Last year's Art Outside festival was a stone-cold groove. The Schlafly Bottleworks parking lot (7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood; 314-241-2337 or www.schlafly.com) transformed into a tent city populated by artists of every description. But these artists were also neighbors, friends, acquaintances and the people you see every day as you eke out a living in the Gateway City. Accepting work only from area residents didn't just give Art Outside a local flair, it made the temporary village within Maplewood feel like an enormous block party, as artists left their booths to buy work from their friends across the way, and people milled about inside tents just to catch up with folks they hadn't seen in a long time.
This year's Art Outside takes place on Friday and Saturday (September 9 and 10; visit the Web site for hours). Many of the same artists are on the bill, so the quality of work will be just as high as last year. Ceramics from Kung Fu Chicken studio (actually Ashley Reineke and Carmelita Nuñez-Shown), fashionable items from Doki Doki Designs (work by Megan Powers and Jerome Gaynor is pictured), sculptural assemblage by Keith W. Spoeneman and beautiful objects from about 40 other artists all crowd one end of the lot. The other end hosts the main stage, where the Tribe of Judah gospel choir, the Dave Stone/John Covelli Quartet, Dadbot and other bands perform throughout the festival. And, of course, Schlafly beer and grilled buffalo sausages are just steps away from everything. Is this the Platonic ideal of St. Louis neighborhoods? Yes. Yes, it is. -- Paul Friswold
Kermit Was Right It's not easy being green
Throughout the ages, some critters have gotten a bum rap. Reptiles, amphibians and insects all suffer from rotten public images, but "Outback Ed," the St. Louis Herpetological Society and the Butterfly House are just the PR specialists these "icky" guys have been waiting for. Join Ed and these knowledgeable consultants for "Ick Day!", during which many of nature's creepiest crawlers will be demystified on the Bascom house lawn at the Shaw Nature Reserve (Highway 100 and I-44, exit 253, Gray Summit; 636-451-3512 or www.shawnature.org). Snakes, lizards, salamanders, frogs and turtles will all be on hand to clear their names -- and many have even agreed to be handled! "Ick Day!" is held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is included with the reserve's general admission ($2 to $3). -- Mark Fischer
Big Fun In a small space
Ever since children first wanted to fit inside Barbie's pink mansion and avail themselves of her super-cool tiny Corvette, her wicked-awesome little kitchen stuff (even doing dishes is fun if you're Barbie!) and her elevator that opens up into her bedroom, they've been longing to play house with really small stuff. Trouble is, some kids have grown up with these same needs still intact. Good thing RVs have been invented -- the drivable vacation homes are the perfect solution to these grownups' latent "playing minihouse" desires. See, an RV often has all the conveniences of home, but in a tinier fashion: smaller kitchen sink, squishy bathroom, cozy sleeping quarters -- so fun (and so much better to sleep in than a fleabag motel next to the highway). Have a look at all the little stuff in nearly 300 RVs at the Fall RV Show at St. Louis Mills (5555 St. Louis Mills Boulevard, Hazelwood), held from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday (September 9 through 11); admission is free. For more information about the show, visit www.stlrv.com or call 314-355-1236. -- Alison Sieloff
After years of watching Pa and Laura on Little House on the Prairie, you have great love for the untamed land that is the prairie. In fact, you are so enthralled, you want to be closer to prairies all the time. Well, this weekend's your chance: On Sunday, September 11, head out to the Bascom house at the Shaw Nature Reserve (Highway 100 and I-44, exit 253, Gray Summit; 636-451-3512 or www.shawnature.org) from 2 to 5 p.m. for the opening of Portraits from the Prairie, an exhibit of detailed prairie watercolor works by George Olson. Admission to the reserve costs $2 to $3, and the show remains on view through October 30. -- Alison Sieloff