Photo courtesy of Sea Life San Antonio Aquarium

Sliding down the chimney is so 18th century. While North Pole Santa is busy preparing for the big day the traditional way, Scuba Claus and some of the elves are making waves at Sea Life San Antonio Aquarium.

This aquarium invites visitors into a clear underwater tunnel in a tank with a 20-foot depth, allowing for an extra-immersive experience. Scuba divers regularly enter for cleaning, alongside mermaids, whose more leisurely underwater time is spent interacting with guests through the glass in iridescent costumes.

Scuba Claus, who wears his beard and red suit in all conditions, even when scuba goggles are involved, has a deceptive amount of holiday business to take care of, so he’ll only be at the aquarium on December 17, 18, and 24 at 1 pm.

There’s plenty of other special attractions during the holiday season, including holiday lights along the tanks; an interactive, themed tank decorating experience; and letter-writing to Sharky, who will swim them up to the North Pole.

A day at the Sea Life aquarium isn’t complete without a visit to the touch-friendly rock pool (the only place it’s fun to touch something “sticky” underwater) and a visit with the five types of stingray, and an exploration of the seahorse nursery. There are also jellyfish, sea turtles, and six-foot eels, alongside the many fish, both fresh and saltwater.

Visitors are welcome to wander the aquarium on their own, or check for feeding and demonstration schedules at visitsealife.com. The Ocean Tunnel, where Scuba Claus will appear, is acceptable to any ticket holder (starting at $19.99 for locals).

Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center

New exhibit at Texas museum reveals laughing matters at the White House

Liberty & Laughter

Most of the time, the White House is no joke. But an off-beat new exhibit opening at the George W. Bush Presidential Center reveals the pranks, quips, and humorous happenings that have lightened the mood in the Oval Office throughout history. Liberty & Laughter: The Lighter Side of the White House opens Thursday, March 3 and runs through December 31 at the museum on the SMU campus in Dallas.

The special exhibit promises entertaining first-family anecdotes, interactive multimedia, and amusing artifacts that will unveil presidential pranks and inside jokes, “while awards to the wittiest, quippiest, most mischievous president and first lady will grace the pursuit of happiness walk,” says a press release.

“‘Liberty & Laughter’ shows the importance of humor in a democracy,” says museum director Brig. Gen. Patrick X. Mordente in the release. “We are free to express our thoughts about our leaders in many ways — sometimes as cartoon caricatures. This exhibit reminds us that our presidents are real people with a sense of humor that helped them in their important job of leading our country.”

(To be clear, the exhibit covers more than “Dubya’s” White House, although God bless ’em if the word “strategery” appears somewhere.)

Among the jocular historical documents, photographs, and artifacts on display will be:

  • First lady correspondence with actors and personalities like Mary Tyler Moore and Marge Simpson.
  • President Ronald Reagan’s joke notecards.
  • President Bill Clinton’s sunglasses from The Arsenio Hall Show, and one of his many saxophones.
  • A hand-written humorous verse President Franklin D. Roosevelt composed to the three press associations.

“Visitors will experience humor through cartoons and caricatures, learn the savvy ways presidents have added levity to debates and interactions with the press, and laugh their way through a presidential talent show,” the release says. “A lively mirth-matching quiz will adorn one gallery while another will offer the chance to copycat famous presidential impersonators.”

Throughout the exhibit, organizers say, there will be reminders from the likes of President George Washington, who once said, “It is assuredly better to go laughing than crying thro’ the rough journey of life.”

More information and tickets, which include access to the museum’s permanent exhibit, are available here.

A new exhibit explores the lighter side of the White House.

Liberty & Laughter exhibit
Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center
A new exhibit explores the lighter side of the White House.
Courtesy of Whataburger

Whataburger ‘sleighs’ the season with new ugly sweater and more holiday gear

Winter Whataburger Land

The holiday season is upon us. And you know what that means in the Lone Star State: decking the halls, visits with Santa, dashing through no snow, and — oh, yeah — the annual release of some of the cheesiest Christmas garb in all of Texas.

