We know, we know. Just like you, we thought we’d be entering autumn with the days of masks and social distancing behind us. But that doesn’t mean we have to press play on our favorite fall activities instead of experiencing them in person.
Just as they’ve done for the past year and a half, St. Louis’ theater companies, museums and nonprofits have found creative ways to alter their events so they’re safe for everyone – without cutting down on any of the fun!
Whether you want to take in a show, eat all the treats at a fall festival, or sit center ring at the circus, there’s an event worthy of a spot on your family’s busy calendar.
Here are our picks for don't-miss family fun:
A Palette of Art Festivals, Various Dates in September and October
Throughout the fall, the St. Louis region becomes one giant art gallery! Kick off the festivities with the Saint Louis Art Fair, which runs from September 10-12 in Clayton and includes the popular Creative Castle for Kids featuring hands-on projects led by local arts organizations.
Other festivals include the MOSAICS Fine Art Festival in St. Charles, September 17-19, the Art Outside Festival at Schlafly Bottleworks, October 1-3, and the Historic Shaw Art Fair in the Shaw Neighborhood, October 2-3. If you live in Illinois or are ready to take an adventure across the river, the Edwardsville Art Fair runs September 24-26 and Art on the Square takes over downtown Belleville October 22-24. In addition to spotlighting works from local and national artists, all six festivals include live music, great food and children’s activities.
For ticket information and schedules, please visit each festival’s website.
Manchester Homecoming, September 10-12
What says autumn in the Midwest more than a hometown homecoming festival? Manchester’s Schroeder Park is the site of the city’s biggest homecoming event yet with carnival rides and games, a car show, live entertainment – including children’s performers and the region’s best party bands – and even a Doggie Paddle at the Pool, an end-of-summer swim for our furry friends. And of course, no homecoming is complete without a parade. This year’s theme is “Under the Sea,” and the parade steps off promptly at 10 a.m. Saturday morning. For a full event schedule, visit manchestermo.gov.
Kirkwood Greentree Festival, September 17-19
The annual Kirkwood Greentree Festival in Kirkwood Park offers three days of family fun in the great outdoors. In addition to fabulous food and live music, the Festival features a parade on Saturday morning at 10 a.m., the Folklife Festival highlighting reenactments, artisans and entertainment from another era, vendors booths, games, and plenty of kids’ activities.
The Kirkwood Greentree Festival runs from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Entrance to the Festival is free. To see a full schedule of events, visit kirkwoodmo.org.
The Great Forest Park Balloon Race, September 17-18
All eyes will be on the skies this September! Join the excitement when 50 hot air balloons use the Emerson Central Fields in Forest Park as their launching pad for the ultimate aerial race course. The oldest and largest free balloon event in the country starts on Friday with the annual Balloon Glow, which includes food trucks, a performance from DJ Reggie and the PNC Bank Fireworks Finale. On Saturday, head to the park at 1 p.m. for the Purina Children’s Entertainment Area, skydiver show and opening ceremonies before the race takes flight!
Entry into The Great Forest Park Balloon Race is free. To view the event schedule, visit greatforestparkballoonrace.com.
Circus Flora’s “The Trial of the Century,” October 7-13
During Circus Flora’s 35th jaw-dropping season, the Big Top transforms into a courtroom, and the audience becomes the jury as a cast of characters tell their sides of a story filled with intrigue and mischief. “The Trial of the Century” features acrobats, magicians and a variety of other daring performers who bring a modern spin to traditional circus arts. Special performances this season include the Peanut-Free Preview Night on October 7, Little Top Performances for younger children and those who prefer a shorter daytime show on October 13, 20 and 27, and the Sensory-Friendly Performance on October 21. Tickets for “The Trial of the Century” run between $10 - $85. To order tickets and to view the show schedule, visit circusflora.org.
Harvest Festival Presented by Sauce Magazine, October 10
Sauce Magazine brings together everything you love about fall and St. Louis in one location for a day of great eats and incredible music. The Harvest Festival in Tower Grove showcases autumn-themed dishes from local restaurants, Missouri craft beers and wines, a farmer’s market featuring fresh produce and artisan goods, and bluegrass music on the KDHX stage. Fill up on food, drinks and fun from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free, and more information can be found at harvestfeststl.com.
Metro Theater Company Presents “Digging Up Dessa”, October 17 – November 7
Twelve-year-old dinosaur enthusiast Dessa wants to claim her spot in a world that doesn’t often support girl scientists. After the loss of her father, Dessa finds an unlikely source of comfort in a friend only she can see and hear – 19th-century paleontology pioneer Mary Anning. In the midst of her grief, Dessa unearths secrets of the past and present and fights to ensure Mary gets the same recognition as her male counterparts—two centuries later. With its themes of girl power and resiliency, “Digging Up Dessa” helps us discover the adventurer in all of us. “Digging Up Dessa” will be presented Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. at Grandel Theatre. Tickets are $18 to $36 and can be purchased at metroplays.org/dessa.
Kimmswick Apple Butter Festival, October 30-31
In a season of pumpkin spice everything, the apple often plays second fiddle to everyone’s favorite gourd. But for apple aficionados, autumn means just one thing – apple butter season! At the famous Kimmswick Apple Butter Festival, you can stock up on the sweet spread while visiting more than 500 food, drink and craft booths and catching live musical entertainment. The Festival also includes a miniature train, petting zoo and pony rides for the kids. The Apple Butter Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, and entry is free. For details on the event, including parking information, visit gokimmswick.com/apple-butter-festival-kimmswick.
GroveFest, October 2
Set in the heart of St. Louis, The Grove is one of the city’s most eclectic and electric neighborhoods. Every autumn, its businesses and residents celebrate their one-of-a-kind district with the annual GroveFest event, a free, funky and often outrageous festival that features a food village, street performers, a diverse lineup of entertainment, and a children’s area packed with music, art and activities. Once the sun goes down and the kids head home, the spotlight is on The Grove’s premier nightlife and party scene. GroveFest runs from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., and admission is free. Learn more at thegrovestl.com/grovefest.
Due to COVID-19, please visit each event’s website before planning your family outing to stay on top of the latest developments.
Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL