Paint Along

Do want to expand your creative horizons? Want to paint but not sure where to start?  A Paint Along class is a great way to break away from the daily grind and let your creativity flow for an evening.  I had a class with  Paint Along last night and couldn’t wait to write about it!

Paint Along‘s calendar shows all the different images currently on the schedule, so when you go into the class you know what you will be painting.  In the picture above, you can see some other examples of class painting selections as many were hanging around the studio.  Everyone is provided with a blank canvas and their own set of paints and brushes to use.   You are also welcome to bring your own wine to sip while you paint which was a nice touch.  The class started at 6:30pm and it usually goes for 2 hours, although ours went a little over. 

For the class I selected, our goal was to paint a version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.    I was not sure how it would go since this is a very complex painting.  However, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the instructor was able to guide us through creating our own versions of this classic image (you do not need to be a professional to get a beautiful painting completed during this class).  You are lead through the painting in simple steps that build before your eyes into the image you are trying to create.  There is no judgment and our instructor was happy to help if anyone felt stuck or was concerned about how they were doing.  You are also free to paint as you would like to and can either follow the instructor directly or go on a different path if your creativity leads you elsewhere.  While we were all painting the same image of Starry Night, each painting definitely had its own unique artistry.  At the end of the class, it was really fascinating to see all of the different finished creations.  There was a blow dryer available to help dry the paintings before placing each in a bag to carry our new masterpieces home in. 

I really loved my first visit to Paint Along.  It was wonderful to relax and create something for an evening.  Don’t be intimidated by skill level and just go to enjoy yourself.  Many of the attendees were repeat painters at Paint Along and I will probably be joining them as a return artist.  Paint Along‘s studio is located at 928 Broadway near the intersection with 21st Street.

And just to share, at the end of the class, this is what my painting looked like (although some of the colors didn’t all come through so well in the picture):

Learn to Paddle Board!

Yes, you can learn to paddle board right here in NYC!  The New York Kayak Company is located on Pier 40 (West Houston and West Street) and this is their first summer of Stand Up Paddle Boarding instruction and tours.  I have really enjoyed learning to surf so I had to give this other popular sport a try.

I signed up for Intro to Paddle Boarding through Urban Escapes.  We had a 2 hour lesson followed by a pizza dinner on the end of the pier.  The ratio was 2 people for each paddle board, which meant lots of opportunities to get out and work on improving your skills.  NY Kayak and Co. also offers Intro to Paddle Boarding classes for $25 on Wednesdays.  More people are in those classes so the ratio is usually closer to 3 or 4 people sharing time for each board.  For an introduction to the sport though, it is definitely a great deal to get yourself out on the water.  Because paddle boarding is such a workout, it is better to take breaks when you are starting out and you will not mind handing the board to someone else in between tries. 

The scenery was beautiful and the sun was in the process of setting during our lesson.  Getting on the board from the dock was the easiest part.  Then once you row yourself far enough away from the dock, the goal is to stand up in a fluid motion so that you can then continue to balance and row yourself along.  As a beginner, it was an amazing experience.  There were more waves than I expected due to passing boats on the Hudson, thus balance was quite a challenge.  I could feel every muscle working to maintain my stance.  It is better to keep your board moving through the water to prevent yourself from falling.  Between trying to stay standing up, steering and rowing over waves I was very focused on my efforts.  With more practice, I am sure I would be a bit more relaxed than I was this first time.

Once you are more comfortable and experienced with stand up paddle boarding, NY Kayak and Co. has paddle boarding trips where you can venture out further than Pier 40.  It was mentioned that going out towards the Statue of Liberty would be one of the tours they offer.  I am not at the skill level for that yet but perhaps with more practice I will be.

Urban Escapes will be offering another intro course in September (for those interested click here).  You can view the current schedule of Stand Up Paddle Boarding offerings from NY Kayak and Co. by clicking here.

The Creek and the Cave

It is long overdue that I write about one of my favorite spots in Long Island City.  Located just one stop outside of Manhattan on the 7 train, you will find The Creek and the Cave (10-93 Jackson Ave.), a spot that has something to offer to anyone who values live entertainment, food and drinks.  While they have a plentiful beer selection, I simply cannot go for a visit without ordering a pineapple margarita (pictured above).  For those looking for a bargain, they have a fantastic happy hour special on weekdays from 3-7pm.  During happy hour, you get 2 for 1 margaritas, $2-$3 beers and $2 off of other drinks.  With a restaurant area upstairs, fantastic outdoor seating on the back patio, and indoor space to lounge or catch a comedy show, you will have a great time at this LIC spot.

