Watch Out For Those Sidewalks!
by Vivian Williamson-Bryan
Contrary to popular opinion, it is not true that St Thomas’s sidewalks are rolled up at 5 pm! It just seems that way.
Our nightlife isn’t apparent to the casual onlooker – and certainly not to the tourist fresh off the plane (we don’t count those ones off the boat – most of those pull out by 6 pm – you’d think they were going to turn into pumpkins or something) – but there is some if you look. Really.
Since we don’t have the usual collection of TGIFs, bowling alleys, roller skating rinks, amusement parks or that ever popular indoor entertainment complex – the mega mall – just what do we have? Well … probably as many diversions – if not more – than the average smaller city (and it’s no fair comparing us to NYC or DC either!).
While not quite the Great White Way, the St Thomas “cultural”/theatre scene is surprisingly robust. Besides the Reichhold performances (big time culture), there are regular performances by the local theatre group, Pistarckle Theatre (their productions are lots of fun – rollicking musicals seem to be a favourite – The Wiz, Nunsense and Sweet Charity have been real crowd pleasers in the past. Don’t stereotype them, however; straight comedy such asEducating Rita and heavier drama like Agnes of God have also been well received. And this year? They’re still firming things up – and keeping firmly closed lips about it – but we know whatever they do will be good). Another choice in this vein would be the frequent classical music offerings at the Concert in the Garden series at Tillett Gardens.
If all this culture isn’t exactly your cup of tea, how about a ball game? No World Series contenders here, not even farm league – softball is the hotly contested sport in the Virgin Islands. But don’t think that these are rinky dink yokels playing a second rate game (our teams have won national championships. And, by the by, two members are of that champion team are pretty well connected around here. Dennis Murphy is the husband of McLaughlin Arguin Curreri broker Debbie Murphy and Dave Nichols is a member of the Caribcat race team). Just think how many islanders have gone on to success in the major league (and not just from our island – the whole Caribbean is practically a nursery school for the big leagues). Some former stars of baseball that call the Virgin Islands home include Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Al McBean, Baltimore Orioles catcher Elrod Hendricks, and Seattle Mariners left fielder Ellington Maynard (there are lots more but sports is definitely not my field – if you want to keep me from the final piece of pie in Trivial Pursuit just keep asking those sports questions). And there are new stars on the horizon, one of whom is Midre Cummings, currently playing center field for the Pirates. Probably our most famous sports figure at present is Renaldo Turnbull of the New Orleans Saints (I know that has nothing to do with softball but we are proud of him). Anyhow, check out the ballfield in Frenchtown on Sunday afternoons and evenings or the field next to the Windward Passage Hotel on the waterfront (usually on weekend evenings) and you might see a future big name bat one over the fence.
Maybe jumping into whatever action is happening is more your speed (I don’t know where you think you’re going to get that energy burst after a grueling day at the beach, however… Seriously, you’ll be amazed how a day in the sun can make an early bedtime unbelievably appealing!). But if you’re itching for a little athletic activity before calling it a day, we do have a mini golf course that could keep you entertained of an evening. How about making it more exciting and play for some stakes – a couple of pina coladas might be an appropriate wager! (Since this is a vacation I’m not even going to mention the various gyms available – if you’re that much of an exercise fanatic you’ll hone in on them like a homing pigeon.)
Some of the most popular activities here are water-based (that makes sense since there’s a lot more of that than there is of land). Full Moon cruises are always lots of fun – just good company and plenty of liquid refreshment. Or watch out for notices that the Kon Tiki is going to do an evening harbour cruise. This is the ultimate party boat. It just putters about at a nice sedate speed, much like a dowager on an evening constitutional; perfectly comfortable even for those prone to a little mal de mer. There’s always a full bar (the Kon Tiki is famous for it’s rum punch – hang out by the cruise ships when the KT is returning from a shore excursion tour – you’ll hear the raucous laughter from hundreds of yards away – the free flowing rum punch has been much enjoyed by all), sometimes quite a spread of food (depending on who’s sponsoring the cruise – they are often fund-raisers) and, most importantly, live music. One of the most anticipated of these soirees afloat is the annual cruise benefiting the local Humane Society (some of that food is donated by Entre Nous and you know all about that place!).
As a matter of fact a lot of the entertainment in St Thomas is sponsored by various organizations. Dinner dances happen on almost a weekly basis and usually they’re honoring some organization stalwart or community notable. Actually I think it’s just an excuse to drag out those famous sequins. While this particular form of entertainment is kind of a “locals only” scene, if you’re at a hotel that’s hosting one of these affairs, you can always hover unobtrusively and enjoy the music (there’s always music – usually with an island flavor).
Virgin Islanders are basically party people at heart. They love gatherings that feature lots of music, drink and food (and probably in that order) – in public places or in private homes. I think there are more parties here, based on population, than anywhere else in the world. Any excuse will do – birthdays, anniversaries, christenings, full moon, boat races, fishing tournaments. You name the occasion or event and there are parties to celebrate it in style. Many are, of course, limited to an intimate group of friends, but some, especially those held on the beaches, are friendly gatherings open to like-minded souls who will contribute to the general merriment.
But not everyone is a party animal. For those that would have to be dragged kicking and screaming (me) to most of the above described diversions, St Thomas does offer quieter ways to spend an evening.
Going out to dinner here is major entertainment. We have an absolute plethora of excellent restaurants that can easily compete with the big guns of any major metropolis. Besides the gourmet grub, there’s usually a breathtaking view to keep you amused between courses. This is my nominee for the Best Way To Spend An Evening Award (that figures – isn’t recipe of the week my pet project?).
St Thomas also has an extremely active bar scene. Bars with music and dancing, bars with just music – even one with kareoke, bars with pool tables, bars with TVs. Just like home but with a twist – most of ours are open air – no fuggy, smoky, closed-in drinking holes here. Gives a more wholesome (if you can consider an evening of drinking wholesome) feel to things.
If you’re really into quiet pursuits, join us at the movies (on a Friday night it seems as if half the island is in attendance. Movie going is a very popular activity). St Thomas has 2 movie houses with a total of 7 screens – not bad for a relatively tiny population base of 50,000. Nowadays we get films at the same time they’re released in the States (it hasn’t always been this way – I can remember gaps of many months) but with a teeny tiny difference to the ones at your local cinema – Spanish subtitles (we get lumped in with Puerto Rico when it comes to film distribution. Think of it as a way to learn a foreign language). Oh and there’s one other tiny difference to the movie going experience here – I guess it might be called audience participation. Unlike the quiet, well-behaved patrons usually found in a northern movie theatre, sometimes audiences here can be quite vocal, cheering on favourite stars or encouraging action packed moments – it kind of adds to the fun. Movie prices are a comparative bargain (ticket prices were only recently raised to $5) compared to many cities. So grab your sweater (the air conditioning is wonderfully efficient) and prepare for a very relaxing evening (everyone needs a few of those while on vacation – it can be a hectic time!).
All this presumes, of course, that you want to get out and mingle. If even these lower keyed activities are more than you had in mind and you’d rather just stay in and delight in the company of a significant other, what could be more romantic than sitting out under the stars, be it on a beach or a deck. And you won’t find a much better spot for star gazing than our clear Caribbean skies.
So, no matter which way your entertainment tastes run, from go-go activity to semi-inertia, we have something to fit every bill. Don’t worry about the sidewalks.