“Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty.” Summertime is still a great time to get out and socialize and enjoy all of the many outdoor activities that St. Louis has to offer no matter how the back of your neck feels. I remember some of my favorite things to do in the summer a few years ago. There was a watermelon stand a few blocks from where we lived; nothing was better on a warm summer’s evening than to get a cold slice of melon right out of the big water-filled cooler that they had in front of the stand. It was sort of like dipping down to the bottom of the partially melted ice to retrieve a cold one, much better than pulling it out of the refrigerator. On some nights, if you didn’t feel like spitting seeds, you went down to the Velvet Freeze for an ice cream cone. This was before the days of Ben and Jerry’s and Baskin Robbins. There were a few Velvet Freezes around town, but the best one was the original location down on Gravois. It was the one that had the big double-dipped cone out front. It was hard to decide which of the many flavors that you wanted. If you decided on a double, then the cherry vanilla with the big chunks of real cherries and the Gold Coast dark chocolate was the obvious choice. If you were really adventurous and ordered a triple, then the third dip was usually some flavor that you hadn’t tried before. Then the race was on to lick that cone into oblivion before the heat of the night melted it onto your lap. If you didn’t feel like going out, then sitting on the back porch with a cool pitcher of lemonade and listening to Jack Buck and Mike Shannon broadcast the Cardinal’s game was the thing to do.
Here are a few activities that will help pass one of those long, hot St. Louis summer nights:
Tower Grove Park bounded by Grand,Kings highway, Arsenal, and Shaw is the city’s second largest park. Originally part of Henry Shaw’s property that later became the Missouri Botanical Garden, Tower Grove is in and of itself a good destination on a summer’s day. With the opening of the Tower Grove’s Farmer’s Market in the park a few weeks ago, it has become a tasty destination as well. You can’t get an ice cold slice of watermelon there, but you sure can get one that has been locally grown and duplicate the experience at home. With a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables that are all produced by Missouri and Illinois farmers, you won’t be disappointed.
If you prefer Forest Park, then check out the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis right next to Art Hill. This year they feature an 8 p.m. nightly performance of Julius Caesar. The seating is first-come first-served and is wheelchair accessible. Enjoy a picnic on the grass beforehand, or get your food from one of the concession stands. You can even bike down there on Sundays because the Missouri Regional Bicycle federation will be holding a free Bike Valet service.
You don’t have to wait for the weekend to enjoy the Whitaker Music Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden on Wednesday nights. These free evening concerts feature jazz, ragtime, and much more. Admission is free as long as you arrive after 5 p.m. Look for the Climatron, that big glass geodesic dome thing in the center of the park, and right next to it you’ll find the Cohen Amphitheater, that’s where you’ll find all of the music.