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What’s trending in our down time: 20 new entertainment trends during COVID-19

woman looking at tablet

Sequestered at home during the coronavirus crisis, people are seeking new ways to bust boredom, connect with their communities and enhance their lives. New entertainment trends have emerged and favorite pastimes have resurged as people seek distractions and adapt to the doldrums of social distancing. Here are 20 things we’re doing for fun during the COVID-19 quarantine.

1. Bear hunts

People around the globe are displaying stuffed teddy bears in their windows and yards for children to find. Many bears are placed in creative scenes to inspire young imaginations; and some are accompanied by educational material such as how to practice proper hygiene during the pandemic.

Stay-at-home mandates generally allow people to head outdoors for exercise, and the bear hunt trend adds an exciting new element to family walks – and a much-needed break from the outbreak. The phenomenon isn’t limited to teddy bears, either, as some communities have launched egg hunts as fun Easter activities for those who cannot gather for the holiday.

2. Virtual tours

Searches for “virtual tour” spiked in mid-March and remain high in April, according to Google Trends data, suggesting that many people are using their free time to explore the world from the comfort of home.

Some of the most popular “virtual tour” destinations include:

  • White House
  • Anne Frank House
  • Mount Vernon
  • Sistine Chapel
  • Smithsonian
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Titanic
  • Art Museum
  • Lascaux Cave
  • Monticello
  • Disney World and Disneyland
  • Fenway Park
  • Alamo
  • Graceland
  • Natural History museum
  • Vatican
  • London
  • Zoo

Though a dream vacation to Paris might not be in the cards, people can still scale the Eiffel Tower or dive deep into the catacombs – without breaking a sweat. USA Today, Travel + Leisure and Good Housekeeping all have lists of popular virtual tours. Those who have specific destinations in mind can Google “[DESTINATION] virtual tour.”

3. Watch parties

The Netflix Party Chrome extension brings a social element to binge watching in isolation: users can live chat while they watch the same movies and shows together. The app syncs playback between all participants’ screens so people can react in real-time, offering a socially distanced alternative to “Netflix and chill.”

Watch parties aren’t limited to Netflix, either. They can be held on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Disney+ and Hulu; and some sports fans have organized watch parties to relive their favorite games.

4. Fitness

Locked out of the gym and stuck home without many of the obligations that tether people to the daily grind, many are exploring ways to get fit. The reprise from the office chair has stirred a surge in searches related to online workouts, high-intensity interval training, garage gyms and home workouts.

Live streaming workout classes are also gaining popularity, since they allow people to interact with trainers and even create private group workout sessions so family and friends can cheer one another on. Searches related to weight loss have likewise spiked, including “weight loss quarantine” and “quarantine diet.”

5. Online concerts

Though Lady Gaga won’t be rocking a nearby arena anytime soon, fans can catch her alongside Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish and other top acts on the One World: Together at Home broadcast on April 18. Created to raise funds to combat coronavirus, it’s just one of many online concerts people can “attend” from their homes.

Searches for online concerts have peaked since quarantines began, and lists of upcoming shows can be found on Billboard, NPR, Vulture and Songkick.

6. Learning

Unexpected free time has inspired many people to invest in education, perhaps to hone professional skills, prepare for a career change or simply learn a new hobby. Google Trends reports large upticks for searches that include terms such as “masterclass,” “online classes” and “learn online.”

And, even though school closings have spurred a renaissance in remote education, parents are still seeking online educational opportunities for their children: searches for “free learning websites for kids” increased by 1,350% during March 2020.

7. YouTube

YouTube offers entertainment, education and community all on a single platform. It’s no wonder, then, that traffic to the already-popular site has increased by 15.3% since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Trendy topics include pantry meals, which offer recipes and prep tips for cooking with supplies commonly found in pantries, and “study with me” videos, where viewers can watch people study – sometimes live – and study alongside them. Though that might not seem entertaining, many claim such videos help them focus and prepare for exams, which is particularly relevant during a time when most schoolwork is completed online.

8. Reading (for pleasure)

Searches related to “books to read” have increased since the coronavirus crisis began, suggesting that some people are eschewing screen time for books – or Kindles, as searches for “best kindle books” are also on the rise.

That doesn’t mean the virtual world doesn’t have a role in contemporary reading: Google Trends reports a massive uptick in searches for “online book clubs,” which lend a sense of community to shared reading experiences. Time features a list of popular online book clubs such as the Quarantine Book Club, which allows participants to connect with favorite authors via live Zoom chats.

9. Cooking

Social distancing has more people cooking at home, and many are taking advantage of the opportunity to discover new recipes. Interestingly, some search tends correlate with grocery store purchase limitations; for example, the past month has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of searches for “bread recipe.”

All Recipes, Food 52 and other popular recipe repositories have set up dedicated “quarantine cooking” pages, while quarantine recipe exchanges have popped up on Facebook to lend a sense of community to the otherwise solitary endeavor.

10. Gaming

There’s no doubt gaming is already uber popular, but unanticipated downtime has made it an attractive activity not only for die-hard fans but also those who are seeking new entertainment avenues. Indeed, searches for “best video games” have surged in recent weeks, while streaming platforms such as Twitch add a community element to live gaming sessions.

