The coolest classes in NYC

Sign up for these thrilling, unusual classes that prove New York really does have something for everybody

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New York Jedi

New York Jedi Photograph: Julia Berke

Ready to get schooled? New York City offers classes in every topic that you can think of—and a few you can't. Fitness fanatics can get their fix with our NYC fitness guide, while arty types can check out hybrid classes for eating, drinking and learning. But for the adventurous student—that's you—we've uncovered 15 awesome, out-of-the-box classes in NYC. Whether you've always wanted to learn how to use a lightsaber or you're an aspiring reality-TV star, we have the course for you. Read on and uncover your hidden skills!

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Photograph: Julia Berke

Lightsaber Fighting

  • Price band: 2/4

New York Jedi founder Flynn Michael and his fellow instructors, who have backgrounds in martial arts and film-fight choreography, impart the ways of the Force at two-hour electro-sword classes every Thursday night at 7pm at Ripley-Grier Studios (212-643-9985, newyorkjedi.com; $10). Flynn's “tribe of storytellers and dreamers” (read: students) can participate in an annual battle as part of the Village Halloween Parade. Grown-ups playing with illuminated toys in the name of honor? Rad.

  1. 520 Eighth Ave between 36th and 37th Sts, 16th floor, Midtown West
More info
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Photograph: Divya Anantharaman

Taxidermy

Taxidermy: it ain’t just for folks who enjoy the stench of decaying animal flesh. Divya Anantharaman is young, cool and seasoned in the art form (she’s the taxidermist in residence at the Morbid Anatomy Museum), and she’s here to teach you the finer points of gutting, stuffing and mounting your little furry and feathered friends. One-off classes (347-799-1017, d-i-v-y-a.com; $110–$400, depending on price of provided materials and skill level) range from “Fancy Chicken” to “Anthropomorphic Mouse.”

  1. 424A Third Ave at 7th St, Gowanus, Brooklyn
More info
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Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/m01229

Freeganism

NYC’s food freeloaders combine hard-core postcapitalist theory with a daring willingness to eat whatever they can find by foraging. (For instance, “Weeds rule!”—or so the website freegan.info claims.) You too can become an urban hunter-gatherer by attending free biweekly “Freeganism 101 & Trash Tour” meet-ups, which take you to the best grocery-store-and-restaurant Dumpsters of a particular ’hood and explain why that edible grub is wasted, along with various other seminars by seasoned stealers and food shares.

  1. Various locations
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Photograph: Carol Haynes

Aerial Trapeze

Glide through the air with the greatest of ease while saddled into an aerial trapeze. Hey, that rhymes! The instructors at Trapeze School New York (212-242-8769, newyork.trapezeschool.com; $50-70, depending on day of the week) will not only equip you with the skills to do death-defying stunts, but they’ll do it in novel outdoor locales like South Street Seaport and Pier 40 off the West Side Highway. Daily trapeze sessions are available for all four skill levels—but note that you must have taken three intro courses and been signed off by a teacher before moving on to a more advanced class where you can learn cool moves like how to flip mid-air.

  1. Various locations
More info
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Photograph: New York Reality TV School

Reality-TV Stardom

Founded by Robert Galinsky, New York Reality TV School (646-372-8666, newyorkrealitytvschool.com; $329–$459, depending on length of workshop) offers “acting classes” for those who aspire to MTV and VH1 fame. One-time intensive and five-week workshops, taught by the school’s reality mentors (former cast members on shows like The Amazing Race and The Bachelor) train you in answering stock reality-TV questions in front of the camera, grappling with curveballs thrown at you during auditions and going through “perp walks,” during which you’re relentlessly berated by fellow classmates.

  1. Various locations
More info
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Brooklyn Brainery

Brooklyn Brainery

Brooklyn Brainery

The Brainery (347-292-7246, brooklynbrainery.com; $10-100, depending on class) leads the field in eccentric but enticing classes. Choose from courses in Japanese kokedama (“make your own living moss balls”), demystifying Tex-Mex and an introduction to tapestry weaving. Or pick from more practical options, like working out your retirement plan (hey, it’s never too soon), identifying spring trees and learning to knit (specifically, a slouchy hat).

  1. 190 Underhill Ave between St. Johns and Sterling Pls, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
More info
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UrbanGlass

UrbanGlass in Fort Greene (718-625-3685, urbanglass.org; $95-940, depending on number of sessions and skill level) offers weekly classes, workshops and intensives in such sexy sculpting techniques as glassblowing and flameworking, plus learning to work with stained glass and kilnforming (which includes the less saucy-sounding slumping and fusing). Whichever option you choose, you’re likely to come out of it with something beautiful. 

