St. Louis is all about the free and affordable festivals and events, and they are a huge part of our city’s rich culture. I think it’s hard for a tourist to St. Louis to really get a feel for what this city offers. It takes living here and taking advantage of the diverse array of opportunities that exist year round to really get it. From the Balloon Glow, massive Mardi Gras celebration (second only to New Orleans in size!), to Fair St. Louis for the 4th of July and Pride STL, we are a city that loves to celebrate. Living here gives you the opportunity to really immerse yourself in what it means to be a St. Louisan, and being at WUSM means having close-knit friends with whom to enjoy these fun experiences. Maybe it’s the classic Midwestern hospitality at play here, but we know how to throw a party here in St. Louis.

🔥 = WashU Hot Picks (WUSM M1 favorites, as reported by our classmates in the Annual Dis-O Guide Mega Survey)

Showing: All results
Default image

A Classmate on CWE Halloween

Nikita S., Kamilah A., Gopika H., and Gideon H. in their Mario Kart group Halloween costumes.

“The CWE has everything you could ask for in a massive Halloween block party: fun, flirty, festive, and most importantly, free. All conveniently located right in our backyard: the Central West End.” 

Janessa S., M1

Default image

A Classmate on Haunted Houses

Maggy B., her boyfriend Eamon, and Marina N. outside The Darkness haunted house in Soulard.

The Darkness haunted house was the best I’ve ever been to — I’ve traveled hours for haunted houses way lower quality and this one is so close!!!” 

Maggy B., M1

Default image

A Classmate on the Balloon Glow

The Balloon Glow in Forest Park is a popular event with WUSM students.

“The Forest Park Balloon Glow was one of my favorite FREE events of this fall! One weekend in September, over 50 hot air balloons fill the middle of Forest Park, which is just about a 10-minute walk from campus. As the evening falls, the balloons inflate and light up the park. My friends and I laid out picnic blankets and took in the beautiful views while we enjoyed food from some food trucks and music from local bands. Then, there were fireworks at the end of the evening! This was definitely a really unique event that was a good break from studying.” 

Allie L., M1

Default image

A Classmate on Winter Events

“The St. Louis government and business community really make the most of every type of weather here. One of the things I love about this city is that the list of things to do changes by the week, month and season, giving residents something new or nostalgic to look forward to, even as the temperatures start to drop. There are plenty of indoor activities open year round, like the Art Museum, the indoor portion of the City Museum, the St. Louis Aquarium and others, but the outdoor winter activities like ice skating and holiday lights really make the turn of the seasons feel like something to be savored and appreciated.”

Kristin P., M1

Default image

Anheuser-Busch Brewery Lights (Free!) 🔥

Allie L. and Cole P. at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Lights event.

The most popular option for seeing holiday lights is to take a brewery lights tour at Anheuser-Busch brewery in Soulard. The brewery really goes out of its way to make the experience special.

Default image

Cinco de Mayo, Cherokee Street

50,000 people descend on Cherokee Street each May 5 to celebrate the culture and arts of Mexico. Lucha Libre wrestling matches are held at 2 and 4 p.m., live music plays all day, there are bull rides, a climbing wall and, of course, drinks and music. (Free to attend, concessions for purchase!)

Default image

Clayton Shaw Park Skating Rink ($)

A bit larger than Steinberg, and close to the Clayton MetroLink stop.

Default image

CWE Cocktail Party, CWE

The CWE is home to the first ever cocktail party on record, and the neighborhood celebrates this distinction every year by hosting an annual cocktail party in the streets. Hop from tent to tent sampling cocktails, watch the cocktail competition as local bartenders compete for the title Best Bartender in the City, and take in the street performers and live music. (Free to attend, concessions for purchase!)

Default image

Earth Day, Forest Park

Late April (April 25, 2020). Earth Day is a dog-friendly event held in the center of Forest Park each year, near the Muny. Come enjoy the local food trucks (lots of vegan/veggie options!) and shop the many environmentally conscious vendors and organizations that have set up tents to sell their wares and raise awareness. The weather is usually beautiful, to boot! (Free to attend, concessions for purchase!)

Default image

Festival of Nations, Tower Grove Park 🔥

The Festival of Nations in Tower Grove Park draws a big crowd.

If you’re a foodie or craving some international food favorites, the Festival of Nations is where it’s at. See live dance and music performances representing many cultures and buy food at any one of 40 tents, each showcasing the cuisine of a different country. This is a well-attended event, so plan to take public transportation or parallel park on an adjoining street and walk into Tower Grove Park, where the festival is hosted in late August. Consider volunteering with WUSM to do health screenings at the event!

