Travel

19 Actually Cool Things to Do in NYC During Quarantine

You can still enjoy Broadway shows, lobster rolls, and more in the Big Apple.

Governors Island
Take a virtual tour of Governors Island. | David Evison/Shutterstock
Take a virtual tour of Governors Island. | David Evison/Shutterstock

Feeling a little bored of endlessly scrolling through TikTok? We can’t say that we blame you. While the city’s restaurants, bars, museums, and theaters are temporarily closed, it can feel like there’s nothing to do in NYC but text the group chat and wave to your neighbors from your fire escape. But if you know where to look, there’s tons of cool stuff to do in NYC in the time of coronavirus -- and most of it has moved online.

Even while sheltering in place, you can still score an awesome slice of pizza, find a killer Saturday night dance party, and catch some of the world’s finest theater. We’ve rounded up the best ways to explore the city online, head on a socially-distant outdoor date, or otherwise take advantage of being stuck inside in the greatest city in the world. Some are classic, some are obscure, and not a single one of them involves getting within six feet of another human being.

Have a dance party in your living room

Free; donate on Patreon
Online
Ridgewood beer hall, Nowadays, is home to some of the best warm-weather dance parties in the entire city. Now that we can’t pack our sweaty bodies together on a moon-dappled dance floor, the brains behind the tunes at Nowadays have started streaming their playlists online. Cue up the DJ on your laptop, put on your dancin’ shoes (although if you’re home, those might be dancin’ slippers), and get down in your very own living room.

nybg haupt conservatory
The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory | R.A.R. de Bruijn Holding BV/Shutterstock

Take a (virtual) spring walk through the NYBG

Free
Online
Tiptoe (or, um, click) through tulips with the New York Botanical Garden at Home. While the garden is closed, they’re posting short spring walkthroughs of the latest blooms -- including delicate crabapples, cheerful daffodils, and a rainbow of tulips -- set to a background of soothing classical music. When you feel like you can’t read the news for one more freakin’ second, reinvigorate the senses with a virtual walk where it’ll always be bright and beautiful out.

Recreate SummerStage on your fire escape

Free
Online
Even though the summer’s outdoor concerts are canceled, nothing’s stopping you from drinking outside! Instead of scoring tickets to SummerStage concerts (or, like some of us, bringing a blanket and sitting outside of the concert for free), you can recreate the experience on your stoop or fire escape. Cue up one of SummerStage’s Spotify playlists, decant your favorite bottle of cheap rosé into a red Solo cup, and let the music transport you to the heady days of ‘19.

Go for a socially distant hike in your local park

Free
Citywide
While the city’s parks can be uncomfortably packed, simply head to the road less traveled during off hours (in the middle of the weekday? early in the morning?) for a socially distant hike. With plenty of green space in every borough, our lesser-known parks have miles and miles of hiking trails for a safe taste of the great outdoors. Pick a path in your local park, wear a mask, and get ready for some fresh air..

Watch Shakespeare in the Park from your couch

Free
Online
PBS’ Great Performances is broadcasting the Shakespeare in the Park performance of Much Ado About Nothing starring Danielle Brooks as Beatrice. Filmed in the spring of 2019, the madcap comedy brings as much joy to its outdoor audience as it did in the 1600s. Shakespeare in the Park tickets are notoriously hard to cop (you have to win a lotto or wait in line all day), so this is a chance to get a glimpse of some of the best art the city has to offer.

Have a lobster roll picnic in the sunshine

Free
Red Hook
Warm weather is here -- and that means it’s the start of lobster season! When you get sick of cracking open cans of beans for sustenance and need some exercise, walk over to the Red Hook Lobster Pound for a transportive lobster roll. Order the Classic for takeout, with chunks of lobster tossed with a little lemon mayo, or the Connecticut, poached with butter and served warm, and find a sunny and solitary spot to sit in Red Hook. If you’d rather make your own to enjoy it in the one-hour span of sunlight that peaks in through the sole window of your room, you can order a live lobster from Red Hook Lobster Pound’s market, too. Or there’s the option of delivery as well if you live in their Brooklyn delivery zone.

Take a virtual visit to Governors Island

Free
Online
May is the perfect time to visit Governors Island -- and now that we’re stuck at home, the city is bringing the outside in with Governors Island at Home. Explore the island from your couch by taking a virtual walking tour to learn about its history, listen in on a poetry reading, and watch the island’s resident birds roost and fly. Best of all? You don’t have to get on a train or ferry to see any of it. 

Learn from the curators at MoMA online

Free
Online
With MoMA’s “Virtual Views” programming, they’re giving you an inside look into new exhibitions every week this spring. Check out a virtual exploration of the sculpture garden, a cosmologist’s take on van Gogh’s iconic Starry Night, and a celebration of Latin American modern art. Just think how smart you’ll sound on a first date at the MoMA once you can meet somebody in the museum IRL again.

