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CNN  — 

The novel coronavirus pandemic is upending our way of life. That includes our beloved weekends.

To prevent its spread, public health officials agree: Social distancing has become essential. That means we should limit our contact with people and avoid groups.

But social distancing doesn’t mean your weekend is doomed. You just have to get a little creative.

“It may seem harsh to take these steps sometimes, but really what we’re doing is protecting [vulnerable] people from becoming seriously ill,” said Crystal Watson with the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We can affect how this outbreak unfolds by taking these measures.”

Here are some ideas of how to still make the most of your weekends:

For the cultural connoisseur

Your favorite museum may be closed. The mall is a ghost town. And movie theaters are shutting down – plus, sitting within close proximity of other people in seats that aren’t disinfected is a bad idea even for young, healthy people, Watson says.

No matter. Now is the time to binge all the culture you’ve dreamed of having enough time to consume.

Read everything. You always say you’ll find the time to read more. Now is that time. You may not feel comfortable visiting libraries and bookstores, so download a bunch of e-books and audiobooks instead. Drag your friends into your literary abyss and create a virtual book club and video call each other to discuss.

If you’re not sure which books to tackle first, consult with the New York Times Best Sellers list: New this week are Hilary Mantel’s “The Mirror & the Light,” the third entry in the Wolf Hall historical fiction series, and “Journey of the Pharaohs,” the 17th book in the late Clive Cussler’s Numa Files adventure series.

Celeste Ng’s “Little Fires Everywhere” is a timely read – a miniseries adaptation of the domestic drama recently premiered on Hulu. And if social distancing has amped up your anxiety, consider “First, We Make the Beast Beautiful,” a nonfiction book about anxiety disorder from Sarah Wilson that’ll soothe your soul.

Take a virtual museum tour. Miss the echoing halls and self-guided audio tours? Many museums offer a similar experience on your smart phone. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Guggenheim Museum are only two of the diverse bunch that host online tours. Want to explore overseas? Google Arts & Culture has a collection of virtual walk-throughs for dozens of international museums, from Paris to New Delhi.

Pursue amateur film criticism. Social media was made for shouting your raw opinions into the void. Now that we’re all stuck in that void, maybe someone will hear you. Write reviews on Facebook or Twitter. To exchange recommendations with your fellow cinephiles, join a site like Letterboxd, a social networking service for film geeks.

There’s a ton to watch now: Disney+ released “Frozen II” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Universal will let fans pay $20 to watch films still in theaters, like “The Invisible Man” and “Emma.” And isn’t it finally time you watch “Parasite”?

Learn a language – or just the basics. Learning a few phrases in another tongue will make you feel smart. Or inteligente. Or スマート. Or erevu. Don’t know Spanish, Japanese or Swahili yet? Get to studying.

Websites like Open Culture provide free lessons in foreign languages.

Bolster your vocabulary. Remember when reading the dictionary was a form of punishment? No longer. Flip through a thesaurus or take online quizzes to test your vocabulary, and gradually intumesce your personal lexicon and chevvy your kin with your verbosity.

Just in time! Merriam-Webster Dictionary is tweeting out “beautiful, obscure and quite useless” words while we’re all plumbing the depths of social media. Haven’t you been aching to throw out the word “filipendulous” during your next conference call?

For the nature buff

Surprise! Social distancing doesn’t require you to become a shut-in.

Be in nature. It’s your best bet of getting out of the house and keeping 6 feet of distance from other people, Watson says. Find an area where you won’t encounter crowds. Breathe fresh air. Notice things about the world around you that you didn’t see before.

If you live near a national park (lucky you!), now’s a great time to visit. Parks that have remained open have waived all entry fees.

Start birdwatching. Coronavirus hasn’t bothered the birds. Find out what species nest near you, dust off your binoculars if you’ve got ‘em and download a birdwatching map. Sit in your backyard or near a window. You’ll be surprised by how many you notice when you really look.

Audobon has an app to help you start birding based on your location. Let the offline tweeting begin.

Go on a secluded run. Yep, you can still exercise – as long as you keep your distance from others. Keep your immune system strong and clear your mind.