20 Things to Do in St. Louis This Summer for $10 or Less

Art Hill has your summer movie hookup.
Art Hill has your summer movie hookup. COURTESY OF SAINT LOUIS ART MUSEUM

Summer in St. Louis is hot, humid and lasts for months. That leaves you with two choices: You can either hole up in your air-conditioned bunker, making the occasional mad dash to your car for a post-sunset Ted Drewes run, or you can embrace the sweat and the mosquitos and live your life to the fullest. Well, maybe not the fullest. But you can definitely get outside and mingle with the other sweaty people — it won't cost much. Each of the twenty concerts, festivals and crawls on this list will set you back $10 or less.

And don't worry about missing out if you choose the "carpe diem" route. We have it on good authority: Ted Drewes will still be there when you need it.

Jungle Boogie Concert Series

Truly, the greatest injustice at zoos worldwide is that the animals inside never get a chance to watch humans play music. Or do they? The Jungle Boogie Concert Series brings bands to Schnuck Family Plaza, located at the center of the St. Louis Zoo, to perform every Friday this summer (except for June 16, an off-day this year). Turnabout is fair play: Join the animals in gawking at some humans for a change. This year's highlights include bluegrass act the Mighty Pines, jazz swingers Miss Jubilee, Beatles cover act Ticket to the Beatles and plenty more. All the fun goes down at 5 p.m. Fridays, May 26 to September 21 at the St. Louis Zoo (1 Government Drive; www.stlzoo.org). See www.stlzoo.org/events/calendarofevents/jungle-boogie for more info.

Mississippi Nights Music Festival

What better way to kick off the summer than with a stroll down memory lane? The Mississippi Nights Music Festival, thrown for the first time this year (but with an eye on becoming an annual Memorial Day affair) is sure to bring nostalgia, especially for those who spent time at the now-bygone Mississippi Nights venue before it was demolished in 2007 to make way for Lumiere Place. Even if you don't count yourself among that (relatively) older group, 2017's all-local lineup offers plenty of reasons to leave the house. More than 25 acts will perform, including such highlights as Bruiser Queen, Steve Ewing, Jeremiah Johnson, Ultraman and the Trophy Mules. Things kick off at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 27, in Laclede's Landing (710 North Second Street, www.lacledeslanding.com). And with tickets set at only $10, you'll spend less than 40 cents per band. Even the price is nostalgic!

Bruiser Queen, one of more than 25 acts performing at the Mississippi Nights Music Festival on May 27. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND
Bruiser Queen, one of more than 25 acts performing at the Mississippi Nights Music Festival on May 27.

Twilight Tuesday Concert Series

Though it is technically billed as a springtime affair, the Missouri History Museum's Twilight Tuesday Concert Series does poke into the summer months just a bit — and considering the free concert series' massive popularity, it certainly seems worth a visit. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket, or grab some grub from one of the nearby food trucks, and stretch out on the front lawn of the Missouri History Museum (5700 Lindell Boulevard, www.mohistory.org). The event starts at 6 p.m., so you can watch the sun set in beautiful Forest Park while taking in some tunes. The last two events of this series are sure to be crowd pleasers: Long-running tribute act Jake's Leg will perform the songs of the Grateful Dead on May 30, while A Musical Revolution will tackle Prince's catalog on June 6. For more information visit mohistory.org/twilight-tuesdays.

Circus Flora

Would it be possible to experience summer in St. Louis without Circus Flora? No one wants to find out. The one-ring circus sets up in Grand Center at the start of June, acting as a de facto starter's pistol for the season's fun. This year's show, Time Flies, is inspired by the fourth dimension — time itself. Acrobat Sasha Harrington, juggling champion Kyle Driggs and the always-popular Flying Wallendas will take you with them as they travel through space and time, magically making you feel like a kid again. New this year is equestrienne Heidi Herriott, who teams up with dancer Andrea Murillo to unveil the world's first tango performed by a human and a horse. Circus Flora does it all in the Circus Flora Big Top (Samuel Shepard Drive and North Grand Boulevard; www.circusflora.org) from June 1 to 25. Tickets start at $10 for select shows.

An Evening With Smooth: A Tribute to Santana and Rob Thomas

We are living in the time of Peak Meme. We thought the internet would make all of us more connected, better educated, wiser, smarter. It hasn't. Instead we've invented new and increasingly ridiculous ways to make ourselves giggle, spoofing every part of our lives, from movies to politics to music, with increasingly absurd online gags. And now, horrifyingly, the memes are beginning to step into our real lives. Case in point: Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana's 1999 hit "Smooth" has become one of the most-memed songs of our time, second only perhaps to Smash Mouth's "All Star," and is now getting its own tribute show. It's planned for Friday, June 2 right here in St. Louis. Naturally, smoothies will be sold, and t-shirts featuring the track's unforgettable lyrics are free with admission at Off Broadway (3509 Lemp Avenue, www.offbroadwaystl.com). The kicker? The show will close with "Smooth" being performed live no less than ten times in a row by local musicians led by Tok bassist Matt Basler. The evening is sure to be just like the ocean under the moon, the same as the emotion that I get from you. Head down to Off Broadway with $8 and your sense of humor intact — or else forget about it.

