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Enjoy Chicago’s best museums and cultural institutions from home

Stuck inside? You can still virtually experience some of the city’s best cultural offerings.

Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks Hangs” at the Art Institute of Chicago. People are walking by and admiring other paintings on the wall. Getty Images

Just because you are stuck inside, it doesn’t mean you can’t still take in some of Chicago’s best cultural attractions. While physically closed, local institutions are using the power of technology to provide remote programming with free access to exhibitions, media collections, tours, and performances—all from the (relative) comfort of your couch.

A great place to start exploring Chicago’s museums from home is Google’s Arts & Culture platform. A number of local institutions offer digitized access to their exhibits and— in some cases—an interactive “explore” function that allows you to virtually stroll from room to room at will.

The list includes downtown’s Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and Art Institute of Chicago as well as smaller neighborhood museums like Washington Park’s DuSable Museum of African American History, the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, the IIT Institute of Design, and University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.

Chicago’s American Writers Museum is closed, but published its list of reading recommendations—perfect for starting a Zoom book club or getting inspiration to write the next great American novel. Meanwhile, the Museum of Science and Industry’s Science at Home program provides DIY experiments and programming for curious young minds.

For design lovers, the Chicago Architecture Center’s online CAC@Home magazine provides a revolving roster of remote-access tours, lectures, and more, and the Design Museum of Chicago had migrated its current exhibition, titled Great Ideas of Humanity: Passing the Torch, to the web.

History buffs can use the time at home to head to the Newberry library’s website to browse more than 1 million images and texts or tune into an audio archive of past events, seminars, and lectures. The Chicago History Museum offers access via both Google’s Arts & Culture website as well as its own online collections—including a nostalgic blast from the past in the form of the Studs Terkel Radio Archive.

To keep the public engaged during the closures, the Shedd posted videos to social media featuring a pair of penguins leaving their enclosure and going on a private tour of other parts of the aquarium. Not to be outdone, an inflatable SUE the T. Rex costume ran amuck through the Field Museum while an Abe Lincoln look-alike explored the Chicago History Museum.

Brookfield Zoo is also providing stay-at-home viewers a chance to see a different species up close every day with its “Bring The Zoo To You” broadcast, streaming each weekday at 11:00 a.m. on the zoo’s Facebook page.

When it comes to the performing arts, the Goodman Theatre is steaming for free its p2016 production of 2666. Both the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are offering online programming, and the Gene Siskel Film Center is allowing you to rent from its past, current, and upcoming of independent and international films.

And remember, there’s no reason to limit yourself to only local institutions and collections. Use this opportunity to take a virtual trip to New York, Boston, or Austin to check out their best museums, libraries, and other temporarily closed attractions.