Free things you can do online when you’re stuck at home

From games and art galleries to newspapers and academic papers, here’s a list of things you can read, watch, and play for free.
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A laptop with a dollar sign crossed out.

With cafes and restaurants shut, major sports and music events cancelled, and movement outside your home restricted to essential trips to the supermarket, a lot of people are turning to their devices for entertainment and escape from monotony.

If you’re stuck indoors, and working from home, it’s normal to suffer from cabin fever.

Fear not. If you find yourself bored of Netflix binging, here are a few other things you can do to pass the time. While it’s great that so many companies are giving away their wares for free, be sure to check the terms of service. It might not be as free as you think.

Download and play free games with friends

Some games, like Fortnite, are already free to play, but a few more have joined the fray too. Games like  Drawful 2 are one. What’s more, game distributor GOG has a Stay at Home bundle with retro and indie games you can download for free until March 30. If you miss a bundle, chances are there will be another bundle with another set of games for you to discover.

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Free group chat platforms have also become an essential pairing with online group gaming, with Houseparty a popular choice. Just make sure that you’ve set your room to private to prevent any unwanted guests from entering your chat room.

Visit museums, zoos, and aquariums (virtually)

Google’s Arts & Culture section has a massive collection of paintings, exhibitions, 360 degree capturings of museums and galleries, as well as virtual tours of famous landmarks through Street View. Notable partners include the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, and the British Museum. If you don’t want Google seeing your activity on their site, you can simply sign out or go incognito.

If nature is your thing, you’ll be happy to know that several zoos have live camera feeds of different animals, from lions to penguins to pandas. Check out San Diego Zoo or the National Zoo to check in on lions and elephants, or simply leave the Monterey Aquarium’s Moon Jelly live feed on as a soothing backdrop.

Read previously-inaccessible academic papers

Academic journals and their aggregators are notorious for their paywalls. In a boost for nerds everywhere, Cambridge University Press has made all of its 700 textbooks available in HTML format on Cambridge Core until the end of May 2020. JSTOR’s open-access content is also available without needing to sign up to an account.

Newspapers drop paywall to make Covid-19 coverage publicly accessible

We are not short on news these days, but it’s important to get updates about the Covid-19 pandemic as it develops.

Several newspapers are lowering their paywalls for Covid-19 coverage, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic. You may have to create an account before accessing them.

The Washington Post and The Economist both have free newsletters that you can sign up for to get the latest Covid-19 updates, and all linked articles are free.


Ceinwen focused on digital privacy, censorship, and surveillance, and has interviewed leading figures in tech.