  1. 647 Fulton St between Ashland and Rockwell Pls, Fort Greene, Brooklyn
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Courtesy Hauser & Wirth New York

Madagascar Institute

An art project in Gowanus, Brooklyn, Madagascar Institute (madagascarinstitute.com; $30-120, depending on length of class and membership) swears by the motto “fear is never boring,” and offers live performances, guerrilla art events and, yes, classes. This spring you can learn about MIG welding (like in Flashdance!). The website advises: “Dress warm and leave dirty.”

  1. 217 Butler St between Bond and Nevins Sts, Gowanus, Brooklyn
More info
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Photograph: Heami Lee

Babeland

Classes and courses aren’t just for nerds—New York sex-store mainstay Babeland (babeland.com; free-$30) offers funny, entertaining and super informative workshops on such topics as “Beyond the Blow Job” and “The Art of Great Sex,” and you can choose from one of three locations.

  1. Various locations
More info
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Jo "Boobs" Weldon

Jo "Boobs" Weldon

The New York School of Burlesque

Founded and run by New York burlesque star Jo "Boobs" Weldon, the New York School of Burlesque (schoolofburlesque.com; $15-95, depending on number of sessions and skill level) is something of a Time Out New York favorite, not least because the last time we visited, they taught us how to do a striptease out of a hoodie (feather boas and silky gloves are also on hand). Classes include a weekly workout, and a monthlong intro series to burly-Q. 

  1. 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette St between Astor Pl and E 4th St, 4G
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Bitter & Esters

Bitters & Esters (917-596-7261, bitterandesters.com; $55) is not only a place where hops-heads can load up on malts, grains and equipment; it also doubles as a classroom, offering weekly instruction on DIY suds. Learn the basics of at-home brewing at one of three hands-on courses. The courses are taught in a concentrated two- to three-hour workshop format, categorized according to skill-level—"Introductory Classes," "Advanced Classes," and "Brew Like a Pro."

  1. 700 Washington Ave between Prospect Pl and St. Marks Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
More info
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The Museum at FIT

The Museum at FIT

Fashion Styling

If you’ve ever watched an episode of The Rachel Zoe Project and thought, I want to do that, Fashion Styling at the Fashion Institute of Technology (212-217-7999, fitnyc.edu; $185-340, depending on number of sessions and skill level) is a well-heeled step in the right direction. Let the fashion-minded faculty turn your eye for color into styling know-how through a combination of lectures, demonstrations and studio projects, including assignments in set and prop styling, location scouting, and styling for fashion shows, video productions and celebrities.

  1. Seventh Ave at 27th St, Chelsea
More info
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Astor Center

Astor Center

Bartending 201: Techniques & Tips for the Creative Process

If your last mixology class got you thinking about trying to go pro, Bartending 201: Techniques & Tips for the Creative Process at Astor Center (212-674-7501, astorcenternyc.com; $79) will bring you a step closer to Sasha Petraske–protégé material. Taught by mixology veteran April Wachtel, the lesson imparts techniques in speed, multitasking and service. Participants get behind a bar to practice making various drinks simultaneously, upping their efficiency while sipping some of the cocktails they’ve made.

  1. 399 Lafayette St at 4th St, NoHo
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Photograph: Wendy Connett

Sackler Brain Bench

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Ever wondered what goes on in your brain when you’re fired up about your favorite athlete? You may find the answer at the American Museum of Natural History (212-769-5100, amnh.org; $85-295, depending on number of sessions and membership). Taking place on October 18, “Sackler Brain Bench One-day University: Illuminating the Brain” explores a variety of topics in modern brain research and treatment. In November, students can learn how the brain grows and ages, from early childhood into late adulthood, during the 5-session "Sackler Brain Bench: Human Brain Development and Aging."

  1. Central Park West at 79th St, Upper West Side
Book online
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One-Week Acting for Film Workshop

  • Free

Thanks to the Made in NY program—a collection of tax credits, product and service discounts and marketing opportunities for filmmakers who choose to shoot in the city—the local industry is booming. If you want to get in on the action, New York Film Academy (212-674-4300, nyfa.edu; $1,100) offers hands-on training for just about any job you could want. Aspiring screen stars will appreciate the One-Week Acting for Film Workshop. “Unlike other acting schools, we provide all of our students with a basic education in a variety of filmmaking crafts: directing, producing, screenwriting and many different crew positions,” says Roger Del Pozo, NYFA’s director of acting and musical theater admissions. Participants work closely with students in the film program to shoot on-location shorts, and have the opportunity to network with like-minded moviemakers.

  1. Various locations
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