Summer is the time to try new things — and as this list makes clear, you don't need to leave the city to do it. Visit a hole-in-the-wall museum, a shrine or a cemetery. Try a new sport or pick up a new skill. Make a trip to a St. Louis institution, or take a chance on a brand new hotspot. Maybe even get outdoors a little.
Here are our picks for 50 things you really ought to do right here, right now, this summer.
1. Jump, jive and wail at the Lindy Hop
Forget those swing dance lessons you took in 1998 after seeing a Gap commercial. Today, Lindy Hop St. Louis can teach you the steps, the history and the music of one of America's great dance styles. No partner? No problem! You'll be paired up in group lessons, and you'll have the chance to show off your moves during regular events and special shindigs with live music. Classes are mostly held at Grand Center's Grandel Theatre. www.lindyhopstlouis.org
2. Eat a hot dog at Woofie's
Opened in 1977 by pawn shop veteran Charles Eisen, Woofie's has been a standard go-to for hot dog aficionados for decades. Far from your average roller-dog gas station fare, Woofie's wiener is billed as "The Dog with Dignity" — one taste and you'll instantly see why. 1919 Woodson Rd., Overland; 314-426-6291
3. Pay homage to a genius at Rootwad Park
Constructed in 2008 on the near north riverfront, Rootwad Park stands as the late City Museum founder Bob Cassilly's last commissioned work. The park is filled with Cassilly's unmistakable artistic charm, with huge concrete snakes and a giant turtle among its many pieces. 001 O'Fallon Street
4. See a movie under the stars at Skyview Drive-In
Sure, you could stay in and watch Netflix, but why not make your next movie night nostalgic? Belleville's Skyview drive-in movie theater gives movie-goers the old-fashioned drive-in experience while playing the latest films on its big screen. Pull in, grab some popcorn and travel back in time. 5700 North Belt West, Belleville, Illinois; 618-233-4300; www.skyview-drive-in.com.
5. Make an early morning pilgrimage to John's Donuts
Take that late-night, spur-of-the-moment snack run to the next level at John's Donuts. From 11 p.m. to 1 p.m., the beloved shop on the edge of Soulard offers a dizzying array of sumptuous pastries. Trust us, there's nothing like taking in a sunrise while biting into a fresh apple fritter. 1618 South Broadway, 314-241-3360
6. Become a pinball wizard at the Silver Ballroom
A punk rock dive bar and haven for pinball fans, the Silver Ballroom doesn't sound like it should even exist. But it does, and the combination of retro pastime and PBR tallboys actually works like a charm. So get a stack of quarters ready, get buzzed and start working on beating some schlub's high score. And don't tilt! 4701 Morgan Ford Road, 314-832-9223; www.thesilverballroom.com
7. Tailgate the hell out of a Gateway Grizzles baseball game
There's no such thing as too much baseball, and doubly so for tailgating. The Gateway Grizzles aren't associated with Major League Baseball, but that doesn't mean you can't pull of a World Series-class tailgate — and with ticket prices as low as $6, you have no excuse not to. 2301 Grizzlie Bear Boulevard, Sauget, Illinois; 618-337-3000; www.gatewaygrizzlies.com
8. Ask for a miracle at the shrine of St. Joseph
You might not actually get your own special miracle, but you'll at least be in the presence of one. The beautiful landmark church at 11th and Biddle in downtown St. Louis is where factory worker Ignatius Strecker was purportedly cured of a potentially fatal injury after touching a blessed relic belonging to future saint Peter Claver. The 1864 incident later became the first Vatican-certified miracle west of the Mississippi River. 1220 N. 11th Street, 314-231-9407; www.shrineofstjoseph.org/miracle.html
9. Eat fried chicken at Castelli's
With the number of fried chicken restaurants that have popped up around town in the last few years, is Castelli's really worth the drive? If you're asking that question, you haven't been to this iconic Alton restaurant and tasted its legendary, trademarked fried bird. 3400 Fosterburg Road, Alton, Illinois; 618-462-4620; www.castellis255.com
10. Go to a sailboat race at Creve Coeur Lake
It's not the British Virgin Islands, and your captain is more likely to hand you a Bud Light than a mai tai, but the sailboat races at Creve Coeur Lake can temporarily sate your need for water-kissed air and wind in your face. Arrive early and see if you can crew the boat — maybe you'll score a lesson while you're at it. 13725 Marine Drive, Maryland Heights; sailccsa.com
11. Feed the animals (for free!) at Suson Park
