At long last, we’ve reached a new year!
But rather than make traditional resolutions – like lose weight or clean the attic – embrace a fresh hobby or an exercise regimen that’s actually fun. After surviving 2020, you’ve earned the right to put yourself first and focus on the positive.
Plus, pursuing a new pastime is good for you. According to scientific research referenced in “The New York Times,” folks who take up hobbies experience improved physical health, more sleep, less stress, and even a better work performance. They also broaden their social circle.
This article is brimming with suggestions on how to get started.
So what’s stopping you? This is your year. Bring it on, 2021.
1. Row Your Boat
Take advantage of a glorious, sun-drenched spring day by rowing on Bayou St. John. Rowing is a low, full body workout that you can enjoy alone, or with others. The New Orleans Rowing Club will teach you everything you need to know about the sport – from technique to water safety. The nonprofit offers workshops for both recreational and competitive rowers, along with classes catered to adults who are learning how to row for the first time. COVID-19 has affected the class schedule, so contact the club for the most up to date information.
2. Dance Party
Spice up your life with salsa dancing. Even without mastering the proper steps, the vibrant Latin music will make you want to move and groove. But if you’d like to take your salsa skills to the next level, take lessons at a local studio. Dance Quarter offers lessons for both beginners and experienced students. No partner necessary. And if salsa isn’t your thing, try something else. Dance Quarter also offers bachata, swing, ballroom, zydeco, and tango dance classes.
3. Hang Ten
When it’s cold and gloomy outside, imagine that you are on a warm, sunny beach – not just sipping sweet cocktails, but riding waves. City Surf Fitness hosts surf-inspired workouts and strength training from within its Magazine Street studio. Classes comprise stability surfboards, dumbbells and resistance bands, among other types of equipment. Instructors will frequently switch up the format, keeping you on your toes and bringing you closer to a sizzling physique. And your surf community, which extends beyond the studio, will keep you motivated and smiling along the way. Online sessions are also available.
4. Fit & Fab
Pole dancing is a sultry way to strengthen your core. The exercise delivers a full body workout and a boost of confidence. Nervous about pole dancing for the first time? No problem. Sign up for group classes or coordinate a pole dance party, because it’s more fun with friends anyway. Check out Awakenings Pole & Aerial Fitness or Pole Perfect Fitness for more information. Awakenings also offers aerial fitness classes.
5. Mardi Gras Mambo
Sadly, parades are cancelled this year because of coronavirus. But it isn’t too early to think about Mardi Gras 2022 – especially if you’d like to be part of the rolling spectacle. One of the best ways to experience Carnival is by joining a walking group or a dance krewe. You get an excellent view of the action along the parade route, all while shaking (and burning calories) to the beat. Plus, you are guaranteed to meet new folks. Such dance troupes as the Disco Amigos, the Pussyfooters, the Muff-a-Lottas and the famous 610 Stompers, begin practicing several months in advance. Search Mardi Gras New Orleans for the one that’s right for you.
6. Hot Wheels
Looking for an aerobic exercise that’s gentle on your joints? Consider inline skating. According to NPR, inline skating surged in popularity during the pandemic, partially because the activity pairs well with social distancing. It also improves your balance and coordination, core strength, and your cardiovascular system. All you need is a pair of skates that fit well – try Academy Sports + Outdoors – and a flat surface; then head to the park or Airline Skate Center and start cruising.
7. Book Worm
Are you often consumed by a compelling book? You know, one of those tomes you read all night and think about all day? Then you are the perfect candidate for a book club. Share your love for literature with fellow bookworms by joining a group through the library, a bookstore, or sites like meetup.com. Or launch a club with friends. Pour a glass of wine, perhaps, and ponder the motives of the protagonist, solve a mystery, or explore the symbolism imbued in a beloved classic.
8. Culture Class
There are several reasons to learn a second language. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages claims the endeavor will improve your memory and problem-solving skills, and also give you a deeper appreciation and understanding of different cultures. Plus, depending on the language you learn, it may come in handy when you travel. Purchase a software program such as Rosetta Stone or download the Duolingo app on your smartphone. If you’d prefer in-person classes, you can find them throughout New Orleans. For French, try The Alliance Française de la Nouvelle Orléans For Spanish, check out Casa de España.
