San Diego is a ray of sunshine - even now
Ahhhhh….San Diego. Like a breath of fresh air, the city feels welcoming, soothing and comforting. Maybe it’s the sound of waves crashing against the shore, the breezes off the bay, the sunny skies or the palm trees that line nearly every street.
Whatever the reason, San Diego is not only a remarkable year-round destination, but it’s also accessible and sure to up your meeting’s attendance.
“People want to be here, and they leave with a smile on their face,” says Margie Sitton, senior vice president of sales for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau. And many people choose not to leave, as California’s second-largest city boasts nearly 1.3 million residents. But you can’t really blame them, with a year-long temperature that averages 70 degrees. The sunny skies are also complemented by sandy shores, as the county rests on 70 miles of beaches along the Pacific Ocean.
“We have it all,” Sitton says. “The people, the place and the climate inspire optimism.” Sitton also adds that San Diego has every kind of hotel imaginable, from major brands to boutique, a convention center, an international airport, the ocean, bay, marina, naval base, cruise terminal…well, you get the point. The city has everything your group could need—and want.
Major players in the meeting world also recognize San Diego as an all-encompassing destination, including ASAE, which held their annual meeting there this past August. “I was so blown away by that event,” Sitton says. “The opening night party was on the Embarcadero, and I looked out at the backdrop and I thought, ‘oh my God, this is the destination that we sell.’”
For meetings, there really isn’t anything missing in San Diego, especially now. “With the variety, [meeting planners] can find out how easy it is to do business here,” she says. And in our current economy, the city has options. “Right now we have the availability, and rates have dropped—there are great deals, and it’s no secret,” Sitton says. “Plus, the weather is still good and the people [here] are still happy.”
After you fly in between (and maybe a bit too close to) the buildings that make up the city’s skyline, San Diego’s airport places you mere minutes from the convention center and plenty of major meetings hotels that make up a vibrant downtown. “San Diego is pretty unique because it’s such a diverse destination,” Sitton says. “When you think of an airport destination, you don’t think of this.”
Downtown San Diego could very well be a destination all its own, as it’s not only walkable, but is also filled with restaurants and nightlife. “It is a safe and dynamic downtown where attendees can feel comfortable,” says Steven Johnson, vice president of public affairs for the convention center. And because all of the hotels are so close, “[meeting attendees] get a sense that when they come to San Diego, it’s their own playground,” he says.
Located in the heart of downtown, on the waterfront, the San Diego Convention Center is, in fact, within a quarter mile of 6,000 guest rooms. It offers 72 meeting and banquet rooms for a total of 204,114 sq. ft. of meeting space, more than 284,000 sq. ft. of pre-function space, and 525,701 sq. ft. of exhibit space on its ground level.
A special feature is the beautiful Sails Pavilion with 90,000 sq. ft. of function space, whose architectural white sails soar above the convention center and glass windows showcase vistas of downtown and San Diego Bay.
“When you come downtown, you are able to be a part of the city in a way that makes you feel like you are experiencing San Diego,” Johnson says.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES
With its January 2009 debut, the Hilton San Diego Bayfront brought 1,190 guest rooms (all with views of the San Diego Bay) and 165,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space to the waterfront. Function space includes a 34,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, a 24,000-square-foot Junior Ballroom, 33 breakout rooms and a 4.3-acre outdoor park for events or receptions.
Just a few city blocks away, The US Grant has been a historic landmark since 1910. It provides groups with 22 meeting rooms that total 33,000 sq. ft. and come complete with Internet, event lighting and an on-site audiovisual team. The largest space is the 8,100-square-foot Presidential Ballroom, which can accommodate up to 900 guests.
A little more than a mile from the convention center is the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego with more than 125,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space. The 1,625-room property offers a full-service marina (think amazing bayside views) and an on-site spa. It’s also just steps from Seaport Village, a 14-acre waterfront shopping, dining and entertainment complex.
San Diego has introduced several new, chic properties to their downtown in the last few years, including the Ivy Hotel, which opened a little less than two years ago. The hotel offers planners 20,000 sq. ft. of event space and 9,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The boutique, 159-room luxury hotel also offers the Eden Rooftop for up to 160 guests with spectacular views of the city.
Formerly Setai, the luxury, 161-room Sè San Diego offers 10 meeting rooms including a grand ballroom. It’s located adjacent to the San Diego House of Blues, which also offers a restaurant, the “Salvation Alley,” Delta Room and Music Hall for meetings.