Summer Gras 2017

New Orleans is cool, sure, but it's also a ten-hour drive and everything kinda smells like pee. Who needs it? Especially when we have Summer Gras right here in our own backyard. Now in its fourth year, the annual event aims to bring the music and food of New Orleans to the Old Rock House (1200 South Seventh Street, oldrockhouse.com) with an outdoor stage and plenty of way-down-South eats. This year's lineup kicks off at 5 p.m. and includes the Provels, Al Holliday & the East Side Rhythm Band, the Grooveliner and more for just $10. Complete the illusion of travel by wandering the streets with open liquor and throwing a parade for yourself. If the cops come, just don't tell them we sent you.

Syna So Pro will join acts including Middle Class Fashion and Bagheera for Rockin' the Ritz on June 23. - FPE RECORDS
Syna So Pro will join acts including Middle Class Fashion and Bagheera for Rockin' the Ritz on June 23.

Rockin' the Ritz

Artists First is an organization with a noble mission. The non-profit runs an open studio in Maplewood, providing a nurturing environment and an artistic outlet for adults with disabilities, veterans and children. Scheduled for Saturday, June 3 from 5 to 10 p.m., Rockin' the Ritz will see some seven St. Louis acts performing in Ritz Park (3147 South Grand Boulevard, southgrand.org/locations/ritz-park/). Enjoy the pop-rock stylings of Whoa Thunder and Middle Class Fashion, catch Bagheera on the heels of its first album in several years and fall into a trance with the hypnotic looping magic of Syna So Pro. Mangia will be donating 25 percent of its profits for the evening. Admission is free, but donations are strongly encouraged.

The Grand Market

It happens far too often. Riddled with summer boredom, you give in and head to one of the county's shopping malls, only to regret it immediately. The empty shops, the giant baby carriages coming at you from all angles — it feels like Mad Max in Romper Room, and it is depressing as hell. You can still satisfy your hunter/gatherer tendencies, just do so in the city. The Grand Market: Fashion, Flowers & Folk is a one-day celebration of local fashion artists, folk musicians and floral design centered on .Zack (6224 Locust Street, www.instagram.com/thegrandmarketstl) and spreading out along Locust. You can browse booths and fashion trucks offering designs and beauty essentials from local businesses such as Tiny Hedgehog, Mineral and Root, and Pop Vintage while enjoying the music of Catching the Westbound, Salt of the Earth and Letters to Memphis. Chef David Kirkland offers samples of the food at his new place, Turn, and you can practice your flower arranging skills at Snapdragon Studio's DIY floral design booth. The inaugural Grand Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 4. Admission is free.

Turn the page for more fun things to do this summer.

Funky Butt Brass Band will cause a ruckus at the library as part of the Not So Quiet! series. - PHOTO BY COREY WOODRUFF
Funky Butt Brass Band will cause a ruckus at the library as part of the Not So Quiet! series.

Not So Quiet! Concert Series

We all remember countless scenes in movies and television depicting the librarian as a no-nonsense ass-kicker, fed up with your crap and ready to send your sorry ass packing if you make so much as a peep. And with good reason: You're loud, and it's annoying. But fret not: The Not So Quiet! Concert Series is just the library experience for you. Every third Thursday of the month, the St. Louis Public Library's central branch (1301 Olive Street, www.slpl.org) invites a group of local musicians to stop by and make a ruckus. This summer's shows kick off June 15 and include performances by R&B act Soul Reunion, the ever-funkified Funky Butt Brass Band, Rearview Mirror (a tribute to Pearl Jam) and local blues legend Kim Massie. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.slpl.org/news/2017-not-so-quiet-concert-series-lineup/.

Make Music Day

Make Music Day was first born in 1982 as the Fête de la Musique in France, an annual celebration of music on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Since its inception, the free event has spread to more than 700 cities and 120 countries across the world. It came to St. Louis for the first time last year, filling the air with the sweet sounds of music. The premise is simple: Anyone who can make music should, anywhere they can. Storefronts, sidewalks, parks, churches, schools — anything that can be a venue will be a venue. At makemusicstl.org you can sign up to be a volunteer, to host some music or to perform come June 21. Participating artists and venues have not yet been announced, but the specifics hardly seem to matter with an event this cool. This is what summer is all about.

