Top 11 Things to Do With Your Physically Distant Friends Online (Check for Updates)

Dinosaur images by tee2tee & Jerzy Górecki

I miss my friends.

Before the shelter-in-place order was put into effect, I lived the Silicon-Valley startup lifestyle. For a full year, I lived to work and I worked to live. Time spent with my friends was already at an all-time low. But now I yearn even more for connection as this feeling of dystopian doom washes over me. I can’t help but wonder if our health care system and my financial pockets will be able to handle the COVID-19 wrath.

The loneliness that prompted a call from a dear friend of mine in New York encouraged an idea I had been having — coordinating a virtual happy hour (see #11 — I Will Survive Virtual Happy Hour). I had never done this before. I got into student mode and began searching for virtual activities. I’m happy to say that there are so many online ways for you to rekindle that connection.

Here are the top 10 things to do with your friends online:

1. Our Virtual Wellness Studio

One way to survive the pandemic is to keep your mind and immunity strong. Our Virtual Wellness Studio organized by Teresa Yung offers a variety of classes with several teachers leading meditations and yoga to tea ceremonies and Authentic Relating Games. A Zoom link is posted prior to the start of each class. Search for Our Virtual Wellness Studio in Facebook Groups to join and invite your friends!

Updated weekly

2. Watch Parties

Just about anything on this list that isn’t already on a screen-sharing platform can be turned into a watch party with your friends. Your friends, in fact, will be the differentiating factor in upgrading any of the online experiences on this list or any other online event list for that matter.

Zoom, Google Hangouts, Watch2Gether, etc. are all platforms that make it possible for you to video chat and share almost anything online with your physically-distanced friends. Watch2Gether is basically Netflix Party’s crazy cousin because it has 18 entertainment syncing options, including YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, Pinterest, and more.

Here are some watch-party alternatives to your standard movie or video:

  1. The Shows Must Go On!
    The amazing Andrew Lloyd Weber has spoken and it is done! Universal has launched a new channel of stage-to-screen musicals starting with Weber’s classics for the first few weeks. Musical fans will also have access backstage and will be able to enjoy showtunes. Don’t wait too long to watch each musical! They will only be available for 48 hours, each Friday at 7pm GMT!
  2. HBO GO + HBO NOW
    Starting this Friday, April 3rd, HBO GO and HBO NOW will be streaming 500 hours of programming for free.
  3. Free opera streaming on The Metropolitan Opera’s website
    Due to the pandemic, every day that the stage is dark, The Met plans to stream an encore presentation from 7:30 p.m. EDT to 3:30 p.m. the next day. Turn on close captioning in case you need a translation. Check out the schedule here.
  4. Sand Marble Rallys
    Jelle’s Marble Rallys are addicting, and I have never rooted for an inanimate object as I have watching marbles race. The most exciting ones for me are the sand tracks. Have a random friend pick a random race, and after everyone picks their marble, press play and let the races (and bets) begin! Pick from the large library of marble races here.
  5. Prowalk Tours
    This is a great tour travel channel. The thing that’s different about these videos is there is no tour guide speaking so you can take in the sights, listen to all the sounds of the environment you’re “walking” in and even talk to each other during the experience. If you turn on the close caption option, there will be subtitles that pop up to tell you a bit more about what it is you’re seeing. Some of the videos in the channel offer 360° views which tend to be choppy. However, both the standard and 4k videos provide smooth and clear views. Figure out where you want to walk with your friends here. Other options without subtitles include BookingHunterTV and walking4k. For all of these, don’t forget to enlarge the screen to get a better experience.
    *Pro tip: For a real treat, search “4K Binaural”
  6. Winchester Mystery House
    Want a free tour of the weird and wonderful Winchester Mystery House located in San Jose, CA? Now’s your chance because this will only be available until the mansion can be open to the public again. Heiress, Sarah Winchester, believed that building this mansion would protect her from the ghosts of those shot by Winchester rifles. A secret passage, a seance room, and doors that lead to nowhere are just a taste of what you’ll see on this online tour.
  7. VR and 360° Paintings you can walk into
    You don’t necessarily need a VR headset to enjoy these videos. Right now, “walking” into a painting is novel enough to give you a unique and immersive experience.
    • Van Gogh: Cafe Terrace at Night | The Starry Night
    Salvador Dali
    • Claude Monet: Water Lilies
    • Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriël: In the Month of July
Take your friends on a trip into Salvador Dali’s paintings

3. Google Arts & Culture

Want to go to a museum halfway across the world with your friends? There’s an awesome variety of cultural and museum type activities at Google Arts & Culture. You can zoom into a painting to see the tiny details of its brush strokes, go on a guided tour while using your keyboard to look around, explore artifacts in 3D, and more!

