San Diego Family has rounded up a wide variety of exciting opportunities to play, explore, learn and have a blast, without leaving the couch. Here's a list featuring free virtual camps, story times, art and nature activities, museum tours and field trips, animal encounters and more. Make sure to come back to this page for regular updates!
Start a free 7-day trial with BroadwayHD, and stream family-friendly Broadway shows.
From the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park, experience the world’s largest outdoor musical instrument. Weekly Spreckels Organ concerts online include music ranging from rock and classical to contemporary and Broadway. Webcasts will be streamed every Sunday at 2 pm.
FREE VIRTUAL CAMPS
- Take the boredom out of summer with Camp by Walmart, a star-studded camp featuring sessions ranging from fitness and crafts to other activities that will keep kids active and entertained. Watch Head Camp Counselor Neil Patrick Harris lead camp challenges, from “Neil’s Charades” to musical Mad Libs, join basketball star LeBron James in a variety of mental and physical activities, see singer and actress Idina Menzel showcase her singing talent at Skills Camp and more. For camp access, download the Walmart app, and look for Camp by Walmart in the Services tab.
- Engage in a variety of delightful activities for ages 6-12, courtesy of City of Carlsbad’s Camps@Home. Write a comic book, learn how to cook easy recipes, find soccer and basketball drills to develop your skills and more.
- Have a young techie in the family? Best Buy’s Geek Squad Academy at Home offers free DIY tech projects for ages 10-18 which help them build new tech skills and boost their creativity. Create video games and websites using free software, explore 3D design, practice new photography skills, learn to write in the secret language of computers and more.
- Little ones are treated to arts and crafts, singing and dancing at a fun Virtual Summer Camp with The Wiggles and Rascal + Friends.
- Kids can make a difference in the world by attending CAMP@HOME by UNICEF USA and S’More Ideas featuring more than 75 short videos that guide children through engaging activities. As campers complete videos, they can unlock therapeutic food packets for UNICEF to send to severely malnourished children around the world, as well as critical donations for their communities.
- Parents can fill their children’s summer with exploration, creativity and fun with Camp PBS KIDS. Discover ideas, games and parent-led activities around different themes such as PBS KIDS Read, Blast Off into Space, Dive into Dinosaurs, Get Creative with the Arts and more.
- Varsity Tutors offers weeklong camps for ages 5-18 through August. Explore the Spanish language and culture, inventive and eccentric artists, digital photography, the history of rock ‘n’ roll, creative writing, science activities, recycled art, cooking and more. Register here
PLAY & ENTERTAINMENT
- The San Diego Model Railroad Museum has turned its annual Thomas Family Day into Thomas Takeover Week, a weeklong virtual takeover (Aug. 17-23) featuring this beloved little locomotive and his friends. The SDMRM website and social channels will move full steam ahead with train-themed crafts and activities, videos of the museum’s Thomas models riding the rails and a live story reading exclusive to museum members. Also, view the virtual exhibit, “75 Years of Thomas,” to commemorate these trains’ history and legacy, which will be highlighted throughout the week. Can’t get enough of Thomas? Don’t miss the Day Out with Thomas Celebration at Southern California Railway Museum (this is an in-person event) on Nov. 7, 8, 11, 14 & 15.
- Experience the thrill of your favorite SeaWorld park rides through first-person coaster videos, and enjoy park-inspired recipes, easy-to-assemble crafts and coloring pages through SeaWorld@Home. Also, get the chance to be featured on SeaWorld’s website by sharing photos of your activities on social media with hashtag #SeaWorldAtHome.
- Get your fireworks fix with a touch of Disney magic! Check out the Disney Parks Youtube channel to get a front row seat right in front of Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World Resort, and watch as the castle becomes a canvas for the stories of beloved characters in the Happily Ever After fireworks show.
- Hang out with your favorite Marvel superheroes at Marvel HQ where you can play free online games featuring Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy and more. Also includes comics, cartoon videos and fun activities.
- Boss Baby, Shrek, the Trolls and other favorite Dreamworks characters unite to bring you hours and hours of fun and entertainment through the Dreamworks Activity Center. Have a blast with crafts, games, coloring and connect-the-dots pages, recipes, music and irresistible Zoom backgrounds!
- Keep the kiddos engaged and their imaginations active with Play@Home Theater by Toys “R” Us. Includes DIY videos, indoor activity videos featuring movement and mindfulness, puzzles and word searches, Play-Doh projects, no-mess, digital coloring pages and more.
- Make simple LEGO projects courtesy of LEGOLAND Building Challenge by LEGOLAND California Resort. Watch how-to-build videos hosted by a Master Model Builder, and learn how to build a LEGO sphere, pirate, dog, skateboard and more.