Grand Center Theatre Crawl

St. Louis' theater scene is strong enough that you can see thought-provoking and entertaining work almost every weekend of the year. But only one weekend offers three months' worth of shows in a single shot. The Grand Center Theatre Crawl gathers 24 companies and then lets you loose on them. Each company will perform a short work from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday (June 30 to July 1) at various venues in Grand Center. To ensure everybody doesn't lump up at the same show, you need to register through www.stlpublicradio.org. You'll then be emailed a starting venue; once the first show ends, you're free to ramble through Grand Center, catching plays as you can. Admission is free; participating companies include Upstream Theater, That Uppity Theatre Company, Theatre Nuevo and Prison Performing Arts.

Akon, one of the headliners for this year's Fair St. Louis in Forest Park. - PHOTO VIA WEG MUSIC
Akon, one of the headliners for this year's Fair St. Louis in Forest Park.

Fair St. Louis

Since 2014, Art Hill in Forest Park (35 Fine Arts Drive, www.forestparkforever.org) has hosted Fair St. Louis, taking the pressure off the construction-addled Arch, where the event has traditionally been held. No knock on that big beautiful horseshoe or anything, but it'd be fine by us if Fair St. Louis stayed in the park. Since moving, the huge outdoor party has brought upwards of 250,000 people each year, marking the largest crowds in Forest Park since the 1904 World's Fair. Dubbed "America's Biggest Birthday Party," this year's affair — held Sunday, July 2 through Tuesday, July 4 — will bring Akon, 3 Doors Down and Jake Owen as its headliners, with each night wrapping up with a fireworks show. As always, admission is free. For more information visit www.fairsaintlouis.org.

Baseball Road Trip

Have you ever wanted to undertake a baseball road trip, traveling from stadium to stadium and making summer memories? The only thing holding you back is the expense and your own lack of time. Well, in St. Louis you can live out your dream of fields without breaking the bank or bankrupting your vacation days. Every summer the River City Rascals and the Gateway Grizzlies play a home-and-home series, and since they're minor league teams, tickets are affordable enough that you can bring the husband and the kids. The Rascals host the Grizzlies at 6:35 p.m. Friday and Saturday (June 30 and July 1) at TR Hughes Ballpark (TR Hughes Boulevard and Tom Ginnever Avenue, O'Fallon; www.rivercityrascals.com), and Friday just so happens to be Rick Ankiel bobblehead night. The two teams face off again at 6:35 p.m. Sunday, July 2, at the Grizzlies' GCS Ballpark (2301 Grizzlie Bear Boulevard, Sauget, Illinois; www.gatewaygrizzlies.com). That Sunday night in Sauget is All-American Weekend, so the kids get to run the bases after the game and there will be fireworks. Tickets for Rascals' home games are $5 to $25; Grizzlies' tickets are $6 to $45. Those higher-end prices are for multiple people to attend, by the way. If you want to go for the trifecta, you could hit Busch Stadium on Monday and Tuesday (July 3 and 4), and see the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Florida Marlins; tickets start at $10.90. Do you have it in you to visit three ballparks in four days? You're a St. Louisan; you probably do.

A Funny Thing Happened ...

The Muny has been a tradition for 99 years, outlasting such previous St. Louis favorites as the jitterbug, the horse-drawn carriage and American League baseball (sorry, Brownies fans). The last of its double-digit seasons features seven musicals, and the cream of the crop just might be A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. This modern take on ancient Roman farces has music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (he's pretty good) and a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart (both quite talented themselves). It's a fast-paced and quick-witted show about Pseudolus, a slave who wishes to buy his freedom, and his young master Hero, a love-struck youth. The pair set off on a quest to fulfill each other's dreams, only to get entangled in a never-ending series of mistaken identities and bungled schemes. It's the perfect entertainment for a night under the stars, in the much-cooler-than-you think Muny (those newish fans make a huge difference). A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum takes place at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday through Tuesday (July 5 to 11) at the Muny in Forest Park (1 Theatre Drive, www.muny.org). Tickets are $15 to $95, but you can also watch the show for free from select seats.

Art Hill Film Series

Perhaps you noticed that the Saint Louis Art Museum (1 Fine Arts Drive, www.slam.org) has gone mad for fashion. With an ongoing exhibition about the Paris millinery trade's influence on Degas and Mucha, and another exploring the work of modern haute couture hat designer Stephen Jones, the museum has clothing on the brain. That thread is further embellished in this year's Art Hill Film Series, with a quartet of films plump with Academy Award-nominated and -winning fashion. The popular movie screenings, which take place out front on Art Hill, start with Titanic at 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 14, and end with The Devil Wears Prada on Friday, August 4. In between those two are Dream Girls (July 21) and To Catch a Thief (July 28). Food trucks and concession stands will be set up at the top of the hill and ready for business from 6 to 8:30 p.m., and local bands will play while you eat. Admission to all four films is free.

