10 Can't Miss Summer Events in St. Louis

Check Out These Popular Options for Summer Fun in the Gateway City

Whitaker Music Festival at Missouri Botanical Garden
••• Photo by Rebecca Hensiek, courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden

It's easy to find something to do in St. Louis during the summer. The months of June, July and August are filled with hundreds of events and activities for visitors and locals alike. From festivals and fairs, to concerts and movies, there are some great choices for summer fun in the Gateway City. When you want to experience the best St. Louis has to offer, try these top ten events for a real summer experience you won't forget.

Check These Out

1. Whitaker Music Festival
When: Wednesdays, June 1-August 3, 2016
Where: Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis
Cost:  Admission is free, food and drink available for purchase
Each summer the Missouri Botanical Garden hosts a free outdoor concert series called the Whitaker Music Festival. Popular musicians from across the St. Louis area perform on Wednesday evenings at the Garden's Cohen Amphitheater. Everyone is encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnic dinners. Admission begins at 5 p.m., so there is plenty of time to walk around and enjoy the beauty of the Garden before the music starts at 7:30 p.m. For parents attending with their kids, the Children's Garden also has free admission from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Children's Garden is a large outdoor play area filled with tunnels, slides and caves.

2. Circus Flora
When:  June 2-July 3, 2016
Where: Grand Center, St. Louis
Cost: Tickets are $10-$48
Circus Flora is St.

Louis' own hometown circus and its performances are a highlight of the summer for many in the Gateway City. Circus Flora raises its big top each June in Grand Center in midtown St. Louis. Every year, the acrobats and performers stage a world-class production filled with humor, artistry and high-flying stunts.

The famous Flying Wallendas are among the favorite performers showing off their skills on the high wire and flying trapeze. Circus Flora also offers special discount performances for kids and even a peanut-free night to accommodate those with food allergies. 

3. Shakespeare in the Park
When: Nightly except Tuesdays, June 3-26, 2016
Where: Forest Park, St. Louis
Cost: Admission is free, food and drink available for purchase
Shakespeare in the Park is one of the city's most popular options for free outdoor theater in the summer. The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival performs a play in Forest Park during the month of June. This year's production is A Midsummer Night's Dream. Most people like to bring a blanket or lawn chair and spread out on the grass in front of the stage. Food and drinks are available from vendors, but many people enjoy bringing a bottle of wine and/or a picnic dinner. The play begins at 8 p.m., but there are several pre-show activities including live music and educational talks about Shakespeare.

4. Food Truck Fridays
When: June 10, July 8, August 12, 2016
Where: Tower Grove Park, St. Louis
Cost: Admission is free, price varies for food
Sauce Magazine's Food Truck Fridays are one of the best ways to experience the diversity and creativity of the food culture in St.

Louis. Nearly two dozen local food trucks fill Southwest Drive in Tower Grove Park on the second Friday of each summer month from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. These trucks offer everything from bar-b-que and street tacos, to donuts and cupcakes. The evening also features live music and craft beer from local breweries like 4 Hands and Urban Chestnut. For the best selection of food and drinks, arrive early because many of the trucks often run out of their most popular items as the evening goes on. 

5. The Muny
When: June 13-August 14, 2016
Where: Forest Park, St. Louis
Cost: Tickets are $14 to $85, plus 1500 free seats each night
The Municipal Opera (Muny) in Forest Park has been a St. Louis summer tradition for nearly a century. The giant outdoor theater puts on seven musicals every summer, bringing in top stars from Broadway and Hollywood.

Each season includes well-known shows like Fiddler on the Roof, 42nd Street and Annie, but the Muny also stages new musicals and world premieres as well. Whether you're attending your first show or your 50th, there is a real sense of being a part of history when spending a summer night at the Muny. Shows begin each evening at 8:15 p.m. For those on a budget, there are 1500 free seats in the back of the theater that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Just remember to bring your binoculars! 

