Before moving to St. Louis for undergrad four years ago, I had no idea that it was home to the second largest Mardi Gras parade in the country. The parade occurs the Saturday before Fat Tuesday and it takes place primarily in Soulard, a historic French neighborhood. Just like in New Orleans, “krewes” throw beads off of floats and everyone wears crazy green, yellow and purple clothing. One difference between St. Louis and New Orleans is that St. Louis can be REALLY cold in February, so don’t forget a hat and mittens when planning your outrageous outfit. If you just want to check out the parade as a quick study break, you can take the MetroLink to the beginning and catch a few beads with all of the families and kids. If you’re looking for something a little wilder, you can start the day off with mimosas or “kegs and eggs.” Then you can catch a shuttle into the heart of Soulard, where you can buy about 50 different varieties of red alcoholic punch drinks called “hurricanes.” Either way, it’s a good time.
– Danielle C., M1
Hispanic Heritage Festival
The Hispanic Heritage Festival is a strange combination of great Latin food, random booths for life insurance and car leasing, a small petting zoo, a fantastic live band, and beautiful goods for sale, which include jewelry, purses, clothing and incense. The event is for adults and children alike, as it provides alcoholic beverages for the adults and big inflatables for the children. It’s a study in contradictions, which is entertaining to say the least. It lasts through one long weekend in September, so there are plenty of opportunities to check out this great festival. I am personally excited to see what surprises next year brings!
– Jenny T., M1
Festival of Nations
The Festival of Nations is an amazing event held in Tower Grove Park. There are food stands, labeled by country, selling traditional dishes that are difficult to find anywhere else. I tried an amazingly flavorful Burmese tea leaf salad (seriously, if it’s there next year, try it), a Native American fry bread taco (with a vegetarian version too) and aromatic Iranian rice. My friends got Nigerian platters and Taiwanese bubble tea as well as a ton of other small plates. There is literally something for everybody (they had an America stand too, with hot dogs and funnel cake). Throughout the park, there were also four stages with performances by dancers and musicians from all over the world. The schedule is usually up a few days in advance, so be sure to check that out before you head over. All in all, the Festival of Nations is an awesome opportunity to get a taste of real dishes and drinks from dozens of countries, all in one beautiful park!
– Patty L., M1
The biggest music festival in St. Louis comes to our backyard (Forest Park) every fall! The LouFest 2015 line-up featured top artists including Ludacris, Hozier, Brandon Flowers, Misterwives, Young the Giant and The Avett Brothers. Tickets sell out fast for this popular event, so get your tickets early and sign up for the LouFest newsletter to be alerted about discounted “secret” or “early” tickets. You can also volunteer and attend for this event for FREE! Lastly, with LouFest being so close to campus, you will probably hear the music and shouts of excited fans right outside your door!
– Sunny L., M1
“Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek.” If you could recognize that movie quote (and even if you couldn’t), then the annual St. Louis Greek Festival is for you! Every Labor Day weekend, St. Nickolas Greek Orthodox Church, located at the corner of Forest Park and Kingshighway (just across the street from campus), hosts its extremely popular Greek Festival consisting of delicious and authentic Greek food, live music, Greek folk dancing and more. While I firmly believe every item on the menu is delectable, the can’t miss ones are the spanakopita, gyros, moussaka and assorted pastry boxes. To preview the full menu, look online before the festival. Be sure to get a group together when you go, so you can try more food and perhaps, share a bottle of wine or some Mythos beers together. Don’t forget to end the night with a baklava sundae!
– Hayley M., M1
Forest Park Balloon Glow and Race
Located just a short walk away from the Central West End, the Forest Park Balloon Glow and Race is the oldest and most well attended free hot air balloon race in the world. The event happens over a weekend in the fall, starting with the Balloon Glow; at night, 70+ huge hot air balloons are blown up with gigantic jets of fire in the middle of Forest Park and spectators get the chance to walk around and see the balloons up close, talk to the pilots, and feel the heat of the fire on their face. The night of the Balloon Glow culminates in a fireworks display. The next day, the balloons are launched (including one balloon shaped like the Energizer bunny) and you can watch them float overhead from the windows of Bernard Becker Medical Library, where you will be studying for your next anatomy exam. The Forest Park Balloon glow and race is an awesome spectacle just minutes away from the medical school campus. It’s definitely one you shouldn’t miss.
– Tasha E., M1
Food Truck Fridays
What better way to spend a Friday afternoon than being surrounded by a beautiful park, great friends and, most importantly, delicious FOOD! Tower Grove Park is home to this monthly outing that occurs from May through October. Food trucks from all over the city come to one location and serve their smokiest barbecue, healthiest entrée, craziest taco, most decadent cupcake and so much more. The lines can get pretty long, but the food is worth the wait and you’ll have plenty of time to decide which truck you want to choose. I would recommend bringing a blanket and Frisbee too! So leave the books at home, come enjoy some local eateries, and bring a little extra cash for one of Sarah’s Cake Shop cupcakes, because this is a perfect and relaxing way to spend a Friday afternoon.
– Maria S., M1
Anheuser-Busch Christmas Lights
As Buddy the Elf once said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is with bright lights and free beer.” If you’re looking to get into the Christmas spirit while nourishing yourself with some free beer, then the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Lights tour is the thing to do! Starting in late November, the historic Anheuser-Busch Brewery grounds transform into a magical winter wonderland, with thousands of twinkling lights adorning every nook and cranny. During the free self-guided walking tour, you can admire the lights close-up while enjoying complimentary seasonal beers and hot chocolate, taking in the beautiful live holiday music, and stopping for some photo ops along the way with the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales. You might even get a cheesy Christmas card photo out of it!
– Liz G., M1