I recently went on a conference trip to sunny San Diego, California, and it was probably the best conference trip I’ve been on. San Diego in the summer is just a great place to be, and it’s even more awesome when my travel costs are paid for. Of course, this was a conference trip and I did spend most of the trip attending conference events, but fortunately I also had a bit of time to do touristy things as covered in this post.
I haven’t been to California for almost a decade and the closest I have been to San Diego was going to Sea World, so this was my first time to the city of San Diego. I have to say, the conference organizers made a wise choice in picking San Diego for the summer conference. The climate was unbeatable: it was sunny, but not too hot and the temperature outdoors was almost perfect for walking around in a short-sleeve shirt. I got a pretty good farmer’s tan by the end of the trip. Our conference hotel was right inside San Diego’s downtown area, and so it was very convenient to walk around downtown and to San Diego Bay. The whole downtown area has a good number of large buildings, but it also had a very southern Californian (Spanish/Mexican?) feel to it, and it was in general quite nice and clean. I spent some time hanging around Seaport Village and the Embarcadero Marina Park in front of the big waterside hotels. The whole marina area is a tourist hub; the park is well-kept and Seaport Village has a bunch of interesting shops and some outdoor performances to occupy visitors. The view across San Diego bay to Coronado is also quite nice, although it was too bad I didn’t get the chance to actually visit Coronado and its beaches.
San Diego is located by the sea and is also close to Mexico, so my meals out were mainly seafood or Mexican food. My favorite item was the fried oysters I got at a fish fry place. Some friends and I went to Old Town for dinner one night and we had Mexican food. This gave me a chance to use San Diego’s trolley system, and it’s pretty convenient and fairly clean. Old Town looked like a nice place to visit but unfortunately we only had time for dinner. We couldn’t get into the most popular restaurant Mexican restaurant there because it was packed, so we settled for another restaurant that had less people. The food was okay; it wasn’t disagreeable, but it wasn’t anything to write home about either. We probably should have made a reservation at the popular place. Despite the merely okay food, I would definitely go back and properly visit the Old Town if I return to San Diego.
Although I spent most of the time at the conference site, I did manage to visit some nearby attractions. I went to the USS Midway Museum which was close to my hotel and was within walking distance. The museum consisted of the aircraft carrier USS Midway along with various aircraft on display on the ship. It’s the first time I’ve been on an aircraft carrier, and the Midway is quite an impressive piece of military engineering. Some of the exhibits were pretty interesting too, especially the aircrafts that visitors can climb into to take pictures.
Another place I visited was the famous San Diego Zoo. The zoo is located a Balboa Park which is a little too far to walk to, but it was only a 15 minute bus ride and was easy to get to. The tickets prices for the zoo were a little expensive, but the zoo was pretty big and had plenty of exhibits to go through, so it wasn’t a bad deal. It probably too me 3-4 hours to get through most of the exhibits. There were lots of people there, consisting mostly of families with children and kids going on field trips. The San Diego Zoo is one of the few zoos outside of China that has giant pandas. When I got to the exhibit, the pandas were sleeping and didn’t do anything interesting. The highlight was probably the polar bears which came out to feed when I got to their exhibit. I haven’t been to a zoo since I was in elementary school, so going around looking at the exotic animals brings back the memories.
The last tourist activity I did in San Diego was to take one of the amphibious Seal Tour buses. I’ve seen the so call “Duck Boats” amphibious buses and always wanted to try one. The Seal Tour in San Diego starts at Seaport Village and drives on land to Shelter Island. Once there, the bus/boat takes the public boat launch to enter San Diego Bay for a spin on the waters before returning to shore at the same boat launch. We saw a lot of California sea lions lounging around on the floating platforms on the bay. Supposedly there were some dolphins too, but I didn’t see them. The thing that stood out the most was how windy it was on the bus, since the bus was tall and had no windows or glass to block the air outside. The whole experience was enjoyable, although I probably won’t take another one of these rides for a while. For the price of admission, you really don’t see all that much, but maybe my expectations were a little too high.
Overall, the conference trip to San Diego was a great experience. San Diego, at least the Downtown-tourist area, is a really great place in the summer. That pretty much can be said for the southern coastal regions of California, and no wonder so many people go to California to live or to vacation. Hopefully I won’t have to wait 10 more years to go back to California again.