If nothing else, Covid taught us how to be more creative while cooped up at home.
So should lockdown strike again – or it’s just a run-of-the-mill boring day or the weather is bad – settle in for some low-effort, high-reward amusement with these 15 fun ideas.
1. Take a virtual hike
Lose yourself in Virtual Yosemite, an online exploration of the national park in California. You can view more than 200 locations within Yosemite and its surrounding areas via high-resolution, 360-degree interactive panoramas.
Zoom in to dizzying views from the tops of Yosemite’s famous cliffs and waterfalls or take on challenging hikes and climbs. Scale El Capitan, for instance, known as the tallest granite rock face in the world. (Fun fact: It was popularised by the 2017 documentary, The Dawn Wall, which is available on Netflix.)
Virtual Yosemite even has close-ups of climbers in a hanging bivouac, or tent, suspended along the sheer rock wall. Couch potatoes, take note: This does not count as actual exercise.
2. Step into the kitchen
Even if your concept of cooking involves takeaway or delivery, you may find motivation in the culinary pics, Stories and Reels populating your Instagram feed.
Say, for example, you’re a fan of Australian cuisine. Some of the top chefs from New South Wales share their recipes on IG. Renowned for pasta, Mitch Orr (@instakrill), the head chef at Sydney’s CicciaBella restaurant, has been posting step-by-step recipes to dishes such as rigatoni alla vodka, bolognese (above) and carbonara.
Meanwhile, Danielle Alvarez (@daniellemariealvarez), head chef at the restaurant Fred’s in Paddington and known for her sustainable and local approach, is sharing recipes to dishes such as chicken paillard with sage and brown butter, as well as that comfort food staple, cinnamon rolls. What a delicious rabbit hole to go down.
3. Tour some of Europe’s top museums
Many renowned museums are still offering virtual tours. The British Museum in London, for one, has an interactive tour that allows viewers to select exhibits based on themes such as “living and dying” as well as “religion and belief.”
Through Google Culture, the famous Musée d’Orsay in Paris also has select artwork exhibited online, including works from Impressionist luminaries like Degas, Van Gogh and Renoir.
4. Master yo-yo tricks
The hobby sport of yo-yo is experiencing a revival of sorts – buoyed by new tricks, better makes of yo-yos and a fresh wave of young players. Check out Singapore-based yo-yo speciality store Spinworkx‘s online photo tutorials and FAQs to help teach you the basics. Before long, you’ll know how to rock the baby, do the brain twister and attempt the man on the flying trapeze.
5. Follow a meditation session
The Covid-19 pandemic has dialed our collective stress level all the way up and impacted people’s mental wellness during isolation. Sounds like a good time to try a mindfulness app.
Take Headspace, which has a section of free audio-guided mindfulness exercises as part of a larger collection of meditation, sleep and movement exercises. United States-based content creator and former monk Jay Shetty (shown) also leads daily 20-to 30-minute-long meditation sessions via his social media channels. Download Headspace or visit the “12 Days of Live Meditation with Jay” YouTube channel.
6. Head for higher altitude
Those who have trekked to the base camp of Mount Everest report challenging terrain, frigid weather and lung-busting climbs – along with glorious views of towering peaks near the top of the world.
Skip the hard part and go straight to the vistas via Google Maps’ Everest Base Camp site, which offers an impressive 360-degree panoramic of South Base Camp, including tents, prayer flags and hardy climbers speckling the rugged terrain. Also check out iconic pit stops such as Tengboche Monastery, bedecked in vibrant hues, and other mountains on the journey, such as the 6,812-metre-tall Ama Dablam.
You can also learn about expeditions to other iconic peaks from Google’s Street View gallery. For instance, climbers attempting Russia’s 5,642-metre-tall Mount Elbrus can rest in diesel huts, which are shelters made from fuel storage tanks.
7. Be your own bartender
One of the silver linings of various global lockdowns has been the ability to get your drink on in the comfort of your pyjamas. If you haven’t already, order the essentials for a fully-stocked home bar and perfect your pours of the all-time most classic cocktails. Once you’ve mastered those, move on to innovative new easy cocktail and mocktail recipes.
8. Experience an ambient walk
The Ambient Walking channel on YouTube is a series of videos by artist Heman Chong that captures the sights and sounds of these special spots, from strolling down the street with the friendly deer of Nara, Japan, to taking a two-hour trip through Amsterdam’s Vongel Park in the rain.
The appeal of these walks lies not in grand scenery or iconic landmarks, but in their meditative, immersive nature: The sounds of crickets and leaves crunching underfoot can transport you to a humid morning at Singapore’s MacRitchie Reservoir, while the sounds of British accents on a London bus may make you feel as though you’re 10,000 kilometres away.
