Visitors to San Antonio now can enjoy a double helping of the city’s famed River Walk. A two-mile extension of the Rio San Antonio opens this weekend. Thanks to a new lock-and-dam system, tour boats can travel northward from downtown to the San Antonio Museum of Art and the restored Pearl Brewery, hub of an urban village featuring dining, galleries and shopping. Tropical landscaping and new sculptures greet visitors along the waterway, the first phase of an expansion scheduled for completion in 2014. The 13-mile channel then will link four of the city’s 17th century Spanish colonial missions.

-- Jay Jones

When was the last time you were at a giant singles party with a snake? We’re not talking the two-legged kind. In the Bay Area, people are partying with the best and least of creatures (you figure out who’s who) at the weekly Nightlife events at the California Academy of Sciences, the planetarium, aquarium and museum under one living (read: planted with native species) roof. From 6 to 10 p.m. Thursdays, the academy becomes what it calls a “lively venue filled with provocative science, music, mingling and cocktails,” and each week more than 3,000 people attend, paying a $10 admission fee ($8 for members; usual fee is $24.95). Note: You must be 21 or older to attend. Scheduled for Thursday: a celebration of World Oceans Day, a presentation by environmentalist David de Rothschild and music by Party Ben. For info on programming: or Nightlife @ the California Academy of Sciences on Facebook.

More river in San Antonio


Lively science

-- Catharine Hamm

Party nation

As you prepare to head out for summer vacation 2009, consider whether you are looking for just a trip or a celebration. If the latter, you may want to pick up “Party Across America!” by Michael Guerriero, a $12.95 book that lays out the author’s picks for the best bashes in the United States. A sampling: South by Southwest in Austin, Texas; Halloween in Lahaina, Hawaii; the Lebowski Fest in Louisville, Ky.; the College Baseball World Series in Omaha; and the Okie Noodling Tournament in Pauls Valley, Okla. If none of these appeals, you have 96 other festival choices -- some expected (Coachella and Burning Man), others not (Bridge Day in West Virginia, Laconia Motorcycle Week in New Hampshire). For info:


-- Catharine Hamm

On tap in Utah

Park City, Utah, appears to be all abuzz, so to speak, about some new liquor laws taking effect July 1. Long known for its quirky drinking regulations, the state has eliminated the private club system that required bars to charge patrons “membership” fees. Utah’s first distillery since Prohibition is about to open in Park City, also in July. The High West Distillery will be in a renovated 100-year-old livery stable near the base of Town Lift on Park Avenue. Info: (800) 453-1360,

-- Chris Erskine

Shady relief

No more struggling to sink your beach umbrella into resistant sand. Rio Brands’ Sand Grabber is a 14-inch-long nylon/fiberglass umbrella anchor that easily corkscrews into sand or lightly packed soil. Once buried up to the hilt, just slide an umbrella pole (up to 1 3/8 -inches diameter) into the Sand Grabber’s open top and secure with the built-in metal screw mechanism. The anchor holds firm in pretty stiff winds (the manufacturer estimates up to 30 mph gusts), as long as the sand isn’t too loose. Rio Brands’ Sand Grabber costs about $20. Buying info: (800) 727-8790,

-- Judi Dash