Enacted by the United States Congress in 1894, the three-day Labor Day weekend heralds the end of summer and the beginning of fall. So before you break out the sweaters and start hunting for foliage, make sure to cap off your summer well, no matter where you are. And if you happen to be in St. Louis this Labor Day weekend, here are 10 excellent adventures to celebrate a summer well lived.
Every Labor Day weekend, the beautiful Missouri Botanical Garden puts on a stellar show celebrating all things Japan. Those hoping to hone their origami skills or learn how to put on a traditional Japanese tea ceremony can do so, while those who simply want to be entertained can watch traditional Japanese dancers, actors, and storytellers. And, of course, there will be food, including sushi; local favorite Drunken Fish will be on hand, along with a lineup of others.
Take in the last days of the blockbuster fashion exhibition, Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015, at the St. Louis Art Museum. The exhibition traces the shifting political and gendered subtexts to fashion from the 18th century through the present day and includes everything from a silk suit worn by a Parisian dandy in the Louis XVI era to a pair of mint Vivienne Westwood punk plaid pants.
St. Louis has a vibrant Greek community, and the annual St. Nicholas Greek Festival on Labor Day weekend is that community’s most vibrant celebration. Held on the grounds of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in the Central West End, the festival features traditional Greek music and dance, church tours, book readings, and, of course, plenty of moussaka, spanakopita, and baklava. It might not be Mykonos, but at least you don’t have to get on a plane.
Kick off the long weekend right by taking in a concert at the sprawling St. Louis Zoo, built for the World’s Fair that St. Louis hosted in 1904. (You’ll never see a more beautiful “Reptile House.”) September 1st is the last free Friday concert of the season at the zoo, and the Soulard Blues Band is playing. Bring a blanket, pick up some wine and cheese from one of the many restaurants scattered throughout the zoo, and chill to the blues among the cheetahs and the elephants.
St. Louis’ only jazz festival takes place every Labor Day weekend down on Laclede’s Landing, a historic district right on the Mississippi River. Local and national bands alike perform for two nights across three stages, attracting over 30,000 visitors from around the city and the country. Although St. Louis native Jeff Tweedy of Wilco may have been singing about a different genre of music when he sang “I sincerely miss those heavy metal bands we used to go see on the landing in the summer,” in the band’s anthem “Heavy Metal Drummer,” this is what he was talking about.
Jazz by the river at Frontier Park in Historic St. Charles
Head to charming Historic St. Charles to take in some jazz by the river in beautiful Frontier Park. Make a day of it, and spend time exploring the rest of what St. Charles has to offer, including some of the best antiquing in the Midwest, carriage rides along cobblestone streets, a swanky casino, and a killer steak house known as Bugatti’s.
While not technically in St. Louis, Stone Hill Winery in Hermann is only an hour and a half drive west of downtown St. Louis, and hosts one of the best wine festivals in the region. While offering the option to simply kick back and sample regional wine, those looking to get more involved can stomp grapes (at least for a photo), and pumpkin painting will also be available for those inspired to get creative, or those who are simply ready for fall.
Dive into St. Louis’ rich history on a 19th-century steamboat on a one-hour cruise down the Mississippi. The captain will educate you on the river’s significant history, including making St. Louis a major trading port in the United States’ early years, and even featuring in a Mark Twain novel or two.
Those wishing to participate in the letter as well as the spirit of the day should consider heading downtown to partake in the annual Labor Day parade. Thousands of local union members from over 30 unions will throng the streets in the shadow of the Arch to march to the tune(s) of—if past years are any guide—multiple marching bands.
Embrace your inner child at the eccentric, incredible City Museum—600,000 square feet (55,742 square meters) of what the museum describes as “an eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects.” You could spend hours here without tiring of the space, despite the rope courses you’d have the option of undertaking. Don’t miss the rooftop, where you can grab a drink before hopping on a Ferris wheel that affords astonishing views of the city all the way to the Mississippi River and the Arch.