Sure, the Saint Louis Zoo is also free, but this 98-acre park deep in the heart of south St. Louis County is the perfect one-hour stop for crabby tots or blissful young romantics. You can pet cows, ponies, pigs, sheep and goats in the free petting zoo, ogle the chickens and ducks or even catch a fish at the well-stocked lake. It's just a little bit country — making an ideal pitstop for moonlighting visitors who are nothing of the sort. 6073 Wells Road, 314-615-5000
12. See the newly exposed ceiling at the U-Haul store (no, really)
It sounds like a joke — but it isn't. The lobby of the U-Haul outlet at Kingshighway just north of Shaw really does have a ceiling with architectural significance. Designed by Isamu Noguchi for a previous tenant, it was covered up by a drop-ceiling for years, only to be discovered and feted by no less than the Saint Louis Art Museum and the New York Times. As of this spring, it's not only exposed, but open to the public. Walk-ins welcome! 1641 South Kingshighway Boulevard, 314-773-1400
13. Have drinks at a fancy hotel
Could anything be a more welcome reprieve from the summer heat than an afternoon in an upscale hotel bar, drinking a ridiculously tasty concoction and flirting with strangers? That doesn't mean you have to catch a flight to Chicago. Play tourist in your own town with a few hours at the Preston (in the Chase Park Plaza) or Boundary (at the Cheshire) and just wait for the fun to unfold in front of you. 212 North Kingshighway Boulevard, 314-633-7800; theprestonstl.com and 7036 Clayton Avenue, Richmond Heights; 314-932-7818; www.boundary-stl.com
14. Pay a visit to Tennessee Williams' grave at Calvary Cemetery
The Archdiocese of St. Louis maintains the beautiful old Calvary Cemetery, making it somewhat ironic that it's also the final resting place of one of the century's most infamous queer artists. Pay Tennessee Williams a visit to let him know that St. Pollution loves him, even if he hated us. He's in 15A. 5239 W. Florissant Avenue, 314-792-7738
15. Get creeped out by the Piasa bird in Alton
No, you're not hallucinating. That enormous painting of a lion-bird-horse on the Great River Road bluffs just outside of Alton is most definitely real — and completely creepy. Known as the Piasa bird, this ancient Native American mythological creature has a long history of freaking out inhabitants of this part of Alton. Visit the site to find out why. IL-100, one mile north of the Alton Visitor Center, Alton, Illinois; www.dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/r4/prm/piabrd.htm
Turn the page for more amazing things to do in St. Louis this summer.
17. Discover north county pizza
Though not an official sub-genre designate, ask anyone who has grown up in Florissant, Ferguson or Dellwood and they will all concur: North county pizza is a thing. Is it all that different than its St. Louis-style brethren? Decide for yourself by hitting any one — or all — of north county's old-school pizzerias, including Pirrone's, Roberto's, Faraci's and BJ's. Multiple locations including Pirrone's Pizzeria, 1775 Washington Street, Florissant; 314-839-3633; www.pirronespizza.com
18. Marvel at the Cotton Belt Freight Depot's new mural
A century after playing a key role in the cotton trade, the Cotton Belt Freight Depot just east of downtown is a vacant shell of itself. Heading west over the Stan Musial Bridge and peering at the slender building below, however, you'd never realize it. Thanks to some enterprising artists, drivers can enjoy the recent "Migrate" mural, with its incredible color and soaring birds, even as you contemplate what the structure meant to our region's history. 1400 North 1st Street
19. Get a taste of show biz at a STL Up Late taping
Sure, everybody wants to be in the audience for The Tonight Show, but that's allllllll the way in New York City. Luckily, St. Louis has its own late-night comedy talk show that wants you to be on TEEVEE. As an audience member for STL Up Late, you can laugh along with sketches and get groovy with musicians while professional-grade cameras beam your smiling face out to the metro area. Ticket prices vary, but you'll want to book in advance. www.stluplate.com
20. Spy on the "Floozie in the Jacuzzi"
Normally, we wouldn't advocate becoming a "peeping Tom," but we have a feeling that Saint Louis University's famous bathing beauty won't mind. A statue from the reign of controversial former university president Lawrence Biondi, the "floozie," as the students call her, actually is a stunning work called "The Bather," a nude nymph resting in a small pool. You can glimpse her among a circle of pine trees on campus just southeast of Grand and Lindell boulevards.