That’s right, it’s time to “sleigh” the season by beefing up your wardrobe with some Whataburger finery. The San Antonio-based burger chain has plenty of new and classic holiday offerings Whataburger fans will relish this year and for Yuletides to come.

If it’s an ugly holiday sweater you’re craving, the fast-food company’s new design — featuring a snowy Christmas Eve scene at Whataburger, complete with Santa and his reindeer — is sure to jingle your bells. Make it a combo by adding the matching beanie and new holiday socks to stay cozy during the most wonderful time of the year.

Also new this season: pajama sets in sizes for the whole family and bedecked with a diamond flying W design. After all, as Whataburger notes, “the jolly man on Christmas night loves families in orange and white.”

And the 2021 collectible ornament, a signature orange vintage pickup truck hauling — what else? — Whataburger fries will help make the season bright and perhaps a little salty.

The company will also gift fans with additional product drops throughout the season, including more pajama sets and beanies, though the online Whatastore, where all seasonal items can be purchased, already boasts an abundance of holiday wares, from the clever “All I want for Christmas is Whataburger” T-shirt and the classic Whataburger A-frame snow globe to 7-foot inflatable Santa and snowman yard decorations, and even Christmas-themed Whataburger table tents.

Of course, Whataburger-branded apparel and gifts are nothing new for the brand, which has long offered a meaty line for the fashion-forward fan, including a flurry of strangely appealing holiday wear.

Visit the Whatastore to get more info and to check out the full line of holiday offerings.

The new holiday sweater will have you dreaming of a Whataburger Christmas.

holiday sweater
Courtesy of Whataburger
The new holiday sweater will have you dreaming of a Whataburger Christmas.

The Masked Singer reveals San Antonio show as part of epic national tour

Costume drama

Alamo City will soon play host to a touring version of America’s favorite song-and-dance reality show.

The Masked Singer, the Fox series guessing-game competition that features costumed celebrities belting out their best (and sometimes worst) renditions of popular songs, will take to the stage at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio on July 12, 2022 as part of a national tour.

Tickets for the San Antonio show go on sale to the public Wednesday, November 3 at 7 pm through the Tobin Center website. VIP packages are available now through VIPNation.com and include meet-and-greet opportunities with the cast, exclusive merch, and photo opportunities.

Fans of the TV show can expect much of the same zaniness during the live performance, which will include some recognizable characters from the TV series brought to life onstage alongside “surprise celebrity guests,” according to a release.

Celebrity guest hosts from the TV show, who will be announced closer to performance dates, will join one “local celebrity” at every show, with that VIP performing in a top-secret disguise.

The San Antonio audience will then try to decipher clues to guess the local celebrity’s identity until the he or she is unmasked at the end of the night’s festivities, with producers promising “an incredible production of song, dance, and craziness that only The Masked Singer could deliver.”

The tour is presented by Right Angle Entertainment — which has made a killing touring with live versions of popular TV series, including Price is Right Live — and producers Guy Phillips and Mark Swanhart, the minds behind Dancing with the Stars: Live!, The Bachelor Live on Stage, and the Simone Biles-led Gold Over America Tour, which canceled its San Antonio engagement this fall.

With the following The Masked Singer showhas amassed (it’s currently the No. 1 primetime series, averaging 7.9 million viewers across multiple platforms), it was likely only a matter of time before these producers took the show on the road.

The Masked Singer national tour kicks off in St. Louis on May 28, 2022. In addition to the San Antonio engagement on July 12, the tour will also make Texas stops in Austin on July 13, Sugar Land on July 14, and Grand Prairie on July 15.

New comedy club from San Antonio all-stars brings the laughs to Alamo City

Funny Business

A new San Antonio business from two local entertainers is giving comedy lovers plenty of reasons to laugh out loud.

