Have Fun, Do Good: The Social Distancing Edition

A regularly updated guide featuring fun things to do in Philadelphia during the coronavirus quarantine, including live-streamed arts performances, tours of local museums and more

At this point, Philadelphians have been in quarantine mode for nearly a month. And lucky for us, our options for fun things to do virtually continue to expand.

We lay out plenty of those options below, including weekly digital performances by The Bearded Ladies Cabaret, 360-degree tours of local institutions like the Betsy Ross House, Eastern State Penitentiary and the Museum of the American Revolution, and a fully staged musical that’s been described as a cross between RuPaul’s Drag Race and Hocus Pocus.

If you need to get away from technology, get out for a socially distant stroll every Tuesday in April to see the city skyline glow blue for health care workers and first responders, or explore a host of inspiring public arts projects that have sprung up in response to the pandemic.

We’ll keep updating this list until we’re in the clear, so stop by regularly for more ideas about things to do in Philadelphia while we wait out the coronavirus.

Things to do in Philly during the coronavirus outbreak

Watch the Philly skyline turn blue 💙

More than three dozen buildings and landmarks in Philadelphia will glow blue every Tuesday evening in April—starting on April 7—to pay tribute to health care workers and first responders who are on the frontlines of fighting the coronavirus pandemic locally. This includes a host of commercial and residential buildings stretching from Center City to South Philly, like Boathouse Row, the cultural institutions along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, LOVE Park and Dilworth Park. If you have or run a building and want to take part, contact the Building Owners & Managers Association (BOMA) of Philadelphia, at [email protected] or 215-567-1775.

Spend your lunch break with the Bearded Ladies

Philly cabaret troupe The Bearded Ladies—the same folks who hosted the Bastille Day celebrations at Eastern State Penitentiary—are coming to you on Facebook every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at 1:04pm. On Tuesdays, they’ll release videos of bygone performances from their vault, and Thursdays features a livestream of brand new content. Follow The Bearded Ladies on Facebook to get in on the always-entertaining action.

Livestream the drag musical Basic Witches

Mark your calendar for Saturday, April 11, at 8pm, when Philly-raised Broadway singer Robi Hager (Spring Awakening, Bye Bye Birdie) livestreams his campy drag musical Basic Witches via Facebook. Taking a cue from RuPaul’s Drag Race, the show follows four witches competing to be crowned “Supreme Witch of Halloween Hills.” Hager is accepting donations for the performance via the show’s Venmo account, @BasicWitches. Proceeds benefit performers currently out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic. You can check out a trailer for Basic Witches here.

Watch live interviews with local movers and shakers

Streets Dept. founder Conrad Benner is sitting down with a host of local artists, politicians and thought leaders every day for an intimate chat on Instagram Live. Guests through next week include Philly street artist Amberella (April 4, 7pm), State Representative Elizabeth Fiedler (April 8, tbd), and local photographer HughE Dillon, who will talk about his experience having Covid-19 (April 6, 1pm). See the full lineup here, and follow @streetsdept on Instagram to join the chats.

Take an online tour of Eastern State Penitentiary

Take an online tour of one of the most famous prisons in the world. Eastern State Penitentiary is offering interactive digital tours of the creepy 19th-century structure, which includes fascinating details and 360-degree views of spots like Al Capone’s cell, “the hole” and the hospital. You can even take a 360-degree of the prison from 1998 to see how much it’s changed over the years.

Explore the Betsy Ross House

One of Philly’s oldest historical sites is getting with the times with a variety of digital offerings. History lovers can not only take 360-degree tours of the Betsy Ross House and grounds, but hear from the flag-maker herself in a series of YouTube videos called “Betsy at Home.” The short clips are great for kids, with Miss Ross sharing historical details about life before the American Revolution and what it was like to stitch Old Glory.

Take a donation-based yoga class 🧘🏽‍♀️

South Philly’s Palo Santo Yoga Studio is welcoming anyone in the community to take daily yoga classes by offering daily sessions on a generous donation-based priced plant. The virtual classes happen every day at 9am, noon and 6:30pm via Zoom. Use this code to join: 883-036-6021. You can get more information on Palo Santo’s Instagram feed.

