Back before cars were invented, man still had the urge to pimp rides. Medieval knights bred their horses for size and strength, then decked them out in custom armor and choice fabrics, making them the Escalades of the Dark Ages. When ships became the preferred mode of transport during the Age of Discovery, dozens of designs and styles were created to fulfill every need. The most desirable of these ships was the caravel, a Portuguese ship renowned for her stylish lines and graceful maneuverability. All the big names in exploring, such as Vasco da Gama, Bartholomew Diaz and Ferdinand "Big Daddy" Magellan, flossed oceans by the caravel. In fact, Magellan's caravel was much-admired for its gold rudder and leather sails.
But the most famous of all caravels might just be Christopher Columbus' Niña. Columbus loved his Niña above all other ships, eventually buying a half-share in her (the sixteenth-century equivalent to leasing) after their successful trip together to America. Late at night Columbus would linger at the marina, buffing the Niña with a diaper while Mrs. Columbus bitched to her friends that one day she would scuttle that hussy.
Now you can see what all the fuss was about. The Columbus Foundation's painstakingly authentic re-creation of the Niña sails into the Alton Marina (1 Henry Street, Alton, Illinois) so you, too, can marvel at her beauty. Built by hand (no power tools, even), this "sailing museum" replicates the glory days of sailing and exploration with an attention to detail that even Mrs. Columbus would approve of. This new Niña is open daily, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., from Thursday, September 2, through Tuesday, September 7. Admission is $3 to $5. Check out www.thenina.com for photos and more information. -- Paul Friswold
Jesse James Rides Again!
The original P-I-M-P
Ever thought about what it would be like to date the infamous Jesse James? Pro: You'd always have bling-bling, you know, with all the robberies. Con: He wouldn't be around St. Louis much, what with the hideout at Meramec Caverns. That's not so bad though, especially with his oh-so-sexy element of danger. Maybe you can pretend to date the notorious one at the Jersey County Victorian Festival at the Colonel Fulkerson Historic Farm (a mile north of Jerseyville, Illinois, on Route 67) -- he and his gang are invited to rob the festival daily at noon.
In addition to all that excitement at the historic fest, 250 "soldiers" (see one pictured) re-enact a Civil War battle each day, and President Lincoln re-addresses Gettysburg (like Elvis, he, and his wife, aren't dead). Step back into the olden days and stop by from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, September 4, through Monday, September 6. Admission's $2 to $6. For more info visit www.greatriverroad.com or call 618-498-5590. -- Alison Sieloff
Looking for some hot three-way action this Labor Day weekend? Well, on Saturday, September 4, and Sunday, September 5, Extreme Hoops Inc. is having its first annual Back-to-School Festival with a three-on-three basketball tournament and other activities. Stop by the old Kmart parking lot at Lewis & Clark Boulevard (Highway 367) and Chambers Road in Bellefontaine Neighbors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to see athletes ages eight to adult compete in eight divisions for half-court supremacy. Unfortunately, registration for teams has already passed, but festival admission is free. The kids will have fun watching the competition and participating in the D.A.R.E. activities during the weekend, and they will enjoy their free school supplies from the fest throughout the year. And for the adults, the Urban League is registering voters. So sit back, eat up and let the jocks supply the spectacle. And remember, whether it's musketeers, amigos or company, three truly is a magic number. Call 877-560-0438 for more info. -- Jedidiah Ayres
Maze of Maize
You know that feeling, when you've spent too much time in the office, and you just want to run as far and fast as you can, until you've lost yourself in the gloaming in a cornfield? Well, from Saturday, September 4, through October 31, you can do just that in the Great Godfrey Corn Maze in Robert E. Glazebrook Park (1401 Stamper Lane, Godfrey, Illinois; 618-466-1483 or www.greatgodfreymaze.com). The maze, this year constructed in a steamboat design, is open Fridays (5 to 9 p.m.), Saturdays (10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) and Sundays (1 p.m. to dusk), and with admission at only $4 to $6, you can enjoy a lot of autumnal gloaming. Just watch out for the children in and of the corn. -- Paul Friswold
Black and Blue Moon
Looking for a way to stump, finally, Jeopardy! whiz Ken Jennings? We have an answer for you: No. The question: Could there be a better way to celebrate Labor Day than IBSS Hoosierweight Championship Boxing? St. Louis' finest pugilists gather for an evening of bruising and boozing at Pop's Blue Moon (5249 Pattison Avenue). Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the fights begin at 6:30. There will be beer vendors, live music and barbecue. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $30 to $35 for ringside tables with table service. "Ultra Platinum" tickets, which include a catered meal, are also available. Call 314-481-7476 or check out www.hoosierweight.com for more information. -- Ian Froeb