Hang in there, everyone. While theseems to be getting worse, the free-entertainment situation is getting better, at least for now. Nearly every day I learn of a new offering, a new giveaway to help keep you occupied while you wait it out at home. Games, movies, comics, virtual tours, live theater, guitar lessons -- all that and more, and all you need for most of it is a computer, phone, tablet or TV.
I'm updating this post regularly, so bookmark it and check back often for new additions.
Free PC games
Tired of 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 bigger screen. Here's what you can get absolutely free right now:
- Drawful 2: A super-fun Pictionary-like group game from the folks behind the beloved series. The object is to sketch a picture on your phone or tablet based on a text prompt, and then everyone gets to vote on what the picture represents. And because we're all social-distancing right now, you can play this not only at home with family, but also remotely with far-flung friends and relatives. The free version is available via the Mac App Store and Steam; Nintendo Switch owners can buy it for just 9 cents.
- 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.
- If you're an Amazon Prime subscriber, don't miss these . You have to jump through a hoop or two (creating and then connecting a Twitch account), but it's all pretty easy.
- , including the delightful indie puzzler Hob and captivating walking sim (yes, that's a thing) Gone Home.
- GOG is now offering the sci-fi strategy sim Symmetry for free, though reviews of that one are pretty mixed. (But, hey, it's free, so who cares?)
- This isn't actually a PC game, though you'll need one to print it. Yep, print: Cards Against Humanity: Family Edition is a more PG-rated version of the hugely popular card game, and it's currently free to download. You'll need a decent amount of paper and ink -- the two versions span 21 and 47 pages, depending on the card size you choose. Consider raising your game, so to speak, by . (Take note that to get the game, you'll have to click through a couple pages of "agreements," including one that some may find politically offensive.)
Free streaming TV and movies
Just want to veg out in front of the TV? Don't blame you one bit. While I thinkis arguably the single best streaming deal you can get, here are some other options that won't cost you a dime:
. Starting today, you can stream hundreds of hours' worth of programming, including every season of Barry (yes!), Silicon Valley and Veep. There are also some family-friendly movies, like The Lego Movie 2 and Pokemon Detective Pikachu.
- Next, check out this list of . Over at Pluto, for example, you can find an entire channel of James Bond movies, while Kanopy is home to notable films like Captain Fantastic, and The Great Buster: A Celebration.
- Just for good measure, here are the .
- IMDb TV has added the first five seasons of Schitt's Creek to its lineup. Previously you had to subscribe to Netflix if you wanted to watch that increasingly beloved show. While you're there, check out Friday Night Lights and The Middle in their entirety.
- Good news for parents: , including Arthur, Caillou and The Dangerous Book for Boys. You don't need an Amazon Prime subscription to view these, just an Amazon account.
- 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 season 1 for free. It's also available via the Apple TV app, even if you don't have an subscription.
- What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: I don't hold this "middle child" Trek series in such high regard as most Trekkies (I always preferred Voyager; don't @ me), but I was definitely interested in seeing the new documentary, What We Left Behind, when it debuted last year. You can rent it for $2-$3 from nearly anywhere, but it's now streaming free on Tubi. I'm only about 30 minutes into it; once you get past the weird introduction, the interviews are pretty good.
- Here's a freebie you don't have to "wrestle" with: Wireless carrier Cricket is offering a free three-month subscription to the WWE Network when you provide your name, email address and phone number. The subscription info will be delivered to you via email. The offer is good for new and past subscribers only; you can't apply it to an existing subscription.
- It's still unknown whether we'll get a delayed 2020 baseball season or none at all. But if you need your baseball fix (and watching some sports -- any sports -- sounds pretty great right now), here's good news: MLB.tv is offering free streaming of 2018 and 2019 games when you log into or create an account.
- It's not Rick and Morty, but Adult Swim is offering the entire Samurai Jack series free to stream via its website and apps.
- Coming soon to a VR headset near you: The to owners of the Oculus Go and Quest.
Free exercise classes
OK, maybe it's not entertainment, but it's definitely good for you. With many gyms now closed indefinitely, many services have stepped up with free home-workout options.
- Echelon is offering a free 90-day trial of the FitPass app, which, like Peloton's (below), offers a wide variety of live and on-demand classes. You'll find cardio and core workouts, pilates, Zumba and so on. The app is available for Android and iOS. If you choose to continue after the trial, FitPass costs $20 per month.
- Peloton is offering 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.
- 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 -- also not exactly entertaining, but a useful way to pass the time and keep stress at bay.
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.
Meanwhile, DiscountMags just started offeringof dozens of magazines. These aren't subscriptions; you can pick and choose as many individual titles as you want. Once you redeem them, you'll use the Zinio app to read.
Free ebooks and audiobooks
Speaking of libraries, yours can probably hook you up with a selection ofas 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, good news for parents: Amazon is now offering. As you might expect, they're all Kindle editions, so you'll need a Fire tablet or any any device capable of running the Kindle app.
Free comic books
Dark Horse is offering a ton of free first-issue comics, with titles including Hellboy and Stranger Things, as well as a selection for kids: Frozen, The Incredibles, Disney Treasure Island and more.
Next, head to Comixology to find a dozen free Marvel comics -- Avengers vs. X-Men Collection and Civil War among them.
Free virtual museum tours
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 theater and opera
Like so many industries, live theater is taking a beating right now. However, as the old saying (and a new YouTube channel, see below) goes, the show must go on. Hence, these streaming options:
- The UK's National Theatre streams a different play every Thursday. You can find the streams on the National Theatre at Home YouTube channel. First up: One Man, Two Guvnors, starring James Corden.
- Starting April 4, YouTube channel The Shows Must Go On will stream an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, beginning with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Each show will be available weekly starting on Saturday and will run for just 48 hours. There's no sign-up required.
- The New York Metropolitan Opera is streaming a different encore Live in HD performance every day. 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.
Tired of the same old Pandora playlists and the ads that frequently interrupt them? Several services are offering free premium subscriptions.
- : Wait, Amazon Music has an HD option? I honestly had no idea. And what does "HD" mean? In this case higher bit rates, otherwise known as better sound quality. Spotify maxes out at a bit rate of 320 kilobits per second, while 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. This extended 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.
- : Between now and May 15, through its web portal and mobile apps. Normally $13 monthly, the plan includes not only all the regular channels, but also Howard Stern.
Free audiobooks for kids and teens
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. The service just made the first Harry Potter book available as well.
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 login or even registration required, and I was able to listen on my phone via my mobile browser.
Free audiobooks for adults
Audible is now offering a bunch of Audible Originals for free as well, most of them rated four stars or higher. Here's the list:
- The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey
- An Act of God
- Evil Eye
- Feeding the Dragon
- The Half-Life of Marie Curie
- Proof of Love
- Sakina's Restaurant
Needless to say, you'll need an Audible account to access these.
Free Crayola coloring pages
Need some new pictures for the kids to color? Crayola is offering a wealth of free-to-download (and print) coloring pages, all of them organized by season.
Free 3 months of guitar lessons from Fender
This has "Rick Broida" written all over it: I own a guitar and had every intention of learning to play, but for various reasons just never got going. Now, with ample extra time on my hands and, I can take lessons online. The site offers classes for acoustic and electric guitars and ukulele. Note that although a credit card is not required, this promotion is limited to the first 100,000 sign-ups.
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, 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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