21. Say "cheese" to the masters at the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum
Some of the world's greatest photography is on display right here in St. Louis. At the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum in Midtown, you can gawk at incredible photos and historical equipment documenting the important processes, subject matter, styles and culture that have been integral to photography over the decades. Tickets are just $5. 3415 Olive Street, 314-535-1999; www.iphf.org
22. Hop in a sensory deprivation tank
Summer stresses got you frazzled? Do yourself a favor and check out F.LO.A.T. It might seem strange, but 90 minutes of water-assisted weightlessness in a dark tank can do wonders for your sore muscles and back, not to mention your mind. Ninety-minute floats are $65; longer sessions are available. 3027 Locust Street, 314-833-3444; www.floatingstl.com
23. Catch a show or open mic at Helium
Amateur standup comedy can be hit-or-miss, but you'll find plenty of punch lines at Helium Comedy Club's Tuesday night open mics. If you're ready to workshop that killer bit that's been cracking up your bar buddies, take the stage and give it whirl. If you're not the performing type, there's no shame in sitting back and enjoying the spectacle. Admission is free if you buy two menu items. 1151 St Louis Galleria Street, 314-727-1260; www.st-louis.heliumcomedy.com
24. Explore the north riverfront trails
St. Louis' north riverfront may not have the charm of, say, Lafayette Square. But don't let that deter you. Its walking and biking trails deliver an unmatched outdoor journey, one that combines run-down industrial zones with the mighty Mississippi River. Biddle Street and N Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard, 314-436-7009; www.greatriversgreenway.org
25. Stroll through Bellefontaine Cemetery
The final resting place of St. Louis luminaries including beer baron Adolphus Busch, this sprawling cemetery presents a trove of ornate mausoleums, headstones and statuary. Before you depart, don't forget to leave a pen (or joint) on the grave of beat writer William S. Burroughs. 4947 West Florissant Avenue, 314-381-0750; www.bellefontainecemetery.org
26. Swing by Eat-Rite Diner at 4 a.m. ... or 10 a.m.
The little shack perched on the edge of downtown St. Louis is only 516 square feet — and that includes the kitchen. But what Eat-Rite Diner lacks in size is more than made up for by its striking display of local color. Black, white, rich, poor —- everybody comes to Eat-Rite, and leaves less hungry for it. You can't say you're a St. Louisan until you eat a slinger at the spot that invented them. 622 Chouteau Avenue, 314-621-9621
27. Fly through the air at Bumbershoot Aerial Arts
The trapeze artists and tightrope walkers always get the loudest applause at the circus. Wouldn't it be great to have some of that glory for yourself? With a few lessons in the aerial arts at Bumbershoot, you'll be swinging from the rafters just like Pink during her arena tours. And as you dangle from those silks, you'll also benefit from the most amazing upper-body workout you've ever had. 2200 Gravois Avenue, 314-669-5754; www.thebumbershoot.com
28. Visit a Frank Lloyd Wright House
Did you know that there are only five Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Missouri? The revered architect who famously built a home over a Pennsylvania waterfall also designed less extraordinary houses for middle-class Missourians, and you can actually tour one at Ebsworth Park in Kirkwood. This home for regular joes is as impressive as you'd expect from Wright; with its sharp angles and reciprocal geometric forms, the house shows the imprint of a master. Tours are $10; reservations required. 120 N. Ballas Road, Kirkwood; 314-822-8359; www.ebsworthpark.org
29. Indulge yourself at Larry Flynt's Hustler Club
If dollar bills are burning a hole in your pocket, you could do far worse than the $2 Tuesday special at Larry Flynt's Hustler Club just over the river in Washington Park. Drinks cost just $2 each. But while the booze comes cheap, this is no sleazy go-go bar — the club might feature a parade of asses, but there's serious class on display, too. 5420 Bunkum Road, Washington Park, Illinois; 618-874-9334; www.stlouishustlerclub.com
30. Shoot guns and eat barbecue at Sharpshooters
Sharpshooters Pit and Grill, which offers a menu stocked with pork and beef deliciousness, is connected to a twenty-lane, state of the art shooting range. Hit up both to receive discounts for lane rentals and meals. Go America! 8135 Gravois Road, 314-353-4745; www.sharpshooterstl.com
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32. Get a concrete at the original Ted Drewes