Upstage Comedy Lounge, located at 4441 Walzem Rd., is billed as a “fresh look and location for live entertainment,” that will feature comedy shows every weekend, nationally touring comedians, an open-mic night every Wednesday, event-rental space, and, yes, even those dang funny defensive-driving classes.

Owned by DJ Double K and comedian B Smitty, the new San Antonio comedy club will host its soft opening events Friday, September 10, featuring headlining stand-up comedian Raul Sanchez and Josh Cabaza, and Saturday, September 11, featuring headlining comedian Clifton Simmons and Glo Armmer.

Both shows start at 8 pm, and tickets ranging from single seats to four-top tables and preferred seating areas are available online.

Check out other upcoming performances on the Upstage calendar here.

And in accordance with the notion that you can’t run a successful comedy club unless patrons have the chance to snort drinks out of their noses mid-guffaw, Upstage offers plenty of sips and bites befitting a funny factory.

Signature drinks include the rum-based Punchline, the bourbon-forward Sour Puss, and the tequila-fueled Take My Wife, and grace the beverage menu alongside margaritas, mimosas, spirits, beer, and soft drinks. Nibbles include a smattering of wings, fries, and nachos.

As they say at Upstage, “Traffic tickets aren’t funny. However, getting them dismissed can be hilarious.” And San Antonio speed demons in search of a car insurance discount and ticket dismissal will delight in Upstage’s Driving Safety course hosted by B Smitty, which includes free lunch and free comedy tickets, and is also available in a virtual version.

For more info about Upstage Comedy Lounge and upcoming performances, follow the club on Instagram.

New 10-acre paintball park blasts into San Antonio suburb

Got ya!

In a bid to develop more contact-free activities, EVO Entertainment may have hit a bullseye. The Texas-based movie chain announced it is adding a 10-acre paintball and airsoft park to its Schertz location.

Set to open in November, the new course is a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need for more activities that take place outdoors and allow people to socially distance from one another.

“With the limitations we continue to face during the pandemic, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to get creative and offer something we’ve never done before,” said EVO Entertainment Group CEO Mitch Roberts. “With the addition of our non-contact paintball and airsoft course, we can now offer our guests a new option for outdoor entertainment while still safely practicing social distancing.”

The new course is divided into two sections: The Forests and The Fields. The Forests section is made up of three woodsball courses. This type of course creates a more "natural" environment for players, so they can shoot from behind trees and logs, etc.

The Fields section includes two speedball courses, which give both teams a similar course — ie, a level playing "field." Each expanse is also populated with bunkers and other hidey-holes to help players spring the ultimate paintball attack.

Players will be required to undergo a health and safety check before taking part, notes a release, and EVO will sanitize equipment after each use.

Though an exact date has yet to be announced, EVO says the new 10-acre attraction should be open in late November.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

San Antonio International Airport clears runway for 1st nonstop flight to Europe, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor's note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From international flights to local delights, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio International Airport clears runway for 1st nonstop flight to Europe. Passengers can now book tickets for flights from San Antonio International Airport (SAT) to Germany's Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

2. Hot San Antonio hotel brings back popular live fire dinner series for fall. Executive chef Michael Collins will keep grilling on the patio at Ambler Texas Kitchen + Cocktails.

3. New honky-tonk surprisingly two-steps into St. Paul's Square. When Steve Mahoney first relaunched Francis Bogside and Anne’s, rumors circulated on how he would use the expansive upstairs space.

4. Nola breaks new ground and a Hill Country eatery heads to City Hall in San Antonio food news. This week's food news saw the expansion of a popular brunch spot, cookbook and website features, and more.

5. Here are the top 7 things to do in San Antonio this weekend. There's much to do this weekend, including beer festivals and a great standup set.

Hugely popular San Antonio restaurant Ladino celebrates first anniversary with Mediterranean party

Luck be Ladino

Although Ladino has only been a Pearl gem for one year, the mediterranean hotspot already feels like a San Antonio staple.

