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Best free virtual events: explore museums, zoos and more from your living room

While we’re all practising social distancing and in-person events all over the world have been cancelled, many organisations are turning to virtual events to inspire people to stay curious and occupied.

The team at Uswitch have compiled a list of the best virtual events and activities you can stream from the comfort and safety of your own home. You can (digitally) attend Little India’s Diwali festival, view a spectacular firework display from Winchester, or relax by watching the sunset off the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

Virtual events to celebrate Diwali from home 

With just a click of a mouse, you can take part in Diwali celebrations from around the world for free. Many of these virtual events have educational aspects, perfect to keep the whole family busy when they are stuck indoors.

1. Leicester Diwali Day

Skip the crowds and enjoy Leicester’s annual Diwali celebrations from the safety of your home. An hour-long program will be streamed on Saturday 14th of November featuring music, storytelling, dancing and footage from previous years’ firework displays.

2. Little India Deepavali Celebrations

Several virtual workshops are being held over the Diwali period, including a Deepavali masterclass where participants can learn how to prepare traditional delicacies along with Rangoli and Henna art workshops.

3. Edinburgh Digital Diwali

Edinburgh Digital Diwali will be hosting a 2-hour virtual event, featuring performances from the world-famous Srjan, ceilidh by kids and a performance by Bharatiya Ashram.

4. Diwali on the Screen

Those who tune will be able to enjoy a headline act from Shin, who will be performing a Punjabi pop song, an interactive dance workshop from Bollywood Dreams Dance and a piano and violin piece from Rakesh Chauhan and Nandini Shankar. 

5. Diwali Family Day

New York’s Asia Society is celebrating Diwali in style with a variety of events suitable for all the family, join the Culture Tree for a festive shadow puppet show, Kathak performance from Parul Shah Dance Company and Raga Kids introduces viewers to the classical music of South Asia, through traditional instruments and singing together. 

Virtual events to celebrate Bonfire Night 2020

Bonfire Night is upon us, but sadly the usual spectacular celebration will be toned down this year due to the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean there’ll be no fireworks – the events will just look a little different in 2020.

1. Lancashire Fire and Rescue’s Digital Bonfire

Lancashire’s virtual firework display is expected to last approximately 30 minutes, with guests Rue the investigation dog and Sidney the search and rescue dog making a special appearance. The Livestream will then be rounded off with a virtual fire engine tour, and a children’s bedtime story read by Burnley fire station’s one and only Lee Clough. 

2. Northampton’s Virtual Bonfire Night Celebrations

You can watch Northampton Borough Council’s firework display live from their Facebook and YouTube pages on the 5th of November.

3. Morecambe Town Council Virtual Bonfire Night

Skip the crowds and grab your headphones to be immersed in the virtual firework display hosted by Morecambe Town Council across their YouTube platform. 

4. Winchester Bonfire  #LIGHTUPWINCHESTER

In light of their annual bonfire night event being cancelled, Winchester Bonfire has announced #LightUpWinchester, a magical firework display that will take place from three secret locations around the city and streamed via their Facebook page on the 7th November. 

5. Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council Firework Display

Get cosy, grab some glow sticks, traditional toffee apples and enjoy the bonfire night festivities streamed from Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council. 

Five free virtual tours for when you just need to relax

During this stressful time, it is important to safeguard your emotional and mental wellbeing since you’ll be spending a lot of time indoors. 

A way to help relax your mind and escape from reality is through virtual tours and many aquariums, parks and tourist attractions around the world are offering these tours for free to help people stay curious and occupied.

1. Cliffs of Moher, Ireland 

Relax during golden hour by viewing the sunset off the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. You can take a virtual tour of the famous Irish geological landmark on the Cliffs of Moher website.

2. The National Aquarium, Baltimore  

The National Aquarium strives to enhance ocean and climate literacy for everyone, drawing from environmental justice principles in their ongoing work around climate change. 