Default image

Fourth of July, many locations

Need to stock up on sparklers this July 4? Fireworks stores are located on the outskirts of St. Louis.

There are various options for celebrating Independence Day in St. Louis, as most municipalities host a fireworks display. Some standout events are Fair St. Louis, and the Webster Groves’ Community Days celebration. The historic, multi-day Fair St. Louis (formerly called the VP Fair) is held along the riverfront downtown. They’ll have a parade, live music performances by popular mainstream artists, many vendors, and of course, the Boeing Air Show (in addition to BJC, Boeing is one of the largest employers in St. Louis). The municipality of Webster Groves hosts a huge four-day carnival at their rec center and has great fireworks. Expect to parallel park on one of the adjacent residential streets and walk to the carnival.

Default image

Garden Glow ($$) 🔥

Kaamya V. walks through the light tunnel at Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

This beautiful lights display in the Missouri Botanical Garden will give you plenty of holiday lights photo ops for the ‘gram.

Default image

Great Forest Park Balloon Glow and Race, Forest Park 🔥

One of the first events that will happen on a Friday night when you arrive in St. Louis for med school, the Balloon Glow is held at night, just west of campus at Central Fields in Forest Park. Over 50 tethered hot air balloons, inflated by their burners, light up the night sky. Stroll amongst the balloons, hear the live music on the main stage, and be sure to stop by the St. Louis Children’s Hospital balloon. The glow takes place from dusk until 9 p.m. and culminates in a fireworks display. Then, Saturday in the early evening, come by to watch the balloons take flight as the Great Forest Park Balloon Race commences — the St. Louis sky will be freckled with balloons in the hours after launch. Into skydiving? Come watch the skydivers take off in the afternoon. (Free to attend, concessions for purchase!)

Default image

Greek Fest, CWE 🔥

Held right on the edge of campus each Labor Day weekend at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Greek musicians, Greek dancers and of course, incredible, affordable Greek food, are the reason St. Louis Magazine has named it amongst the best local festivals in St. Louis. (Free to attend, concessions for purchase!)

Default image

Grove Fest, the Grove

Eclectic, independent street festival in the Grove (close to campus). Features street performers, live music, a drag show and art from local artists. Be sure to stop by to help paint the paint-by-numbers mural!

Default image

Halloween, many locations 🔥

Halloween decorations outside Maggy B.’s apartment.

In the morning, consider participating in the Great GO! St. Louis Halloween 10K downtown, which promises plenty of good people watching as you zip past other runners in their superhero costumes (or they zip past you … looking at you, SpongeBob). At night, while many bars across town (like those in Soulard) will be hosting their own parties, the CWE is the place to be. The massive, legendary CWE Costume Party takes over Maryland Plaza and spills into adjacent blocks. It’s a huge, debaucherous event, with a center stage for the hilarious costume competition (expect to see some elaborate costumes). This is definitely a can’t miss event, and it’s so close to the med school! (Free to attend, concessions for purchase!)

Looking for some scares this Halloween season? We have some of the best haunted houses in the country, with The Darkness in Soulard topping the list (you might pee your pants), followed by Creepyworld. Less scary options for the faint of heart with FOMO include Fright Fest at Six Flags (so fun!), the Lemp Mansion Haunted Tours (the Lemp Mansion is rumored to be actually haunted, like by ghosts … so no jump scares here!), and Haunted Hayrides at Eckert’s Farm (family friendly, for those of you with an exaggerated startle reflex).

Default image

IndiHop, Cherokee Street, the Grove

Hop on and off the shuttle between these two iconic districts, sampling the beer from our many craft breweries. A ticket gets you a shuttle pass, tasting glass, and tasting of 50 or so beers. Live entertainment from local musicians performing at each stop.

Default image

Japanese Festival, Shaw

Held on Labor Day weekend at the Missouri Botanical Garden every year. Come celebrate culture; witness taiko drumming, bon odori dancing, and martial arts; take candlelit walks through the beautiful Japanese Garden as dusk settles in.

Default image

Mardi Gras, Soulard 🔥

Gator Gumbo at St. Louis Mardi Gras.

Second only to the New Orleans’ Mardi Gras in size, the St. Louis Mardi Gras is a huge event held on the cobblestone streets of Soulard every year. Between bar stops, hurricanes and beers are available for purchase from street vendors. Expect a sea of people, chilly temperatures, debauchery, and lots and lots of beads. The weeks-long festivities begin on the Twelfth Night and end with the parade on Fat Tuesday. (Free to attend, concessions for purchase!)