Usually, I lean towards ordering fried seafood, but at The Creek there is nothing better than their grilled fish or shrimp tacos.  A wasabi sauce with finely chopped cabbage is all that accompanies the tenderly grilled fish on a small tortilla and it is the perfect flavor combo.  I have yet to try another fish taco that I love more than The Creek and the Cave’s version.  I also adore their spinach burrito with fresh avocado, tofu, brown rice, cheese and a dash of sour cream.  I am so hooked on these two menu items that they are my consistent order (even if it means taking some of it to go).  However, from what I see being ordered around me, there are many other delicious options to choose from as well.

If you are interested in stand up comedy and improv theater, The Creek and the Cave is a prime spot to watch, participate and learn from local talent.  There is always something going on so visit their website (www.creeklic.com) for a schedule of daily events and these shows are usually free which is even better.

Learn to Surf!

One of the best ways to cool off in the hot summer months is to go to the beach.  As I discovered with my first attempts last summer,  it is even better if I can grab a surf board and get in the water to catch some waves.  I had a really successful surf lesson on Long Beach, Long Island this past Saturday and wanted to share the company info with those who might be interested.

Skudin Surf, Inc. has local surfing lessons at Long Beach and the Rockaways. The instructors were really helpful and I improved a lot during my 90 minute session. Here is a link to their website where you can sign yourself up for surf lessons and camps www.skudinsurf.com .  Even if you have never surfed before, they will help you get up on the board in no time!  I look forward to putting the skills I learned to good use on future surfing outings.

Club Getaway

I have heard about Club Getaway for a while now.  But this past Memorial Day Weekend was my first visit to the adventure/activities/party camp for adults.  With all of the activities I have been doing for the past few years, I thought it would be the perfect weekend trip for me.  Here was my experience this past weekend:

Club Getaway definitely has many devout followers.  One of the questions that my friend and I were asked the most during our trip was if this was our first time there (which it was).    People come from all over to enjoy a weekend away from their everyday lives and they often keep coming back frequently.  There are already plans from some people I met there to return for the July 4th weekend.  As for me, I had a great time, but am not sure I will be one of those people.  Time will tell.

Buses from NY and Boston, along with people arranging their own transportation, all came together on Friday evening to start off the weekend.  There were around 300 people there to celebrate the Memorial Day summer kick off.  I signed up with a meetup group, which I will write more about in another entry, but they were a highlight to the Club Getaway experience.

Once checked into our cozy cabins, we arrived to an amazing assortment of appetizers – everything from sushi to a mashed potato bar.  After indulging in far too much food, it was time for even more food at dinner.  Everyone is served a few courses and many bottles of wine during dinner.  Since this was the first night, there was not as much partying.  People needed to rest up for a busy day of fun the next day!

Everyone is provided with a jam packed schedule of varied events for each day of the weekend.  Some events require signing up in advance which should be done ASAP the morning of the event because things fill up quickly.  For my first day, I started with the camp zipline followed by the trapeze and bungee trampoline.  Then after lunch, my friend and I had signed up for a local vineyard tour which was a great way to see the surrounding area.  It was beautiful!  Once back at Club Getaway, happy hour was in full swing with a burger competition and people hanging out at the boathouse.  There were early evening rides around the lake in the pontoon boat which featured delicious rum punch and sometimes even guitar music – I loved the pontoon boat!  This was followed by dinner, comedians and a themed neon glow party which went on into the night.  For me, Sunday consisted of a morning stretch, a walk to the town of Kent, and swimming and relaxing by the waterfront.  After Sunday’s dinner there was a band, another theme party and a campfire complete with s’more making.  By Monday, I could feel that I was running out of time.  There was so much more to do!  I decided on a yoga class followed by a hike around a local waterfall before that final lunch snuck up on me and it was time to pack and return home on the bus.

There is so much I wanted to do, but those were the activities I was able to fit in for the weekend.  In addition to my preferences, there are numerous sports, classes, hikes, biking, and many other options to choose from to fill your day.  Many people opted to just relax and lounge by the water during most of the three days.  The weekend is entirely up to you and you can be as adventurous as you want to be.