Take fun dance classes with BalletX

Philly contemporary dance company BalletX is offering multiple livestream dance classes every single day on its Instagram profile. The sessions are taught by BalletX dancers and teaching artists and range in style from contemporary to ballet to vogueing and even some kids classes. You can see the full lineup here.

Share your talents with local arts orgs

Two local arts organizations are asking the community to submit videos of themselves performing and sharing stories during the quarantine. First Person Arts is creating a digital storytelling memoir that asks locals to film themselves talking about their experience in self-isolation. Learn more about the project—including details on how to submit—here. The Kimmel Center’s #ArtHappensAtHome asks folks to send in videos of themselves performing—whether it’s singing, reciting poetry, rapping or playing an instrument. The spots will then be featured on the Kimmel Center’s Instagram page. To submit, just post your video with the hashtag #ArtHappensAtHome.

Explore Covid-inspired public art

A host of local public arts projects meant to uplift and inspire have sprung up over the past few weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic. South Philly resident and realtor Robin Mack-Ward launched citywide initiative One Philly Coronavirus Public Art Project, where locals create a piece of art around a different theme each week and display it in their windows for passersby to enjoy. There’s also “Fill the Walls With Hope,” a grittier street-art project that asked artists to cover walls around town with uplifting visuals and messages of hope and resilience. Read more about that here. Get out on a nice day and see how many of these pieces you can find.

Get a daily dose of history at National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center continues to ramp up its online services with its daily America’s Town Hall series, which features scholars, thought leaders, authors and more delving into Constitution-based topics like the electoral college, presidential election reform and more. Find the full rundown of live programming at NCC—and there’s quite a bit of it—here.

Take a Trip to the Philadelphia Zoo 🦓

The Philadelphia Zoo launched a new educational Facebook Live series called Philly Zoo at 2. Every weekday at 2pm, Director of Educational Programs Dani Hogan will take viewers behind the scenes to meet some of the animals living in America’s oldest zoo. Upcoming episodes will feature lions, tigers, giraffes, hedgehogs, rhinos, red pandas, red tail hawks and more.

Watch sharks get fed at Adventure Aquarium 🦈

Adventure Aquarium is offering a range of fun virtual programming on its social media channels during the coronavirus shutdown. Swing by their Facebook page for something new each day: Mondays at noon there will be a children’s storytelling hour featuring Cliff the penguin; a biologist will be on hand to answer questions about the animals onsite on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4pm; and you can watch biologists feed the hippos, sharks and penguins every Wednesday and Friday at noon. On top of that, youngsters can check the site each day for new printable activities like word searches and coloring pages.

Attend a virtual Free Library Author Event

The Free Library of Philadelphia is streaming a handful of its recent author events on YouTube as well as some cool behind-the-scenes footage with writers. Available videos include National Book Award winner James McBride, hilarious local playwright and Elle columnist R. Eric Thomas, and David Plouffe, the 2008 campaign manager for Barack Obama, whose Free Library lecture is entitled “A Citizen’s Guide to Beating Donald Trump.”

Get a daily dose of art at the Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation has announced a host of new online programming, including a daily YouTube segment called Barnes Takeout: Your Daily Serving of Art. Each day a curator, scholar or educator will dive into a different piece of art, offering little-known facts about some of the Barnes’ most famous pieces—like this one on Modigliani’s Redheaded Girl in Evening Dress. Follow the Barnes on YouTube or sign up for the newsletter to learn about the latest episodes.

Browse the art and take some classes at PAFA

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has launched a new initiative in direct response to the coronavirus quarantine: “PAFA from Home: Inspiration Everywhere, Anywhere” features all kinds of virtual programming out of the museum—including a digital tour of its renowned and time-spanning art collection, videos of past artist talks and a cool 360-degree virtual tour of the museum. Serious art students can also sign up for fee-based online art classes, line one on digital animation for middle and high school students, and beginning drawing and essential human anatomy for people of all ages.

Explore the Museum of the American Revolution

The Museum of the American Revolution invites folks to explore its collection with a host of free digital resources—a great opportunity for students stuck at home. You can take a digital museum tour featuring cool 360-degree panoramic footage, go on a virtual field trip or delve into excerpts from recent books about the Revolutionary War via the museum’s carefully curated Read the Revolution archives.

Header photo courtesy Avi Richards / Unsplash

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