Default image

Opening Day, Downtown/Ballpark Village

St. Louis is decidedly a baseball town, and the Cardinals are beloved here. Even non-baseball fans in the city still sport their Cardinals gear and root, root, root for the hometeam. For this reason, the day of the home opener for the St. Louis Cardinals is a big deal each year, and turnout is reliably good. People show up to the game early to catch the entire pregame celebration and see the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales on the field. Try and get tickets to the game, but if you can’t, you can still party with fans in Ballpark Village and witness the flyover.

Default image

PrideFest, Downtown, the Grove 🔥

WUSM students celebrating at Pride.

We love celebrating our LGBTQ+ community members here in St. Louis, and every year, PrideFest and the Grand Pride Parade get bigger and bigger. Don your rainbow attire and join the city in celebrating that love is love! (Free to attend, concessions for purchase!)

Default image

Q in the Lou, Downtown

Live music and 14,000 pounds of barbecue made by the best pitmasters from around the country are what you can expect at this annual St. Louis barbecue festival. Sample as much quality que as you can handle, then watch the pros stuff their faces at the Rib Rumble rib eating competition, where 12 contestants compete to eat the most ribs in five minutes. Festival held each September. (Free to attend, BBQ for purchase.)

Default image

Renaissance Festival, Wentzville

Party like it’s 1499 at the St. Louis Renaissance Festival, held in Wentzville, Missouri every mid-September to mid-October. Also features the Kegs n’ Eggs adult Easter egg hunt. Dog friendly (stipulations apply, so check their website before heading down there). Discount tickets available for designated drivers!

Default image

Santa’s Magical Kingdom ($)

Unexpectedly fun and funny lights display. Located in Eureka, Missouri, in the woods near Six Flags. If you miss your childhood, you can even get your picture taken with Santa.

Default image

Sledding on Art Hill (Free!) 🔥

Sledding down Art Hill on a big snow day is a St. Louis tradition.

Buy a sled or inner tube ahead of time so you’re prepared when St. Louis gets a big snow (we only get a few of these each winter, so don’t miss out!). You’re not truly a St. Louisan until you’ve experienced sledding down Art Hill. Expect a crowd of sledders blanketing the expansive hill, fire pits, and lots of makeshift sleds.

Default image

Songkran Festival, North County

Thai food fan? Come to Wat Phrasriratanaram in Florissant for the spring Songkran Festival (Thai New Year). Local Thai restaurants’ booths are interspersed with booths selling items cooked on site by members of the St. Louis Thai community. Inside the temple are elaborate dance and music performances, and even a beauty pageant. Have business with the Thai Consulate? They’ll be there to help you out, too.

Default image

St. Louis African Arts Festival, Forest Park

Celebrate the many cultures of Africa at the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park each year. Local artists’ exhibit their work, vendors and jewelry designers sell their wares, and live performers captivate. (Free to attend and sponsored by WashU!)

Default image

St. Louis Zoo Wild Lights (Free!)

Saint Louis Zoo Lights

Light displays, fire pits, animal exhibits, and live music on the St. Louis Zoo grounds.

Default image

St. Patrick’s Day, Dogtown, Downtown

Just after you’ve recovered from Mardi Gras, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and festival rolls around. Bring your green hat and start the morning off right with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Run downtown, a five-miler which often gives participants their first taste of spring weather. If you’re in the front of the heat, you’ll be surrounded by other serious runners angling for a PR. The run/walkers in the back can expect to see plenty of green-themed costumes and some early morning holiday antics (e.g., a group of bros running the race while pulling their buddy and his keg along in a little red wagon). After the run, watch the Downtown parade or head to Dogtown to pub hop during their annual Irish Festival and Parade. (Yes, there are not one, but two parades happening in town on St. Patrick’s Day!)

Default image

Steinberg Skating Rink ($) 🔥

Haley S. and Bruin P. skating at Steinberg Skating Rink.

Outdoor skating rink on the edge of campus, just inside Forest Park. There’s even a large fire pit for marshmallow roasting and warming up. Definitely worth checking out.

Default image

Winter Wonderland at Tilles Park ($-$$)

This drive-through lights display off McKnight Road is just south of Highway 40. Lights are dated but the Tilles lights display is a time-honored St. Louis tradition. Want to skip the lines? Reserve a horse drawn carriage — it’s a classic experience, and a cozy date night idea.

Default image


(Free, except skate rental)

Downtown by the Gateway Arch, ice skate at the large outdoor rink, browse the Winter Market, or chill in Igloo Village.