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Pottery Class (Photo: iStockphoto)

The Best Classes for Meeting New Yorkers

Sign up for one of these 15 carefully selected courses to meet locals, learn something, and have fun while you’re at it

Admit it, sometimes New York can seem like a lonely place. How do you get to know anybody in such a big, fast-moving town? Well, taking one of the city’s thousands of classes is a great way to start. Instead of standing hopefully around a bar or club where you can’t even decipher the name of the person who’s shouting in your ear, you’ll get to join up with a relaxed, friendly group of folks who are all interested in the same things you are. Better still, you’ll all be learning something together. It’s a great way to get past those socially awkward moments, find out what people are really like, and maybe score some impressive new skills in the process. Below, 15 of the best classes in the city for fun and fellowship.

A photographer learns techniques for night shooting (Photo: iStockphoto)

A photographer learns techniques for night shooting (Photo: iStockphoto)

Night Photography
Remember Forever NY

On any given night, you’ll find hundreds of people taking snapshots along the brightly lit streets of New York City, or lined up along the waterfront trying to capture the beauty of the evening skyline. But if you want to break out of the pack and really nail the shot, sign up to take this class with other photographers who want to perfect their technique. You’ll meet near the Brooklyn Bridge on the East River or in the heart of Times Square to learn about camera settings, color, composition, balance, and everything else you need to know to gain proficiency in low-light situations. A tripod is required (bring a remote trigger release if you have it). From $80 per person, Brooklyn Bridge or Times Square, 646-736-3231


Tango Fundamentals
Dardo Galletto Studios

The Argentine tango is one of the smoothest and sexiest dance forms around. If you fantasize about gliding suavely across the floor in the arms of an enchanting partner, get yourself into a class with other aspiring dancers who want to experience the elegance of tango. Beginners will receive all the attention and instruction they need from expert instructors. Before long you’ll be dancing with ease and even walking more gracefully. Beware, studies have shown that people who dance tango feel sexier and more relaxed after a session. $25 per person (single class), 151 West 46th St. 11th Fl., 212-575-0222,


Fencing in Bryant Park
Manhattan Fencing Center

Ever wanted to try your hand at fencing? Longed to thrust and parry against a masked opponent? On most summer Fridays in Bryant Park, you can try this normally obscure sport for free in classes taught by instructors from the Manhattan Fencing Center. All equipment is provided. The courage to wield a saber in front of the curious throngs in one of the city’s most popular parks has to come from within. Free, Bryant Park, Fifth Ave. Terrace at 41st St., 212-768-4242,


Culinary Class (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Culinary class (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Culinary Center Cooking Classes
Bowery Culinary Center, Whole Foods Market

They’ve got classes in everything from Fundamental Knife Skills to the New Persian Kitchen at this school-within-a-market. All classes are designed for beginners, and all involve plenty of eating in good company. Some attendees are just looking to be a little less dependent on takeout, while others may be dreaming of a kitchen career somewhere down the road. Where do you fit in? From $20, 95 East Houston St., 212-420-1320 (ext.245),


Learn to Sail
Manhattan Sailing School

Yes, you can be one of the adventurous free spirits out there on the waters of New York Harbor, the wind in your hair and the sun in your eyes. You’ll learn all the basics of sailing in this comprehensive introductory class, held over one intensive weekend or on weeknights or weekdays over a longer period. Written quizzes form part of the drill, but the main thing is lots of time on the water. At the end, for an extra charge, you can get ASA certified. $590 per person (ask about various discounts) North Cove (near World Financial Center), 212-786-0400,


Mystery of the Caves Tour and Tasting
Murray’s Cheese

How does cheese get to be so irresistibly delicious? Learn how the world’s finest fromages are coaxed along into perfect ripeness on this tour from the geniuses at Murray’s, one of New York’s top cheesemongers. You’ll tour the temperature- and humidity-controlled underground caves where the magic happens, learn how to bandy about such words as affinage, and then get to sample six cheeses. Do they taste different when you know more about the microorganisms that create them? $75 per person, 254 Bleecker St., 888-692-4339,

A group enjoying a wine tasting class (Photo: Babypopnet/Flickr CC)

A group enjoying a wine tasting class (Photo: Babypopnet/Flickr CC)

Wine 101
NYC Wine Class

Knowing your way around a wine list is practically a requirement in New York nightlife. But what if you’re clueless when it comes to the difference between Sauvignon and Sauternes? This introductory class from one of the city’s most well-regarded oenological institutions will give you a thorough grounding in the basics. Along with a merry crew of other wine-lovers, you’ll taste your way to a better understanding not just of what you like, but also of why you like it. $90 per person, 167 W. 23rd St., 212.647.1875,