Of course you've been to Ted Drewes' flagship location on Chippewa. But have you stopped to see the stand that predates it by more than a decade? The older Ted Drewes deep in the heart of the city on South Grand wasn't actually the first — that one, on Natural Bridge Road, has long since closed. But the South Grand location opened just one year later and has been going strong since 1931. It's only open during the summer, so get a dose of history with that concrete before autumn sets in. 4424 South Grand Boulevard, 314-352-7376; www.teddrewes.com
33. Buy some unmentionables at STL Style — and mention them
When you've got a heart-on for St. Louis and your city pride is swelling uncontrollably, there's only one thing you can do: snatch up some undies at STL Style. The Cherokee Street mainstay is known for its irreverent t-shirts about St. Louis neighborhoods, but it's also your go-to spot for knickers that say "The Original Busch" featuring our landmark stadium right over the, ahem, appropriate body part. 3159 Cherokee Street, 314-898-0001; www.stl-style.com
34. Visit the World Chess Hall of Fame
You've read about St. Louis being the Chess Capital of the World. You know that chess mavens are moving here just for the chess scene. But have you bothered to visit the thing that has everyone talking (and relocating)? Remedy your omission with a visit to the Central West End; even if you don't last long in the Hall of Fame itself, that giant chess piece makes for one hell of an Instagram picture. Guided tours are $5; audio tours are free. 4652 Maryland Avenue, 314-367-9243; www.worldchesshof.org
35. See the sights at Rhonda's Place
After severe December flooding knocked Fenton's Queen of Hearts out of commission, Rhonda's Place in Overland might now stand as the last option for a certain type of, shall we say, less discerning St. Louis strip club fan. Essentially a dive bar with a small stage in the corner featuring pastie-clad ladies, Rhonda's won't be replacing the offerings on the east side anytime soon, but its gritty no-frills charm should appeal to any group looking for a few beers and a good time on this side of the river. 10528 Page Avenue, Overland; 314-423-0633
36. Pretend to be fancy at the opera
In many cities, opera is for fuddy-duddies, or at least people who are dripping with money and boast vaguely European accents. Not so St. Louis — here local companies have done a great job bringing opera to the rest of us. Opera Theatre of Saint Louis' "Young Friends" program, for example, will score you tickets at less than $40 a pop, as well as access to an al fresco pre-opera reception. Put this one on your bucket list. 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves; 314-961-0171; www.opera-stl.org
37. Eat a bucket of crawfish at Broadway Oyster Bar
Among the many things New Orleans gets right is crawfish. The freshwater crustaceans have a taste akin to a tiny lobster. Broadway Oyster Bar offers the little buggers by the bucket for a scant $16.99, along with many more flavors of NOLA (including alligator!) for the adventurous. 736 South Broadway, 314-621-8811; www.broadwayoysterbar.com
38. Check out the new bar on the Hill
It's been a long time since a cocktail bar worth going to opened in the city's Hill neighborhood — the south-side neighborhood has more frequently been the go-to spot for kitschy fun like Rigazzi's famous "frozen fishbowl." But Gaslight is something new — and spectacular. Enjoy a live music performance, a craft cocktail and food from Cha Cha Chow in this deceptively spacious spot just a block off Kingshighway. For now, you'll have to fight the construction barrels to do it, but this is one detour that's worth it. 4916 Shaw Avenue, 314-496-0628; www.gaslightstl.com
39. Check out the new bar on Cherokee
Tatyana Telnikova has a track record of opening bars and restaurants with striking good looks, and her latest, Propaganda, has an interesting history to boot. A wink at the U.S.S.R., which Telnikova fled at sixteen, the place features a gorgeous interior by local artist Jamie D. Jessop. Time your visit so you're there around 11:30 p.m.; Telnikova promises a mini shot and a pickle for all. 2732 Cherokee Street
40. Experience farm-to-table dining in a restored barn
Freshly picked vegetables, pasture-raised meats and local wine served in a refurbished barn as twinkly white lights and windflowers decorate the space — the farm-to-table fantasy is typically reserved for food shows and magazines comes to life at Claverach Farm's summer farm dinners. Reserve a spot and find out what farm-to-table eating truly means. 201 Beckwoods Drive, Eureka; www.claverachfarm.com
41. Pretend you know how to golf at Ruth Park