9. Peruse art collections from Asia
Fun fact: On 7 April, 1989, the colonial-era Empress Place Museum in Singapore reopened after an extensive renovation, showcasing rare Qing relics being exhibited out of China for the very first time. The building is now occupied by the Asian Civilisations Museum (shown), and you can explore it via the Virtual Collection of Asian Masterpieces, which houses more than 2,700 prized artefacts from more than 140 museums in 40 countries.
10. Study something fun
No pop quizzes here! Search the interwebs, and you’ll find a range of mind-expanding online courses – both free and paid – on major platforms edX, FutureLearn and Coursera. Wannabe fashion experts, for example, can take a FutureLearn course, “Understanding Fashion: From Business To Culture,” which is taught by Professor Benjamin Simmenauer from Paris’ Institut Francais de la Mode. The course features input from personalities in the fashion industry, including designers Simon Porte Jacquemus, Christelle Koche and Paul Smith, as well as CEOs from Chanel, YSL and Hermès. Check out this list of the top 10 online courses to try at home.
11. View Cambodia’s Angkor Wat – then and now
Warning: You could spend an entire weekend exploring the history, culture, geography and impact of the majestic Angkor empire at not one, not two but three different websites.
While not quite better than the real thing, Google’s Street View of Cambodia’s famed UNESCO World Heritage Site beats your average request for directions: There’s a time-lapse beauty shot of the archaeological landmark, which gives way to a dizzying “zoom in from a planetary to a bird’s-eye” view of the site. Scroll further, and you can explore each of four temple complexes and tap little highlight boxes that give a quick precis of buildings.
Meanwhile, Monash University’s Visualising Angkor project is an intriguing collection of 3D simulations which shows what life in the mediaeval city might have been like for its estimated 25,000 inhabitants. The animated visualisations are based on archaeological and architectural surveys as well as historical records.
Similarly, Virtual Angkor brings together a series of 360-degree visualisations of the city. This digital recreation, targeted at students, won the Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History awarded by the American Historical Association in 2018.
12. Immerse yourself in culture
Google’s immense resources makes the Google Arts & Culture site pure eye-candy for art lovers. Check out the surreally high-resolution scans of classic works – zoom in enough, and you can see individual brushstrokes. There are videos and mini-exhibitions organised by various museums around the world. You can get a quick crash course on everything from artists to mediums to colour.
The massive range of curated, quality content is positively mind-boggling. With recommended links by Google’s algorithms and slick, easy-to-navigate layouts, this experience sets the high bar for premium arts content. Warning: You may never want to leave.
13. Trek through the Grand Canyon
One of the most remarkable wonders of the world, this natural attraction in Arizona, United States, lends itself to many virtual experiences. Your Grand Canyon National Park virtual tour departs whenever you’re ready: You can go on an interactive virtual field trip, marvel at one of the deepest gorges on Earth and hear experts discuss topics like the types of rock found there.
Or sign on to a would-be rafting trip where you float along the Colorado River through the canyon, starting at Lees Ferry and ending at the Lake Mead National Recreational Area.
14. Admire the Netherlands’ most famous flower garden
Even if low-maintenance plants under your care don’t stand a chance, you can enjoy total access to the unspeakably gorgeous scenery of the popular Keukenhof flower garden in the town of Lisse in the Netherlands.
Visit the Keukenhof YouTube channel to admire fresh blooms in their prime as the park’s gardeners show viewers around Keukenhof and talk about their favourite spots and flowers, such as hyacinths, daffodils and, of course, the tulips for which the Netherlands is famed. The garden’s seven million bulbs attract some 1.5 million visitors from more than 100 countries a year during tulip season.
15. Get your sweat on
Okay, so maybe working out isn’t your idea of fun, but how much sitting in front of a screen can one person do? If you’re craving activity, you don’t even have to hit up a gym.
In fact, many of them have taken to their websites and social media channels to help members stay motivated from home. Yoga, barre, boxing, dance and functional fitness studios have all posted free workout videos on their websites and Instagram livestreams or IGTV, the platform’s long-form video feature.
Look for your favorite fitness brands or discover new ones online or on IG, or check out our roundup of fab fitness and running apps you can try at home – and finally make good on your health goals!
Originally by Benson Ang, Prisca Ang, Ong Sor Fern, Clara Lock, Eunice Quek and Anjali Raguraman with input from Sazali Abdul Aziz and SPH Information Resource Centre, The Straits Times, 2020 / Additional Reporting: Kenneth Ang, HardwareZone, and Sara Lyle Bow, April 2020 / Last updated by Brooke Glassberg