Throughout the summer and even during early fall, Club Getaway has different weekend adventures planned.  Check out their schedule and pricing on their website at www.clubgetaway.com.  There are often specials if you sign up early so be sure to plan ahead!

Paintball Is a Blast!

Up until last weekend, the only gun I have ever fired was a water gun.  That all changed when I joined Urban Escapes on one of their Paintball and Beer Tasting day trips.  We met at 9am close to Port Authority and arrived at the NJ paintball park at around 11am.

We had been told to wear lots of layers for padding and the only items we were given were a face mask, a paint gun and 500 paintballs each.  Once our group was divided up into two teams, it was time for the first game (where the rules were set that if you got shot once then you were out).

In all, we played on three different terrains: a junk yard, a castle, and the forest (my favorite area was the junk yard).  During these games, each team would get a chance to start at different sides of the terrain and we discovered there were definite advantages to certain areas.  After the official games were over, it was time to finish off all of our paintballs by playing a wilder game.  In this last round, you were out when you called yourself out, so you could get shot as many times as you were able to stand it.  This is where I got a little frustrated because some trigger happy players shot me after I had already called myself out (and that’s when I got my worst battle wounds).

All in all though, paintball was intense at times but lots of fun.  Urban Escapes does a great job at planning the perfect day trip.  After we changed out of our paint covered clothes and into something more presentable, it was time for lunch.  Included in the cost of the trip, we enjoyed a salad bar, pizza, pasta and beverages.  To make things even better, as our welts made themselves more visible, we were able to help numb our pain at our next stop – beer tasting at Cricket Hill Brewery (also in NJ).

The beer selection at Cricket Hill was great and the brewmasters were really fun while being informative.  We were able to sample quite a bit of their selection, relax and mingle, and then make our purchases before it was time to get on the bus and head back to NYC.  If you ever wanted to try paintball, this is a great way to do it.  Urban Escapes has other dates scheduled for this popular trip, so definitely sign up before they sell out!

Join the Circus!

Ever think about running away from city life to join the circus? Well, NYC has its very own circus school to learn how to do just that! This Saturday, a friend and I took an Intro to Circus Arts class at the New York Circus Arts Academy. The academy is located in Long Island City and is just  a short walk from the 7 train Vernon-Jackson subway stop.

Since this was an intro class, we were able to try our hand at a variety of circus arts.  For two hours we were exposed to gymnastics, the trampoline, acrobalance, juggling, the trapeze and ribbons. The exercises were challenging but they were also a lot of fun!  Our teacher was very understanding of our varied levels of experience. With his encouragement and teaching, he really helped us achieve success while we attempted to work on the skills such as hanging upside down from the ribbons (as pictured above).

The Intro to Circus Arts class is the perfect way to find out what area you would like to study further.  The New York Circus Arts Academy provides more in-depth courses on everything we tried during our intro class, as well as, offering some fitness courses.  I can definitely say that my muscles are feeling it after those 2 hours, so I can only imagine the benefits of continuous work on these skills.  Once you try it, you will most likely be hooked!

UPDATE (on 8/31/10): I was just informed that the New York Circus Arts Academy has closed. However, in the same location you will find Circus Warehouse which looks like it offers similar classes and training.  You can read about Circus Warehouse on their website at http://circuswarehouse.com/.

Extreme Snow Tubing Day Trip

This day trip is not your average snow tubing event.  I went with Urban Escapes this past weekend on their extreme snow tubing and beer tasting day trip.  Having been to snow tubing areas that went straight down on narrow tracks and got a bit tiring after an hour, I can honestly say that this extreme snow tubing track was never anything but an adventure! 

After meeting in the city at 9am, our bus arrived at the Woodbury, CT  snow tubing area at around 11:30am.  Our group was given colored bandanas to wear so that we could identify who was in the group and mingle with each other throughout the day.  There were many tracks to choose from.  Most of the tracks were on one side of the street, which had all different track levels from beginner to black diamond.  Since this was the main area, the line got long rather quickly.  Luckily, Urban Escapes had reserved a track  that only our group could access.  After waiting through the long line for the other tracks, I decided to head to the other side of the street to try out the area reserved for the group. 

