The Best San Francisco Art Experiences You Can Enjoy From Home

Take a break from Netflix.

If the monotony of everyday life while we shelter-in-place is starting to get you down, may we kindly suggest you step away from the endless news cycle for a minute, put down the bag of Doritos, and distract yourself with some amazing art from the San Francisco community? Whether it’s taking a virtual tour of a museum, watching penguins on a live-cam, enjoying live theater, listening to poetry readings, or partaking in a Bob Ross “paint-along,” there’s actually a lot more to do while we’re stuck inside than one might think, which definitely helps the time pass more quickly and comes with that good feeling you get when you get yourself a dose of culture and learn a little something along the way.

“Visit” some of SF’s best museums and get hands-on with fun activities

You might not be able to visit any of SF’s phenomenal museums, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy a cultural experience. The Legion of Honor and de Young are offering “Museum from Home” live events, like live discussions with artists and curators, art-making activities for kiddos (or grownups who behave like them), and more. And while the Exploratorium’s 650+ hands-on exhibits are currently hands-off, there’s a vast online collection of activities and apps to “explore, play, and discover,” including what you can do with a frozen water balloon, videos about SF’s summer fog, a tutorial on how to make a rocket and rocket launcher, and more. The California Academy of Sciences is also in on the action allowing people to “explore deep sea, deep space, and everything in between from the heart of your living room” via the Academy @ Home, which includes live, weekly mini-classes, a Farallon Islands live webcam, science-inspired games, and more. Missing Nightlife, the Thursday night party for grown-ups? Tune into YouTube on select Thursdays for a virtual event (BYO cocktails). And because we need cute animals now more than ever, the Academy of Sciences is also streaming its stingrays and penguin colony in HD. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is besting them with 11 live-cam streams where you can birdwatch, see jellyfish drift and pulse, and hang out with some friendly otters. You can also take a virtual tour of the Conservatory of Flowers, enjoy artists talks and education workshops “at” the Museum of African Diaspora, and #MuseumFromHome with meditative art videos and online tours of exhibitions from the Asian Art Museum.

Make some space in your living room and learn how to dance

Whether you want to learn how to hula, get your heart rate up while dancing to old-school hip hop, or practice your pliés, ODC has a ton of online dance classes for all levels that are streamed via Zoom for just $9 per class. Other options include pilates, samba, “house dance basics,” modern dance, belly dancing, and more. (Maybe put the Doritos to the side for these. Or not.)

Drink and draw at an online Bob Ross Paint-Along

Let the soothing sounds of Bob Ross lull you into a calm during a virtual Bob Ross Paint-Along where a group will watch a Bob Ross video together and try to recreate one of his landscapes while enjoying libations of your choice.

“Go” to Yountville’s “Art, Sip & Stroll” without leaving your house

“Art, Sip & Stroll” was canceled for obvious reasons, but the good news is that you don’t need to drive up to Yountville to get in on the fun. From April 25 through May 31, you’ll be able to view the work of 50 artists in varying mediums (and purchase their art), participate in virtual lectures and Q&As, watch live concerts, and take part in virtual wine tastings.

Attend poetry and book readings without getting off of your couch

The Sacred Grounds Cafe might not be serving coffee, but it is still hosting the occasional online poetry reading. Armistead Maupin, the author of Tales of the City is reading stories live every day at 5pm GMT on his Facebook page and Alta Journal is hosting weekly readings featuring local authors. Want to perform your own reading? MoAD’s open mic night is going virtual as is Nomadic Press, which is hosting 90-minute open mics with 30 readers each getting three minutes.

 SF Jazz
Courtesy of SF Jazz

Listen to live musical performances

Bird & Beckett Books and Records is still hosting jazz musicians to play in its store and though you can’t see them in-person, you can live stream the concerts in real time. San Jose Jazz is also streaming 30-minute “Live From Home” performances followed by a Q&A every Monday and Thursday at 7pm, and the SF Jazz is hosting a “Friday at Five” online concert series featuring exclusive footage from memorable shows. Dead & Company might not be able to go on tour this summer, but the local band is hosting a “One More Saturday Night” virtual series featuring concerts from back in the day on its Facebook page. Looking for something a little heavier? Bay Area metal legends, Metallica, are making streams of past concerts available every Monday at 5pm on their YouTube channel and Facebook page, and Thee Parkside is hosting Instagram Live concerts featuring local bands.

Support the American Conservatory Theater’s one-night-only virtual fundraising event

All of this season’s ACT’s performances were forced to be canceled, which has had a serious impact on the nonprofit's finances. In order to help raise money to keep the beloved theater company alive, ACT is hosting its first-ever “Spring Forward” virtual fundraiser on May 2, 2020 at 6pm. The evening will feature guest appearances from ACT artists, a conversation with its artistic director, and exclusive performances from the casts of ACT’s cancelled productions of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show and Poor Yella Rednecks: Vietgone Part 2

Macbeth | Courtesy of Dragon Productions Theatre Company

Get your theater fix without having to listen to the person in front of you chomping loudly on hard candy

We love all of the Bay’s stage theaters, but there’s no denying that most of them involve close quarters and at least one person who hasn’t yet mastered the etiquette of being as quiet as possible during the performance. You won’t have to worry about that if you stream a preview performance of City Lights Theater Company’s show Coded about female game designers, rent one of Dragon Theater’s productions, including 2019’s Macbeth, watch a collection of 10 shorts (every Friday at 6pm) from San Francisco Neo-Futurists, or stream TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s hit musical version of Pride and Prejudice.

Go to “Inside Lands” for all kinds of entertainment from Bay Area artists

Inside Lands is hosting virtual parties every day with a slew of entertainment, including DJ sets, cocktail demos, live drawing demos, cooking demos, Q&As with life coaches, and more. Check the Instagram page for the daily lineup to see what fun will be going down in Zoom.

Go to a drag show

When life’s got you down, there’s nothing like a fabulous drag queen to make you forget about all of your worries. For a little while, anyway. Check out Trish TV on Twitch featuring SF drag queens Cash Monet, Mary Vice, and God’s Little Princess performing drag gaming, teaching dance classes, and so much more. The Stud is also bringing its popular “Drag Alive” show to the masses with a 90-minute show every Saturday at 6:30pm.

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Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who told herself she would use this time to work on her book, but has instead caught up on any and all reality television. Follow her on Twitter @daisy to tell her about other virtual events she shouldn’t miss.