Helmed by executive chef Berty Richter and Emmer Hospitality, Ladino is slated to celebrate its first anniversary this Sunday with a festive party celebrating the restaurant's success as well as its future. Guests will enjoy a welcome beverage (and more cocktails for purchase), plus unlimited grilled meats, pita sandwiches, and other bites. DJ Zain will keep the energy up, while guests play yard games and kids get their faces painted.

Chef Richter tells CultureMap, '"In the world of restaurants and hospitality, we always strive to progress, keep learning, and improving."

When Ladino opened last September, it represented a promising branching out from its Austin-branched hospitality group parent, which had prior (and has since) earned acclaim from national publications for its cultural vibrancy — and deliciousness, of course.

In Ladino's case, the cultural touchstone is the Judeo-Spanish language of the same name that Chef Richter spoke growing up, which also included elements of Castellano, French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, and Hebrew. Richter's Turkish mother inspired many parts of the restaurant's popular Mediterranean menu.

Despite a strong point of view, the restaurant does have something for everyone, and is very accommodating to patrons with dietary restrictions. Signature staples include the sourdough-based pita bread (which comes unlimited with the hummus dip), kibbeh nayeh with Wagyu tartare, shishbarak (lamb and pork dumplings), and saffron chicken. The Wagyu Denver steak is a consistent standout, with a perfect crispy edge surrounding the medium rare middle.

Chef Richter plans to keep the menu generally the same for now, with the ongoing tradition of rotating some dishes out based on seasonal availability.

"We are excited to continue exploring the cuisines and cultures that Ladino represents, while strengthening our relationships with local farmers, growers, producers, and the communities of San Antonio," says Richter.

Now open seven days a week, Ladino offers a happy hour on weekdays from 5-6:30 pm. Deals include six dollars off of the hummus dip and pita, $5 off of Ladino's signature cocktails and wines by the glass, and deals on other plates like babaganoush, a spicy Feta plate, and more. The happy hour specials are only available at the upstairs bar, which is easily accessible catty-corner to the main Ladino entrance at the Pearl.

Tickets ($40, $15 for kids) to the anniversary celebration on October 1, from 4-8 pm, are still available via Eventbrite. Regular reservations and to-go orders may be made at ladinosatx.com.

Botanical Garden's Lightscape mesmerizes with new exhibits and discount tickets


Call it the grown-up version of posing with Santa Claus. Since its dazzling debut in 2021, the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s Lightscape has been the essential stop for holiday photoshoots. Planners are already working hard to ensure the annual tradition is more brilliant — and accessible — than ever.

Tickets are now on sale for the showstopping exhibition, running November 17 to January 1. The festivities will include familiar displays and brand-new illuminated works from global designers.

French creative studio Pitaya will return with a new installation, "Spark Ballet." The work features dozens of hanging lanterns glowing with firefly lights as a flickering guide around the lake. Visitors will also be treated to a pair of large-scale spectacles from UK outfit ArtAV, including an array of sparkling stars and a 40-foot-high LED tree.

Some of last year’s favorites will make an encore. The "Heart Arch Walk" allows guests to stroll under a tunnel of love while "Floraison" canopies explorers with brightly lit poppies. As always, the "Winter Cathedral" provides one last selfie spot.

The ever-popular "Bluebonnets" will also mesmerize sightseers, this time with an army of life-sized cowboy nutcrackers. The "Fire Garden" will have a new addition, too — the 25-foot dragon last seen in the blockbuster Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time exhibition.

Peak date tickets cost $28 for adults and $18 for children, with VIP packages and member discounts available. For the first time ever, the garden also offers Value Nights on select dates in November and December. Revelers can score tickets as low as $18 for adults and $10 for kids online.

San Antonio Botanical Garden Lightscape

Photo courtesy of San Antonio Botanical Garden

The Pixel tree makes an ideal selfie stop.