The memories come in bits and pieces. The first beer cracked at 8 a.m. Elaborate costumes of green, gold and purple were all around. A free shuttle dumped us, stumbling, into a neighborhood fenced off for the sole purpose of throwing the nation’s second-largest Mardi Gras party. By midday, my Bud Light wizard staff was taller than Gandalf’s and I had a mountain of beads around my neck. We rocked out to live music and then flashed our chests to the parade’s endless floats (or was it the parade first and then the music?). My friends tell me we played flip-cup at one point at a massive house party. I’ll take their word for it. One thing I do know is that Giuseppe and I ate gumbo at one point. He has no such recollection. Who’s Giuseppe? I don’t know, but I do know that we gave New Orleans a run for its money.
— Michael S., M2
Every year, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church hosts a festival to share Greek food and culture with everyone in St. Louis. This three-day event is sure to have something for everyone to enjoy. You can smell the delicious scent of grilling meats and vegetables all the way on the medical school campus, blocks away. If you aren’t in the mood for something savory such as a gyro or lamb shank, you are sure to find something sweet in their pastry section. They serve up many of the scrumptious traditional Greek desserts such as baklava, kataifi and loukoumades. If you only have room for something small, then you can try out their cheese and spinach pies. Admission is free so just stop by and meander around while listening to the live music and looking at all the trinkets sold at the event. It is sure to be a good time.
— Mary D., M1
What’s better than a music festival in your own backyard?! A FREE music festival with Outkast, Arctic Monkeys, Grouplove, Matt & Kim, The 1975, Portugal. The Man, Trombone Shorty, Cherub, Moon Taxi and Schlafly beer on-tap! At least this was the line-up (plus more) for 2014. For 2015: It’s happening September 12-13, conveniently after orientation activities and before it’s time to get serious about anatomy. However, the FREE part I sort of fudged: it’s only FREE if you volunteer, so get those applications in as soon as they become available (June-July)!
— Julia K., M1
Christmas comes early in St Louis for those of us who love a good empanada. Bringing September — the month of Independence for Mexico and most of Central America — to a close, the Greater St Louis Hispanic Festival takes place every year at Soulard Park. Take the opportunity to escape the CWE and discover booths featuring products and foods from across Latin America. Make sure you wear shoes you can dance in, so you can enjoy the live bands playing a myriad of Latino rhythms including mambo, salsa, merengue and cumbia.
— Jorge Z., M1
Every September, there is a hot air balloon festival held in Forest Park. The main event is a balloon race in which the ballooning competitors must chase a giant pink Energizer bunny balloon throughout the city until it lands, then drop a sandbag as close as possible to it; whoever drops the bag closest is declared the winner. I would recommend making friends with someone who has a balcony. Watching the balloons take off from Forest Park and float through the sky is amazing. The night before the race, there is a balloon glow, which is definitely the highlight of the whole weekend. Before and after the race, all of the participating balloons are on the ground in a huge field in the park, so you can appreciate their diverse colors and shapes up close. When a loud horn is blown, all the balloons light up at the same time! The end of the night is capped off in style with a fireworks show.
— Manuela M., M1
Festival of Nations
You’ve had tom kha kai on the Laotian border and you’ve been the guest of honor for three separate grandmothers in Rome, but now you’re in St. Louis and you’re wondering how you’re going to get your next global food fix. If only there were a place where you could get both your tacos de carne asada and your perfectly tender lamb kebabs at the same time. Well, friend, the Festival of Nations may be for you. Nowhere else will you find such a fine blend of great tasting food and vibrant culture – featuring over 40 different ethnicities – at a price that even massively indebted medical students can afford. Once you’re stuffed, you can also enjoy the several cultural performances being held, which range from traditional Colombian dances to drums of the Congo. And, if that’s still not enough, several vendors representing their respective cultures set up shop and sell authentic wares. Most are only open during this festival once a year. It’s a phenomenal global smorgasbord where you can get in touch with your favorite local cultural groups while eating some of the best food from around the world. Don’t miss it.
— Michael D., M1
Fair St Louis
MetroLink: Central West End stop
Fair St. Louis is the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration. Due to continued construction on the Riverfront, Fair St. Louis will be in Forest Park for the second year. The fair features various activities including stunning fireworks each night over the Grand Basin, popular free concerts from big-name stars and tasty food in a family-friendly atmosphere. If you happen to be here over the summer, you won’t want to miss celebrating the birth of our nation by watching colorful explosions the sky above. Dates: July 2, 3 and 4. Website: fairsaintlouis.org for details.