- Have the whole family participate in a variety of free online workouts. Search YouTube for family-friendly cardio and Zumba workouts, check out Beachbody Kids workouts on their Vimeo page, and get 30 days of free access to workouts from NEO Kids.
- Join Cosmic Kids Yoga, a YouTube yoga series that tells a story while promoting movement for kids, ages 3-6.
- Reach fitness goals with videos from Special Olympics' School of Strength.
VIRTUAL STORY TIMES/READING
- Don’t miss this year’s virtual summer reading program by the San Diego Public Library with the theme, “Dig Deeper: Read, Investigate, Discover.” Read 10 books or read for 10 hours to collect prizes, and complete at-home activities to earn digital badges. Program runs through Aug. 31.
- Join beloved icon Julie Andrews for story time! Check out Julie’s Library, a literacy podcast where she reads children’s books alongside her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. Every story comes to life with music, sound and activities.
- Readers of all ages are challenged to read, learn and create online, courtesy of San Diego County Library’s Summer Learning Challenge. Register to track your reading progress, complete learning challenges that will bring local art, culture and recreation opportunities directly to you online. Program runs through Aug. 31, 2020.
- Enjoy stories, songs and delightful activities with San Diego County Library’s Story Time Shorts. Spanish story times are also available.
- Enjoy daily story times, chapter-a-day read-alongs, crafts and sing-alongs courtesy of Stay-in Storytime Club, a Facebook group led by San Diego Public Library librarians.
- Join a weekly story time that includes beloved children’s books and classic tall tales through Seaport Village’s digital video series, Seaport Streams. Every Friday, 10:30 am. Story times are followed by interactive kids’ workshops.
- Celebrated actors read children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations courtesy of Storyline Online, The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website.
- Tune in to San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum’s Facebook Live Storytime from Monday to Friday at 12:30 pm. SDCDM also shares a lot of interactive art and live activities on their page.
- Cast a Vanishing Spell on boredom with Harry Potter at Home, a special hub at WizardingWorld.com that offers magical craft videos, quizzes, articles, puzzles and child-friendly activities. Also, watch as some of the best-loved faces from global entertainment, music and sports read different sections of the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone
- Children can stay up-to-date with current events and the world around them with free digital issues of TIME for Kids through July. Access a library of four grade-specific editions of TIME for Kids and Your $, the financial literacy magazine for kids.
- Young book lovers, rejoice! Instantly stream an incredible collection of audiobooks for free, including titles in six different languages (English, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Japanese), with Audible Stories.
VIRTUAL NATURE EXPERIENCES & ACTIVITIES
- San Diego Botanic Garden offers activities that will keep kids connected to the natural world. Enjoy Tree Bingo, learn about kitchen counter gardening, head outside for a neighborhood garden scavenger hunt and more.
- Experience the beauty of nature and be reminded of our responsibility to protect the wildlife and habitats that help sustain life on Earth as you view Nature’s Witness, a virtual photography exhibition by the National Wildlife Federation.
- Hang out with the Lorax on Seussville and let him show you some fun-filled activities that teach kids the importance of taking care of the environment. Activities range from whipping up a Truffula Tree Cake to creating Lorax Leis.
- Play educational and nature-themed games with your favorite characters on PBS Kids. Build your own rainforest ecosystem, Help Cat in the Hat clean up the neighborhood by recycling and composting items, and plant seeds and tend to a garden with Abby and Elmo.
- Check out Planet Arcade Games by NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), a portal to games and interactive activities focusing on ocean and air themes, and promoting environmental stewardship.
- Learn how to draw Captain Underpants, Dog Man, Li’l Petey and other beloved Dav Pilkey characters courtesy of Dav Pilkey at Home. You can also read Dog Man comics, watch fun videos, get free coloring sheets and enjoy games and activities including the opportunity to create your own Dog Man graphic novel.
- Bring your favorite Peanuts characters to life! Learn how to draw Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Woodstock and the rest of the gang through lively video demos on the Snoopy YouTube channel. Also, visit the Schulz Museum at Home page for step-by-step illustrations on how to draw the characters.
- Learn how to draw during "Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems," author of the Elephant and Piggie book series for early readers. Tip from Mo Willems: Put butcher paper down on the table and have a family dinner doodle!
- Download coloring pages on The New Children’s Museum’s Facebook page inspired by its art installations and spaces. New coloring pages will be featured each week on their Facebook page. The museum also offers a weekly virtual Innovators LAB Design Challenges where kids are encouraged to make their own art piece using household items.
- Add some Disney magic to your day by learning how to draw Mickey Mouse with a Disney Parks artist on the Disney Parks Blog. Learn to draw a vintage 1920s Mickey as well as the more contemporary and whimsical versions. Find other popular character drawing tutorials such as Anna from “Frozen,” Buzz Lightyear, Tinker Bell, Pluto and more.