Only eight blocks long and two blocks wide, the historic Gaslamp Quarter is home to 150 restaurants, coffee houses and clubs and nearly 100 shops and galleries, as well as meetings hotels. The one-of-a-kind mecca of sorts is a main attraction downtown, and offers a great introduction to the city’s vibrant nightlife (and restaurant) scene.
Connected to the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park via skywalk, the Omni San Diego Hotel offers 511 guest rooms and 27,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Its stunning 32-story building also features an outdoor terrace with a stone fireplace, heated pool and spa.
And just across the street from Petco is the 291-room Marriott San Diego Gaslamp Quarter with 8,375 sq. ft. of meeting space in seven rooms. On the 22nd story, you can take advantage of the Altitude Sky Lounge, available for receptions or special events. The views are incredible, as you look into the ballpark and over the downtown skyline.
Just across the street from the convention center, and at the entrance to the Gaslamp, the new Hard Rock Hotel San Diego recently completed an expansion of its meeting space, and now offers more than 40,000 sq. ft. The new 7,500-square-foot, two-level space features seven breakout rooms for groups up to 180. The property also has 420 rooms and suites, including 17 Rock Star Suites for your VIPs.
Bill Horten, corporate event manager for Mitchell International, Inc., a company that helps to improve business processes for insurance companies and collision repair, recently held their annual sales meeting (a 300-person event) over four days at the Hard Rock Hotel. “One thing I would say is, that at first look you think Hard Rock is designed to look trendy,” Horten says. “[I thought] it might be great for entertainment, but how good is it for a business meeting?”
But Horten was pleasantly surprised, as the Hard Rock renovated their meeting space and adapted to the current market. “They are very in tune with the needs of their business meeting clients,” he says (no musical pun intended). “Their staff gave a lot of attention, and one great thing was the technology built into their meeting space.” Mitchell took advantage of the technology by converting meeting rooms by day into special event rooms by night. “You don’t need to bring any equipment,” he says. “It’s perfect.”
The Westin Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego is also located in the heart of downtown and offers planners more than 35,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including the California Ballroom for up to 900 attendees. The 450-room property also has a spa and custom-created three- and five-mile running maps for (your very dedicated) guests to get out and unwind.
To the city’s residents, the beach is a way of life. As a visitor, it’s a must-see. And there are plenty of sandy beaches (more than 20!) to choose from in all areas of the city, so that no matter where you are, there should always be an ocean breeze and a view, even if it is just when you step out for a break from a meeting.
Pacific Beach is where a lot of activity happens. With a boardwalk that spans approximately 3.5 miles along the ocean, it’s always filled with bikes, rollerblades and sightseers, and is lined with restaurants with patios and sun decks that showcase the view. As Pacific Beach turns into Mission Beach, the two are just a few blocks from Mission Bay. And that is where you will find Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa, which has 14 function rooms and more than 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The 311-room property gives attendees the beauty of the bay right outside the front door, and the Pacific Ocean just 100 yards away. Meeting space ranges, so you can choose from views, patios or a balcony.
Heading north, and directly on the sands of Pacific Beach, is the luxury, boutique Tower 23 Hotel. The ultra-contemporary 44-room hotel gets its name from the lifeguard tower that sits out front. Meeting space is made up of a private wine room, which is an extension of its oceanfront restaurant, and a heated patio that together total 1,700 sq. ft. The Wine Room holds up to 100 for a reception, and the patio alone can accommodate up to 60 guests.
Mission Bay has more than 4,000 acres of bay, bike paths and parks to explore. Along with a wide range of water sports to choose from, the area is a great stretch of outdoors for events and receptions; its central location also provides easy access to the freeway that will take you downtown in about 10 minutes. The bay gives a mellow vibe to its meeting venues, and is surrounded with everything from upscale hotels to a secluded island resort for a true getaway when your meetings are complete.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES
Any closer and the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina would be on the water. The property features 430 guest rooms and 30,000 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor function space, and a recent $65-million redesign included its meeting rooms, poolside lounge and an eco-friendly spa. Outdoors, the hotel added three pools and a full-service marina complete with jet skis, sailboats, kayaks, sport fishing and whale excursions—providing quick and easy access for a day trip or off-site team building.
