Want to build community in NYC? Hate networking? These events are for you.

Moving to the big city or changing careers can be a slog.

The process often involves about 6 months of the following:

  • We go to Meetups that have a wide variance in quality
  • We scour Garysguide.com (For those of us in tech/startups)
  • We check out a couple of the “Largest Networking Event in NYC” rooftop parties, and never go back.
  • We finally get a sense of the NYC universe, and start to prune the event schedule of the most network-y ones.

No need to waste those 6 months.

Since I changed careers in 2015 from education to the startup ecosystem, I’ve kept track of every event I’ve attended (plus some I have yet to attend which come highly recommended).

Here is a starting list of the best ones that are publicly accessible, non-network-y, and fun because of both the activity involved and the people you are with:

Explore

  • Breakout: Local events diving social issues, daylong trips around the city, and 4-day trips to other cities like Atlanta, Portland, Miami, and Detroit to explore them at the ground level, with a social impact lens, novelty around every corner, and a community structure that makes you feel like the people you met in one weekend you’ve known for months. The community is close-knit, diverse, and full of amazing people, but totally open to outsiders who resonate with the culture.
A recap of Breakout’s most recent trip to Atlanta.
  • Cyclones: A social bicycling club that brings wonderful people together for two-wheeled adventures in the city. Leisurely pace with fun stops.

Laugh

  • Live! From Tomorrow: Live! From Tomorrow is a monthly tech-centered variety show featuring skits, interviews, and startup demos. Good laughs, ridiculous costumes, a memorable show.

Play

  • Inconspicuous Games: Play field games in NYC’s best landmarks- but you can’t get caught. Playing capture the flag in the Oculus or Grand Central with adults? A lot of fun.
Taken at an actual Inconspicuous Games

Push Beyond Your Comfort Zone

  • Touchpoint: Touchpoint hosts a monthly town hall in New York City where real people share what they’re exploring and discovering in romance and relationships. Explore a topic few talk about amongst good people in an environment where you can express yourself freely.

Focus

  • Cave Day: Have a project that you need to finish? This is the place to do it. There’s an energy room, coaches, and facilitators on hand if you want to chat through something or get feedback, with food to boot. Getting into a flow state of work for 8 hours during a day is a challenging task; they helped me do it.

Develop

  • Personal Development Nerds: A group for those on a mission to thrive doing what they love. It’s run as a Facebook group, and they do in-person events for people to build their skills up. As long as you are systematically developing yourself in some way, they welcome you in. (It could be anything from making authentic choices to holding yourself accountable to your goals, to building momentum in your career.) One rule: No self promotion.

Make a Change

  • On Deck: A community for people looking for their next project professionally to come together and discuss new ideas. Whether you are jumping into startups, changing careers, or looking to hire and find co-founders for what you are working on, this is a great set of people. They are strong about discretion, so you don’t have to worry about word getting out if you are looking under the radar.

Listen

  • Sofar Sounds: Intimate shows held in unique venues, from living rooms to antique shops. Usually three artists, each playing four songs. Every event is curated for a diverse show.

Learn

  • Founder Fridays: On Friday mornings, a founder of a high-growth or successful startup speaks with an audience of startup folks. Learning is vulnerable, actionable, and transferable.
  • Caveat: A downtown venue that puts on smart events, combining intellect and entertainment. From comedy acts and conversations to lectures and interactive events.

Meditate

  • Medi Club: This is a community for folks who have meditation as a common thread — to meditate with others, discuss the connection between meditation and life, and build up their practice with new learning. If you don’t already have an active practice, they run The Big Quiet — massive meditations in iconic locations in the city infused with moments of culture (musical performances and sound experiences, among others.)

Contribute

  • Defy Ventures: Defy transforms the lives of people with criminal histories through programs focused on the entrepreneurial journey. Judge business plan competitions or mentor with like-minded folk- the experience creates memories.
  • BUILD: Creates experiential learning programs around entrepreneurship for high school youth in under-resourced communities. They have a range of opportunities to volunteer, including mentoring, judging competitions, and serving as an ambassador or associate board member. Plus they have events for volunteers to build community.

That’s the list! Here’s a bonus for those of you who read all the way:

Other Events

  • Beyond these communities, a number of people have dinners, get togethers, and salons throughout the city that are absolutely non-network-y, but not as publicly shared. You’ll meet many of them at one of the above events. Best way to find them? Ask, “Who here has a great understanding of communities in New York?”

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @mikemaccombie if you’d like to learn more, and if you are a fit for one or more of the communities, I’m happy to make connections to the right people.

Thanks to the leaders of these organizations for their work to build up a better alternative for community building in the city: