All right, here's the thing. You've been dying to get yourself aboard that RailCruise America train at St. Louis Union Station (1820 Market Street), but those rides just cost too much money for someone who subsists on Easy Cheese and crackers (saltines, not those fancy cracked-wheat kinds). Well, you're in luck tonight: From 6 to 8 p.m., for only $10 (yes!), you can help out the Center for Hearing & Speech -- and your train fascination -- at the RFT's Cocktails for a Cause. The drinks on the train are free (this deal just keeps getting better and better!), but spending a couple hours back in a simpler time before cheese was in a can is priceless.
Thursday, July 21
If you're like us, you're still swooning over that ferocious Wimbledon tennis action. But that's just televised tennis. If you want to really feel the tennis, you need to be in the stands for every serve. And guess what? You can be in the stands of the Dwight Davis Tennis Center in Forest Park for the 7 p.m. St. Louis Aces match against the Kansas City Explorers, and tickets start at $25. This is World Team Tennis, so you'll see five sets: a set each of men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles. It's a rowdier, more energetic brand of tennis than that played at Wimbledon, which is just the way we happen to like it. Visit www.stlouisaces.com or call 314-726-2237 for tickets or more information.
Friday, July 22
Like the ladies in Douglas C. Bloom's painting pictured above, tonight the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery (3540 Washington Avenue; 314-361-7600 or www.greenbergvandoren.com) is offering you an opportunity to get your feet wet with all kinds of art -- not just the visual stuff. In other words, not only will you get a tour of Summer Sessions, the current exhibit at the gallery (of which Bloom's piece is a part), but you also will learn about the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' Rep Set, a new group of theater types that knows no age limits or membership fees. This new take on the "friends" groups is interested not just in the theater but also in goings-on around town. Join the Set at this kickoff event held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., drink some drinks, and eat some eats. Admission is $20; call 314-968-4288, extension 301, for your requested reservation.
Saturday, July 23
Richard Strauss' opera Ariadne auf Naxos is like two, two, two shows in one! An ideological composer (Komponist) must deal with the horror of allowing his latest show to share the stage with a group of lowly dancers, as his wealthy benefactor wants his evening's entertainment over in time for a fireworks show scheduled at 9 p.m. Thus, his lofty story about a jilted woman (Ariadne) who pines for death because of her lover's infidelity runs headlong into the more experienced view of love offered by the lusty dancer Zerbinetta. The Union Avenue Opera Theatre presents this opera-within-an-opera in the original German (with English supertitles) at 8 p.m. at the Union Avenue Christian Church (733 North Union Boulevard; 314-361-8844 or www.union-avenue.org). Tickets are $22 to $35, and you can catch repeat performances at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday (July 29 and 30).
Sunday, July 24
Maybe you love to get up at the crack of dawn (or perhaps you just have an east-facing window and have no choice). Either way, now that you're up, you may as well start your day off right by communing with nature and enjoying a little quiet time (a good idea since you're always a little bossy until that caffeine kicks in). Make your way out to Lone Elk Park's World Bird Sanctuary (North Outer I-44 near Highway 141, Valley Park; www.worldbirdsanctuary.org) for its Sunrise with Songbirds. This twice-monthly three-hour hike, beginning at 7:30 a.m., costs about the same as your fancy morning cup of coffee ($3 to $5), but it allows you to have a guided look at some of the area's birds (pretty cool). Reservations are required for attendance; call the sanctuary at 636-861-3225 to claim your spot.
Monday, July 25
That stretch of Olive Boulevard between Skinker Boulevard and 170 may seem like a burgeoning Chinatown, what with all the restaurants, shops and markets, but it's not. St. Louis has never really had a concentrated Chinatown like the ones in San Francisco or New York, but this city has long had Chinese neighborhods and enclaves; back in the 1890s, the area around Eighth and Market streets was known colloquially as "Hop Alley," a name referring to the large number of Chinese that lived and worked there. Author Huping Ling tells the story of how the Chinese arrived in and helped change St. Louis in Chinese St. Louis: From Enclave to Cultural Community. Ling discusses her book and answers questions about the city's Chinese heritage at 6:30 p.m. at the Carpenter branch of the St. Louis Public Library (3309 South Grand Boulevard; 314-772-6586). Admission is free.
Tuesday, July 26
If you're an alien-invasion conspiracy buff, you've no doubt read plenty about Machu Pichu. The fortress-city of the Incas nestled high in the Andes Mountains of Peru is a mystical, compelling site. When was it built? Why was it abandoned? Did the Incas use it as their own personal space-port to depart this planet hundreds of years ago? Oh, Machu Pichu, if only you could speak. Anibal Pepper's photography exhibit, Faces and Places of Peru: Machu Pichu, the Lost City of the Incas, may not reveal any of the fabled site's secrets, but it does offer some spectacular images of the city, as well as of the people of Peru, Pepper's native land. The show officially opens on Friday, July 22, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis' Gallery Visio (1 University Drive at Natural Bridge Road; 314-516-7922) with a free reception, and the gallery is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.