3. National Parks, USA

Discover the hidden worlds of the National Parks with a virtual tour that explores five of America’s most beautiful parks. From Kenai Fjords in Alaska to Dry Tortugas in Florida, these virtual tours will transport you to another world. 

4. Georgia Aquarium, Georgia 

Sea-dwellers like African penguins and Beluga Whales are the stars of this aquarium's live cam. With lots of different live webcams from the Georgia Aquarium such as a Jelly webcam, African Penguin, Beluga Whale, Ocean Voyager, Piranha, Otter, Underwater Puffin and Sea Lion. You’ll have plenty of relaxation time to sit and watch all the interesting animals at this aquarium. 

5. New England Aquarium, Boston

Join New England Aquarium for live presentations, new videos and activities that you can get involved in from home. Their daily presentations are posted every day at 11 am. Watch as they feed the penguins and octopus and all the other animals that the aquarium has to offer, and unwind with the live stream from inside the giant ocean tank exhibit. 

World-class museums you can visit online

Our much-loved museums and art galleries may be closing their doors due to the current outbreak, but don’t despair. You can now visit your favourite museums and access their collections from the comfort of your front room.

1. The Louvre

Explore Egyptian antiquities and step back in time to view the remains of the Louvre’s Moat in these comprehensive virtual tours. 

2. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

This online collection features more than 1,700 artworks from over 600 artists. This is a searchable database, so if there’s a particular piece you’d like to see you can search by name. 

3. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Explore nature from your living room with these high-quality virtual tours. Use your mouse to navigate each room in the museum and click the camera icon for an up-close view of exhibits on display.

4. Van Gogh Museum

Part of Google’s Art and Culture Network, the tour takes you through the Van Gogh Museum allowing you to view the artworks up close.

5. Getty Museum

Available through Google’s Arts & Culture programme, the Getty Museum is home to an eclectic range of impressive artworks and photography. 

6. The Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museum website contains seven virtual tours, which includes a 360 view of the famous Sistine Chapel. 

7. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Rather than a 360 tour, the multimedia section of the Thyssen-Bornemisza features short videos that delve behind the scenes.  

8. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Browse artworks from modernist artist Georgia O’Keeffe using Google’s virtual gallery.

Visit the seven wonders right from your living room

From the Great Wall of China to the Taj Mahal, these historical man-made sites will have fuelled wanderlust for many travellers. Here’s how you can visit them all in an afternoon. 

1. Great Wall of China, near Beijing, China

This Virtual Tour provided by The China Guide allows you to ‘walk’ along the wall with just a click of your mouse. 

2. Petra, Jordan

Leave your passport in your drawer and grab your headphones to be immersed in this stunning city steeped in history and impressive architecture.

3. The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Skip the crowds and take a virtual tour on YouTube — this hour-long walking tour of the Colosseum is filmed in pin-sharp 4K, immersing you into the action.  

4. Chichen Itza, Yucatán, Mexico

Attracting more than 900,000 visitors each year, Chichén Itzá continues to be a historical wonder that is popular with tourists. Situated just 2 hours from tourist hot-spot Cancun, it’s a popular cultural excursion for many visiting Mexico.

5. Machu Picchu, Cusco Region, Peru

This virtual tour comes complete with a voiceover, educating and entertaining as you take in the spectacular scenery of Machu Picchu.  

6. Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Go behind the scenes of India’s Crown Jewel with this virtual tour from Google. 

7. Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

To reach the statue on foot, you’d scale around 200 steps, but you don’t need to with this virtual tour of the statue. This 360-view includes a guided tour with some interesting facts about the origins and construction.  

10 virtual events to enjoy this Christmas

Experience the excitement and wonder of Christmas from your couch. From a virtual visit to Santa’s Grotto to a carol concert, here are 10 virtual events to keep the magic of Christmas alive throughout November and December.

1. New Wave Events, Festive Cooking Shows 

New Wave Events have no shortage of online activities to make sure you don’t miss out on the indulgent treats that come with all the food at Christmas. Participants can learn amazing cookery skills and create some delicious goodies that can be recreated on Christmas Day. 