The track reserved for our group was longer than the others and was labeled both green for beginner and black diamond depending on where you launched yourself.  Even at the beginner launching section, I still found myself flying down the hill through the twists and turns.  From the black diamond launch, the momentum down the hill was intense.  There were turns where you would fly and catch air as you made your way down.  At this particular snow tubing park, they recommended that you go face first and so that you could drag your legs on the ground if you wanted to slow your speed.  I found that even when I dragged my legs, I was still going quite fast down the track.  We had a few people in our group that really embraced the speed of the track and kept their legs up, tried running starts and really flew in the air on the way down.  Helmet rentals are offered for $10 and I highly recommend them.  There is a lot of speed involved in extreme snow tubing and you want to be as safe as possible. 

We stopped for lunch as a group at 1pm.  Everyone had been given a choice of two different sandwiches that were provided by Urban Escapes while there was also a grill serving fries and grilled cheeses at the lodge if you were craving something warmer. After lunch we went back out to snow tube until it was time to depart for our next destination at 3pm.  Our day was only half over because now it was time to go beer tasting! 

About an hour away from Woodbury, CT, you will find the Captain Lawrence Brewing Company located in Pleasantville, NY.  The tasting room was full of people but we were ushered straight to the back area of the brewery where the beer is actually brewed.  Prior to the actual tasting, we heard an overview of microbrewing and how beer comes to be.  Our tasting included 5 different beers and we were given the opportunity to order growlers of our favorites.  As a beer lover, I thought Captain Lawrence Brewery had some fantastic offerings.  This explains why the tasting room was so full of other happy beer tasters.  Once the growler orders were complete, it was time to head home.  For our group, the bus ride back to the city was very festive as many chose to enjoy their growlers on the trip back.  We arrived back in NYC at approximately 7pm.

This was my first trip with Urban Escapes and it was a lot of fun.  Our guides were very friendly and fun to hang out with during all of the activities.  This is a relatively new company and I will plan to go on more adventures with them in the future.  There are other future snow tubing and beer tasting events that you can sign up for but I recommend doing so quickly as they usually sell out.

Music Festival in Astoria this Saturday

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Looking for a way to enjoy the outdoors while listening to a variety of local performers this weekend?  The second annual Astoria Music Now Music Festival will be held on Saturday, July 25th in beautiful Astoria Park.  This year they have expanded the performance areas to include not only the main & side stages on the Great Lawn but there will also an additional third stage dedicated to world music, DJ’s, dance & theater arts.  Vendors will be selling crafts, clothing, art & food at this event as well.   Activities are scheduled to begin at 12 noon and last until 9pm.  The weather should be great so get out there and enjoy!!!

Surfing Day Trip with ZogSports

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After last weekend’s day of surfing at Rockaway Beach which was organized through one of my meetup groups, I was really looking forward to getting an actual surf lesson and seeing if I could improve during my day trip with Zogsports.  For this outing, we met in the city at 7am to begin our bus ride to Long Branch, NJ.  I was surprised at how quick the bus ride was and we arrived before the beach was officially open.  This worked out well because we had our pick of were to set up our blankets on the beach.  The weather was absolutely perfect and our surf instructors said these were great conditions for learning to surf.

The surfing lessons were organized through Billabong Surf Camps.  They had a tent set up on the beach where all the boards, rash guards, and wet suits were kept throughout the day.  They were also kind enough to provide super strength waterproof sunblock (which was greatly appreciated!), as well as some cold water and snacks for our group.

Since we had so many people who had signed up for surfing lessons, the day was divided as follows: there were three different groups of surfing lessons and then after those were over there would be time for people to get back out on the water with the instructors there to assist as needed.  I was disappointed that I would not be able to go out on the water as much as I wanted to during the day, but that was how this trip was organized.  I was in the first surfing lesson group where we had three instructors for each group of six students.  The lesson consisted of half an hour on land and then an hour on the water.  For this official lesson, everyone was instructed to try to stand instead of use some of the less difficult positioning that I had started learning the other day. 

Once on the water with our instructors, we were dependant upon the ocean to provide us with some great waves.  There were some frustrating lulls (since time was so limited) but there were also some nice opportunities to try our hand at standing up on our boards.  I caught some waves and got really close to standing up although I usually wiped out immediately after getting on my feet.  I only wished that I had more time on the water to keep working at it. 

