Summer in the City: These St. Louis Festivals Offer Attractions for Every Interest
For four months every summer, St. Louis fills the calendar with action-packed festivals and celebrations of music, arts, culture, food and more. Here, the barbecue is always smoking, the beer never stops flowing and music vibrates through historic and new neighborhoods alike.
Whether you’re more into fine arts and cocktails or Ferris wheels and cotton candy, the city offers a diverse lineup of events for festival-goers. Best of all, since most of them are free to attend, you can celebrate all summer without breaking the bank.
PrideFest, June 29-30
St. Louis’ celebration of love and acceptance is one of the biggest in the country, with more than 300,000 guests expected to fill the grounds of Soldiers’ Memorial Park, a newly renovated Downtown landmark. PrideFest features a variety of visual arts, a dance pavilion, kids’ activities, nonstop entertainment and of course the highlight of the event: the Grand Pride Parade on Sunday. This year’s theme, “Millions of Moments,” celebrates the 40th anniversary of PrideFest and commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City.
Fair St. Louis, July 4-6
Get ready for jaws to drop and eyes to pop when the sky surrounding the Gateway Arch is lit up by a spectacular fireworks show and the air is filled with the sounds of today’s hottest pop, country and R&B hits. Kicking off with America’s Birthday Parade on July 4, Fair St. Louis offers family-friendly attractions and a STEAM expo as well as a world-famous air show and top headline acts on the main stage. It’s also the perfect time to explore the newly renovated Gateway Arch Museum and visitor center in all its celebratory glory.
Festival of Nations, Aug. 24-25
Every summer, the International Institute of St. Louis partners with more than 100 cultural organizations to honor all of the immigrants who make the region the incredible melting pot it is. During the Festival of Nations, Tower Grove Park in South City becomes the center of the world with a diverse array of kids’ activities, interactive learning areas, music and vendors. And with 45 food booths featuring everything from Mexican tamales to Filipino kebabs to Turkish ice cream, it’s impossible to leave hungry!
Big Muddy Blues Festival, Aug. 30-Sept. 1
The roots of blues music grew up and down the Mississippi River, so the best place to experience this musical genre is right alongside its banks. For the past 24 years, the Big Muddy Blues Festival has brought top local blues talent to the outdoor stages and indoor clubs of Laclede’s Landing to celebrate the history and heritage of St. Louis’ diverse music scene.
Taste of St. Louis, Sept. 13-15
This year, Taste of St. Louis celebrates its 15th anniversary with a culinary collection of 30 restaurants offering regular menu selections as well as “Taste Bites,” which let you sample a variety of flavors without filling up. New this year to the Downtown festival is the family-friendly Healthy@Home area, which showcases the fun side of healthy living. Add in the Chef Battle Royale competition, the Music Stage and of course plenty of cocktails and beer, and it’s a feast for all the senses.
In addition to these highlights of the season, the St. Louis region offers hundreds of other events and festivals to fit into your summer schedule. Here are a few of our favorites, grouped around the themes of art, beer, music and culture.
Lose yourself in art
During warm summer evenings, St. Louis’ city parks turn into theaters and its suburban streets into art galleries. From May 31-June 23, sit back and enjoy the comedy and romance of the Shakespeare St. Louis Festival’s presentation of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” in Forest Park. If the visual arts are more your scene, visit Webster Arts Fair from June 7-9; Maplewood’s celebration of Bastille Day and the creative process at Let Them Eat Art on July 12; and Strange Folk Festival: The Big Glamp, spotlighting the region’s indie crafters and makers May 31-June 2 in Carondelet Park.
Raise your glass
There are more than 50 craft breweries in the St. Louis area, which means you could crack open a different local beer every day of the year and still not try them all. Thankfully, the city serves up a menu of beer-themed festivals to help you in your journey, including IndiHop on June 1, which offers 50 beer tastes at 25 different businesses in The Grove and Cherokee Street neighborhoods, and St. Louis Craft Beer Week July 26 to Aug. 3, when you can sip some suds and meet local brewmasters. Or sample the latest entries into the beer market at Clayton’s Brewers, Blues + BBQ Festival on Aug. 31.
Shake your groove thang
From fusion jazz to bluegrass, St. Louis’ music festivals provide an endless soundtrack to summer. Grab your picnic basket and your dancing shoes for the Whitaker Music Festival at Missouri Botanical Garden every Wednesday from May 29 to July 31 to catch local stars under the stars. The Chesterfield Wine & Jazz Festival on June 15 and Old Webster Jazz & Blues Festival on Sept. 21 bring a little sax to the season, while Twangfest pays homage to Americana, roots and indie rock with four nights of local and national entertainment at Off Broadway in South City June 5-8.
Explore the world
Even if your passport gets no new stamps this summer, you can still explore the globe right here in Missouri. The season opens with the St. Louis African Arts Festival in Forest Park over Memorial Day weekend, featuring fine art and live performances that celebrate the diverse cultures of Africa and their impact on St. Louis. It closes on Labor Day weekend with two big events: the Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden, now in its 42nd year of honoring Asian culture, and the 102nd Annual St. Louis Greek Festival in the Central West End, complete with live music, Greek folk dancing and all the spanakopita and baklava you can eat.
This post is part of a collaboration with Explore St. Louis. When planning your calendar for the summer, make explorestlouis.com your first destination. With an ever-growing list of events, it’s your online festival headquarters, giving you the first scoop on all the fun you’ll have this season.
Featured image of Taste of St. Louis courtesy of Jon Gitchoff.