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The Sunny Shores of San Diego

Well, mostly sunny. The mornings were very foggy in December.

San Diego sunsets

My last bit of busy autumn travel took me down to San Diego, California for the annual school boards education conference in early December. So after arriving home on a Saturday evening from our Thanksgiving trip to the Czech Republic and Istanbul, I was headed to SD on an Amtrak the following Wednesday. As crazy as that was, this was less hectic than the last conference in 2019 prior to the pandemic; then I literally had 40 minutes to clear customs after landing at LAX from Heathrow before boarding my flight to San Diego.

The Santa Fe Depot

Nevertheless, I had been a bit stressed out prior to this year’s trip. Between preparing my classes for my absence following a busy Thanksgiving vacation and worrying about getting to San Diego in a reasonable amount of time and without a working car, I felt a little anxious. Taking the Amtrak down meant that I was able to sit and work- or sit and relax- without the hassle of rush hour traffic on either Interstates 5 or 15. And enjoy the ride I did. I graded homework, enjoyed a Starbucks snowman cookie, and worked on the blog on the three hour train ride, which was probably about how long it would have taken to drive. I arrived to San Diego as relaxed as I could be for a business conference, took the easy half mile walk from the train station and checked in at the Marriott.

The conference was at the San Diego Convention Center, in a prime location in the Marina District and next to Gaslamp Quarter. This area is great not just for a conference to hold a few thousand people, but also for a mini-vacation. This was not the first time I had been to this part of San Diego. With its relatively close proximity to Los Angeles County, it has been a location where we’ve taken weekend family trips in years past. The side of the convention center opposite Harbor Drive leads out to the Embarcadero and has a lovely view of the bay and the Coronado Bridge, perfect for sitting in the sun with colleagues while waiting for the next session to start.

Seaport Village, a dining and shopping area just northwest of the convention center, was a convenient place to grab a bite in between sessions. For those with more time or are traveling with kids, there is a pretty vintage-style carousel reminiscent of a time gone by. There are also some cute and kitsch shops if retail therapy is more your thing. It was not mine, especially on a work trip, but it was nice just to walk around the village and get some steps in.

San Diego is known not just for its beaches, but also for its long and rich military history. Walking to lunch on the second day of the conference involved a trek past the famous U.S.S. Midway, the longest serving aircraft carrier of the twentieth century. It was commissioned just after the end of World War II, and was in service through the Cold War, Vietnam War, and the Gulf War in 1990, before its final mission in 1992 when it was involved in the evacuation of Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Midway was decommissioned in 1992 and was opened as the U.S.S. Midway Museum in 2004 in San Diego. And we just walked by it while on the way to grab some tacos at Miguel’s before our general session.

U.S.S. Midway Museum

That lunchtime walk was also a part of the Greatest Generation Walk celebrating those who served in World War II, which had monuments dedicated to those who served on the U.S.S. San Diego, other aircraft carriers, as well as soldiers coming home to their families and a statue depicting the famous “Unconditional Surrender” photo of the sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square.

Also close to the Marriott, was the marina and Embarcadero Marina Park South. The park was a pretty place to enjoy an evening stroll after the day’s last session and before getting ready for dinners. I watched the sunset over the bay and watched the dogs playing in the fields all while getting a little bit of exercise. The park features bike paths and racks, basketball courts, picnic tables, and a nice gazebo. And of course, the views were lovely, especially with the setting autumn sun.

After a literal walk in the park on my second full day in San Diego, there was still about an hour and a half before it was time to get ready for dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter, so I stopped for a coffee at Spill the Beans, a cute coffee shop in Seaport Village. The la vida mocha, a chocolatey aztec-style coffee, was the perfect caffeinated beverage to tide me over before dinner. Add to that the relaxed feel of Seaport Village as the sun went down, it was a good way to unwind after a day of learning and networking. I would return for an avocado toast breakfast the next morning before boarding the Amtrak to head back home.

There is so much more to do in the Marina and Gaslamp areas of San Diego. If you have more time and a car, or you don’t mind a ferry ride, Coronado Island is not far and offers up stunning Pacific Ocean views on white sand beaches as well as shopping and dining on Orange Avenue. Unfortunately this was not on my itinerary as I did not have time or a car, but I heard that next year’s conference will once again be in San Diego, so hey- there’s always next year!

For more information, or to plan your trip to mostly sunny San Diego check out the following sites:

Coronado Visitor Center
Greatest Generation Walk
Seaport Village

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