That dreaded question on the group chat: What do you want to do this weekend? I’ve talked to a lot of people recently about how bored they are with the tired routine of social activities: drinks, dinner, drinks, dinner, shopping, yoga, drinks, dinner. Rinse and repeat. It has me thinking that there must be more interesting ways we can engage with our friends, significant others, and coworkers, right?
Turns out there are easy and noncommittal ways to take advantage of NYC’s melting pot of ideas, cultures, and know-how. With just a few clicks (and, honestly, the same amount of money you’d spend on a night of food and drink anyway), you can sign up for fun group classes that promise to expand your horizons and provide a different way to socialize and learn.
The Brooklyn Brainery is one place to start. Across its two locations in Prospect Heights and Windsor Terrace, the Brainery seeks to create a space for accessible education across a multitude of topics. Classes currently on offer include “How to Write the Funniest Sketch of All Time,” “DIY Printmaking,” and “The Archaeology of Cats and Dogs.” Seriously, there is such a variety that there’s almost no way you wouldn’t come across at least one class you might be interested in. The classes can be quite affordable; some, like “Intro to Jewelry Making”, require materials and time and labor and are more of an investment, but others that are lecture or discussion based can be in the $10-$15 range. That’s less than you’d spend on one craft cocktail at a downtown speakeasy.
Another option is to get your hands dirty and try your hand at pottery, which was at one point heralded as “the new yoga” by Vogue. While wheel throwing can sometimes be a solitary task, it can also be a fun way to sit next to a friend, chat and listen to music, perhaps while sipping tea or wine. Most pottery studios offer single sessions as well as ongoing weekly classes (which usually come with free open studio hours each week). Nowadays almost every neighborhood has its own local pottery studio(s) for you and your friends to patronize, so it’s a great way to connect with your community as well. Google away to find your best fit!
Fancy yourself an aspiring polyglot? Consider skipping your Duolingo group for a day and pushing your circle to join a language exchange meetup. These give you the opportunity to either hone your skills or start from scratch while meeting new people. Language exchanges can be more engaging than typical classroom learning — you gather somewhere fun and just talk to people, judgment-free. What more could you ask for? Check out language schools like ABC Languages or even sites like Meetup to see what sorts of group conversation opportunities are out there.
If you just can’t imagine not centering your social life around alcohol consumption, elevate your “let’s grab a drink” ask by booking a mixology class at Liquid Lab NYC. They offer both public and private classes, during which you learn how to make four specialty cocktails and even participate in a lighthearted cocktail contest. You don’t have to have prior experience or even know anything about mixology (though if you do have some skills, it’s a chance to show off). The added bonus is that you’ll walk away with new drink ideas to wow future dinner party guests with.
This one’s for the Instagram-obsessed — Apple regularly hosts free Photo Walks and Studio Hours out of their stores to teach you how to take and edit great photos using your iPhone camera. They offer a variety of walks and workshops in the realm of photo and video, so check the Today at Apple site to see what’s coming up. In any given class the instructor might ask you to partner up during these workshops, so invite a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with.
This article only scratches the surface of what’s out there in terms of social and engaging educational opportunities in the city. Pretty much anything you can think of — from swing dance to embroidery to woodworking — is out there, waiting for you to learn it. So next time you initiate the usual meet-at-the-bar-after-work scenario, pause and consider picking up a new craft with your people instead.