Some of the museums offer museum view(s) where you can self-navigate through locations or exhibits with your arrow keys (on the right of your keyboard) or the W-A-S-D keys (on the left side) — similar to how you would navigate street view in Google Maps.

My favorite section is 360° videos where the video navigates for you, but you can still use your mouse or touchpad to look around. Use a screen-share platform to share these experiences with your friends.

Explore the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, MO from your couch

4. Cryptovoxels

Similar to online virtual worlds like Second Life and DecentralandCryptovoxels (CV) is a pixelated version of an online virtual world built on Ethereum technology. The great thing is that you don’t need to sign up or connect a digital wallet in order to explore it. CV has seen a lot of activity lately, especially in the digital art scene. One notable district in this virtual world is Gangnam Neon Zone, short for Neon Zone in the Gangnam Arts District. There are several art events and gatherings that happen on a regular basis here and in other districts of CV as well. Both voice and text chat are built into the platform. If you’ve never navigated through or chatted on CV before, click HERE for a great intro before dropping in on these events:

1. The Gangnam Art Club — Art Discussion, Every First Monday
Conlan hosts the Gangnam Art Club meetup to discuss — you guessed it — ART! Held on the first Monday of every month at 11am PST | 2pm EST | 7pm GMT
• Click HERE and share this link with your friends. Clicking on this link will drop you and your friends in front of the Rose Nexus Gallery. When you land, you’ll see a cyberpunk neon style building and 3 double-sided screens. If you look at the bottom of each screen on both sides, they are lettered A & B, C, D & E. Conlan will moderate attendees through each art piece alphabetically.
• Also you can join the Cryptovoxels Discord HERE and visit the “in-world-events” channel in case CV crashes, or to find out about more events happening in the Cryptovoxels world.

2. MakersPlace Artist Drops
Next door is MakersPlace’s gallery. Every Wednesday around 2pm PST | 5pm EST | 10pm GMT, MakersPlace — a blockchain-backed digital art marketplace — debuts at least 3 new pieces by 3 new artists at their Cryptovoxels-Gangnam Neon Zone gallery. Their gallery has 3 floors, with each floor featuring new and/or previously created works by each artist. Share this link with your friends to meet in the Cryptovoxels world.

Featured here: MakersPlace Gallery in the Gangnam Neon Zone. Little known fact — MakersPlace also has a 2nd gallery in Doom District.

5. DJ Dance Parties

DJ D-Nice may have been the most talked about Quarantine DJ dance party to date, but there are DJs out there on the daily, doing the work to help us keep our figures while we mow through our quarantine snacks. Let’s support them and have a great time with our friends and family, too. Screen-share your chosen DJ Dance Party to if you’d like the option to voice chat with friends.

  1. Virtual Dance Party for Families
    For something fun and family-friendly check out Virtual Dance Party hosted by Brent Rosen and his family. Let’s do the Cha Cha Slide and Macarena together every Wednesday at 4pm PST!
  2. DJ Mel’s Dance Party
    Mel Cavaricci, better known as DJ Mel, spins all-inclusive music every Saturday at 6pm CST. Keep an eye out for the link to his next event here.

6. Improv Comedy

No one can argue that we need some balance right now, and laughter is the best medicine for that. Get your prescription filled with these improv groups:

  1. Quarantine Improv Online!
    Looking to do improv games and scene work as well? Find the details on Facebook, or just invite your friends to drop into the Zoom Room here every Wednesday at 4pm PST | 7pm EST.
  2. Hideout Theatre
    The improv troupe Parallelogramophonograph, also known as PGgraph, is finding ways to perform improv online for your entertainment specifically at their Hideout Theatre channel. Check here for the latest schedule of shows. To voice chat, drop into Twitch with your friends via Watch2Gether or another screen-share platform.
  3. The Virtual Vortex Programming
    Interested in “live chats, solo performance, improv, music…” and more? Drop into their livestreams at 8pm CST, Thursdays through Sundays. Check out what’s next on the schedule here. Access these via a screen-sharing platform if you’d like to have the option to voice chat.

7. Virtual Open Mic

I love discovering and listening to the unsigned, undiscovered, potential talent out there. It’s like finding a gem in the virtual dirt.

  1. Riptide Monday Night Open Mic
    Also called the “QuaranSing: Virtual Open Mic Night” is a weekly Monday open mic for singers hosted by The Riptide, San Francisco. Sign up here, and check out the performers here. This is on Facebook, so you can start a Watch Party with your friends whenever you click on the live-stream. If you want to voice chat with your friends, you’ll need to use a separate screen-share platform.
  2. Rivertown Poets: AMuseing Mondays
    Don’t let these words escape you! Sandra Anfang hosts a poetry open mic here on Zoom for you to enjoy every Monday at 6:15pm PST. And if you’re a poet, sign up quickly like you know it.