Gaming might be filling the void left by cancelled seasons for sports fans: traffic on Twitch has increased by nearly 20% since the outbreak, but traffic on ESPN has decreased by more than 40%.

man video chatting

11. Video chat

Separated by social distancing, family and friends are using video chat platforms to stay connected. Services and apps such as Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Google Duo, Facebook video chat, Nextdoor.com and Houseparty make it easy to virtually meet “face-to-face” and add a human element that can’t be duplicated with phone calls and text messaging. Traffic to the Houseparty app, for example, has increased by nearly 80% since the pandemic began.

Video chat isn’t just for checking in on grandparents, either. Children are participating in virtual play parties, adults are hosting virtual wine tastings and people of all ages are sharing their special days with virtual birthday parties.

12. Stress reduction

Stress is never fun, but reducing it is. Faced with cash crunches, job uncertainty and COVID-19 induced anxiety, some people are turning to yoga, meditation and other activities for stress relief and mood enhancement.

Accordingly, searches for terms such as “online yoga classes” and “live meditation” have increased exponentially in recent weeks. Yogi Times features a list of online yoga streaming platforms, while popular meditation apps can be found on The Oprah Magazine.

13. Creating music

Listening to music has long been a favorite activity, but quarantine downtime has granted many would-be musicians the opportunity to compose their own tunes. Google Trends reports significant increases in search volume for learning guitar, piano and ukulele since mid-March. Services such as Jamkazam and Jammr enable musicians to collaborate and jam live online.

The trend isn’t limited to those who play instruments, either. Searches for “how to mix music” and apps such as Garage Band are likewise on the rise.

14. Unique hobbies

Social distancing and shelter-in-place mandates are affording people time to pursue popular hobbies such as gardening and bird watching, but they’re also giving rise to unique endeavors that don’t always make the “top 10 hobby” lists. Examples include diamond painting, insect hotels and pixel art.

Those who want to rekindle lost loves or discover new passions during the quarantine can check out curated hobby lists on Mantelligence and Discover a Hobby.

15. Board, card and tabletop games

Couples and families quarantined together are rediscovering the allure of board, card and tabletop games. Gathering around the table offers socialization and presents a fun alternative to video games. Not only that, but physical games aren’t limited to face-to-face competition: some people are using video chat and other apps to play board games online. Board Game Arena has created virtual versions of popular board games people can play in real-time or turn-by-turn.

Mail-order mystery games such as Hunt A Killer are also popular during the quarantine. These games turn players into crime-solving sleuths who follow a series of clues to uncloak the perpetrators.

16. Crafts

Lazy afternoons demand craft projects to inspire creativity and pass the time, so it’s no wonder search volume is on the rise for terms such as “how to paint rocks,” “how to make slime” and “crafts for kids.”

Crafts aren’t just for kids, though, as “crafts for adults” has witnessed a significant increase in search volume since the coronavirus outbreak began. Positively Splendid lists more than 40 kids craft project ideas, while FaveCrafts details 44 projects for adults.

17. Passion projects

With extra time on their hands, some people are revisiting abandoned passion projects. Now might be the perfect time to pen the next great American novel, compose a magnificent opus or paint the next famous masterpiece. It makes sense, then, that searches for “how to write a novel” and “learn to paint” are trending upward. Aspiring writers and artists can also collaborate with online groups that offer critique and encouragement.

Passion projects can entertain, but they’re also work, which is why some people are exploring business ideas they’ve long kept in their pockets. This is particularly true for those facing financial constraints, which might explain why searches for “side hustle” have increased dramatically.

18. Hiking

Whether scrambling over mountainous terrain or taking a leisurely walk in the woods, hiking is en vogue as people seek opportunities to take to the great outdoors without violating social distancing mandates. Indeed, Google Trends reports a recent upswing in search volume for “places to hike.”

Though the trend could also be related to warming weather, it stands to reason that many people relish the opportunity to escape the indoors. Those looking for places to safely get some fresh air can find local hiking trails on All Trails and Hiking Project.

19. Drive in movies

Crowds can’t see the latest blockbuster at indoor movie theaters, but they can break away from their home entertainment systems and take a trip to the movies with the resurgence of drive-in theaters. More than nostalgic nods to simpler times, drive-in theaters enable couples and families to go to the movies without leaving their cars.

Though drive-in theaters once numbered in the thousands, today there are only a few hundred left in the United States. A list of still-operating drive-ins can be found on DriveInMovie.com.

20. Helping others

Though it might not be considered entertainment for its own sake, many people find that helping others fulfills them in ways other activities cannot. It’s not surprising, then, that searches for “how to help others during the coronavirus” increased by 3,650% in March.

From volunteering at local food pantries and online tutoring to giving blood, checking in on neighbors and donating money, there are many ways people can help one another survive the coronavirus crisis.

Social distancing and stay-at-home mandates do not mean people need to stop living their lives. In fact, they present a rare opportunity for people to explore their passions, discover new hobbies, learn new skills, enhance their lives and help others. Despite the quarantine, humankind’s need for entertainment might strengthen s social bonds and ultimately empower many to lead better lives post-pandemic.

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