9. Flower Power
A fragrant bouquet of flowers can brighten someone’s day, serve as a lovely centerpiece during a dinner party, or just add a splash of color to your home. Sure, it’s easy enough to grab a floral arrangement from the grocery. But with a little guidance, you can learn how to assemble a beautiful bouquet of blooms on your own. Fat Cat Flowers offers a bunch of classes – from Mardi Gras wreath-making, to designing a standout, spring-inspired table centerpiece. The studio is spacious, so students can social distance.
10. Tune Up
Prepare to play the acoustic guitar version of your favorite song; impress your friends by warbling showtunes while tickling the ivories; or channel your inner Ringo Starr with a drum solo. NOLA School of Music offers adult classes in guitar, piano, drums, banjo, saxophone, and violin, among other instruments. Students can also take voice lessons. Classes are held in the school’s Mid-City studio and online. Since honing your music skills requires concentration and coordination, you will boost your brainpower in the process.
11. Back to School
Audit a class online or in-person at a local university. That way you can study a topic you’ve been curious about, without the burden of acquiring credit towards a degree, or stressing too much over a final grade. Also, if you’re considering a career change, taking one class will nudge you in the right direction by helping you determine whether or not that field is right for you.
12. Stitch in Time
Whether your goal is to reattach a button to your favorite blouse, hem a pair of pants, or launch a clothing line from scratch, the ability to sew will come in handy. Some projects may only require a needle and thread, while others call for a sewing machine. But all of them demand a bit of patience and practice. Chateau Sew & Sew hosts both small group and private lessons for adults. Beginner students will learn the basics of sewing and reading patterns, and possibly create one-of-a-kind throw pillows and pajama pants.
13. Baubles and Beads
Flaunt exclusive accessories by learning how to create your own jewelry. The Bead Shop on Magazine Street offers private lessons and sells jewelry kits, which are accompanied by a link to an online tutorial. Lanyard kits are especially popular at the moment. Budding artisans can also design freshwater pearl necklaces, leather wrap bracelets, or an elegant set of earrings. Besides, the act of tinkering alone can be cathartic.
14. Heavy Metal
If you are into precious metals, take up metalsmithing and concoct old world-inspired cuff bracelets and collar necklaces, or ultra-modern pendants. New Orleans School of Metalsmithing offers sessions for all skill levels. Aside from jewelry, students can also learn how to create metallic home décor items. They can start with a kit comprising copper, brass and the necessary tools that no metalsmith can live without.
15. Fine Art
From indulging in moments of self-reflection, to swiping colorful acrylics across a blank canvas, the process of painting is therapeutic. According to “Psychology Today,” creating art enhances self-expression and self-knowledge. Plus, you can proudly display the finished project in your living room, or stick it in a place that simply makes you smile. Because art is subjective, you don’t need the talents of Vincent Van Gogh to generate something beautiful. But if you’d like a little guidance, sign up for art classes. New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts offers in-studio painting, drawing, sculpture, calligraphy, ceramics, and photography programs. Artists of all skill levels are welcome to join.
16. A New Routine
As a busy grownup with places to go and people to see, you’ve likely muttered the words: “There are not enough hours in the day.” Well, imagine what you could accomplish by waking up a smidge earlier; meditate; go for a jog while the city streets are still quiet; or tidy up your inbox. If you have kids, savor a cup of coffee before rushing them off to school. Studies suggest that early risers tend to maintain a healthier lifestyle and feel more productive throughout the day. But since starting an unfamiliar morning routine isn’t always easy, consider these tips from “Entrepreneur”: set your alarm 15 minutes earlier each day, so that your body can adjust to the change; make your bed before you’re tempted to climb back in; take a quick cold shower; get moving with music; keep the same schedule on weekends; stay away from the snooze button; and – duh – go to bed earlier.
17. Craft Works
Decorate your home with Venetian-style glass sculptures, created by you. Or give them as a gift to family and friends. New Orleans Glassworks and Printmaking Studio hosts single classes, mini-workshops, and extended programs, focused on the ancient art of glassblowing. Students will learn how to sculpt molten glass by using a blazing blowpipe, and how to color, polish, and cut their sculptures. The studio recently introduced a groundbreaking method for blowing glass while wearing a mask. New Orleans Glassworks and Printmaking Studio also offers lessons in metal sculpting, printmaking, screen printing, gyotaku, ceramics, and torchworking.
