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27 Ways to Better Yourself This Summer in NYC

Art
Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park, called it “a democratic development of the highest significance.” But it has its aesthetic points, too, and you can learn how best to exploit them at “Beginners Learn to Draw: Drawing Class in Central Park,” hosted by Art Studio NY. The two-hour class promises to cover “shading, composition, and personal expression.” If it rains, expect soggier subject matter. theartstudiony.com

Like the TARDIS, the Met seems bigger on the inside. Luckily, NYU‘s School of Continuing Education and Professional Studies promises to push you beyond the usual Egyptian temples and impressionist landscapes. With “Hidden Treasures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” you’ll spend six Friday evenings discovering the likes of French period rooms, the Cypriot Corridor, and Southeast Asian sculptures. scps.nyu.edu

Computers
Many of us use our computers for little more than word processing, video streaming, Google searching, and stalking the occasional ex on Facebook. For those who need their Macs and PCs to perform more sophisticated tasks, the American Graphics Institute in midtown can help. Specializing in design, publishing, and marketing software, they offer classes in Dreamweaver, Photoshop, After Effects, InDesign, and Adobe Flash, Acrobat, and Illustrator. agitraining.com

Have you tried turning it off and on again? How about hitting control-alt-delete? Maybe giving the keyboard a good whack? It might work, but if you’re looking for a more sophisticated approach to computer diagnostics and overhaul, consider the “PC Repair Technician Program” at the Bronx Community College. And once your machine is up and running, they also offer courses designed to equip you for IT jobs, such as Linux+. bcc.cuny.edu

Crafts
If you’ve ever said to yourself, Hey, a glass paperweight will really pull this room together, you can make your own after Brooklyn Glass‘s “One-Day Paperweight” course. The 4,000-square-foot Gowanus studio, which boasts two giant furnaces, also offers classes in flame-working, glassblowing, neon-bending, and one-day workshops in marble- and bead-making. brooklynglass.com

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. So isn’t it time you taught yourself to associate with a better class of chum? During the Jewelry Arts Institute‘s summer semester, you can learn to craft your own trinkets and baubles. In this eight-session class in midtown, you’ll be tutored in jewelry design as well as such techniques as “soldering, stone-setting, and fusing.” Precious gems not included. jewelryartsinstitute.com

Fashion
How should you spend your weekend nights? You could sip cocktails at some secret speakeasy, swap small plates at a new eatery, brave the throb and sweat and crowds at a nightclub. Or you could sew. On Friday nights, Chelsea’s City Quilter invites you to booze it up while you baste and tack at “Sip ‘n’ Sew.” And if you want to get tipsy on the foot treadle again, there’s “Saturday Night Sewing,” too. cityquilter.com

The Oscars red carpet is a fashion-lover’s dream — the sweeping gowns, the statement tuxes, the occasional swan outfit. But the Fashion Institute of Technology insists that the more interesting clothes are preserved on celluloid. In “Fashion in Film and Media” you can learn about the cinematic outfits that have had the most influence on popular culture, with a focus on “wardrobe design, selection, and depiction.” fitnyc.edu

Film/Video/Television
Billy Wilder believed that a movie director must be “a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant, and a bastard.” If you’d like to begin your multiple careers, start with “Camera Fundamentals,” a two-day workshop at DCTV. You’ll learn such video basics as “focus, exposure, white balance, and composition.” Plus, the workshop includes a one-year DCTV membership, offering access to equipment rentals and post-production facilities. dctvny.org

“If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed,” said Stanley Kubrick. Which is all well and good unless you’ve never moved beyond the title page of your teleplay. Happily, Columbia University offers a six-week “Television Writing Intensive.” You’ll choose between a half-hour-sitcom track and an hour-drama track focused on police and medical procedurals, with coursework supplemented with presentations by industry professionals. ce.columbia.edu