If you've ever wanted to play golf but were too intimated by the price tag, bourgeoisie attitude or, well, knowing how to play golf, Ruth Park is your place. This public course located in the heart of University City is welcoming to all skill levels and pocketbooks. 8211 Groby Road, University City; 314-727-4800; www.ruthparkgolf.com/golf/proto/ruthparkgolf/home/home.htm
42. Jazz it up at the Saxquest Saxophone Museum
Saxquest has been helping musicians choose and care for their instruments since 2000, but casual sax fans or folks just picking up reeds might not know about the Cherokee Street store's other treasure: its amazing museum on the second floor. Owner Mark Overton, who has been a featured instrument appraiser at Antique Roadshow events, has an impressive collection of rare saxophones, vintage photos and historical recordings that will make every music lover's heart sing. Admission is free. 2114 Cherokee Street, 314-664-1234; www.saxquest.com
43. Get gussied up for dinner at Al's Restaurant
What was more upsetting: that clown Stan Kroenke's protracted breakup with St. Louis or the fact that the solution to keeping the Rams would've meant losing Al's Restaurant? Get dressed up for dinner, head to this icon of St. Louis dining and dig into the signature "beef Romano" to see why we got the better end of that deal. 1200 North First Street, 314-421-6399; www.alsrestaurant.net
44. Take a helicopter tour
See the city of St. Louis as you never have before — from a helicopter! Gateway Helicopter Tours, located on the Mississippi Riverfront at the foot of the Arch, offers flights ranging from $37 to $150 per person. Call in advance to be sure tours are running; weather conditions sometimes keep the choppers grounded. 50 N. Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard, 314-496-4494; www.gatewayhelicoptertours.com
45. Visit Stagger Lee's Grave
It has been more than 100 years since William "Billy" Lyons was murdered by "Stagger Lee" Shelton on a dark Christmas night. With so much time passed — not to mention the numerous songs throughout the years that have since elevated the story to folklore — it can be easy to forget that these two men really existed. What better way to draw that point into focus than to visit the grave of the infamous badman himself at Greenwood Cemetery? 6571 St Louis Avenue, Hillsdale; 314-772-7466; www.greenwoodstl.org
46. Cruise over to Chuck-A-Burger
At its peak, Chuck-A-Burger boasted eight restaurants in its drive-in empire. Opened in 1957, the St. John diner was popular among teenagers, who would gather there and cruise nearby St. Charles Rock Road, sometimes to the great chagrin of neighbors and authorities. That sole remaining Chuck-A-Burger location still features cruise nights to this day — as well as one of the best burgers this side of the 20th century. Chuck-A-Burger, 9025 St. Charles Rock Rd., St. John; 314-427-9524
47. Take a swing at Tower Tee
Tower Tee's batting cages are simply the best in town. With the complex's plethora of speed and arc options, baseball and softball options, and snow cone options (seriously — try the snow cones), nowhere else comes close. Remember: Aim for the Cubs logo. 6727 Heege Road, Marlborough; 314-752-7767; towerteebattingcages.com [Editor's note: Tower Tee closes for good July 1, 2018 — better hurry on this one!]
48. Catch a pedicab ride downtown
Pro tip for Cardinals fans: Next time you go to a game, take the Metro. But when you leave, don't head right back to the station — instead, hop on one of the many pedicabs lingering around the stadium and tell your chauffeur to take you to the nearest bar. While the line for the train slowly dissipates, you'll be able to tie one on and likely even flag down another bike on your way out. Why walk your fat drunk ass around the city when these guys have kept themselves in good enough shape to drag you?
49. Pay a visit to the city's newest museum
St. Louis has a remarkable history of the blues, as you may have surmised by the name and logo of our hockey team. Another clue? St. Louis is now host to the National Blues Museum, a sprawling space that opened this winter dedicated to preserving the rich history of the classic American art form. 615 Washington Avenue, 314-925-0016; nationalbluesmuseum.org
50. Remember Lewis and Clark at Confluence Park
We have schools and roads named after them. We consider their great adventure our city's foundational myth. But until you've stood at Confluence Point State Park and watched Big Muddy merge with the mighty Missouri, though, you have not paid your proper respect to Lewis and Clark. Get thee to Alton. 1000 Riverlands Way, West Alton; 636-899-1135; mostateparks.com/park/edward-ted-and-pat-jones-confluence-point-state-park
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