7 Ways to Spend a Day at College... Without Paying Tuition



Check Out the Starry Night


PHOTO COURTESY OF SUNY NEW PALTZ

The weather is always perfect for stargazing at the off-the-beaten-path John R. Kirk Planetarium at SUNY New Paltz. The theater seats a cozy 44 curious souls and features a projection system that displays digital simulations of the sky that realistically mimic celestial motions. For the real-deal star viewing, come on an Astronomy Night, held on the first and third Thursday of each month that the university is in session. These programs begin just after sunset (tickets required) and move on to an open telescope viewing at an observatory across campus (no tickets needed for that one). Whether you do one or the other or both, it’s free. (1 Hawk Dr., New Paltz; 845.257.1110; www.newpaltz.edu/planetarium/shows)

 

Get Cooking

Wouldn’t it be nice to know the secrets of top chefs and apply them in your own kitchen every day? Well, now you can: take an introductory course at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and learn cooking fundamentals in a basic boot-camp class. Pastry, healthy cooking, Italian meals, Asian food, cooking techniques, grilling, and BBQ — it’s a cornucopia of choices at these non-credit courses, typically held for two, six-hour sessions. Here’s the part we love: As a Boot Camp participant, you’ll receive a chef’s uniform with a jacket, pants, and a neckerchief. Paper chef’s hats and aprons will be provided in class (1946 Campus Dr., Hyde Park; 845.452.9600; https://enthusiasts.ciachef.edu)

 

Hit the Road 


PHOTO COURTESY OF MOUNT SAINT MARY COLLEGE

Become a tourist in your own backyard and return to your carefree student days (no cramming necessary) through the Mount Saint Mary College Road Scholar Program, an adult foray into the Hudson Valley. Live on campus for up to a week in a newly built air-conditioned dorm with stunning river views, or commute for a lesser fee. The schedule includes “A Taste of the Hudson Valley,” which takes you on a local culinary adventure. “The Roosevelts” gives you the inside scoop on this historic couple with guided visits to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill, Springwood, and FDR’s private retreat, Top Cottage.  “Exploring the Hudson Valley” takes you out and about to scenic and historic spots like the Gomez Mill House, the oldest Jewish dwelling in North America. Programs run from June to July. (330 Powell Ave.; Newburgh; 845.565.2076; www.msmc.edu/roadscholars

 

Stop and Smell the Roses 

There is a lot of cool stuff going on at Westchester Community College. The Smart Arts program at the Fine Arts Center offers an affordable “edu-tainment” program that includes a cross-section of cultural activities in theater, dance, and music, supplemented by mini-lectures and opportunities to talk with the artists themselves. Native U at the Native Plant Center offers single- and multiple-day sessions that teach about the flowers, shrubs, and trees that thrive right here in the Valley and Northeast, so that you can garden like a pro and even earn a certificate and credits toward a landscape architecture degree. Or you can just take a self-guided walking tour through the gardens and enjoy their beauty for beauty’s sake. (75 Grasslands Rd., Valhalla; 914.606.6600; www.sunywcc.edu)

 

Seek Holey Ground 

If you’re a wee bit intimidated by those pro-level golf courses that blanket the Valley, but you're past the mini-golf stage, head to Vassar College for the perfect compromise: a real fairway that’s beginner-friendly but also challenges the more-experienced golfer. Established in 1930, the nine-hole course is the perfect complement to the venerable 19th-century campus. It only takes about two hours to play the entire course, allowing you plenty of time to tour the rest of the campus — while you’re there check out the pipe organs in the Chapel and Skinner Hall of Music or take in the galleries of the Francis Lehman Loeb Art Center, with 19,000 works dating from antiquity to the 21st century. Don’t miss the Old Masters prints and Hudson River School paintings. (124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie; 845.437.7400; www.vassar.edu)

 

Go, Army!


PHOTO BY LESLIE DAWSON

Overlooking the Hudson on a west bank plateau, West Point (aka the United States Military Academy) is the oldest continuously occupied military post in the country, in use since the 1770s by George Washington himself. At the West Point Museum, you can learn about the history of this famous co-ed cadet academy and its illustrious graduates, including the likes of Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight D. Eisenhower (2110 New South Post Rd., West Point, 845.938.3590; www.westpoint.army.mil/museum.html).  Speaking of Ike, Eisenhower Hall, the on-campus performing arts center, hosts local and big-name performances and puts on an impressive holiday show (655 Pitcher Rd., West Point; 845.938.4159; www.ikehall.com). Also in the winter is skiing at the Victor Constant Ski Area. On weekdays from 3-7 p.m., the hill is open to the public. (732 Victor Constant Rd., West Point; 845.938.8810; www.victorconstantski.com). But the biggest draw by far are West Point football games, where you can cheer on the Cadets while enjoying the spectacular fall foliage. (www.goarmywestpoint.com)

 

Get Your Business and Body in Shape

Rockland Community College truly lives up to its middle name, welcoming and involving all to campus regardless of age or income. In fact, some 200,000 visit the campus each year for cultural, recreational, and commercial events. The college’s Business Innovation Mall provides free support services for entrepreneurs and job-seekers in the areas of finance, marketing, IT, sales, HR, and more (37 West Broad St., Haverstraw; 845.786.5340). As well, New York companies can take advantage of the campus 3D Printing Smart Lab, while 60-plus seniors can audit courses on a space-available basis, at no cost. The fitness center with all the trimmings — a pool, treadmills, stationary bikes, ergs, elliptical, weight room — is available to the public for just a small fee. (145 College Rd., Suffern; 845.574.4000; www.sunyrockland.edu)

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