The GofG Guide To The Best Classes And Hobbies In NYC

by Chiara Atik · October 20, 2009

Step away from The Learning Annex! Sure, this famed bastion of New York learning can teach you "How To Be Naturally Thin With Bethenny Frankel" or "How To Make Money With Vending Machines". But what if you want to learn how to knit, or glassblow, or even cross-dress? There is a wealth of opportunity for learning in New York City, and within a few weeks you can pick up skills you've always (or, alternately, never) dreamed of having. Click below for some of the 20 coolest classes and hobbies around. You're sure to find at least one to keep you busy this winter.

LEARN TO USE A POTTERY WHEEL

It probably won't be as sexy as the famed scene from Ghost, but it's still pretty cool to make a pot on a potter's wheel. Mud Sweat & Tears offers classes for all levels, and even studio rentals for the really advanced potters. You can make everyone bowls for Christmas!

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LEARN TO BUTCHER

You know what's super romantic? Learning how to butcher a pig with your significant other. The Brooklyn Kitchen famously offers a "date night" butchering class for all the meat-loving lovebirds in the city. Sure, things are going to get messy and gory, but if you can survive that, you can survive anything. (Vegetarians might opt for "Tempting Tempeh" instead...). These classes sell out WELL in advance (what does this say about dating in New York?) so if this sounds like your thing, book ahead of time.

LEARN TO KNIT

There is NOTHING more soothing than taking two sticks and what is basically string and turning it into something you can actually use.  Especially when the string is soft and beautiful and in a gorgeous color that will look great, say, around your neck. The best thing about knitting is that you can do it anywhere: in front of the tv, on the subway, at a cafe.  PurlSoho is a yarn store on Sullivan Street that offers beginning knitting classes, where the expert teachers will guide you through an entire project for around $50 a class. For those that already know how to knit, PurlSoho also offers quilting and embroidery lessons.

LEARN TO SKATEBOARD

Basically, it's impossible to skateboard and not look cool. That is, if you actually know how to skateboard. Uptown Skate School offers skateboard lessons at $65 a pop, which is not unreasonable when you think about how much money you'll save on public transportation come spring. They also teach "Skateboard Etiquette", something that those annoying kids who always skateboard around Astor Place have clearly never learned.

LEARN TO BE FUNNY

Upright Citizens Brigade, the Improv Club that launched a thousand SNL performers, offers classes as well as cheap entertainment. At best, you'll learn to be funny, clever, and quick on your feet; at worst, the experience of making a complete idiot of yourself in front of strangers might make you appreciate your day job all the more.

LEARN TO TAKE GOOD PHOTOS

The International Center of Photography offers all kinds of amazing photography and media classes, including the awesome "New York At Twilight", where students take field trips to iconic New York landmarks such as the Flatiron Building and Washington Square Park to shoot them at Twilight. Classes are about $370 for ten weeks. If you get REALLY good, you can come shoot for Guest of a Guest!

LEARN TO TRAPEZE

Right, so it's not the most useful skill you'll ever learn, but swinging on a trapeze 23 feet up in the air is pretty awesome. At the Trapeze School New York, you can take classes in flying trapeze, aerial silks, and even trampoline (even though that one seems pretty self-explanatory, no?) With classes starting at $50, it won't be long until you can fly through the air with the greatest of ease, a daring young New Yorker on the flying trapeze.

LEARN TO WELD

If welding, sculpting, or bronze casting is your thing, then check out The Arts Students League, which offers spectacularly cheap instruction in all three disciplines, as well as drawing and painting. Even if you turn out to be horrible at it, you'll probably still be able to pass your jumble of metal off to impressed family and friends as "high art", and if you're lucky you might produce enough to decorate your entire apartment.

LEARN TO DO COMPUTER GRAPHICS

Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Quark...these are all useful skills that you've probably told yourself you'd learn at some point or another. Well, no time like the present! Noble Desktop offers classes in just about everything, and these are computer skills that will definitely pad any resume. The classes are pretty steep, but if you're employed you might be able to get your employer to subsidize part of it.