After the lesson was finished, I stayed in the water for a bit before resting and relaxing with my friends on the beach.  Due to the wave conditions and the lesson schedule running over, I never did get back in the water with a board.  Instead, I joined other people from the group for the planned happy hour. We ended up at a place called Tiki Bar which was located nearby. Surrounded by palm trees with a nice view of the ocean, they served some excellent frozen drinks while a band played some reggae tunes.  It was the perfect way to cool off after lying in hot the sun most of the afternoon.  At 6pm it was time to head back to NYC.  This time there was some traffic but that is to be expected on a Sunday evening in the summer.

All in all, I had a great time on this trip.  I loved hanging out on the beach and not having to worry about getting myself there.  I would prefer to have access to a rental board for the entire day in the future, so I am not sure I would sign up for actual surfing lessons again if that is not something that can be arranged.  With Zogsports, there is the option to sign up without the lesson and just pay for transportation and a day at the beach.  This is something I hope they offer again this season as I would definitely sign up.

Long Branch, NJ was quite beautiful and very clean.   There were some amazing houses that we passed by on the drive in.  The main area where we spent most of the day had a variety of nice shops and places to eat, although some leaned towards a higher price range.  If you are looking for a beautiful, well-kept beach that is not too far from the city, this is a fantastic place to go.

Surfing at Rockaway Beach

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I had never been surfing before, but I am a member of a meetup group that has scheduled outings during the summer for people of all skill levels to hang out and work on their surfing skills.  In this particular group, those who have been surfing awhile generously offer to help the beginners get started with some basic instructions.  As you can guess, it is extremely difficult to surf so just getting the basics down is a challenge.  But I must admit it is a fun challenge, as I discovered this past Saturday! 

Depending on where you live, it is only takes a short drive or a subway ride on the A train to get to the Rockaways where there are at least 2 designated surfing beaches (between 67-69 Streets and between 87-92 Streets).  This past weekend, my group went to the less populated 67th Street area.  When we arrived it felt like it was our own private beach!  There was plenty of space to lie out on the sand and no real crowding when in the water.  The waves were pretty great this particular day too so we were very lucky!  I have not yet been to the 92nd street surfing area other than to rent a board at Boarders Surf Shop, but I would guess it is very similar.  You can check out the surfing conditions before you go at: http://www.surfline.com/surf-report/rockaway-beach-90th-northeast_4270/

As a kid, I would spend most of my beach time in the water and I used to love boogie boarding.  In the more recent years though, I have usually just waded near the shore and tried not to get too covered in salt water.  For this visit to the beach, I had signed up to try surfing so avoiding the water was not an option.  As I was led into the water lugging my rental surf board, it was an abrupt reminder of how powerful the ocean is as the waves crashed against me.  There is nothing more humbling then getting knocked over and tossed about by a strong wave.  After listening to some basic pointers, it was then time to see what I could do on my own.  As the day went on, I kept trying to catch waves and work on developing my surfing skills.  It was the most invigorating feeling when I was able to stay on the board during those times when I didn’t wipe out.    I wasn’t able to officially stand up on the board this time but I did have some successful attempts at the more beginner level surfing positions.  Later in the afternoon, the waves got a little too rough for me so I finally ended my surfing efforts.

As this was my first time to try surfing, I was not sure how it would go.  Now I can say that I am a definite surfing fan and eager to go again.  Luckily, I am already signed up for an official lesson next weekend during a day trip to the Jersey Shore.  This weekend’s informal meetup was an amazing time with a fun group of people.  I look forward to seeing how it goes with ZogSports on their surfing day trip next Sunday.

Harbor Cocktail Cruise Aboard the Zephyr

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After all the rain we have had in the month of June, we actually had some dry and sunny weather yesterday.  So, I happily agreed to go on a Harbor Cocktail Cruise after work where I could thoroughly enjoy the perfect weather.  I signed up for this particular cruise aboard the Zephyr through Outdoor Bound.  The Zephyr is run by Circle Line and is located off of Pier 16 right next to the South Street Seaport.  Having just been on the other side of the river at Brooklyn Promenade Park, it was nice to see the Brooklyn Bridge from the exact opposite viewpoint. 

