“A list of fun, virtual NYC experiences that you can try without actually traveling there.”
Since the pandemic started, I’ve been finding countless and successful means to revive the memories from my last trip to the beautiful island of Manhattan. Not hard at all to virtually visit New York by watching documentaries, reading books, playing games and lots of other fun online activities.
So, here we go.
Read a Book: Seeking New York
I’ve actually had this intricate, kind-of NY architectural guide long before traveling to the Big Apple as part of an architect’s research for the hidden depths of the city. And I say “kind of” because New York architecture is, in this case, merely a pretext for storytelling and unveiling the well kept secrets of old and new Manhattan. What I totally love about it is the hand sketches found through out the whole book.
Seeking New York gathers architectural greatness, restless history and true stories quietly witnessed by walls still standing (or not), shivering at every private life’s sight and hosting some of the most unbelievable daily life activities, from glory to decay and back to glory through ages and ages.
New York, not pure, not easy going: the book has a bit of a brutal debut with the dreadful stories about the old Rat Pit. A red brick, still standing, Georgian-style home, 273 Water Street, dating back to the 18th century and known to be the third oldest building of Manhattan.
Watch THE Movie: Pretend It’s a City
NETFLIX documentary. Seven parts. About 30 minutes each. Watched without breathing. Scorsese takes Fran Lebowitz, an American writer and humorist, and places her above the New York City. He speaks to her while she’s having a peaceful walk on the site of the NY 3D model at Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the model of the city she’s been living in for the last 50 years.
Given that, a simple and discreet looking Fran easily becomes a demigod with a notorious city lying helpless at her feet, due to unequalled humor and pragmatic remarks on even the smallest of the smallest details, such as the honorary plaques, strongly grounded in the New York pavement, or the restless metro atmosphere.
Her statement – pretend it’s a city… where people live with good and bad, in a social and political context. New York does not exist just for sightseeing. Fran’s refined sarcasm helps the viewer understand the city of NY on all levels. For instance, either psychological, political or social aspects connected to economical survival of the millions of its residents, investments in the city urban furniture and infrastructure, environmental issues, 9/11 or OJ Simpson trial, the music of the Dolls and the crowded Times Square are just a few of the subjects discussed.
Watch THE OTHER Movie: The Apollo
The Apollo Theater is one of the most famous New York venues, a legacy of the African Americans’ folk contribution to culture. The 93-minute documentary brings up a different side of America, the one of the black performers.
It is another kind of experiencing a New York visit, strongly felt while I was going to Harlem for jazz music or on city tours organized by the black people community. It is about hope and suffering and struggle and success, a mix of emotions that gave birth to an unique American music style and international known figures like Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday.
Get Cultured: The MET is Live!
Every few days, the Metropolitan Museum is having online live art sessions in which you can learn about various exhibits, through, most of the times, hands-on activities: drawing museum items, book binding like in the old times, designing particular objects that can be worn as jewelry and much more.
For example, at Drop-in Drawing I learned how to draw mandalas, how to sketch the Temple of Dendur in pencil and how to replicate a 19th century dress design. There is music to listen for the grown-ups, as well as storytelling and art camps for children. That said, a little bit of everything for all ages. Previous workshops can be found here: Facebook Videos and Art at Home.
Experience Local: Airbnb Unique Activities
You can have a Brooklyn street art and graffiti tour with Ariel, draw with a New York artist or you can even plan your next visit to New York with Ben. Cooking classes, NYC history talks, interactive magic and Illusion shows. New York people got online and share their best skills no matter how far you might be.
Design Tips for Small Spaces with Elaine. Image Courtesy of Airbnb
Shop Till You Drop: @Macy’s
Either you are into latest fashion or product design, many NYC stores are shipping nationally and internationally. In particular, Macy’s, MOMA design store and even the Metropolitan Museum have their online stores filled with goodies. Just be careful and patiently read all their shipping policies, because, for example, MOMA does not accept returns on international orders.
Of course, the online shopping is not as fun as the live retail therapy. But if you can’t have the 5th Avenue on-the-spot experiences, at least, you can enjoy some wonderful books or worldwide famous contemporary design objects, as well as the latest trends in clothing. Just another way yo visit New York from afar.
Eat That Famous NYC Pizza: The Pizza School
What about a homemade, New York-style pizza? As a matter of fact, you can now take an online class and make your own pizza from scratch with Pizza School NYC which hosts fun online webinars and private events. You will learn how to make the perfect dough, prepare your sauce affordably, choose the ingredients, especially the cheese, and, my favorite part, how to throw dough like a pro!