Burlesque Workshop
Le Scandal Cabaret

Feeling risqué? You can learn how to work a feather boa from Bonnie Dunn, aka the Godmother of Burlesque, at this unique workshop. She knows how to tantalize an audience with the best of them, and she’s ready to teach you all her secrets. Unveil the scandalous creature you know is inside you whilst shaking what your mama gave you. You’ll even make your own pasties. $35 per person, 407 W. 42nd St.,


One-Night BYOB Painting and Wine Party
The Art Studio NY

A little nervous at the prospect of putting brush to canvas? Loosen up with some wine at this popular three-hour class, which is designed to help even the most inexperienced painter get in touch with the true artist within. You’ll be copying a selected masterwork (such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers), with all the materials included except the wine (it’s BYOB) and the canvas (bring your own or buy one for an additional $10 at the studio). An expert instructor will give you tips on brushwork, color blending and other techniques. Relax, take a drink, and get painting. You and your classmates can compare efforts as your canvases fill and the bottles empty. $45 per person,  145 W. 96th St., 212-932-8484,


Learning to swing from a trapeze (Photo: iStockphoto)

Learning to swing from a trapeze (Photo: iStockphoto)

Flying Trapeze
Trapeze School New York

Does climbing up to a teeny-tiny platform way above the ground, grabbing a bar, and swinging out into space sound good to you? Then you’ll find like-minded souls at Trapeze School New York (along with a safety net, of course). Beginners learn basic tricks like the knee hang and get a chance to practice “falling with grace.” By the end, you might even feel like you’re flying through the air with the greatest of ease. From $47 per person, outdoors at Pier 40, Houston St. and the West Side Highway, 212-242-8769,


Beginner DJ Class
Rock and Soul DJ School

Admit it, you’ve always wanted to be the one spinning the tunes that make the dance floor come alive. Well, here’s your chance to learn the skills of sorting music, bar-counting, club-mixing techniques, scratching, and much more in small classes featuring up-to-date DJ software. Before too long, you’ll be the life of the party. $319 per person for five 2.5 hour classes, 462 Seventh Ave., 212-695-3953,


Capoeira Foundation and Form
Arte Capoeira Center

Coordination, flexibility, strength—and the fabulous music of Brazil: no wonder people who get into capoeira seem to be so happy. Find out if this Brazilian mash-up of martial arts, dance and music is for you in a beginners’ class that focuses on the fundamentals and includes an introduction to capoeira’s musical instruments. In no time at all, you’ll be playing with your classmates, working up a sweat and feeling great. $25 per person (single class), 1 East 28th St., 212-431-0811,

Practicing at a ballroom dancing class (Photo: Mmmswan/Flickr CC)

Practicing at a ballroom dancing class (Photo: Mmmswan/Flickr CC)

Ballroom Dance: Social Foundation
Just Dance Dance Centre

What does a “social foundation” consist of? Well, in ballroom dancing it means familiarity with the basics of foxtrot, salsa, rumba, tango, waltz and swing dancing. You can learn all this in a studio that aims to create a friendly, low-pressure atmosphere where students can enjoy themselves through the medium of ballroom dance. Sure, it’s all about getting better at dancing, but it’s also about having a great time with others—that’s the social part.  $80 per person for four-week course, 500 8th Ave., 917-503-0664,


Pottery Classes

Looking for small, focused classes where people who really care about craft can get their hands dirty? That’s been Supermud’s specialty for 30 years now, and they still do it as well as anyone in the city. You’ll find a friendly, open atmosphere, a superbly equipped and sunny studio, and an opportunity to learn the basics of the potter’s craft while chatting with fellow students. $75 per person for intro workshop plus $30 per piece glazing and firing fee, 2744 Broadway at 106th St., 212-865-9190,


The Joy of Improv: Level 0

Put aside your performance anxiety. According to the class description, “Level 0 means 0% fear, 100% fun.” You’ll be in a friendly, positive group of people who are ready to jump into the improv waters and start swimming, performing  exercises and scene-work under the direction of some super-funny instructors who will help you let loose, open up to inspiration in the moment, and “improv your life.” $175 per person for four-week class, 123 East 24th Street, 212.563.7488,

Discover more of top places to see and things to do while in New York City with our Best of New York series.

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