Get a cocktail delivered to your door

$-$$$$
Citywide
A cruel irony: While the city’s cocktail bars are shut down, New Yorkers need a drink now more than ever. Luckily, the ban on alcohol delivery has been lifted during the coronavirus crisis, allowing us to have liquor delivered straight to our waiting mouths. Order a peerless Penicillin from the nearly-impossible-to-get-into Attaboy, margaritas by the liter from Bushwick dive Pearl’s Social & Billy Club, or Negronis from Sugar Monk in Harlem. Sure, you could pour straight whiskey into a mug, but ordering cocktails makes drinking alone so much more festive

Stream an off-Broadway show

Free-$
Online
Some of the greatest minds behind NYC’s off-Broadway scene have brought their programming online. The Public Theater streams archived shows on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; La MaMa is hosting online happenings and artist talks; and the Theater for the New City has created an online reading series. The city’s stages might be dark for a while, but you can help keep them alive by streaming, donating what you can, and enjoying the performances from home.

Fornino
Fornino | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Try a slice of the city’s best pizzas

$-$$$
Citywide
Never managed to score a table at Lucali? Now’s your chance to eat some of the city’s best pies without worrying if you’ll get marinara on your “going out” clothes. Order Beyoncé’s favorite pizza for takeout from Lucali, get a couple slices of The Mootz from Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop, score a classic Sicilian square pie from L&B Spumoni Gardens, or go for a new classic from Roberta’s or Emily. Order them one at a time, or -- for the ultimate pizza showdown -- get ‘em all at once for an at-home taste test. 

Play trivia online

$-$$
Citywide
If your brain could use some exercise, tune into one of the city’s new online trivia nights. Under normal circumstances you’d team up with your smartest buds to win a round of shots, but you can still match wits with soused strangers through the power of the World Wide Web. Pour yourself a beer and log into the NYC Trivia League, where they’re hosting their entire season over Instagram; Trivia, AD for theme nights including Pixar, Saved by the Bell, and Schitt’s Creek; and Uptown Pub Quiz, where they’ve moved their quizzes to Facebook. 

Toast to the city with an everything bagel

$
Multiple locations
Remind yourself of the best the city has to offer with a whirlwind tour of takeout bagels. Eat your weight in lox, schmear, and poppy seeds with takeout or delivery from Tompkins Square Bagels, Russ & Daughters, and/or Ess-a-Bagel. If you decide to eat ‘em all in one day, just drink a lot of water, OK? Otherwise you’ll end up as salted as that gravlax you pounded.

Get a little weird with House of Yes

$
Online
Known for its freaky parties, wild costumes, and metric tons of glitter, House of Yes has moved their signature getdowns online. Attend a digital dance party, learn how to shake it at a digital “twerkshop,” or tip on Venmo during an online drag show -- all you need to do to recreate the HOY experience IRL is to slap on a neon wig, wear your tightest clothes, and leave your inhibitions at your own front door.

Catch new releases from the comfort of your couch

$
Online
Sick of streaming the same old sitcoms? See what the city’s cinemas are streaming online. BAM is playing fan favorites and new releases; Film Forum’s “Virtual Cinema” offers their signature eclectic mix of programming; the Angelika is sending new releases straight to your home; and Anthology Film Archives is international playing deep cuts. You could keep clicking around Netflix, but why not let the experts show you something the algorithm would never offer up? 

Cross the Brooklyn Bridge

Free-$$
City Hall/Brooklyn Bridge Park
While this tourist destination is usually crowded, these strange times have made it strangely empty, especially in the early mornings (which is the recommended time we suggest checking it out). Grab a breakfast sandwich from Bread & Spread at your starting point in DUMBO, then check out the beautiful architecture of City Hall once you reach Manhattan before turning back around. The span of the pedestrian bridge is just over a mile each way so make sure to bring a camera to capture the skyline and the once-in-a-lifetime view of the quiet bridge, (don’t forget to wear your face mask.)

Walk around Red Hook

Free-$$
Red Hook
While you can’t take the ferry to Red Hook right now, you can practice social distancing on the neighborhood’s usually quiet streets. Gawk in the windows of the Tesla showroom, order a to-go cocktail from Red Hook Tavern, score a pound of brisket or pulled pork from Hometown Bar B Que, and spend a quiet lunch hour watching the waves lap against the pier at Louis Valentino, Jr. Park.  

Spend an afternoon gallery hopping

Free
Online
These days, you don’t even have to put on pants to admire art. As the city’s galleries move their collections online, you can click through page after page of inspiration. Gagosian’s archive is online; David Zwirner is hosting Platform: New York, which celebrates artists from 12 NYC galleries; and Company and Gavin Brown’s enterprise are bringing art to your screen. Sip a glass of wine and frown thoughtfully at a painting -- you might just believe you’re in Chelsea.

Take in gorgeous river views...safely

Free - $$
Take a socially distant walk or bike ride for a sunny morning or afternoon spent outdoors. Bring your phone for a couple of sweet ‘grams along either the Hudson and East Rivers from Manhattan and Brooklyn, respectively. Both have dedicated cycling and walking paths so you can be safe from cars and other bike riders and pedestrians. (Just wear a mask, please!)

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Rachel Pelz lives and writes in Brooklyn.