The Dana on Mission Bay also features incredible bayside views and meeting space for up to 400. A special feature is their ballroom, which has 18-foot-high glass walls that overlook the water. Both The Dana and Hyatt Regency are adjacent to the Marina Village Conference Center, which can accommodate up to 350 guests.
Located on the bay, SeaWorld San Diego is one of the world’s most famous marina adventure parks, with more than 200 acres of shows, rides and animals. The park offers special group locations for 75 to 10,000 guests, which include everything from the open air Garden Plaza, an interactive setting at the Manatee Rescue, or dining with the famous Shamu himself.
A tropical choice is the Bahia Resort Hotel with 16 venues for meetings that total 20,000 sq. ft. With both beachfront and bay views, it’s hard not to like the Mission Bay Ballroom, which can host up to 1,200 guests.
And speaking of tropical, on its own island is the palm tree-filled Paradise Point Resort & Spa, which sits on 44 lush acres of colorful, landscaped gardens. The bungalow-style guest rooms will make you feel like you are in another world; however, business will get done in any one of the 32 high-speed Internet-wired banquet rooms or the 10,064-square-foot Paradise Ballroom. Indoor space totals more than 35,000 sq. ft., and outdoor space includes a mile-long sandy white beach, four lawn venues and several poolside patios that total 30,000 sq. ft.
If you head north up the coast, you will run into La Jolla, an upscale beach town complete with miles of sand, great surfing spots and plenty of shops and restaurants. Running along seven miles of the Pacific Ocean’s shores, La Jolla has a small-town feel with a walkable “downtown” area and amazing views of the nearby waves (and its surfers).
The 210-room Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa opened in 2004 and sits adjacent to the University of California, San Diego. The hotel features 26,000 sq. ft. of IACC-certified conference facilities, a full-service spa and several restaurants and lounges.
Perched on the bluffs of La Jolla, the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines overlooks the Torrey Pines Golf Course and provides groups with 26,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space that flows outside into 20,000 sq. ft. of landscaped gardens. The Lodge at Torrey Pines also overlooks the ocean, as it welcomes guests into its craftsman-style resort with 170 guest rooms and more than 13,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The property also has a 9,500-square-foot full-service spa and two restaurants.
When you walk out of the front door of the La Jolla Shores Hotel your toes are literally in the sand. The waterfront property offers 7,500 sq. ft. of event space and 128 guest rooms. Outdoor venues are a specialty at the hotel, and they include patios and courtyards—all equipped with high-speed Internet as well as full-service catering options.
Located on more than seven acres of tropical beauty, the Sheraton La Jolla Hotel can accommodate groups up to 250, and newly renovated meeting rooms all feature floor-to-ceiling windows. About five minutes from spectacular beaches, tide pools, Torrey Pines Golf Course and snorkeling at La Jolla Cove, the property offers 252 guest rooms.
MISSION VALLEY/OLD TOWN
Home to the Mission San Diego de Alcalá (San Diego’s first mission, which the region is named after), Mission Valley is located about 10 miles inland, which makes for great price points for meetings. As the area maintains a dynamic restaurant scene and plenty of recreational activities to choose from, along with easy access to the airport.
Just around the corner from Mission Valley is the popular Old Town district, which takes guests back in time with historic mission-style store fronts, 32 restaurants, and more than 20 historic buildings and sites. Accessible by San Diego’s trolley system, which you can also take downtown from the Old Town station, the area is a great place to visit for authentic Mexican-style group dining, or to take in a bit of history.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES
Aside from its convenient location and off-site activities and dining options, Mission Valley has a concentrated area for hotels, coolly named Hotel Circle, which serves as a hub for the area’s major meetings properties.
A major player in the meeting arena is the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center with 250,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space and 1,000 guest rooms. Located in Hotel Circle, the property has a 41,000-square-foot Grand Exhibit Hall and a team dedicated to themed events (ranging from “The Last Night on the Titanic” to “A Spanish Tapas Extravaganza”) for a minimum of 50 guests.
The Crowne Plaza San Diego is also located in the heart of the valley and has more than 26,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, along with the 8,400-square-foot Royal Palms Pavilion. Its 403 guest rooms have either a private patio or balcony, and 14 suites are available for your top clients.
The Handlery Hotel & Resort San Diego has been an icon in San Diego’s valley since 1954. With 217 guest rooms and 42,000 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor function space for up to 700 attendees, the property also features a pool and fitness center, and is adjacent to the 27-hole championship Riverwalk Golf Club.
