April 23, 2024


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Free entertainment to help you survive coronavirus social distancing


Crackle is home to hundreds of movies you can stream for free — and some of them are actually worth seeing!


For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Welcome to our new abundantly cautious coronavirus reality, in which social distancing is the new normal and everything is closed or canceled. Already bored? Have no fear, I’ve rounded up a bunch of ways you can entertain yourself, all of them free. (You will, however, need things like a phone or tablet, a TV, an internet connection — and possibly a yoga mat.) I’ll keep this updated in the coming weeks with new offers and services.

Free PC games


The great indie game The Stanley Parable is available free for a limited time.

Galactic Cafe

Tired of small, bite-size phone games? This is the perfect time to reconnect with (or discover) computer games, which can deliver richer, deeper experiences. If nothing else, you’ll love playing on a much bigger screen.

First up, Epic Games is offering two excellent PC games free of charge: Watch Dogs and The Stanley Parable. Just add them to your Epic Games account (also free) anytime before March 26. (That’s the cutoff to download them; the games are yours to keep forever.)

Meanwhile, GOG is giving away a whopping 27 PC games, including classics dating back to 1979 (!) and a playable prologue of the brand new city-building sim Builders of Egypt. All titles are DRM-free and compatible with Windows; some are also available for Mac or Linux.

Read more: Best gaming laptops for 2020

Free magazines


RBDigital is home to lots of magazines you can download and read for free on your PC, tablet or phone.


Call me old-fashioned, but I still enjoy reading magazines: Cook’s Illustrated, Family Handyman, Men’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Wired and so on. I’m not a paid subscriber to any of them; instead, I use RBDigital, a service offered by my public library, to read all those titles on my phone and tablet. The selection varies, so you may not have access to all the same titles I do, but you should definitely investigate using RBDigital to get free magazines from your library.

Free ebooks and audiobooks

Speaking of libraries, yours can probably hook you up with a selection of free ebooks and audiobooks as well. Right now, for example, I’m using an app called Libby (formerly OverDrive) to read a novel by Richard Russo, and before that I used it to listen to Martin Short’s thoroughly entertaining autobiography I Must Say (read by the author). You may have to wait a bit before the title you want becomes available, so add a bunch to your queue so you always have something ready to go.

Meanwhile, Tor Books is currently offering a free digital copy of John Scalzi’s Redshirts when you sign up for their free eBook of the Month Club. (I snagged it and will be starting it soon. Scalzi’s Old Man’s War is a personal favorite.)

Read more: Best e-reader for 2020

Free streaming TV and movies


Revisit classic Bond, for free, on Pluto TV.


Just want to veg out in front of the TV? Don’t blame you one bit. While I think Hulu for $6 a month is arguably the single best streaming deal you can get, check out this list of 10 totally free movie and TV streaming services. Over at Pluto, for example, you can find an entire channel of James Bond movies, while Kanopy (yet another library-powered service) is home to notable films like Midsommar and The Great Buster: A Celebration. 

Free yoga classes

This might be the perfect time to take up yoga, one of the greatest stress-relievers ever. You can find countless free beginner classes — and plenty for more experienced yogis as well — on YouTube. I recommend starting with Yoga With Adriene, which has literally hundreds of videos for all skill levels (and all categories, like Yoga for Bedtime and Yoga for Wrist Pain).

While you’re at it, you can search YouTube for meditation classes. OK, these aren’t exactly entertaining, but definitely a useful way to pass the time — and keep stress at bay.

Free virtual museum tours


Anyone for a virtual tour of the American Museum of Magic?


How about a little culture in the mix? Google’s Arts & Culture collection can take you on virtual tours of hundreds of museums around the world, from Japan’s Nagoya City Art Museum to Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. Within each you may find one or more “stories” you can browse. You can sort the collection alphabetically or view them on a map. One particularly great example: Posters from History’s Greatest Illusionists at the American Museum of Magic. 

Free night at the opera

The New York Metropolitan Opera will stream a different encore Live in HD performance every day through Sunday, March 22. Each performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET (4:30 p.m. PT) and remain available for streaming for 20 hours. You can watch the streams in a browser, or use one of the Met Opera on Demand streaming apps available for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices. (Take note, however, that the site is already noting unprecedented high demand, so be prepared for delays or glitches.)

Free Westworld season 1



I wouldn’t call this the feel-good show we need right now, but if you don’t have an HBO subscription and want to check out a notable series, the Roku Channel is currently offering Westworld season 1 for free. It’s also available via the Apple TV app, even if you don’t have an Apple TV Plus subscription.

Read more: Westworld season 3 review

Free 90-day Peloton app subscription


The Peloton app gives you full access to all Peloton fitness content, but for a much lower price ($13 a month) than bike owners pay. And right now it’s free for 90 days.

Rick Broida/CNET

With many gyms now closed indefinitely, Peloton is offering a welcome workout-at-home option: a free 90-day trial of the Peloton app. Available for Android, iOS and Amazon Fire TV, it provides unlimited access to a wealth of live and on-demand classes: treadmill and outdoor running, strength training, high-intensity interval training, yoga, meditation and so on. If you choose to continue after the trial, the subscription costs $13 a month.

Read moreGym closed? Here are some of the best home workout options

Free 90-day Amazon Music HD subscription


Amazon Music HD aims to challenge the high-fidelity likes of Tidal and Qobuz. Here’s your chance to try it free for 90 days.


Wait, Amazon Music has an HD option? I honestly had no idea. And what exactly does “HD” mean when it comes to music? In this case, it means higher bit rates, which in layman’s terms translates to better sound quality. Whereas Spotify maxes out at a bit rate of 320 kilobits per second, Amazon HD delivers up to 850Kbps for its 50-million song library — and up to a whopping 3,730Kbps for millions of songs in “Ultra HD” format.

Anyway, this free 90-day trial is available only for new Amazon Music subscribers. After that, you’ll get billed at the regular rate of $14.99 a month (or $12.99 if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber) unless you cancel.

Free audiobooks for kids and teens


Audible is offering free streaming audiobooks for kids of all ages.


To help keep out-of-school kids occupied, Audible is offering a big selection of streaming audiobooks at no charge. You’ll find the likes of Winnie-the-Pooh, Anne of Green Gables, White Fang, various Audible Originals and even some modern titles like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. There are books available in different languages as well, including French, German and Spanish.

For the moment it looks like a browser is required for this; the streams don’t seem to be available within Audible’s apps. There’s also no log-in or even registration required, and I was able to listen on my phone via my mobile browser.

Other ideas

What else can we do with all this stay-at-home down-time? Some suggestions: bake bread, organize the junk drawer, start a new hobby, revisit an old hobby, break out the board games. (Need a new one? Walmart currently has Ticket to Ride: London for just $9, nearly $11 off the regular price.) In other words, use this time to unwind, disconnect and hopefully find some calm.

Now tell me your ideas for staying busy and entertained — ideally without spending any (or much) money.

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