Food and Drink
It’s a culinary truism that you probably don’t want to know what goes into your sausage. But if you’re curious and strong-stomached, Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in Chelsea Market hosts “Sausage Making 101” on April 7. After a brief lecture, students mix, season, stuff, and link their very own links. It’s the wurst! If that isn’t sufficiently carnivorous, the next week Dickson offers the make-your-own-jerky course “Jerkin’ Around with Ted.” dicksonfarmstand.com

To make a cake, you’ll need to sift flour, soften butter, and separate eggs. Or not. In consideration of dietary allergies and antipathies, the Natural Gourmet Institute in the Flatiron District offers “Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Cakes.” Lest you think that will also make them free of pleasure, joy, and taste, the menu for April includes luscious lemon cake, orange cardamom cake, and maple apple walnut cake, as well as several varieties of boozy frosting. naturalgourmetinstitute.com

In wine there is truth. And also many grapes. If you’d like to learn more about what’s in your glass, attend spring classes at the Upper East Side’s Vino-Versity. Learn the essentials with “Wine Basics,” then graduate to “Chips, Dips, and Sips” or “Pairing Wine and Cheeses: Rind, Brined, and Wined!” Once you’re an alcohol aficionado, you can try “Destination Wine Tasting,” which features 20 to 24 wines from a particular region with geographically appropriate snacks. vinoversity.com

For Children and Teens
Sugar, spice, everything nice, and an enthusiasm for guitar shredding — is that what your little girl is made of? Then perhaps you’d like to enroll her in the Willa Mae Rock Camp for Girls, a six-day program in the financial district. On the first day of class, your badass lass is assigned to a band. She’ll spend the week writing music and lyrics, while also learning about sound engineering and self-defense. And at week’s end, she’ll play her album-ready song in a showcase concert. willamaerockcamp.org

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that Manhattan is an island surrounded by rivers and bays. You might not want to swim in our bodies of water, but you should still probably know how. You can make your tots amphibious at Physique Swimming on the Upper East Side. Beginner classes will teach them how to submerge, float, and kick, while more advanced courses offer training in particular strokes. There’s a summer camp, too. physiqueswimming.com

Health/Body/Wellness
There are teas for sleeping, teas for waking, teas for clarity, teas for calming, teas for fertility, teas for menopause. Rather than fork over all that money to Celestial Seasonings and Traditional Medicinals, why not make your own? On April 26, the New York Botanical Garden offers “Wellness — A Natural Approach: Creating Herbal Teas.” Here you’ll learn how to make “roots, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds into effective, pleasing blends.” nybg.org

Do you feel yourself preyed upon by malevolent spirits? And do you love to rock it to the beat? If so, the Maha Rose Center for Healing at Greenpoint has an unusual solution: Dance it out. Every Friday, “party girl turned yogi” Debbie D. leads Dancorcism, a workout designed to cleanse your aura. The center also offers instruction in reiki, breathwork, tarot, past-life regression, and eating for your chakras. maharose.com

Languages
There’s nothing like a Dane. Unless it’s a Swede. Or possibly a Norwegian. New Yorkers are crazy for Scandinavia — the design, the crime shows, the woolen sweaters. If you’d like to get closer to Nordic culture (or just watch Borgen without subtitles), you can begin your studies at Scandinavia House in midtown, which offers Swedish lessons, while the Danish Seamen’s Church and the Norwegian Language Institute can have you ordering smørrebrød and lutefisk in no time. scandinaviahouse.org, dankirkeny.org, norwegiannyc.com

Nature
A lawn is a dream out of reach of most New Yorkers. Even a windowsill garden can be a stretch depending on season and exposure. But if you’d like to bring more foliage into your life without sacrificing square footage, you can sign up for the “Terrarium-Making Workshop” at Twig Terrarium in Gowanus. You’ll combine moss, air plants, and succulents to create your own miniature green space. Adorable little person to live inside? Included! twigterrariums.com

