museum can easily take hours to roam. Your family can still do this with the uniquely tailored virtual journey that takes place along a timeline of history. From that timeline, you can choose a continent and view artifacts and stories that originated in that place and time. Attached audio files provide commentary on the images you see. The physical British Museum includes about 8 million artifacts, so no matter how long you spend exploring on your screen, it will only whet your appetite for a future visit. Don’t miss the ‘shopping angels’ who are delivering groceries to those in need.
“Keep it Playing” at the Bobby Hotel
It’s not just museums and opera halls that are getting in on the virtual act. The Bobby Hotel in Nashville has started a virtual concert series on its Instagram channel. Nashville was hit with devastating tornadoes right before the coronavirus restrictions were set in place, so the hotel says it’s more important than ever to “keep the music playing”—and rightly so. Tune in daily for virtual concerts featuring Nashville’s favorite singers, songwriters and musicians. Also on the hotel’s Instagram, you’ll find specially curated Spotify playlists that are guaranteed to keep toes tapping even when spring cleaning.
New York City’s Guggenheim Museum is a piece of artwork all on its own. Virtual visitors can now explore the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed spiral interior and the giant collection of works for free. The museum’s website invites all patrons to explore from their homes, saying, “In uncertain times such as these, art can provide both solace and inspiration. … We remain a virtual community committed to igniting ideas, discussion and creativity.” In addition to photo tours, the Guggenheim is opening its archive of video interviews with staff members about the museum’s architecture, exhibits and history. There is also a video collection of interviews with contemporary artists from Simone Leigh to Wong Ping. After your virtual tour, keep the inquisitive juices flowing with these all-day baking projects that will help pass the time.
Dreaming about travels far, far away? NASA recently partnered with YouTube to help you tour the Hubble Space Telescope Center while safely quarantined at home. Though the Space Telescope Operations Control Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is not technically a museum, this virtual outing is fun and educational for family members of all ages. The 360-degree tour includes the lobby, Missions Operations Room and a hallway full of hardware that survived its journey aboard Hubble. Note that you will need an updated browser to take the full tour.
J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles isn’t open to non-essential visitors right now, but its Getty Museum is still welcoming digital travelers from across the globe. Enjoy stunning works from the 8th to the 21st centuries in a 3D virtual tour of the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Centre. One of the best parts is that your family won’t need to time your free reserved tickets like you would for an in-person visit. Show up online anytime to view gorgeous classics like Rembrandt’s Rembrandt Laughing, Renoir’s La Promenade and Van Gogh’s Irises. This baker turns focaccia into Van Gough-inspired bread art.
Teatro Regio Torino
Unfortunately, Italians know all too well that social distancing and lockdowns can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. That’s why the Regio in Turin, Italy, began opening virtual shows to the public, calling it #operaonthesofa. The theater’s website calls it “a unique opportunity to see dress rehearsals of prestigious productions of the current season and of the past ones, which will be available, act by act, thanks to unpublished footage.”Cozy up on the sofa in your robe or Sunday best—the dress code is up to you—and enjoy daily performances of classic Italian operas and ballets. Find out some fun recipes to make with your kids while stuck indoors.
National Museum – New Delhi
Settle in for a virtual tour of The National Museum in New Delhi. This museum has been open since 1949, and the decades of collections span about 5,000 years of history. Though the entire collection isn’t on display in the virtual tour, you can still explore more than 600 artifacts, from paintings and decorative arts to jewelry and armor. Don’t miss the explanations behind colorful favorites such as “Krishna Lifting Mount Govardhan” and “Mughal Emeror Shahjahan” (artists unknown).
Street Art Museum Amsterdam
Hit the virtual streets of Amsterdam for an eclectic tour of modern graffiti art. The Street Art Museum is constantly evolving with new public art from artists around the world; according to the museum, it is the only recognized street art museum in the Netherlands. While it might seem difficult to fully experience street art from the confines of your house or apartment, Google Arts and Culture does a wonderful job bringing this experience to life. Each art piece is accompanied by a full explanation of the work. By the way, this secret trick to kneading bread dough makes it SO easy.
London’s Wigmore Hall is closed to the public until at least April 14. Fortunately for us, the world-class concert venue has opened its archive of past live streams so that we can all enjoy soothing classical music in our homes. The videos open with a brief look around Wigmore Hall itself, then settle on the stage for close-up views of the performers. From Beethoven to Schubert, the classic melodies are a comforting reminder of how beautiful music transcends time and world crises.
National Museum of Anthropology
Before you even (virtually) enter the doors of Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology, you will notice the calm of its indoor-outdoor spaces. Inside, you can explore artifacts arranged by material: rock, clay, limestone and basalt. While this virtual tour does not offer 360-degree views or a virtual reality setup, you will still enjoy immersion in thousands of years of history, as the tour is a compression of so many regions, cultures and timelines across Mexico. Also, cook your family a few of these authentic Mexican recipes.
National Hellenic Museum
Your stuck-at-home student of world culture will appreciate the free digital museum archive of Chicago’s National Hellenic Museum, which features more than 20,000 Greek-American artifacts, including religious objects, furniture, textiles, paintings and more. Per its website, the museum is “dedicated to preserving and protecting the Greek American experience and Hellenic Legacy,” and also includes a collection of photos, historic newspapers, books and more than 450 recorded oral histories. Next, read on for some DIY projects your kids can help out with.