A guide to the things you just don't want to miss this summer

With endless days and long, sultry nights, a St. Louis summer boasts a staggering number of activities. We've chosen some of the ones we think you really ought to try.

Have A Ball
In St. Louis sports are an important part of any summer. You've got the (poor, pathetic) Cubs in town Friday, August 13, through Sunday, August 15. You won't likely be inside Busch Stadium (Broadway and Poplar Street) for these going-to-be-sold-out games, so why not plan on spending a different weekend watching the St. Louis Cardinals at the ballpark? The nachos will be just as cheesy and the beers as thirst-quenching when, say, the Los Angeles Dodgers visit Busch from Thursday, July 15, through Sunday, July 18. Tickets, depending upon availability, cost $19 to $147 at www.stlcardinals.com.

Now, here's a news flash for you: Baseball is not the only game in town. While the St. Louis Aces' season may be shorter, the World TeamTennis Pro League team packs a lot of star power into seven home matches throughout July. Lindsay Davenport is the Aces', well, No. 1 ace this year, and she'll play alongside and/or against other greats, including Anna Kournikova (Saturday, July 17) and Venus Williams (Saturday, July 10) in Forest Park's Dwight Davis Tennis Center (5620 Grand Drive). Tickets cost $15 to $50; visit www.stlouisaces.com for details about ticket sales and theme nights.

Natalie Daradich and Vicki Noon in Wicked.
Joan Marcus
Natalie Daradich and Vicki Noon in Wicked.

The Saint Louis Athletica, one of the founding franchises of the Women's Professional Soccer league, also has a full summer planned with matches stretching into September. With only a handful of home games each month — played at Anheuser-Busch Conference & Sports Center (1 Soccer Park Road, Fenton) — be sure to check the Athletica schedule at www.stlouisathletica.com and plan a time to catch these soccer luminaries in action. Tickets run $12 to $60.

Just Eat It
You already patronize farmers' markets throughout the area (check out some good ones right here) and are friendly with a few local growers. That's one part of getting to know your food. Another? Actually seeing how and where those vegetables were lovingly grown and skillfully harvested before they arrived at the weekly markets. To get a vegetable's-eye view of the original places they (and other goods) call home, take part in the University of Illinois Extension's summertime Sustainable Agriculture Tours.

One trip is planned each month from May through September, including visits to Brightflower Nursery up north in Stockton, Illinois (Friday, August 13), and Mulberry Hill Farm in Carbondale (Friday, June 18). Lunch is included in your $20 tour price, and reservations should be made at least one week in advance by calling 217-241-4644 or visiting http://web.extension.illinois.edu/smallfarm.

Of course, actually enjoying the farm-fresh eats should remain a focal point. Might we recommend a picnic? Nothing enhances a vine-ripened, fresh-picked tomato like a warm summer evening spent outside at a spot like Lone Elk Park (1 Lone Elk Park Road, Valley Park; www.co.st-louis.mo.us/parks/loneelk.html), where there are picnic tables, barbecue pits and several elk (not just a lone elk) to take a gander at after dinner.

Get Your Act Together
With Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' free production of Hamlet in Forest Park at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 26, through Sunday, June 20 (except on Tuesdays and Saturday, June 5; www.shakespearefestivalstlouis.org), and The Wizard of Oz prequel, Wicked, running at the Fox Theatre (527 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-1111 or www.metrotix.com) for nearly a month — from Wednesday, June 16, through Sunday, July 11 (tickets cost $33 to $150) — the love of theater will swirl in the sweet St. Louis summer air like so many granules of sugar in your iced tea. To lay the groundwork so that you, too, may get onstage at some point in the future, enroll yourself in one of the summer arts classes offered at the Center of Creative Arts (524 Trinity Avenue, University City; 314-725-6555 or www.cocastl.org).

Big Top, Big Thrill
We're sure you've already put Circus Flora on your calendar for June — but if you haven't yet, mark down Thursday, June 3, as the opening night of Ingenioso, this year's production, which sets down in Don Quixote's Spain. With galloping equestrian acts, cute farm animals and even high-flying aerial feats, the circus' air-conditioned big top in Grand Center (3509 Samuel Shepard Drive; 314-534-1111 or www.metrotix.com) will be filled to the peaks with fun for kids and the child inside us all. Tickets to the shows, scheduled through Sunday, June 27 (every day except Monday), cost $8 to $39.

Now, if some of that childlike wonder you feel after spending time at the one-ring show isn't overwhelmed by your very reasonable adultlike fear of danger (perceived or otherwise), perhaps you will be inspired to try out the trapeze arts yourself. Bumbershoot Aerial Arts Studio (2200 Gravois Avenue; 314-898-3259 or www.thebumbershoot.com) is happy to help. Every Saturday from 4 to 5 p.m., newbies can swing around — for free! — during the Try It Out Trapeze! class (no experience necessary; drop-ins are welcome).

And as if that weren't enough high-flying fun, the Caveman Zipline has opened at everyone's favorite James Gang hideout, Meramec Caverns (exit 230, off I-44 west of St. Louis, Stanton; 573-468-3166 or www.americascave.com). This 80-minute adventure course ($39 to $49) features three rope bridges, four zips — over the river, through the trees! — and plenty of opportunities to catch great views and other high-up thrills. The zipline attraction operates daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Sunday, October 31; reservations are recommended.

Fairs to Remember
If the number of fair-weather fairs held around these parts is any indication, St. Louisans really love summertime togetherness and a good old-fashioned outdoor party. There are holiday fairs, such as Fair Saint Louis (www.celebratestlouis.org), which is held downtown over the Fourth of July weekend; cultural celebrations, such as the German-focused St. Louis Strassenfest (scheduled for the first weekend in October in Chesterfield; www.strassenfest.org) and the International Institute's fabulous Festival of Nations in Tower Grove Park (Saturday, August 28, and Sunday, August 29; www.iistl.org); as well as parties centered around landmarks — the World's Largest Catsup Bottle Festival on Sunday, July 11, in Collinsville, Illinois, comes to mind (www.catsupbottlefestival.com).

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