Manhattan might seem a concrete jungle, but at Sherman Creek Park, located near the tip of Manhattan along the Harlem River, you can receive free instruction from the Urban Park Rangers on how to care for New York’s greenery. Late spring and summer classes include “Gardening in Sherman Creek,” “Tree and Lawn Care,” and “Invasive Removal.” nycgovparks.org

Photography
Maybe you thought there was little more to picture taking than pointing, clicking, and applying Instagram filter. New York Film Academy in Battery Park City respectfully disagrees. In the “Four-Week Photography Workshop” (sessions begin April 7 and July 7), students work five to six days a week to learn digital photography with such units as “Studio Practice” and “Documentary and Fine Art Photography.” nyfa.edu

Sport
Mark Twain supposedly described golf as a good walk spoiled, but at the petite Brooklyn Golf Center, you won’t have far to go. The wee driving range in Marine Park offers both private lessons and group clinics, plus classes for juniors. Display your new skills at the 18 holes nearby at Riis Park Beach, or simply show off at the attached miniature golf course. brooklyngolfcenter.com

Windsurfing circles were all aflutter when news broke that kiteboarding might replace breezier pursuits at the 2016 Olympics. But as the committee has restored windsurfing, you’d better restart your training. You can set sail at Hampton Watersports, a Southampton outfit that offers instruction for beginner and advanced windsurfers, as well as board and sail rentals. If you’re in kiteboarding’s corner, they have lessons in that, too, as well as regular surfing and paddleboarding. hamptonwatersports.com

Theater and Performing Arts
Unemployment statistics are pretty worrying, especially if you’re an actor: During any given week, more than 90 percent of actors are out of work. (Of course, this doesn’t count those working as temps, nannies, and waiters.) You can try to beat the odds with the “Crash Course MBA Weekend” at the Savvy Actor in midtown. Performers will learn how to brand and package themselves in order to land more jobs. thesavvyactor.com

If you’ve sashayed your way through all the ballet, modern, and tap you can stand, you can swap your flats for more perilous footwear at StripXpertease in midtown. The studio specializes in lap dancing and floor work, promising to teach you moves as diverse as “the V, the For Love, and the Swing.” The studio also offers “Stripper Strength: Sexy Samba” and “Stripper Strength: Booty Jiggle ‘N’ Pop.” Six-inch heels recommended. stripxpertease.com

Writing
In a late letter, Edgar Allen Poe wrote, “Literature is the most noble of professions. In fact, it is about the only one fit for a man.” If you’d like to take Poe at his word, the NYC Department of Parks offers free weekly writing classes adjacent to Poe’s former home on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. Every Friday from 1:30 to 3 p.m., the visitor’s center hosts classes in fiction and nonfiction taught by established writers. And we have it on good authority that no heart beats beneath the floorboards. nycgovparks.org

Ah, the pleasures of summer in the city — the backyard parties, the Central Park picnics, the beer garden nights, the public pool days. But how can you enjoy it if you’re stuck inside, trying desperately to start your magnum opus? Happily, NYU‘s “Summer Intensive in Creative Writing” promises to pack a semester’s worth of writing instruction into just two weeks. Study poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in small classes with well-known writers. scps.nyu.edu

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A Second Chance Makes a Forgettable First Impression

Love versus emotional baggage: It’s the tried-and-true showdown at the heart of so much romantic comedy, and in the right combination, it can be a winning place to start. A Second Chance, Ted Shen’s new musical now playing at the Public, draws on this convention, but though it’s sweet, it doesn’t go beyond the conventional.

Handsome, successful Dan (Brian Sutherland) lost his wife only months ago, so when he meets the charming Jenna (Diane Sutherland) at a dinner party, he’s not ready to date. Jenna, meanwhile, just finished a rough divorce, and she’s looking for new love. Dan’s cute, but she wants someone upbeat, not a grieving widower.

You can guess what happens next: a little dating, a little soul-baring, some breaking up and making up. Polished projections fade in and out, following Dan and Jenna across a tourist guidebook’s New York: MOMA, martinis, Central Park in the snow. (We also visit their magazine-ready homes: It’s a little hard to pity the travails of people who own their own brownstones.)