Before embarking on our cruise, my friend and I enjoyed the happy hour specials at Skippers Pierside Cafe.  Skippers is entirely outdoors and offers $4 domestic beers and $5 imported beers during their happy hour.  They also have a menu of varied food options if you are hungry.  All the groups for our cruise met up at this spot for some drinks and appetizers which was a great way to begin the event.  Our cruise event was priced at $30 which included one drink on the boat and then drink specials offered afterwards at Skippers.

Our departure time was 6:30pm and the boat left promptly.  On the first level there is a an enclosed area with seating (this is also where the DJ was set up since there is a dance floor).  The second level has both indoor space and access to an outdoor deck.  Then one flight up there is a full sun deck with benches if you prefer to sit.  These benches were helpful for keeping balance and holding on when the water got a little choppy.  

Since the weather was so cooperative it was very refreshing to see the sunset behind the city skyline.  Our journey took us up towards Long Island City and then back south to a beautiful view of the sun setting behind the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  It was very relaxing to take all of these sights in while sipping on beverages from the bar.  Since I love boats and being on the water, the cruise ended way too soon for me.  We were back at Pier 16 by 8pm.  The groups were supposed to mingle with drink specials and food afterwards, however there was a music/dance event being held so it was way too loud.  So, my friend and I ordered some dinner at Skippers while some very talented New Yorkers danced the night away on the pier. 

All in all, I had a very pleasant evening.  I took lots of pictures and loved my time on the water.  There was not as much mingling aboard the ship as I had hoped, but it was still a great way to end a busy work day.

Not Just For Tourists!

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This past weekend, I had family visiting from out of town.  When people visit, it is a chance to get out and enjoy the city by breaking away from the everyday routine.  Especially in times when money might be a little tighter, it is always great to be able to have adventures right in your own backyard! 

Even though I have lived here in NY for many years now, I still always love a trip to Brooklyn Promenade Park.  Here is my recommended route to get there: Take the 2 or 3 Train to the Clark Street stop, walk all the way down Clark St. towards the water and it is always a breathtaking, scenic view of Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge once you get to the end.  Turn right and keep walking  along and past the promenade till you get to Old Fulton Street. 

Once you reach Old Fulton Street, you will have no trouble finding Grimaldi’s Pizzeriaas there is always a line of people patiently waiting outside.   I have heard it said from people passing by that they would never bother to wait in line for pizza, but personally I am happy to wait every time I go to Grimaldi’s because the pizza is definitely worth it.  It is my favorite in the area, although I love many of the pizza offerings throughout NYC.  When you are finally seated inside it will not be long until a mouthwatering pizza is in front of you ready to be devoured.   

After you have enjoyed your fill of pizza, walk over to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory right near the waterfront for a tasty dessert.  Even if there is a line for ice cream, it usually goes pretty fast.  While you are enjoying your frozen treats, you can take in the majestic views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline. 

If you have the energy after indulging in all that delicious food, I highly recommend walking over the Brooklyn Bridge to get back to Manhattan if that is where you are returning to.  Day or night, it is an exhilarating walk and something every New Yorker should do at least once if they get the chance.  The entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge walkway is only a short distance from Grimaldi’s.  Just beware of the bike lanes and stay on the walking path while you walk across!  Once back in Manhattan, there are a few nearby subway stops to help you get to your next destination wherever that may be.

Even though it might put a few more people in line, I definitely wanted to share one of my favorite ways to enjoy the Brooklyn waterfront.  After all, visitors should not be the only ones experiencing all that our great city has to offer!

Exit 44 – This Saturday!

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One of my readers informed me about a fantastic event coming up this Saturday, June 13th in AstoriaExit 44 is an all-day independent music festival that will feature some up and coming local NYC artists. Headlined by Tigercity and Project Jenny Project Jan, the lineup also includes Action Painters, The Shondes, My Teenage Stride, Schwervon!, and many more.  You van view the full lineup and hear some tunes at www.myspace.com/exit44festival.  The fun starts at 3pm and will continue into the night.

Tickets are $10 in advance and can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets. If tickets are still available on the day of, they will be $13 at the door.  This event is 18+ to enter, 21+ to drink so bring your IDs.

Wonderland is located at 38-01 23rd Ave (at 38th St), in Astoria.  It is a quick walk from the N Train (you can exit at Astoria Blvd. or the Ditmars Blvd. stop).  It is a really cool space and from what I hear there will an area open on the roof as well as cheap drink specials during the festival.  Sounds like a great way to spend a Saturday to me!