VIRTUAL SCIENCE & NATURAL HISTORY
- NASA lets you explore the universe from the comfort of your couch. Check out NASA at Home where you can learn how to draw Artemis (NASA’s Space Launch System rocket), find science experiments you can do using household items, create a video game that lets players explore Mars with a helicopter, travel into deep space in search of exoplanets and more.
- Connect to the power of science through the Fleet Science Center’s FLEETtv filled with experiments, hands-on activities, behind-the-scenes interviews, bloopers and more. Visit their Facebook page for more awesome science facts, videos and more.
- Discover tons of fascinating facts about animals, science, geography and history, and play fun games with National Geographic Kids.
- Visit San Diego Natural History Museum’s The Nat @ Home page which features online resources and at-home activities. Check out Nature Bytes, an online library of three-minute videos on natural history topics, visit the Explore the Region from Coast to Cactus website to learn more about the plants and animals that call this region home, and join Digital Nature & Me Story Times.
VIRTUAL MUSEUM TOURS/FIELD TRIPS
- Have a high-flying time as you take a virtual tour of the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum’s various aircraft. Also, discover interesting facts about an array of featured aircraft in a special online gallery.
- Art experiences abound in All About Art, a series of virtual tours of The New Children’s Museum’s interactive art installations. Join mascots Art and Play for a fun-filled adventure! Also, check out #thinkplaycreatefromhome at www.thinkplaycreate.org/learn/creative-resources for hands-on, DIY activities, coloring pages featuring museum installations, Innovators LAB Design Challenges and more.
- Tour more than 1,200 museums and galleries around the globe without leaving your couch, courtesy of Google Arts and Culture.
- Explore the USS Midway Museum most popular spaces and exhibits from home. View a naval aircraft gallery, listen to the audio tour, check out the Little Skippers section with activities for the kids, read historical accounts of the USS Midway and more.
- Missing The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch? Let the flowers come to you! Revel in the beauty of this floral paradise as owner, Paul Ecke III, take you on a virtual tour of The Flower Fields’ many attractions.
- See what home life looks like for the Queen of England as you take a virtual tour of Buckingham Palace in London. Tours feature the Grand Staircase, the White Drawing Room, the Throne Room and the Blue Drawing Room.
- Helen Woodward Animal Center presents fun facts about their animal ambassadors and offers a delightful educational activity. Mon.-Fri., 11 am. Themes change daily.
- Explore the National Museum of Natural History in New York as you take self-guided, room-by-room tours of select exhibits and areas.
- Explore The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with #MetKids, a special section of their site where children can tour The Met with an interactive map, journey through more than 5,000 years of art by hopping in a time machine, learn amazing facts about works of art and engage in fun, creative projects.
VIRTUAL ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS
- Explore Birch Aquarium’s online learning space designed for families, teachers and scientists of all ages. Find science activities, ocean crafts, coloring pages for kids and adults, and more. Also, visit their YouTube page for behind-the scenes peeks as well as videos including fun animal facts and tranquil underwater moments.
- Craving for a dose of wildlife? You’re in luck! San Diego Zoo Kids Corner brings you half-hour virtual “funshops” filled with trivia, arts and crafts, humor and exciting activities. Visit intriguing animals at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, as well as other zoos and aquariums around the world, and learn fascinating wildlife facts.
- Go birdwatching! The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has various live bird cams which offer a virtual window into the diverse and intimate world of birds. Get up close and personal with barred owls, red-tailed hawks, Bermuda petrels and more.
- Encounter otters, moon jellies, sharks, African penguins and other fascinating sea creatures with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s live cams.
- SeaWorld San Diego invites you to explore the world of animals and nature with a wide array of free online resources. Revel in the wonders of wildlife through the Saving a Species series from ShamuTV, check out Animal Bytes for quick, fun facts about some of the most interesting creatures in the animal kingdom, and browse Animal InfoBooks for details about animals, environments, conservation issues and more.
- Check out a live webcam featuring the world-famous sea lions of PIER 39 in San Francisco. Find out how they came to live at Pier 39 after the 1989 earthquake and discover fun sea lion facts.
- Compadres Kids is stepping up to the plate with daily fun and educational activities for the family. Go online to test your knowledge of Padres history, stay active with a 10-minute kids’ workout with Pad Squad, design your own custom Padres baseball card and more. New activities will be posted every Monday.
- Middle school students can brush up on various math concepts with Math Snacks featuring educational animations, fun games and interactive tools.
Find more ways that San Diego businesses are offering creative solutions for families HERE.
Jenny Burman, mom of two, is San Diego Family’s calendar editor.
Updated: August 2020