What doesn’t happen, though, is anything unexpected. The plot is more sketch than story, and the rhyming lyrics rarely provide a surprising turn of phrase. Both performers are sympathetic, but this second chance at love makes a forgettable first impression.

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WALK OF FAME

Not just for tourists, the Central Park Movie and TV Site Tour should prove fun for even the most jaded New Yorkers. Experienced tour guides — all actors and actresses — take you to 40 locations where scenes from well-known movies and TV shows were shot. Films included on the tour are Breakfast at Tiffany’s, When Harry Met Sally, Taxi Driver, Independence Day, and The Avengers. Tours take about two hours, and inclement weather is no deterrent — the park is lovely in the rain. Comfortable shoes are recommended.

Tue., March 25, noon; Thu., March 27, noon, 2014

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STAR MAPS

Since March is still pretty chilly, it may not seem the ideal time for a nighttime foray into Central Park. But, truth is, fall and winter are the best seasons to view meteor showers and many planets of the Milky Way. And even though you’re in the heart of NYC, many stars and planets can be seen with the naked eye. Tonight, the Urban Park Rangers host “The Night Sky,” a fascinating discussion of our solar system, mixing folklore in with the history. Bundle up!

Sun., March 9, 7 p.m., 2014

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THE WOODS

November is a perfect time to enjoy a great walk before the cold really sets in. The Central Park Woodlands Tour takes you through the North Woods, the largest woodland space in the park, a wonderland of waterfalls and pools spanned by rustic bridges. They don’t call this the “Manhattan Adirondacks” for nothing. Be prepared to climb hills and stairs, and you’ll get a good stretch while taking in the last traces of autumn.

Sun., Nov. 17, 10:30 a.m., 2013

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FIT TO PRINT

So, you missed your chance to buy a $60 Banksy in Central Park. Stop scouring lower Manhattan’s back alleys and take a breather, because finding exceptional, original art doesn’t have to be this hard. At Prints Gone Wild!, billed as “NYC’s Greatest Affordable Graphic Art Dogpile,” Cannonball Press gathers 10 printing presses, studios, and galleries — each with an arsenal of artists — in one space for this annual one-night-only blowout sale. Many of the hand-carved woodblock prints are priced at a low, low $20 a pop, with everything under $50, so there’s no longer any excuse for bare-walled, spartan apartments. Drop in to browse, hear some live music, and witness live printing demonstrations. It’s like a museum where you can actually
afford to buy things. And drink beer.

Fri., Nov. 8, 6 p.m., 2013

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SHAPE UP!

Maybe you want to ring in the New Year doing something healthy and fun? Yes, you can do both. At Central Park, the New York Road Runners host a dance party at 10 followed at 11 with a costume parade and contest. The four-mile run begins at midnight, when there will also be fireworks. Party and parade at Central Park band shell, just south of 72nd Street Transverse. Runners line up on the transverse near Bethesda Fountain. Although the run is nonscored, it is a qualifier, and there is a registration fee. For more info, go to nyrr.org. For those who prefer Brooklyn, the New Year’s Eve run in Prospect Park—another city wonderland designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux of Central Park fame—is the only night race in the park all year. Packet pickup begins at 10:15 for the family friendly race (walkers welcome), which starts at 11:15. Plus, fireworks at midnight!

Mon., Dec. 31, 10:15 p.m., 2012

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WAKE UP, IT’S CHRISTMAS DAY

There are some New York holiday traditions that we can’t live without: Ice skating in Rockefeller Plaza, walking around in Central Park, and of course watching It’s A Wonderful life on Christmas Day. Watch it again and feel warm and happy because you deserve it. Merry Christmas!

