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Life on the Savanna 

Snuggle up to African wildlife

SAT-MON 5/29-31

Calling all kids who've worn out their copies of The Lion King: The San Francisco Zoo is adding to its collection of 250 animal species with the African Savanna Habitat, a three-acre "environment" that highlights the continent's beasts and biome. You may wonder what a savanna is (hint: It's not a city in Georgia), and since you probably snoozed through geography, here's a quick course in East African climates. Savannas, like the well-known Serengeti Plains of Tanzania (look at your map, boys and girls), are typically found in a wide band on either side of the equator on the edges of tropical rain forests, and they're simply stuffed with beasts. Picture rolling grasslands dotted with shrubs and isolated trees -- not quite desert, but also not rain forest. At the S.F. Zoo's re-creation, guests come nose-to-nose with ungulates (animals with hooves, like the yellow-backed duiker pictured here) and herbivores (large grass-eating mammals, such as the scimitar-horned oryx), plus grazers and predators. Other spectacular species include towering giraffes, bold zebras, and fleet-footed antelope, as well as a variety of African birds. And unlike at traditional saunter-right-in zoo habitats, visitors to the African Savanna sneak into the mixed-species exhibit via an underground passageway, emerging within the middle of the dry tropical climate.

Welcome the new kids in town with the zoo's "Opening Celebration," a three-day bash featuring live music, games, special talks from Savanna keepers, and animal encounters. The festivities begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday (and run through Monday) at the San Francisco Zoo, 1 Zoo (at Skyline), S.F. Admission is free-$10; call 753-7080 or visit

New Tricks

SUN 5/30

Got a pooch that can jump weightlessly or play so dead that even an embalmer might be confused? Hie that mutt to the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge, an Iron Man match for tail-waggers. On Friday local pups compete in such skills as catching and diving, and on Saturday canines battle in the Western Regional Final, a cavalcade of Fido feats such as Jack Russell Terrier races and an agility competition in which dogs fight their way through jumps, tunnels, and obstacles. Start yelling "Good boy!" at 9 a.m. on May 28 (and 10 a.m. on May 29) in Sharon Meadow, Kezar & John F. Kennedy in Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free; call (800) 229-4758 or visit
By Joyce Slaton

Pedal for Less

Bike till you drop

SUN 5/30

Finding what you want at thrift stores isn't always easy. At regular retail shops, savvy marketing types figure out what you want before you know you want it, and make sure stacks and stacks of it are displayed front and center. But go into a resale joint, and the piles of stuffed animals mixed with men's swim trunks and unidentifiable used housewares can be daunting. For many, however, such "obstacles" constitute the thrill of the hunt: The excavation is half the fun. Where can such vending adventures be had? Find out on the "Thrift Store Bike Tour," led by San Francisco Bike Coalition volunteer Kitten, who helps you discover fashionable bargains by pedaling to several of the city's finest castoff emporiums. Meet at 1 p.m. at the Atlas Cafe, 3049 20th St. (at Alabama), S.F. Participation is free; call 425-0768 or visit

A Walk Through History

Take a free stroll through the Chinatown across the bay

SAT 5/29

Though San Francisco's Chinatown is a tourist destination that draws millions of visitors yearly, Oakland's equally vibrant Asian enclave gets little play. Why is that? The neighborhood's restaurants are just as yummy, its culture just as foreign to Westerners, its cheap knickknacks just as tempting. And though the East Bay area can't boast as many tarted-up buildings as its S.F. counterpart (thanks to a concerted effort to turn our Chinatown into an attraction in the 1920s), it's still loaded with hidden charms. Find out for yourself at the Oakland Tours Program's "Chinatown Walking Tour," a 90-minute stroll with an expert guide who knows a thing or two about the district's history. The trip begins at 10 a.m. at the Pacific Renaissance Plaza Fountain, Ninth Street between Franklin and Webster, Oakland. Admission is free; call (510) 238-3234 or visit

The Ferry Fairy

THURS 5/27

Ferry rides are one of the joys of life in the Bay Area: They're cheap, they're outdoorsy, and they're a guaranteed "Wow!" for locals and visitors alike. "Blue & Gold Celebrates 25 Years" commemorates what is now one of the biggest passenger-boat operators on the San Francisco Bay -- and a company that has won environmental awards. Back in 1979 when the service launched, rides cost just a few dollars, and for most of the day today, that's all you'll pay to see the sights; the first trip of the morning, at 10:45, is free. Ferries leave from Pier 39, Beach & Embarcadero, S.F. Admission is free-$3; call 705-5500 or visit
By Hiya Swanhuyser


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