• • • nature

Do you love chocolate? Do you know where it comes from? Do you want to feel a little tropical warmth in the middle of winter? Why don't you and your friends do something other than drinking for once? The New York Botanical Gardens (718-817-8700; offers you the opportunity to explore the tropical rain forests of the Enid A. Haupt in search of the great cacao tree. On the journey you'll learn about tropical plants and how to use them in everyday life. At the end of the trip, make hot chocolate out of pure cacao seeds, and feel, well, warm inside. I guarantee it will be the best two hours of your week! One-hour tours are $12.50 per person. —Camila Gamboa

• • • photography

For those photo fanatics who don't want to indulge in library work or take in exhibitions, is the answer. The online campus offers photography workshops and free photo seminars for as little as $29. The tuition is good for one full year from your enrollment date, with unlimited access to the entire site and all future additions. (The "Tips and Tricks" area is restricted to enrolled students.)

Want to learn the basic techniques used to capture exhilarating sports or travel images? The 92nd Street Y's "Photography Without a Darkroom" class (415-5562) provides a short introduction to the art of 35mm photography for those without time for, or access to, a darkroom. In 10 sessions and for only $340, you'll master the tools and art of photography.

Without light there is no photography. The New School's "One-Day Lighting Workshop" (www.nsu. on Feb 9 introduces a logical theory of photographic lighting and teaches beginning photographers how to get the most from their strobes (camera mounted or studio setup). Through a series of practical exercises you'll overcome the limitations of equipment and film emulsion to achieve creative and professional results. (Cost: $165) —Ioana Veleanu

• • • sports

At New York Kung Fu & Kickboxing Academy (242-2453; they say you'll be able to kick some butt—and lose some—if you take their classes. I don't doubt them, but perhaps the best feature of this martial arts academy is that the first class is free. You see, they want to place you in the proper program, make sure you're getting the fitness plan you want. There's a special beginners' level for all classes, flexible schedules, and a revolutionary kickboxing program. Other classes include Mongolian wrestling, Lama kung fu, and San Shou. Prices range from $85-100 for group classes.

Bo Law Kung Fu (925-3339) promises that you'll achieve confidence, awareness, discipline, and stress reduction with their kung fu classes. Maybe it's time you explore the inner animal in you, learn how to stretch like a tiger, and explore the inner strength of a leopard or the flexibility of the snake. In the first introductory class Master Paul Koh will tell you if you are ready to begin the workout—or he'll suggest a better one. Classes are $150 (twice a week) or $200 (three times a week). Be sure to schedule an appointment for your first visit.

Yes, I know, I know. Who wants to go into the water when it's freezing outside? Do you really want to get your hair wet? Listen, I used to be like you, thinking, Chlorine and winter don't mix. But hey, I was pushed into it and changed my mind. Swimming helps your heart rate, tones all your muscles, and elevates your spirit. A 10-pack of half-hour sessions at Chelsea Piers ( is only $380. My favorites are "Master's Swim," "Making Waves," and "Hydro Workout." Check out which ones you like. Hey, it's after the holidays—you gotta get rid of the extra pounds. (Kids' classes also available Tue and Thu.) —Camila Gamboa

• • • visual arts

The Educational Alliance Art School (780-2300) at 197 East Broadway is once again becoming the center for traditional studio art classes for adults. There's a full range of classes in drawing, sculpture, and painting. Yes, these sound great, but what about stone carving and ceramics? (Also: a collage class with Thomas Lanigan Schmidt!) Classes start Feb 4; open house Jan 24. Registration includes a free Monday-night figure-drawing workshop. (Cost: $75-310, plus materials fee.)

"Film as Installation and Performance" at the New School (229-5690) explores the possibilities of film as performance or as an installation work in a gallery setting. Students use multiple projectors, slides, and colored gels; installation techniques such as film loops, and optical effects using lenses, water, prisms, and mylar are also taught. At the end of the course each student will create an installation work for presentation at a gallery. Classes are $705 for 13 sessions and begin Feb 6.

At the Mac Learning Center, you'll get all the computer graphic training that you can fathom. Wanna impress your new boyfriend? Wanna create your own coffee-table book? What the hell are you waiting for? Didn't you know Macs are the best for the 21st-century designer? Learn Photoshop manipulation or Macromedia Flash Web animation. I mean, there are millions of courses to take, and so little time. Go to for schedules and prices, or call 594-2280 for more information. I'm telling you, it's a win-win situation. —Camila Gamboa

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