Sign Up for Some Summer Fun!

Things have been a bit crazy for me, so I haven’t been able to plan my activity schedule as I had hoped to.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of things to get out there to do now that the weather is warming up.

Something I plan to sign up for this summer is a day of white water rafting.  You can read about my experience white water rafting last summer with MMA here.

There are also some wine tasting day trips to the North Fork of Long Island coming up.  I have gone with two different companies and each was a very fun experience.  You can read about my last wine tasting trip with ZogSports here.

Both MMA and ZogSports have upcoming wine tasting and white water rafting trips scheduled.  Head to their websites to see if there is one you would like to sign up for.  It will definitely be a fun time!

Everybody Jump!

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Looking for an exhilarating and fun workout?  Then definitely try a trampoline class!  This past weekend, I went to Hollywood Stunts (located in the Bronx) to take a class and see what I could learn on the trampoline.  Since I cannot even remember the last time I was on a trampoline, I was not sure what to expect.  When I showed up, I must admit that I felt a bit intimidated by the large trampolines that were in front of me.  There were three rounded ones and a rectangular one that had a harness above it for more advanced lessons.

Our host and instructor, Brian, started by introducing himself to the class and we learned that he has had extensive experience performing stunts for movies, TV and outdoor shows.  After all the introductions were made, it was time to see what we were in for.  The school’s trampoline expert, Alex, got on the apparatus and started to teach us beginner techniques.  There is a lot of effort that must be made in order to maintain control while you are jumping.  While the rest of the class surrounded the trampoline, we each had a turn to jump and to attempt to mirror the techniques Alex had demonstrated for us.  I must say, he made everything look so effortless with his perfect form!  Some classmates were a little unsure of their balance and some took to it right away.

After everyone had a turn, it was time to divide our group of 15 among the rest of the trampolines (four people maximum for each one).  What you realize when you start jumping and working on improving your form, is how much work it really is.  Between the four people assigned to my trampoline, we each had plenty of time to jump and started to get pretty tired as the lesson went on.  However, it is so invigorating that you keep getting back on to work on your skills again and again. 

Once we mastered jumping straight with control it was time to try sitting down and returning to a standing bounce.  If you find success with that move then the next step is to work on twisting to sit in different directions while returning to a standing bounce in between.  Each person was able to learn at their own pace with the guidance of the instructors so it was a pressure free environment.  Many of us enjoyed our class so much that we decided to come back for future weekend sessions.  It really was tons of fun! 

In addition to offering trampoline classes, Hollywood Stunts is the place to go if you are interested in learning the art of performing stunts.  There was a high falling stunt class that started after ours which involved learning to jump from a really high platform that was set up on the premises.  When I first showed up to learn trampoline, I could not imagine myself wanting to learn to do that but after my trampoline experience I was definitely enthusiastic to try. 

Visit www.hollywoodstunts.com to find all the information about the stunt school and what they offer.  It is definitely worth the trip to the Bronx!  MMA is organizing groups to attend a trampoline class as one of their singles events so you can also sign up through them.

Crawl Your Way to Some Great Art This Weekend!

Collect LES is having another fantastic Art Crawl event this Saturday, April 18th from 6pm – 8:30pm. Visit more than 25 neighborhood art galleries on the Lower East Side while enjoying some beverages and specials at local businesses along the way!

It is best to buy your tickets in advance online (tickets cost $15) and there are two locations designated for checking in. When you pick up your ticket you are handed a map of all the participating galleries. You then get to pick and choose which ones you want to see or if you are really ambitious you can try to visit all of them during the hours of the crawl.

Most of gallery spaces are rather small, so you get a chance to really look at every item on display at each location you attend. The majority of the galleries are all within a short walking distance from each other so you will get to see quite a few of them if you plan your timing right. Overall, it’s a wonderful way to mix and mingle while seeing a variety of artistry.

After the art crawl is over, there will be a reception from 8pm-10:30pm in the garden area at The Sixth Ward (191 Orchard St.). The party continues after hours starting at 9:30pm at Gallery Bar (also located at 191 Orchard St.).

To purchase tickets and see a map of the participating galleries go to http://artlog.com/collectles.

Feel the Beat!

