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THE B-LIST: 14 things to do during the quarantine

Keeping yourself sane amidst the madness

A screenshot of the beautifully illustrated, fairy-tale-themed video game "Child of Light," available for free through Saturday, March 28, and a perfect distraction during the "shelter-in-place" orders.
A screenshot of the beautifully illustrated, fairy-tale-themed video game "Child of Light," available for free through Saturday, March 28, and a perfect distraction during the "shelter-in-place" orders.

Every hour, it seems we're hit with another sobering piece of news. The entire world feels jagged and surreal.

And there's no doubt: living during such a historic event isn't much fun from the inside looking out.

If you're finding yourself constantly cycling through panic, fear, insomnia and the like, here are some great — and FREE — distractions you can partake in from the safety of your own quarantine.

1. Virtually tour a number of museums. From the Uffizi to the Met, from the São Paulo Museum of Art to the Louvre, from the Musée d'Orsay to the Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam, dozens of the world's greatest museums have uploaded their collections to the internet, and you can now virtually tour them without ever leaving your couch. Just Google "virtual museum tours."

2. Download tens of thousands of books and plays. The website Nothing In The Rulebook has helpfully compiled a list of 45 places that offer free e-books — mostly classics in the public domain, but also plenty of plays, nonfiction texts, poetry collections and some newer titles. For the list, go to

3. Peruse the Art Institute of Chicago's collection — all 44,000 works. Two years ago, the Art Institute scanned and uploaded almost the entirety of their collection; now you can look at Grant Wood's "American Gothic," Vincent van Gogh's "The Bedroom" and Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" in glorious high resolution. Just go to

4. Walk through the Winchester Mystery House. Got an hour to spare? Then watch a video tour of the infamous Winchester Mystery House of San Jose, Calif., which was built by the eccentric heiress Sarah Winchester. The house is reportedly haunted and subverts all logical designs with 160 rooms, staircases that lead nowhere and doors that open over huge drops. Visit for the 41-minute video.

5. And if you're EXTRA spooky, stroll through the Paris Catacombs. This is perfect for every goth, horror fan and Francophile who can't afford a plane ticket to Paris even if international travel wasn't restricted. Just go to to watch the video.

6. Speaking of France, how about some opera? The Paris Opera is screening several classic operas on its website completely for free, including "Don Giovanni," "Swan Lake," "The Barber of Seville" and "Carmen." Find the list and link at

7. Let the iconic "Star Trek" star and renowned thespian Patrick Stewart read you Shakespeare's sonnets. Sir Patrick, an eternal good egg, has taken it upon himself to read sonnets to his fans on Twitter. Find him @SirPatStew.

8. Play some great video games for free. Kotaku has rounded up all of the best games currently being offered for free — like the gorgeously hand-drawn fairy tale "Child of Light" and the super-powered "Life is Strange." Even better: you can download and keep many of them after the pandemic subsides. The full list is available at

9. Sharpen your cooking skills by watching every episode of Julia Child's "The French Chef." Child, with her strident voice and cheerful wit, is a perfect antidote to the current crisis. Relive all of her iconic show through Amazon Prime or PBS Living.

10. Listen to a great children's book read by a famous author. Whether you're a parent with stir-crazy kids or just longing for the golden days of your more peaceful childhood, who doesn't enjoy a good kid's book now and then? There's a great list full of links at

11. Or color classic pieces of art! Still want to indulge your inner child, but too grown up to resort to Barbie or Batman coloring books? Open Culture has coloring pages generated from the collections of 113 museums, all free to download and print. Find them all at

12. Watch all of the Classic era of "Doctor Who." That's right. ALL OF IT. Some extremely enterprising soul(s) have uploaded all 26 seasons of the perennial sci-fi series' original run into the Internet Archive. Just be prepared for truly laughable production values and endearingly goofy monsters. You can start with the very first episode, "An Unearthly Child," right here:

13. (Re)read the entire Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate. Millennials, now is the time to relive the formative trauma of our favorite kids/young adult series about interplanetary genocide, child soldiers and extreme body horror! The e-books are free to download because Applegate is a Real One and refuses to make anyone take them down, saying she wants folks to have ready access to the series since the publishers have never released official e-book editions. Find the download links on Reddit at

And, last but not least:

14. Don't do anything but nap, take long baths and snack. It's all well and good to spend this required "down time" bettering yourself through virtual high culture, learning a new language, practicing your favorite form of art or finally plowing through your monstrous to-read pile.

But it's also absolutely necessary to recover your strength and focus on your own mental and physical health, even if that means sleeping and doing nothing but surviving. Just do your best to focus on the good things in your life and what you can control right now; as Disney's foxy Robin Hood says, "Keep your chin up. Someday there will be happiness again."

• ANGIE BARRY is a page designer and columnist for The Times. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers pop culture, history and literature, contact her at

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