The Grove Criterium brings cyclists to the heart of the city. - JAY BEAUVAIS PHOTOGRAPHY
The Grove Criterium brings cyclists to the heart of the city.

Grove Critierium

We know, we know: You haven't watched a bicycle race since Lance Armstrong was exposed as a cheat. But hear us out. There's a huge difference between seeing a race on TV and standing on the sidewalk as a knot of 41 hard-charging cyclists throw themselves into a sharp corner just inches from you. The Grove Criterium is a challenging 1.2 mile course with six turns, taking cyclists through and around the popular Grove neighborhood. In fact, the race starts and ends in front of Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (4465 Manchester Avenue; www.thegrovecrit.com). Imagine spending a warm summer day observing athletes in peak physical condition compete for your amusement, while you drink beer and enjoy Urban Chestnut's amazing french fries. Nice, right? Races start with the Juniors division at 10 a.m. and continue all day until the Men's Pro racers take the course at 3:45 p.m. Admission is free for spectators.


Tom Huck's Printbangerz Ball is a biannual celebration of the printmaker's art, with open studios, classes and hobnobbing taking place for a week at Huck's Evil Prints (1931 Washington Avenue, www.evilprints.com). The week culminates in ScratchFest, a one-night art show/dance party that commemorates the life of local musician and artist Bob Reuter. The big draw: All the affordably priced, hand-printed art that will fill the Ready Room (4195 Manchester Avenue; www.evilprints.com/printbangerzball) from 6 p.m to midnight on Saturday, August 5. Prices start at $50 per print, each of which has been made by an established or emerging printmaker. The dancing music is provided by Alley Ghost, as well as Reuter's legendary collection of vinyl delights. Admission to ScratchFest is free, but don't be a cheapskate; buy stuff while you're there.

Fringe Fest shows will cost you just $5 to $15 per performance. - ALLAN CRAIN
Fringe Fest shows will cost you just $5 to $15 per performance.

St. Lou Fringe

The fringe festival paradigm was established in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1947, but the format continues to be relevant. The idea is that a disparate assemblage of performing artists — be they dancers, actors, storytellers or musicians — gather to present a number of rapid-fire performances in a short amount of time. It may just be the perfect entertainment for our modern attention spans. The 2017 St. Lou Fringe Festival runs from August 17 to August 26 at a number of Grand Center venues. This year's acts include headliners ERA Theatre, Ashleyliane Dance Company and A Song for Vanya (a musical adaptation of Anton Chekhov's drama Uncle Vanya), but don't sleep on the undercard. From the death-defying feats of escape artist duo Judas and Magnolia, to the one-man confessional tales of The Adventures of Les Kurkendaal, this year's St. Lou Fringe has something for everyone. Admission varies, but is usually within the very affordable range of $5 to $15 per show. See www.stlouisfringe.com for more details.

The Great American Eclipse

For the ultimate in free entertainment, you can't beat a total solar eclipse. The moon's perpetual journey around the Earth will bring it between us and the Sun during the middle of the day on August 21, blocking out the light for almost two-and-a-half minutes across a large swath of America. They're calling it the Great American Eclipse — the first solar eclipse that will be visible in America in 26 years. (The next one won't pass through until 2024.) The path of this current eclipse passes right through St. Louis from the northwest down to the southeast, but you'll need to head southwest to Union, DeSoto or Festus to experience the full daytime dimming of the sun (which is called "totality"). The further south you go, the longer you'll be in darkness, which should arrive around 1:15 to 1:17 p.m., depending on location. Of course, you can't look up at the sun during this time for fear of eye damage, but there's an app for that; get three pairs of solar glasses shipped to you via www.eclipse2017.org for just $3.90. That's only $1.30 per pair to see a very rare sight.

Big Muddy Blues Festival 

Granted, ten dollars will only buy you a one-day ticket to the Big Muddy Blues Festival, but that is a small price to pay for what will be a master class in local blues. Last year, the long-running event went all-local for the first time, bringing 45 of St. Louis' finest and most blues-riddled acts to three outdoor stages and three venues in Laclede's Landing (710 North Second Street, www.lacledeslanding.com). This year's lineup has not yet been announced, but the dates are set for Saturday, September 2 and Sunday, September 3. A solid track record of excellence makes this show a must-see affair. Keep an eye on bigmuddybluesfestival.com for announcements and more information.

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