Learn a hobby and meet new people at these lectures and workshops.
Tue Mar 29 2011
Photograph: Heami Lee
During monthly "Hands-On" events at this informal and huge workshop (sometimes including as many as 175 people), an artist or crafter takes students through a step-by-step DIY tutorial, and Etsy typically provides the materials. Each project is announced on Etsy's blog (etsy.com/storque) ten days to two weeks in advance; you'll also find info there on similar free sessions with groups such as Church of Craft and Bags for the People. In addition to your project, you can take home photographic evidence of your artsy experience—pop into Etsy's free photo booth, hold up your creation and grin.
- 55 Washington St, (between Front and Water Sts)
- Price band: 1/4
Magnet Theater is renowned for its long-form style of improv developed by founder Armando Diaz; this two-hour taster allows newbies to try the basic elements of off-the-cuff comedy. The class draws students with no stage experience as well as actors looking to expand their range. You'll start with a series of warm-up exercises and simple, solo games like Pet Peeve Rant, a chance to stand on stage and complain about your bugbears in front of the group. Later, you'll ease into group improv scenes under the guidance of a teacher.
- 254 W 29th St, (between Seventh and Eighth Aves)
Bike-repair classes at Time's Up
A broken steed doesn't have to stay off the streets: Experts from cycling-advocate organization Time's Up teach weekly beginners' classes that'll get you back in the saddle in no time. Over four sessions, you'll learn how to fix a flat, adjust the braking system, true a wheel and more. Volunteer instructors will demonstrate more complex maintenance, while you can try simpler tasks—like fixing an inner tube—yourself, with most materials provided free of charge (although donations are encouraged). The Lower East Side class is on Mondays from 6:30-8:30pm; the Brooklyn location also runs a women- and trans-only session on Tuesdays.
- 156 Rivington St between Clinton and Suffolk Sts, basement • 99 South 6th St between Bedford Ave and Berry St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
- Price band: 1/4
Let's face it: You're doing it wrong. Well, maybe not—but you could definitely do it better. This friendly purveyor of sex aids runs four to eight popular monthly and one-off sex-ed classes, covering everything from the relatively vanilla to the outré, at each of its three locations. Most events feature a 15-minute presentation, followed by a Q&A. Munch gratis Blue Sky Bakery pastries and learn about different sex positions at the next Brooklyn Brunch (462 Bergen St between Flatbush and Fifth Aves, Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-638-3820, babeland.com; first Sunday of every month at 12:30pm). Sexy Sundays at the LES location gives tips on how to ask for the sex you really want (94 Rivington St between Ludlow and Orchard Sts; 212-375-1701; second Sunday of every month at 12:30pm). Cheap Date Night, on the second Thursday of every month at the LES store, doles out advice for couples of any gender mix looking for an exciting evening.
- Locations and times vary; see website
If you want to learn a new, graceful way to move, try this weekly outdoor Brazilian martial-arts class, led by Formando Abar.
- 32-01 Vernon Blvd, (at Broadway)
The Jewish Community Center encourages healthy living with multiple drop-in classes for all ages and fitness levels. The centerpiece of the initiative is the Take a Chance series every Saturday except on holidays), which includes a new class every month. The JCC offers Nia Jam (second Saturday of the month, 6:15pm), a mix of aerobics and martial arts. If getting out of your chair sounds like too much hard work, register for the once-a-month nutritional education series Healthy Eating on the Go.
- 331 Amsterdam Ave., 10023
- Price band: 1/4
If Channing Tatum can trip the light fantastic, you can too. Grab a partner and indulge your Dancing with the Stars fantasy at this studio's monthly beginners' lesson on Friday nights. The hour-long group class is split between ballroom footwork and fast-paced Latin dance. Thanks to a crowd of 40-plus beginners and the guidance of a teacher, you won't feel self-conscious as you prepare for the 9pm postclass public soiree—although we can't guarantee the same after you see a performance by advanced students and teachers at 10:30pm. One thing you don't have to worry about: a partner; there's always a healthy singles quotient. Plus, there are gratis snacks, so you might find your dancing companion at the refreshments table.
- 39 W 19th St, fifth floor, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves)
- Price band: 2/4
Budding gardeners can show up at this Windy City transplant for seasonal lectures. At each talk, there are demonstrations of potting techniques and necessary materials. To get your fingers dirty, reserve a spot on select Thursdays and Sundays (see website for details) for workshops on topics like building a terrarium. You'll need to R.S.V.P. for these popular sessions, which are limited to twelve people. Although tuition is free, you'll have to pay for your own materials.
- 44 Grand St, (between Kent and Wythe Aves)
- Critics choice
This venerable institution's monthly DIY salon has something Etsy can't offer: An extensive collection of crafting ephemera stretching back hundreds of years. Librarian Jessica Pigza scours the archives for artifacts to help stir your creative juices. For instance, a recent session with Knitknit author Sabrina Gschwandtner was complemented by knitting magazines from the '30s. Supplies are provided, but feel free to bring along your favorite pair of scissors, and get in line early—space is limited to the first 96 people.
- Fifth Ave, (at 42nd St)
Once a year, Brooklyn Skillshare hosts a community-driven day of classes. Now, the educational collective is branching out, offering one-off introductory lessons on a diverse range of utilitarian topics at Prospect Heights space LaunchPad. Volunteer teachers will school you on various topics, providing you with a springboard to explore the subject in greater depth on your own. So far, the organization has provided introductions on home brewing (not surprisingly, that one was popular, drawing 30-odd people), tailoring, making your own eco-friendly cleaning products and yarn spinning. Keep an eye on Skillshare or LaunchPad's website for the next class.
- 721 Franklin Ave, (between Park and Stering Pls), 11238
There are more ways than one to see Manhattan from the water, but instead of doling out the cash for a pricey cruise, take matters into your own hands. The New York Outrigger group regularly escorts beginners on Hudson River jaunts in an outrigger canoe, a traditional Polynesian design that adds a float to the side of the vessel for extra stability. Beginning around Memorial Day, the NYO offers three free sessions for groups of six on most Saturday mornings. You'll spend 30 minutes on land learning about the history of outriggers, safety procedures, stroke technique, and basic calls and commands so that your crew (of three newbies and three experienced paddlers) works as one. Then it's time to hit the water. You'll paddle between 34th Street and Houston Street, hugging the Manhattan shore, though stronger teams may even make it to New Jersey. Sign up at email@example.com; you'll be notified when the next month's worth of sessions are available to book, but be quick: Space fills up in a couple of hours, and each novice can register only themselves and one friend.
- Hudson River, (between 26th and 27th Sts)
- Critics choice
These lessons are perfect for the funemployed, especially if your idea of ecreation coincides with that of retired Frenchmen. During the workday (Mon-Fri 11am-6pm), a member of the La Boule New Yorkaise club (labouleny.com) waits at the Bryant Park courts to provide instruction to newbies. (Just keep an eye out for someone wearing the club's T-shirt.) After learning the basic rules, you can hang around and play with the club's equipment as long as you like, and you'll receive further pointers on strategy and tactics. Take a break at lunch when the courts get busy with office workers, and then return to master the challenging move known as carreau in the afternoon.
- Gravel courts at the corner of Sixth Ave and 42nd St
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