Besides, if you’re from US, then you can buy your own pizza kit from their online store. If you’re outside US, ingredients can be bought from a local store, as they give you a pre-class information to prepare yourself.
In addition, you pay only one fee per screen so you can come with family, friends and neighbors.
Do Something Crazy: Check the Shelves of a Mexican store
An activity as crazy as it may sound for the weirdos who love label reading: exploring an interior 360 panorama view of a New York Mexican store, a truly culinary virtual experience. He is Edwardo from Mexico and he has a lot of Mexican food around him, from fast food, instant food and spicy sauce to cheese and pastrami. This is Harlem too. So rotate and…
Escape the Room: Remote Adventures for Groups
As incredible as it might seem, you can now escape a NYC challenging adventure room from the distance. A few New York escape rooms are available online: codes, clues, puzzles, all live with your friends and family from anywhere in the world.
Image Copyright © THE ESCAPE GAME
Visit New York From Above : Fly a Virtual Helicopter
The 2-minute long virtual helicopter experience takes you over the Statue of Liberty and magical Island of Manhattan. Moreover, the helicopter is just the first part of a 360 degrees virtual tour presenting famous places of NYC: Ellis Island, Union Square, Madison Square Garden.
Click to Color: The Statue of Liberty
While browsing Google Arts and Culture I discovered their Experiments area. And a big online coloring book featuring paintings and landmarks. In brief, who doesn’t love coloring when it’s just a click away?!?! And guess what! You can color your own artsy Statue of Liberty and download it as a New York keepsake.
Play a Silly Game: How New Yorker Are You?
It’s a basic, but fun voice-controlled browser game for two people that measures by comparison your NYC QUOTIENT. This is one of the many amazing Google experiments developed for fun by coders using Chrome, Android, AI, AR etc. The game gives you a word and you have to find other connected words, things that people would use to say about that subject in their tweets on Twitter.
After you Launch the Experiment you you have some instructions to help you understand how things are working and there is even a demo.
Have a Theatrical Venture: On Broadway!
Since very small, I’ve been hearing about all these famous, glamourous musicals on Broadway. From the very few movies that somehow managed to get to my country at that time. Who would have thought, more than 20 years ago, that the brightly lit, Midtown Manhattan avenue experience will go beyond the live theatres and be so easily accessible worldwide?
Lately, due to the pandemic, even if I haven’t watched TV for the last 18 years, I got various subscription to Netflix, and HBO and Amazon Prime. Like a maniac. So adding one more to the list was unexpected. But it happened. There is this Broadway HD website, streaming all goldies for theater lovers. So that’s for ME!! They have recordings of wonderful musicals like Memphis captured live in a 2015 performance at Broadway’s historic Shubert Theatre, and most impressive, some very old ones like Oklahoma!, one of the Broadway classics.
Go to a Museum: Without Which NYC Could Not Be NYC
Have a digital stroll on the ramps of Guggenheim Museum, visit to the Met’s iconic spaces in a 360 degrees view, admire the gigantic dinosaur skeleton in the main hall of the American Museum of Natural History or discover the Queen’s Gambit Fashion Exhibition curated by the Brooklyn Museum.
Take a Walk: Outdoor NYC Virtual Tours
You can always have a virtual tour on the streets of New York City to enjoy the nature and the skyscrapers.
If you’re a morning person, then you will absolutely love this sunrise on Brooklyn bridge. But if you’ve always wanted to wander through the Central Park, now you have the chance to see some of its own landmarks (the Mosaic at Strawbery Fields, Alice in Wonderland Statue) and learn history with this virtual experience
The 9/11 Memorial it is also available online. Here you can virtually move around the amazing Reflecting Absence Fountains, two twin waterfall pools with bronze parapets where the names of the victims of the 9/11 attacks are written. They replace the two twin towers that were once the World Trade Center.
Explore NYC Graffity Art: From Street to Online Galleries
I did!! Firstly, because I was lucky enough to have a wonderful December walk on the streets in Brooklyn. And now by browsing melancholically the online galleries on Google Arts & Culture website.
The graffiti as a modern art movement started with not so fancy painting tools back in the 70’s, in the Bronx neighborhood. Though it raised from an overwhelming atmosphere of crime and oblivion, the graffiti art surpassed its conditions and spread its amazing wings all over the city. People’s talent and enthusiasm easily conquered, for a few decades now, the boring walls transforming them into open air museums with short-lived art pieces of vibrant colors. StreetArt NYC tries to showcase all these unique paintings and keep them alive a bit longer.