6. Fair Saint Louis
When: July 2-4, 2016
Where: Forest Park, St. Louis
Cost: Admission is free, price varies for food and drink
Fair Saint Louis is the area's biggest Independence Day celebration. The three-day fair is currently held on Art Hill in Forest Park because of the ongoing construction project at the Gateway Arch. Fair Saint Louis is a celebration for everyone filled with food, fun, live music and fireworks. Each year, organizers bring in nationally known musicians to play free concerts for the crowd. Performers this year include Lee Brice, Eddie Money, Sammy Hagar, George Clinton and Flo Rida. The fair also has a special activity area for kids and a fairway of local vendors selling art, crafts and jewelry. Each night, the celebration ends with a giant fireworks display.

7. SLAM Outdoor Film Series
When: July 8, 15, 22, 29, 2016
Where: Forest Park, St. Louis
Cost: Admission is free, food and drink available for purchase
Another reason to head to Forest Park this summer is the St. Louis Art Museum's Outdoor Film Series. For four Friday nights in July, the museum sets up a giant movie screen on Art Hill. Everyone is encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs and find a spot on the grass to watch the films. This year's movies all showcase "Our American Spirit." They are Top Gun, Rocky, E.T. - The Extra-terrestrial and Forest Gump. The movies start at 9 p.m., but other festivities get underway at 6 p.m. Some of St. Louis most popular food trucks are on hand serving up their signature dishes. There's also live music and the museum itself is open late for anyone who wants to browse through the galleries before the movie begins.

8. Festival of the Little Hills
When: August 19-21, 2016
Where: Main Street and Frontier Park, St. Charles
Cost: Admission is free, food and drink available for purchase
A short drive to St. Charles will get you to one of the biggest and best craft fairs in the St. Louis area. Hundreds of vendors set up booths along Main Street and Frontier Park for three days during the Festival of the Little Hills. The vendors sell everything from jewelry and holiday decor, to paintings and kids clothes. Another highlight of the festival is the food. There's bar-b-que, corn on the cob, burgers, corn dogs and fries, just to name a few options. If you have a sweet tooth, save room for the homemade ice cream and other desserts. For the kids, there are inflatables, games and a rock climbing wall to keep them entertained. And in the evenings, everyone can enjoy free live music at the bandstand in Frontier Park.

9. Festival of Nations
When: August 27-28, 2016
Where:  Tower Grove Park, St. Louis
Cost: Admission is free
The Festival of Nations is an annual celebration of world cultures in beautiful Tower Grove Park in south St. Louis. The festival brings together people from dozens of countries for two days of food, music and entertainment. It's truly your chance to travel the world without leaving St. Louis. At the International Food Court, more than 40 food vendors offer unique dishes from their home countries including Cuban empanadas, Indian naan and Filipino kebabs. There is also a marketplace with a wide variety of art, clothing, jewelry and crafts. The marketplace a good option for some early holiday shopping or to find a unique gift for someone special. In addition to the food and shopping, there are also several entertainment stages where musicians, singers and dancers perform for the crowd. 

10. St. Nicholas Greek Festival
When:  September 2-5, 2016
Where:  Central West End, St. Louis
Cost: Admission is free
As summer comes to an end in St. Louis, one great way to bid the season farewell is at the St. Nicholas Greek Festival over Labor Day weekend. The parishioners at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church have been hosting the annual celebration for nearly a century. The four-day festival includes the best of Greek culture from music and dancing, to artwork and crafts. But for many attendees, the festival's biggest draw is the food. Vendors cook up a large menu of Greek specialties like lamb shanks, gyros and spanakopita. And don't miss the homemade cookies, pastries and baklava. It's a sweet way to end a summer in St. Louis.

These are the top recommended events, but there are plenty of other options for enjoying the summer months in St. Louis. For those looking for fun without spending any money, check out my series of articles on The Best Free Things to Do in St. Louis in the Summer. You'll find information on dozens of free concerts, movies, attractions and more. And for those wanting to enjoy fun in the sun, see The Top Public Swimming Pools and Water Parks in the St. Louis Area. Happy Summer everyone!