Tue., Dec. 25, 1 p.m., 2012

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The Village Voice’s New Year’s Eve Guide

The world is slated to be destroyed about 10 days from now by angry Mayan gods, so planning a night of hardcore partying and heavy drinking might seem a bit pointless this year. Maybe you should just start writing a list of regrets followed by a slew of apology letters to the people you hate and haven’t spoken to in years. Then you can abandon all of your possessions on a street corner and cap the whole thing off by setting your dog free to fend for himself, heading to Central Park, and staking out the tree that will become your tombstone.

Or you could embrace the notion that whatever created the cosmos digs humanity and wants nothing more than for you to celebrate your brief span in the heart of the greatest city ever—the city of us, the few who have been drawn from the four corners of the earth to show the rest of our species that, yes, it is possible to live together and build great things. This is the place where freedom of expression can quietly live up the street from ancient dogma. This is where a marvelous, glittering metropolis can weather the worst nature has to offer and still come together not only unbroken, but also undiminished. This is New York City.

Ignite the Night

Eats + Drinks

Shows

Wild Card

Dance

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New Year’s Eve Guide: Ignite the Night

The world is slated to be destroyed about 10 days from now by angry Mayan gods, so planning a night of hardcore partying and heavy drinking might seem a bit pointless this year. Maybe you should just start writing a list of regrets followed by a slew of apology letters to the people you hate and haven’t spoken to in years. Then you can abandon all of your possessions on a street corner and cap the whole thing off by setting your dog free to fend for himself, heading to Central Park, and staking out the tree that will become your tombstone.

Or you could embrace the notion that whatever created the cosmos digs humanity and wants nothing more than for you to celebrate your brief span in the heart of the greatest city ever—the city of us, the few who have been drawn from the four corners of the earth to show the rest of our species that, yes, it is possible to live together and build great things. This is the place where freedom of expression can quietly live up the street from ancient dogma. This is where a marvelous, glittering metropolis can weather the worst nature has to offer and still come together not only unbroken, but also undiminished. This is New York City.

New Year’s Eve is not just a time for celebration; it’s also a moment for the sort of reflection that we here in Gotham rarely allow ourselves, a night in which a man is allowed to unshoulder the burdens of his past and dream up new ways to cast them aside. Forget resolutions—in this town, it’s all about reinvention. This year, we will take to the streets to celebrate the passing of 2012 and welcome the promise of a new year brimming with possibilities.

If you’re riding the rails into town this December 31, leave the house early and tie a couple on at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant. This subterranean touchstone keeps the traditions of our founders alive with trays of bivalves and beer ready at your beckoning. If seafood makes you cringe, head downtown and order a mound of empanadas while sharing a cigarette with the owner of Azul.

Thirsty? We’ve got you covered. The good people at East Williamsburg’s Second Chance Saloon are pouring cheap drinks into the wee hours of the morning. While you’re in the neighborhood, stop by The Acheron and check out the Hesher New Year’s Eve Party. If you’re looking to be in the thick of it while pregaming for the main event, the gents over at GYM in Hell’s Kitchen have a happy hour planned. If you don’t mind spending a buck or two on quality cocktails before hitting the streets, Summit Bar in Alphabet City has some of the most awe-inspiring drinks ever tasted.

After you’re nice and toasty, hail a cab and tell the driver to take you to Roseland Ballroom for some Pretty Lights. Or, if you prefer something a little more in-your-face, Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra will be taking the stage at Terminal 5. Is trance more your thing? We’ve got Armin van Buuren on the decks for four hours over at Pier 36. Once the ball has dropped and you’ve gotten your fix, head to the East Village and jostle the crowds occupying Webster Hall for Tommy Trash‘s epic show.

Don’t stop yet. You and your new friends still have a sick after-hours to make over at Santos Party House on Lafayette. And if you’re still going by sunrise (which you will be), just walk a few blocks and take the train to Coney Island for the Polar Bear Club‘s annual New Year’s Day Dip. The Atlantic Ocean might be bigger, but you are far meaner. Go forth, nightlife brethren, and let the world know that New York City’s lights are back on. Have a happy New Year’s.