Scattered across the United States are a handful of cities dedicated to the pursuit of perfecting the art of various hobbies. From beekeeping to microbrewing, the US is leading the charge by offering both amateur and professional hobbyists opportunities to improve their art, skill, and knowledge of local pastimes. If you’re interested in taking up a new hobby this fall, here’s a selection of places around the US where you can sink your teeth into a new passion.
1. Astronomy — Catron County, New Mexico
If stargazing sounds like a relaxing decompression from busy city life, study up on some stargazing basics, pack a telescope and camera, and spend a couple of nights in the dark at the Cosmic Campground in New Mexico.
The Cosmic Campground is designated as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary, with the closest artificial light being 40 miles away from its perimeter. Since the smallest amount of artificial light nearby affects star visibility, this is an ideal location for astronomy beginners and night sky photography. Even if you have little to no knowledge about stargazing, this is an ideal place to kickstart your hobby as the conditions make it a perfect place to get to grips with basic equipment and put your interest into practice before investing further.
The site is located in the Gila National Forest where there is free, unreserved camping. It’s important to keep in mind that certain days of the year will be more crowded at the campsite depending on the weather conditions and visibility. To choose a night of clear sky, use this sky chart which forecasts the range of visibility each night.
2. Beekeeping — Asheville, North Carolina
If you’re just starting to explore beekeeping as a hobby, consider heading to Asheville,, North Carolina, for a super introduction. Proud of its culture of homegrown, sustainable living, Asheville has been protecting honey bees long before their importance became a global hot topic.
If you have an interest in beekeeping, it won’t come as a shock to know that one-third of the food we consume on a daily basis relies on pollination of bees. Due to a myriad of threats such as habitat loss, climate change, toxic pesticides, and disease, more than 4,000 species of native bees in North America and Hawaii are declining in numbers.
Asheville is an active chapter of Bee City USA, a nonprofit that aims to spread awareness in cities and towns interested in supporting honey bees. In Asheville, the nonprofit hosts community gatherings, children’s workshops, and other events that spread awareness about the pollinators and their important purpose in the ecosystem.
Also, just outside of Asheville, local farm Wehrloom Honey offers a variety of bee activities from hive tours to beginner beekeeper classes. And if you travel a little north of Asheville, you’ll find the Honey and the Hive, another educational outlet that offers a two-day workshop that’ll teach you everything you need to know about how to start your own hive. Priced at $75, the workshop includes classroom lectures and hands-on activities in warm weather months.
3. Coffee roasting — Tempe, Arizona
For many of us, coffee is the morning essential. Yet we tend to reach for a Starbucks, an instant coffee, or whatever happens to be in the office pot, with little thought as to where it came from. The diversity of coffee, however, is expansive, vibrant, and quite complex. Coffee farmers, roasters, and baristas spend their careers perfecting the art of brewing a great cup, and you can gain a little insight into their world through a crash course in Tempe, Arizona.
The International Barista Coffee Academy offers a range of classes from beginner level to professional certifications. There’s even a class designed around home coffee brewing called the Home Enthusiast. The school is open year-round, and the schedule of available classes can be found on the course calendar.
To help refine your palate outside of the school, Tempe has a ton of great coffee shops in its downtown area. If you’re looking for a more informal educational setting, Infusion Coffee serves a variety of blends and offers a range of classes and events. Also, head to Cortez Coffee, a family-owned shop that specializes in ethically sourced Costa Rican coffee blends. Cortez Coffee even has a subscription service where you can try its blends from home.
4. Microbrewing — Portland, Maine
Visiting breweries and tasting rooms is gaining interest in the US — there are over 6,000 breweries operating in the country. Breweries are separated into categories based on the volume of beer they produce. For instance, craft breweries can produce millions of barrels a year while a microbrewery is limited to producing a maximum of 15,000 barrels.
Because of the intimacy of production, visitors can expect to gain a more in-depth understanding of how the beers are produced, as well as the process that goes into each flavor profile. Small-batch brewing operations focus on quality, flavor, and technique above the quantity of production. For the beer aficionado, this quality control is the main reason you’ll want to visit microbreweries.
Portland, in Maine, has an impressive number of microbreweries, claiming 17 within its city limits. D.L. Geary Brewing Company was founded in 1986, and the company styles itself as the first New England microbrewery. In the tasting room, visitors can sample the staple beers, as well as limited batches of rotating taps. The brewery also offers guided tours of its production facility, which detail the production process.
Goodfire Brewing is a petite brewery in north Portland specializing in small batches of canned beer. These guys are relatively new to the scene and are producing an innovative and exciting selection of IPAs. They also often host local food trucks, so you can get a dose of education and relax with food and a cold brew.
Also, if you’re in Portland during November, be sure to check out the Portland Beer Week. The festival has a ton of events for the budding beer aficionado.
5. Disc golf — Houston, Texas
Disc golf is a perfect sport for those looking for a laid-back, inclusive new weekend hobby. While it’s played much like traditional golf in terms of rules, scoring, and etiquette, disc golf differs by throwing a plastic disc off a tee and eventually putting it into a chain-catching metal basket. The sport is relatively easy to learn and only requires a few discs to play casually.
Houston is home to over 50 disc golf courses. The Houston Disc Golf Directory lists the number of baskets of each course, course access, and course contact details. For those already familiar with the sport who want to compete, Texas also hosts several tournaments throughout the year. For supplies in town, Rick’s Darts and Games offers an array of discs, and the knowledgeable staff can help you pick out a starter set if you’re a newbie.
6. Caving — Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
All outdoor sports offer a degree of exploration, yet unlike climbing, mountaineering, diving, and canyoneering — where you more or less have an idea about what you’re about to get yourself into — literally anything is possible with caving.
Traditionally known as spelunking, caving requires some training and equipment before delving deep underground. But if you’re new to the sport and looking for somewhere to try it out, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico is a great place to start. There are over a hundred caves, a handful of which you can explore yourself. The park also offers guided tours, which take you a little deeper into the structures as well as unique guided educational workshops like the Bat Flight Program, where visitors witness the daily migration of the bats and learn about their special role in cave ecology.
If you plan on visiting more than one caving site in US National Parks in a year, the annual park pass is definitely the most cost-effective option available for entry.
7. Ballroom dancing — Columbus, Ohio
Ballroom dancing is fun, playful, and a great way to meet people. It’s also an impressive skill to charm your plus one during next year’s wedding season.
There are classes held throughout the US, but the art of ballroom dancing finds a permanent home every year in Columbus, Ohio, where the world’s largest dance competition, the Ohio Star Ball is held. This November, thousands of dancers, from amateurs to professionals, will come to the city to compete. If you have an interest in taking up this hobby, it’s worth getting a ticket as the event showcases the country’s best dancers. It also hosts a dance camp on the weekend of the event, just in case you want to brush up on your moves.