Top 10: Ways to Liven Up the New Year
Classes, trainers, fairs and surprises can enliven the new year with fresh diversions, treasured traditions and personal growth.
A fresh calendar is as inviting as a pristine composition book at a school year's start, or as promising as a Tigers schedule feels each spring. Anything can happen, surprises will come, discoveries are ahead.
I've already jotted notes on my 2011 calendar (yes, the paper kind) to mark trips, a summer wedding, a book club date and events to consider. Not all are in Birmingham, naturally, though the months ahead are full of local activities for all tastes and ages.
Here are 10 ways to discover something new or revisit a few cherished Birmingham traditions.
1. Play somewhere new: Shake up your same-old by stretching — literally and figuratively — someplace you haven't explored. A new skating rink is in Barnum Park, two indoor ovals are at the Ice Sports Arena (open skating daily) and glades for cross-country skiing or show-shoeing are at Springdale and Lincoln Hills golf courses, as well as in Manor Park, Poppleton Park and along the Rouge River between Booth and Linden parks. When frozen crystals yield to crocuses, young residents can play on new equipment at Shain Park while older hotshots can practice aerials at Kenning Park's skate ramps, rails and quarter-pipes.
2. Eat someplace new: Reading a new menu is an adventure anytime, and it's especially inviting when more than a dozen popular sites offer fixed-price lunch and dinner discounts during Restaurant Week. The annual promotion actually spans parts of two weeks — Jan. 31-Feb. 4 and Feb. 7-11 — and includes Cameron's Steakhouse, Toast and Zazios for the first time. (We'll present more details later this month.) Speaking of new dining destinations, 2010 additions include Luxe Bar & Grill, South Bar and Tallulah's Wine Bar and Bistro, while 2011 will introduce us to the Townsend Street bistro, Bella Piatti.
3. Work out a new way: Expand your exercise drills or start a fitness routine by checking what's offered by the Birmingham Family YMCA, more than a dozen local gyms and studios, personal trainers, The Community House or Birmingham Public Schools' community education program. The Groves High School pool is available for open swimming two hours each Sunday through March, except Feb. 20 and 27. Shirley Mohan leads a one-hour water aerobics workout at Derby Middle School most Monday and Wednesday mornings, starting at 11 a.m, while Community House classes include yoga, Tai Chi and Zumba.
4. Learn a skill: Mental stretching can also be enriching, with local options galore. In January and February, Baldwin Public Library offers classes in video editing, web design, PhotoShop Elements, PowerPoint, spreadsheets, digital photography and more. At The Community House, workshops include blogging, personal finance, job interview skills, floral design, decorating, cooking, wine and beer tastings, bridge and travel Spanish or Italian. Adult classes begin Jan. 10 at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center in varied media, with private instruction also available. Free classes even will be scheduled by Backcountry North, a outdoor adventure shop that occasionally offers expert guidance in backpacking, winter camping, backcountry cooking and similar skills.
5. Attend outdoor fairs: Colorful displays by artists, crafters and carnival operators have been part of spring and fall here for decades. The 30th annual Art Birmingham runs May 14-15, probably back in Shain Park (city commission approval pending). The 48th annual Village Fair — with rides, midway games and sinful snacks — is June 2-5 on Martin Street between Pierce and Chester and on Bates and Henrietta. Let's not forget the Birmingham Street Art Fair though on Sept. 24-25.
6. Help kids help others: Lessons about giving come in the form of charity solicitations, food and deposit container drives and community-wide events. A Kids Against Hunger packaging event and workshop will take place Jan. 17 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) at Groves High School, while the fourth annual Kids Helping Kids fund-raising walk on May 1 will support the Children's Charities Coalition. In addition, the third annual Dash for Destiny benefit run May 22 is staged by the Junior League of Birmingham, raising funds for programs that assist women and children.
7. Expand a girl's horizons: Explorathon, a career exploration program co-sponsored by a local women's group, will be April 6 at Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills. Female scientists, engineers, mathematicians and health professionals will lead workshops for students in grades 8-12. Organizers include Birmingham's chapter of the American Association of University Women.
8. Celebrate our community: There's no parade like a Celebrate Birmingham Parade because ours has dogs — dozens of dogs. All basset hounds. All adorably wearing red kerchiefs. All seemingly eager to be photographed. Plenty of people also will strut and roll down North Old Woodward, Maple and Bates on May 15, including school, scout, twirling, theatrical and musical groups, with the Basset Waddle serving as the grand finale.
9. Visit new shops: Unless you're a shopaholic, you probably haven't visited all of Birmingham's new businesses. Arrivals last year include Bec and Sam's (children's boutique, 146 W. Maple), BluArch Collection (décor items, 142 W. Maple), Lido Gallery (33535 Woodward), Massage Green (34200 Woodward), Modern Monogram (798 N. Old Woodward), Old World Olive Press (282 W. Maple), and Scavolini (kitchens Giada De Laurentis would adore, 202 E. Maple).
10. Join our Patch community: Send news tips and comments to our editor at email@example.com. On this site, we welcome comments for discussion (below articles or at the "What do you have to say" window), personal announcements, event calendar listings, business directory additions and free 30-day classifieds for merchandise, services, roommates and sublets. Registration is simple, secure and privacy-protected.
Though our headline says "Top 10," these are unranked selections from what could be 50 or more suggestions – one for each week of 2011.
After all, anything can happen and surprises will come. Happy New Year!