The original Boathouse in Forest Park (on Post-Dispatch Lake, just down the road from the Muny) was built in 1876, which makes it as old as the park itself. Rebuilt during the recent $85 million park renovation you may have noticed, the Boathouse is now a restaurant and bar (burgers, sandwiches, brunch on Sunday), and while the food is tasty, the whole point of a boathouse is boats, so let's get to it: $15 buys you an hour in either a paddleboat (those plastic waterborne bicycles) or a rowboat, in which you can pull your sweetheart through interlocking lagoons, among the green grass and lily pads, and under a pair of bridges to emerge among the soaring fountains and white marble of the restored Grand Basin at the foot of Art Hill. Spectacular? Yeah, we think so. You'll have a fine view of the Saint Louis Art Museum, the turrets of Wash. U., beautiful sycamores and the pedestrians that make this city come alive -- all from the relative Old World comfort of a rented rowboat.
Johnnie Johnson tickles the ivories at his own birthday party.
Or perhaps "picturesque" is a better word; taking in the view while drinking on one of the dock's rocking chairs is an idyllic summertime treat. This is the scene at the Sunday brunch, and the bar is also open late during the week, when the dock turns into a flagrant display of live jazz and cocktails. What, you thought it might be debauchery in the park? That's a few hundred yards away.
The Boathouse is open year-round from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. If you go on Sunday, be prepared to wait for a table; it might be a good idea to put your name on the list and do the boating first. Visit www.boathouseforestpark.com or call 314-367-2224 for more information. -- Mark Dischinger
According to the May 2004 issue of Men's Health (ladies is pimps too, and they read men's mags), Johnnie Johnson's superb piano playing is one of "Life's Hidden Pleasures." Johnson is one of only 21 underappreciated items (the missionary position is listed as well -- interesting), and he's right here, so why don't you try to at least treasure the legend on his birthday? Head to the free Whitaker Music Festival at 7:30 p.m. at the Missouri Botanical Garden (4344 Shaw Boulevard; 314-577-9400 or www.mobot.org), and help Johnson usher in his 80th year. Talk about a man's health! Celebrators can buy sandwiches and drinks at the garden or bring their own, along with lawn chairs (and a b-day prezzie). -- Alison Sieloff
The Switch Is On
Whatever happened to the variety show? Showtime at the Apollo is the lone holdout, and it's not even on until after midnight. Still, if you know where to look, you can find a good variety show every now and then. Like the "Flippin' the Soul Switch" show at the Sheldon Concert Hall (3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-534-1111), for instance. At 7 p.m. the graduates of the IMAGINE Arts Mentoring Program (a group for at-risk youth) will tear the roof off the place with a cavalcade of singing, dancing, rapping, drum circles and theatrical performances. There's even a special guest star, Stax recording artist Lindell Hill. Tickets are $10 to $15, and you can find out more at www.vivavox.org. --Paul Friswold
Affordable housing is scarce in many cities, and St. Louis is no different. Although we have a ton of empty buildings, ironically, many are uninhabitable and crumbling. That's where Habitat for Humanity St. Louis comes in. From Saturday, July 10, through Saturday, July 17, hundreds of volunteers will be building like mad. Like mad, we say! During this "Blitz Build" of an entire city block, twenty homes will be added to the JeffVanderLou neighborhood (just north of Midtown). Visit this lucky block, dubbed Hope Square, for the First Nail Ceremony on Thursday, July 8, at 1:30 p.m. (2717 Coleman Avenue). And while Habitat doesn't need any more volunteer builders, they still need other support. Call Vinita at 314-371-0400 or visit www.habitatstl.org for more info. -- Alison Sieloff