LEARN TO CROSS-DRESS

Miss Vera has the world's first crossdressing academy "For Boys Who Want To Be Girls". Courses such as "How To Walk In High Heels", and "Dining Debutante". At first I thought this site was a joke, but, it's not, and if you're a boy who wants to be a girl, it really does seem like a first-rate place to go learn how to use wigs, makeup, talk and walk like a woman. (My favorite FAQ listed on the site, if you're interested, is "Can My Wife Accompany Me To The Academy?")

LEARN TO DRIVE

Are you one of those New Yorkers who never learned how to drive? Do you need to obtain a license to drive your motorcycle or vespa? The Professional Driving School has been teaching New York how to drive for about twenty years. Think of all the fun road trips you can take next summer if you learn to drive this winter!

LEARN TO MAKE CHICKEN TIKKA-MASALA

It's a delicious, wintry staple food for New Yorkers, but way pay for it when you can learn to cook it at home? The Indian Culinary Center promises to teach you how to make your favorite Indian restaurant dishes for only $80. And because currys are so notoriously heavy (it's like, straight cream in those things...), they offer classes on "lighter versions" of your favorite meals as well.

LEARN HOW TO BE AN OPERA SINGER

This continuing education Opera Workshop at The Juilliard School has no audition necessary, so theoretically anyone whose ever hummed along with a radio can suddenly find themselves enjoying working-rehearsal operatic acts, scenes, and repertoire. Singing at Juilliard (which, of course, is located basically at the Metropolitan Opera) might seem intimidating, but most operas have mute roles, right?

LEARN CALLIGRAPHY

If you really like making placecards, fancy invitations, or just writing your own name, Cooper Union offers a Calligraphy course as part of their Continuing Education program. You'll learn to handle the tools of the calligrapher (uh, a pen?), the history of calligraphy, and of course, how to do it yourself. The classes are relatively cheap for a semester's worth of instruction.

LEARN BALLET FROM THE VERY, VERY BEGINNING

So maybe you always fancied yourself a ballerina, but your mom forced you to take Karate instead so as not to inflect gender biases, and two decades later you still sort of suspect you could be the next Margaux Fontaine, except, you've never really danced before. Lucky for you, anything is possible in New York City, and Alvin Ailey offers "absolute beginning" dance classes for adults who have never pirouetted in their lives. The classes are about $17 each, or $255 for an unlimited monthly membership.

LEARN TO GLASSBLOW

Glassblowing is badass, and don't let anyone tell you differently. You can play with fire and glass at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, which offers weekend workshops as well as longer courses. In the introductory glassblowing class, you'll learn how to make a paperweight, which you KNOW your parents will love, no matter how old you are.

LEARN TO BOOKBIND

Ok, I have to admit, I sort of laughed while typing this one, BUT! For people who think they would like to take classes called "The World Of Boxes" and "Introduction To Bookbinding", The Center For Book Arts is the place to go. Go ahead, get in touch with your inner-9th Century monk.

LEARN TO BE A SOMMELIER

Do you always get embarrassed when you order a bottle of wine at a restaurant, and the waiter makes you taste it before pouring for the others, and you have no idea what you're doing so you just take a sip, swish it around in your mouth a little bit, then nod in what you hope is an approving, assertive manner? Then New York City Wine Class is for you. The classes start with Wine 101 and progress to specific regional wines and food pairings.

LEARN HOW TO WIN PROJECT RUNWAY

Parsons School For Design (aka where Tim Gunn once reigned!) offers a wide variety of continuing education classes in Fashion Design, even "Window Display Design". Brush up your skills before applying for the next season of Project Runway.

LEARN TO PLAY GUITAR

Let's face it, your Guitar Hero skills aren't quite cutting it in the real world. Learn how to really impress at New York City Guitar School, which offers all levels of guitar instruction in addition to specialty classes such as "Beatles Songs" and "Christmas Songs".

[Photos via BeautifulAngle, Boston.com, MissVera, Uptow Skate School, Project Runway, Purl, Urban GLass & SavetheSuburbs].