5 courses for a better NYC life

Illustration: Jrme Mireault, colagene.com

Master flea markets

Even vintage-fashion devotees can be daunted by the city's proliferation of stores and flea markets. FIT's "Star-Quality Vintage Shopping" (two sessions, Sept 24--Oct 1; $105; 212-217-3334, fitnyc.edu), led by stylist Emma Sosa, will help you navigate the ever-shifting shopping scene. After a crash course full of tips on how to spot a deal and advice for avoiding pitfalls like stained or worn items, the class puts theory into practice, with a tour of the best vintage spots. Bring a MetroCard and wear comfortable shoes—or buy some along the way.

Find local flavors

A lot more than trees grow in Brooklyn—at 3rd Ward's "Edible and Medicinal Herbs with Local Plants" (four sessions, Aug 6--27; $225, members $180, materials $20; 718-715-4961, 3rdward.com), instructor Irina Adam helps curious herbivores figure out what's underfoot. Adam, an environmental-preservation advocate and the founder of organic skin-care line Phoenix Botanicals, takes students foraging through surprisingly verdant Bushwick, where attendees can expect to find plants and herbs such as plantain and sheep sorrel. Learn everything from ancient folklore to nutritional information as you transform the haul into teas, oils, honeys, vinegars, lip balms and lotions.

Study skyscrapers

Get a fresh perspective on the city's skyline—and some gossip about the architects and developers who shaped it—with Brooklyn Brainery's "The Lower Manhattan Skyline" (Aug 25, $10; brooklynbrainery.com). Jennifer Messier leads a discussion about Manhattan's monoliths with the goal of gaining a broader understanding of the city's development. The class includes consideration of Frank Gehry's controversial Spruce Street project, nearing completion after almost a decade of stop-and-start construction. Meet at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 1, which boasts an unparalleled view of NYC's skyscrapers.

See the city in a new light

New Yorkers move through one of the most photogenic environments in the world, but the clutter of city life can make it hard to see the backdrop with an artist's eye. The New School's "Shadows, Textures, Reflections: Seeing the Light in New York" (six sessions, Sept 10--Oct 15 10am--2:30pm; $650; 212-229-5630, newschool.edu) refocuses attention on the details of urban environments that too often escape our notice, while exploring areas such as Tribeca and Roosevelt Island.

Sleuth out secret nosh spots

The Institute of Culinary Education's "Hidden and Cheap Eats in Manhattan" (Nov 19 11am--3pm; $75; 800-522-4610, rec.iceculinary.com) encompasses three things all New Yorkers love: good deals, good food and privileged information. Culinary tour guide Liz Young (lizyoungtours.com) imparts wisdom and trade secrets gained from years as a foodie and educator. Though the destinations are kept under tight wraps, the tour promises to touch on everything from beer to chocolate. Leave with a full stomach and a list of new snack spots to share—or to guard with your life.

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