8. Zoomaroke

There are a number of online-hosted karaoke nights out there, but the best one is DJ Purple’s Dance Zoomaroke. Why? Because whenever appropriate, he plays the sax or harmonica for your song, and will also provide harmonies. He also only allows songs that you can dance to in order to keep the vibe upbeat. Spectators are totally welcome. And if you’re more of the expressive type, bring props and feel free to dance!

9. Virtual Concerts

We have a lot of musicians singing from their homes, and I am sure they would appreciate your support! To voice chat with your friends, open any of the links provided in a screen-share platform.

  1. What the Folk!
    Join Jon Tyson and Sarah Songbird of the The Real Sarahs in an acoustic experience as they sing your requests every day at 5:00pm PST. If you’re a songwriter, keep an eye out for their announcement at the end of this week for more information on a songwriting group that Sarah will be starting!
  2. Billboard’s List of All the Big Name Artists’ Live Streams
    With all the music venues, stages, and bars closed, many big name artists are going live online. Billboard updates this list periodically so check here often for your favorite musician’s scheduled livestream.
  3. NPR’s List of Live Streams & Virtual Concerts
    Want to support the independent and lesser known artists? Check out this list for musicians, bands and performers from around the globe.

10. Social Games

I love my friends so much, and time with them is so precious. So, more often than not, I try to choose group game activities that allow some type of interaction with each other. They’re available as apps on your phone, and through websites. I’ve even hosted game nights adapting physical board games and card games for Zoom.

  • House Party is a chat app that offers Heads Up, Quick Draw, and Chips & Guac
  • Telegram is a chat app that offers games through the use of bots. Depending on the game you want, type in one of the following: @unobot, @dreamersbot, @werewolfbot, and @spyfallbot. You can also private message @Gamee for a collection of more games.
  • Jackbox Games & Air Console are platforms with hundreds of games including more social games like: Friends Quiz, Never Have I Ever, Fibbage and Drawful.
  • There are online versions of card games that you can find online including Codenames & Cards Against Humanity
  • Puzzle adventure or point-and-click adventure games are great to do online with your friends. They are usually more accessible on your iPad or mobile phone. Basically one person will share the game on their phone to Zoom and will be the same person operating the game. Everyone else provides input in order to solve puzzles or makes decisions on what to do or say next. Great games to start with include: Fire Maples Games, Double Fine’s Broken Age & Grim Fandango Remastered, The Talos Principle, Fireproof Games’ The Room, & The House of Da Vinci

11. I Will Survive Virtual Happy Hour

Meme edited from https://paleontology.us/dinosaur-coronavirus-meme/
Original painting by John Gurche of Sue for the Field Museum in Chicago.

“Happy Hour” really gets a whole new meaning now that it’s strictly online during these trying times. So gather up your adult drinks, shot glasses, and quarantine snacks. Then sit on your virtual stools at the counter (read as: desktop/laptop) to chat it up with your friends. Sure, you’ll want to commiserate with your friends at the start. But the main point of I Will Survive Happy Hour is to escape our dystopian present for the happy things in life, and to connect and interact with your fellow humans. Here’s what you might expect at an
I Will Survive Happy Hour:

  1. Storytelling and Show & Tells — Got an awesome story to share? Bring it!
  2. Social-leaning activities and games — Friends Quiz, fARTwork, Cards And Humanity, Never Have I Ever on AirConsole or fun analog games like Forehead Detective, Heads Up, Kings Cup, 36 Questions and so on.
  3. Watch Parties and Movie Nights
  4. Karaoke, Dance & Listening Parties
  5. Open Mics, Variety Shows & Improv
  6. Virtual Open Studios / Art Shows
  7. Paint & Draw Nights
  8. And more!

Until We Hug Again

This is hard — really, really effing hard. This is surreal — beyond surreal.
Let’s think of who might need a virtual shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen. Let’s remember to check in on each other outside of the things we do to distract us from going stir crazy. Let’s visualize, visualize, and visualize some more, the things that allow us to feel emotions of pure joy, passion and happiness. Until we hug again…see you online.

If you find any other online activities that would be great to add to the list, let me know with a comment below.

Have any questions or concerns about the above list? Or do you need help navigating through any of the technical stuff regarding the different platforms? Let me know and I’ll do my best to address any issues.

And if you found this list useful, please press and hold on the clap icon for up to 50 claps. Thank you so much!

Pastry-loving stan of the NFT crypto art and music space, and your self-appointed stylist. I am not funny.

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