First, my fellow summer sojourners, let us dive into the heart of the city. Unlike suburb-dwellers, who have to drive everywhere, the fine folks in the Central West End and Lafayette Square can walk anywhere they want to go. And so can you! On June 2 and 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., join the self-guided Lafayette Square House and Garden Tour, where you will see eleven stunning Victorian homes and eight gardens (start at Park and Mississippi avenues). Or skip the houses and check out the antique fair and some of St. Louis' best bars and restaurants (like Eleven Eleven Mississippi or the Chocolate Bar), take a free carriage ride, or stop at Lafayette Park to cheer on the St. Louis Perfectos Vintage Baseball team. (They play old-school, without gloves!) Tickets for the Lafayette Square house tour are $15 in advance, $18 on the day of the tour. Call 314-772-5724 or peruse their Web site: www.lafayettesquare.org. The Perfectos play all summer; learn more at www.perfectos.org.
The following weekend (June 8 through 10), you'll want to head to the Central West End for the Art Fair & Taste, where you can browse the work of dozens of artists; sample local flavors from CWE hotspots like Llywelyn's, Moxy Bistro and Chez Leon; and dance to live music from 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. The Art Fair & Taste is free; visit www.cweba.com for details.
We know you've seen Chihuly's fantastic glass at the Missouri Botanical Garden, but the beauty of the garden is that it's changing all the time. MoBot makes it easy to return and enjoy with Chapungu: Nature, Man and Myth, a collection of stone sculpture from Zimbabwe. The garden is open late on Thursdays for Chapungu Nights, with tickets a mere $10. Not sold? Then check out the free Whitaker Music Festival, where a different jazz artist plays every Wednesday night from June 6 through August 8 beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the outdoor Cohen Amphitheater. The Missouri Botanical Garden is located at 4344 Shaw Boulevard (happily close to 44, for those of you dreading highway traffic). See www .mobot.org for more information.
The Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis enters its seventh year of Elizabethan delight with Much Ado About Nothing, one of the Bard's great comedies. This time Much Ado is set in the Wild West complete with cowboy boots, saloons and six-shooters. As always, the stage is just east of the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park, and the play starts at 8 p.m. every evening (except on Tuesdays) from May 25 through June 17. The Green Show singing, juggling and a quickie play called "Much a Doo-Wop About Nothing" begins at 6:30, which is probably a good time to get there, settle in with a picnic of wine and snacks, and enjoy the fact that you're a lot more literate than you thought you were. See www.sfstl.com for information.
No reminders of this city's baseball obsession are necessary, but do keep in mind that corporate-sponsored Major League Baseball isn't the only game in town. In addition to cheering on the Perfectos, you can drive two minutes across the Mississippi River and see the 2003 Frontier League Champion Gateway Grizzlies at GCS Ballpark (2301 Grizzlie Bear Boulevard in Sauget, Illinois), or head west to O'Fallon for the River City Rascals at TR Hughes Ballpark (100 TR Hughes Boulevard). Tickets are dirt cheap ($5 to $11) and available at www.gatewaygrizzlies.com or www.rivercityrascals.com. The Grizzlies offer both picnic-table and hot-tub seats ($36 and $165, respectively), which shows that at least one ballclub in town is out to please the fans. That said, no summer is complete without seeing the world champion St. Louis Cardinals. If you can afford to go to Busch Stadium, bully for you. Concession prices are up this year, but what's a beer approaching ten bucks when you can see Albert hit the long ball? The stadium is aptly named Baseball Heaven, for after all, the national pastime is a religion here. Tickets begin at $13 and rocket to $110; see www.stlcardinals.com for information.
In July, take a ride on MetroLink to the Eads Bridge station to catch Cyndi Lauper performing at Fair St. Louis and Ani DiFranco at the Live on the Levee music series. They're just two of the dozen performers lined up for the summer's biggest outdoor fair. Fair St. Louis springs to life under the Gateway Arch at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 3, and rolls on from 10 a.m. to an explosive 10 p.m. finish on July 4. Fireworks that will blow off your flip-flops start at 9:15 p.m. each night, and there'll be plenty of music, food and beer to keep you sated all day. The music series begins on Friday, July 6, at 6:30 p.m. and runs every Friday and Saturday night through August 4. It's under the Arch as well, with plenty of food and drink vendors (Papa John's, Ben & Jerry's and Pujols 5, to name a few), and performances by artists such as Emmylou Harris, G. Love & Special Sauce, Steel Pulse and local favorite Gentleman Auction House. Live on the Levee and Fair St. Louis are free and share this Web site: www.celebratestlouis.org.
Make sure to return to the city's south side on August 25 and 26 for the best festival in town the International Institute's Festival of Nations in Tower Grove Park, a two-day extravaganza of food, music, arts and crafts, and dance from dozens of nations. St. Louis citizenry hosts a diverse collection of expatriates and immigrants from around the world, and the Festival of Nations helps us remember that despite the differences, some things are universal: namely, good food and good music. Where else can you eat Filipino kabobs, see people dance the flamenco and buy an Indian sari? The Festival of Nations attracts tens of thousands, but spacious Tower Grove Park (4256 Magnolia Avenue) never seems overcrowded. The festival begins both days at 10 a.m., and ends at 7 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday. Visit www.iistl.org for details.
As summer comes to a close, so does the cycling season but not before the Tour of Missouri. This is the first year for the six-day stage race, patterned after the perennial crowd-pleasing Tour de France. The tour begins in Kansas City on September 11 and arrives in St. Louis on Sunday, September 16, for its final time-trial. The 600-mile race is quite a coup. Missouri is one of only four states in the nation to host a race of this caliber, and the 120 cyclists will have been in France a few months earlier to ride in the one Lance won seven times that's right, Lance Armstrong. These light-speed Spandex blurs take the streets more nimbly than any SUV could; go and root them on at this watershed event. Route and schedule updates (and much more) are available at www.tourofmissouri.com.