2. Super Market Events, Festive Online Market

Super Market is a Scottish based company offering the UK’s first ‘immersive’ online Christmas market. The market experience guides you through an online gallery featuring 150 independent Scottish brands, selling products that range from food & drink, candles, plants, and children’s gifts.

3. Santa’s Calling You, Zoom With Santa

Visiting Santa’s Grotto is a rite of passage for many kids, who love the wonder and magic of visiting Father Christmas in his festive grotto. This year, Santa’s Calling You, is offering a digital experience for families, providing a Zoom call with Santa, Mrs. Claus, or one of Santa’s elves, who will join the call right from the North Pole.

4. Wigan Council, Frost Fest

Wigan’s 2020 ‘Frost Fest’ will come in the shape of a pre-recorded show streamed across a number of social platforms on the 21st of November at 7pm. 

5. Evolve Events, Christmas In A Box

Evolve Events are trying their hardest to make sure that the infamous office parties go ahead this year with ‘Christmas In A Box’. Evolve offers a choice of two different boxes that are delivered to the party-goers home, the ‘Aperitivo’ or the slightly more luxurious ‘Primo’ box. 

6. GOTO Events, Christmas Escape Room

There’s no team-building or family challenge quite like an Escape Room, which is why GOTO has set up its first fully virtual Christmas edition, with challenges that can be shared with families kept apart due to travel restrictions.

7. St Teresa's Hospice, ‘Christmas From Me to You’ Market

St Teresa Hospice has launched a major event ‘‘Christmas From Me to You’, that will not only support the hospice, but hopefully allow businesses taking part to generate some of the footfall and income they’ll miss out on in the lead up to Christmas.

8. Santa’s Lapland, Live Video Call with Santa

Santa’s Lapland is hosting a virtual call straight from Lapland, where you’ll be led through the snow and see a reindeer close up before going live to Santa’s Log Cabin and speaking with Santa himself. 

9. CancerCare, Santa Dash

CancerCare’s annual Santa Dash has gone digital this year. You can enter the dash for as little as £5, and download your own sponsorship form to raise funds for CancerCare. 

10. Shelter, Free Virtual Carol Concert

This December the Shelter Charity is hosting the UK’s biggest virtual carol concert, to bring the nation together and show support to the people facing homelessness this winter. 

Virtual retail-ity: Five online Christmas shopping experiences

Now we are shopping almost exclusively online again, various big-named retailers have been trying to bring us some of the thrills of shopping in-store to our homes instead. Here are five virtual retail experiences to help you browse safely from the comfort of your sofa. 

1. John Lewis, Virtual Store Tour

To help get our Christmas shopping done easily and safely, John Lewis has launched an online feature that means customers can virtually visit its Oxford Street department store without leaving their sofa. Yes, that means you get all the magic of Christmas shopping without any of the mayhem. 

2. Liberty London, Online Christmas Shop

In response to the pandemic, Liberty London has introduced a virtual Christmas experience to help make customers’ shopping journeys safe, seamless, and festive. 

3. Josefina, Virtual Christmas Shop

Josefina, a furniture shop local to Uckfield, East Sussex, has quickly adapted for all of your festive shopping needs. Offering personal shopping via Zoom where you can explore the Josefinas’s Christmas 2020 collection in full. 

4. Charlotte Cornelius Jewellery Design, Online Design Appointments

Already got your decorations up and moving on to the all-important gift shopping? Charlotte Cornelius has you covered if you’re looking for a shiny piece to surprise that special someone (or you just want to treat yourself this year). 

5. Fenwick Concierge

Fenwick Concierge is providing a digitised version of their iconic brick-and-mortar store with their exclusive festive concierge service. Too busy to wrap your presents? Fenwick can do that. Need an expert’s advice on what’s the gift to give this year? Fenwick can do that, too - with their virtual personal shopping experience. 

With so much fun to be had online, it’s worth doing a broadband speed test to make sure you’ve got a fast and reliable broadband connection. Compare broadband deals to see if you could be getting better broadband at a cheaper price.