I recently had one of those fun NYC nights where an expected quiet evening takes on a life of its own. I was at a local spot relaxing after a long day and a group conversation started up with a few people sitting at the bar. It turns out that two of the girls were waiting for their friend to arrive before they headed to a nearby dance studio for beginner Salsa lessons. They asked a couple of us to join them and before I knew it, I was on the dance floor ready to learn some Salsa.

Apparently this studio has an introductory lesson package available where you pay $20 for 2 half hour lessons. If you would like to sign up for instruction after the first lesson the rest of the amount is put towards your class package. Otherwise, you have 2 separate dance sessions.

What looked simple when the dance instructors demonstrated steps for our group, was a lot more complex when we tried to imitate their movements. During the two dance classes I took, I learned that I had quite a bit to work on before I would look effortless dancing the Salsa. However, I also discovered how much fun it is to seriously learn the technique and begin to really know what you are doing. Although I cannot afford or commit to a series of classes at this time, I definitely plan to keep learning. The studio owner will be setting up Saturday group sessions this summer and the studio will also hold Salsa events at local hot spots. That way you can keep learning and having fun as often as your schedule and finances permit.

The Martinez Dance Studio I went to is located in Astoria on 31st Street closest to the 30th Avenue subway stop. If you are interested in learning to dance, they are a great place to start! www.martinezdancestudios.com

NYC Pizza History By the Slice!

Whether you have lived in New York forever or are just visiting, everyone can enjoy going on one of Scott’s Pizza Tours. I have lived in NYC for almost 10 years now but aside from having my own favorite pizza spots and knowing some famous locations, that was about as far as my knowledge of pizza history goes. After going on Scott’s Pizza Tour yesterday, I can now say that I know a lot more about the delicious dish and how it came about in NYC.

We began the tour in front of what had once been the very first pizzeria location in NY. From there, we walked to many varied locations so that we could really learn everything there is to know about NYC pizza making. During the three hour walking tour, everyone got to sample three very different slices of pizza. It was interesting to hear all the opinions on which was each person’s favorite. At the first location we ate at, each person on the tour received their own goody bag containing a pizza tasting notebook, some pallet cleansing candies, and a gummi pizza for those who could not bear to wait till the next slice.

Everything we learned in between our tastings though is what made the tour extra special. With Scott’s guidance, we were able to get a look at an original coal burning pizza oven while it was in use, we went to the oldest Italian cheese store in the country to sample some amazingly fresh mozzarella, and we also went to the place where the famous Bari ovens (which are distributed all over the world to make pizzas) are built. From discussing how pizza actually became a popular food to the ingredients that go into making it, I learned a lot!

Scott is an excellent tour guide. His knowledge and enthusiasm are part of what makes this a great tour. His attention to detail really shows throughout the tour. He offers both walking tours like the one I took and a bus tour which will take you to the different boroughs to sample pizza. Most of my fellow tour-goers were from New York and we all had a fantastic time. You don’t have to be a tourist to learn about the great things (or in this case – pizza) that the city has to offer.

Head to http://www.scottspizzatours.com/ for all the information on how to experience “New York’s Cheesiest Guided Tour” yourself!

A Great Place to Skate!

I recently had the pleasure of trying out a relatively new ice rink in the NYC area. City Ice Pavilion in Long Island City is a great location to enjoy a public skating session or to work on your skating skills whether they involve figure skating or ice hockey. This rink is NHL sized and it is actually the only roof top skating rink in the five boroughs. An air dome helps to keep the temperatures skate ready and protects skaters from any bad weather.

A couple blocks away from the 7 train (the 33rd St.-Rawson St. stop), City Ice Pavilion is just a short subway ride outside of Manhattan. During the public skating session that I went to, I really enjoyed the fact that it was not overwhelmingly crowded. There was room to actually move! Most of the ice rinks that I have been to in the area have been a more crowded and expensive ordeal so this was a refreshing experience. My friends and I had a lot of fun during our skating session.

Rental skates are available for $6 and because it is such a new rink they are still in great condition. The public sessions are reasonably priced at $5 on weekdays and $8 on weekends. If you are so inclined, City Ice Pavilion also offers a full range of ice hockey and figure skating lessons/sessions. You can visit their website for all the details at http://www.cityicepavilion.com/. If you are interested in ice skating, I definitely recommend giving this new rink at try!