18. Hair Do’s
There’s nothing wrong with sporting the same hairstyle for life. But sometimes a little switcheroo will totally transform your look and your mood. Now, swapping long brown locks for a hot pink Mohawk isn’t necessary (unless you want a hot pink Mohawk; in which case, go for it). Instead, consider a few highlights and a fresh, face-framing cut. At the very least, part your hair in a different direction. Sift through Pinterest for inspiration and consult your hair stylist for a second opinion. You’d be surprised at what you can “pull off.”
19. Neat and Tidy
If you vow to organize your life at the start of each year, you’re not alone. But 2021 is the year you will actually make it happen. Start by decluttering your home and tossing all the stuff you no longer need – or even know what the heck it’s for. Need help? Sorted can help. The professional organizers will transform a messy playroom into a space worthy of an Instagram post. After addressing your abode, tackle your finances with Minted.com, or improve your time management skills with an app like Productive. Keep it simple.
20. Hand Writing
During an era dominated by emails, text messages, and social media posts, there’s something truly special about sending and receiving a handwritten note. Sure, it takes a little time and planning, but your snail mail message is guaranteed to make a loved one smile. Check out Scriptura for a wide range of stationary styles, fancy pens, and even etiquette.
21. Culinary Class
During your next dinner party, wow guests with a gourmet meal you whipped together from scratch. Or, on any given weeknight, impress your brood with a meal that requires more than three ingredients. In other words, take your culinary skills up a notch with cooking lessons. New Orleans is brimming with virtual and physical kitchen classrooms, including Langlois and New Orleans School of Cooking. New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute, also known as NOCHI, hosts sessions in-person and via Zoom. The studio-based classes begin with a glass of bubbly and a cooking demo from a professional chef. Through hands-on instructions, students then concoct a tasty dinner – such as BBQ shrimp and cheese grits, or fish meunière – from start to finish. NOCHI is hoping to offer group classes; check their website for the latest updates and COVID-related safety guidelines.
22. Sweet Charity
While bettering yourself, boost the wellbeing of others by volunteering. You don’t have to quit your job and become Mother Theresa, but consider committing free time to your favorite charity, or even a local festival run by a nonprofit. Organizers rely on volunteers to keep their events running smoothly. You can find a project or cause you are passionate about through websites like volunteermatch.org, or search for opportunities available through individual organizations. From preserving historic homes and protecting the coastline, to helping the elderly and at-risk youth, there is likely a topic that will resonate with you.
23. Hop to It
If you consider yourself a craft beer connoisseur, maybe it’s time to develop your signature brew, or meet locals who are equally as enthusiastic about excellent beer. Crescent City Homebrewers, which meets once a month at the Deutsches Haus, always welcomes new members. About 10 times a year, the group hosts “brew-offs” and makes 50 gallons of beer at a time. The gatherings are meant to be educational and social. Other group events include brewery tours, beer tastings, sausage making, and a yearly extravaganza called Winterfest – all complete with home brew. Brewstock Homebrew Supplies sells the ingredients, books, and equipment that will help you get started.
24. Try Dry
For a complete 180 … consider sobriety. There are so many mental and physical benefits for ditching the booze. Here are a few from Healthline: lower blood pressure, increased energy, better sleep, weight loss, and less anxiety. If quitting alcohol cold turkey seems like too big of an undertaking, embark on a month-long challenge, like Dry January. Enlist support from online communities, sift through enlightening literature about living alcohol-free (“Sober Curious” by Ruby Warrington is a good one), stock your dry bar with zero proof spirits, and learn how to make a few festive mocktails. You can celebrate the new you and wake up without a hangover, ready to take on 2021.
25. Wine List
If you love wine, you can likely tell the difference between a cabernet and a merlot. But wine is complex and full of surprises. Develop a more nuanced understanding of wine, and learn which foods to pair it with, through wine classes. Wine Institute of New Orleans (W.I.N.O.) offers an extended program, but wine shops throughout the city also offer tastings and classes. The owners can also answer questions when shopping for a new bottle.