Near Hotel Circle, the Sheraton Mission Valley San Diego Hotel has meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 500 attendees, and conference space that totals more than 12,000 sq. ft. The hotel has 260 guest rooms that overlook Mission Valley, and all meeting space comes with high-speed Internet and complete audiovisual services.
If you’d like to stay (and not just play) in Old Town, the Hacienda Hotel Old Town San Diego features 9,450 sq. ft. of meeting space in five meeting rooms. Conference suites are also available throughout the Spanish-style manor, which has a total of 200 guest rooms.
NORTH SAN DIEGO
Northern San Diego is home to several famous attractions such as the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, Legoland, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps and the Del Mar Fairgrounds—all great for team-building activities or as spousal entertainment venues. The San Diego North Convention & Visitors Bureau is also a great resource for the area.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES
The Del Mar Fairgrounds are a popular option for the summer months (all nine of them), and the facility provides 180,000 sq. ft. of meeting and exhibit space. Indoors, O’Brien Hall can accommodate up to 6,800 people, and the Grandstand and Del Mar Arena can hold up to 7,000 outdoors. The Del Mar Fairgrounds is home to several major annual events, including the San Diego County Fair (usually June through the beginning of July) and the Del Mar horse races (July through September).
In coastal northern San Diego, The Grand Del Mar features 249 guest rooms, 31 suites and more than 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space for up to 600 attendees. Highlights of the property include a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, private dining in a wine cellar and several outdoor venues. Located in the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, the resort has influences from Italy, Morocco, Portugal and Spain, plus views of its championship golf course and colorful landscape.
On the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Del Mar, L’Auberge Del Mar features 120 guest rooms and upscale meeting space that totals 15,500 sq. ft. The entire resort conveys seaside elegance with panoramic vistas of the ocean (meeting space included). Outside, the Pacific and Sunset Terraces both feature stunning water views and are available for group dining.
Head a bit farther north to find the 250-room Sheraton Carlsbad, which features Spanish Mediterranean architecture as well as beautifully landscaped lawns, nearby beaches and coastal views. The property offers more than 30,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including two flexible ballrooms.
EAST SAN DIEGO
Known for gaming and golf, East San Diego County is a hidden gem, complete with resorts, upscale golf courses and meetings facilities for small or large groups.
Sycuan Resort is perfect for groups that really want to get out on the green. Recognized as the No. 1 golf course in San Diego (for the fifth year in a row) by readers of the San Diego Union Tribune, and as one of the top courses by the San Diego Business Journal, Sycuan is nearly legendary. The property itself sits on 425 acres and offers 100 guest rooms, and meeting space for 10 to 200 attendees.
Another major golf destination in the east, the Cottonwood Golf Club features views of the rolling hills, and is home to 36 holes of championship golf. The Pavilion on the Green reception and banquet facility is ideal for receptions or large dinners; seating is available for up to 300 guests.
From the bay to the ocean, there are plenty of meeting spots in San Diego that will wow your attendees. With wonderful weather and magnificent skylines as the backdrop to meeting venues on the water, San Diego offers something that many other destinations cannot. From the harbor and Seaport Village, to the historic USS Midway, these waterfront meeting locations are hard to beat—filled with history and endless possibilities.
ASAE’s welcome reception in San Diego said ahoy to attendees aboard the USS Midway, the longest serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century. Now a floating naval ship museum, the Midway is an incredible venue due to its history and overpowering size (as well as 360-degree views of downtown San Diego). With two enclosed hangars at 17,000 sq. ft. each and a 50,000-square-foot flight deck, the ship can accommodate up to 4,000 attendees.
Located on the bay, the 25-story San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina provides meeting planners with 1,362 guest rooms and 75,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The hotel’s signature 446-slip marina offers myriad outdoor activities with water sports and rentals.
Situated on the scenic Shelter Island surrounded by San Diego Bay, the Bay Club Hotel Marina is a boutique waterfront property with 105 guest rooms and three meeting rooms for up to 100 attendees. Not surprisingly, its marina also shows off San Diego’s skyline amid sailboats and
Spanning 11 acres on the tip of Shelter Island, Kona Kai Resort and Spa, San Diego is a Mediterranean-style property with 13,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space, and 23,000 sq. ft. outdoors. On-site recreational activities include a swimming pool, spa, full-service fitness club, beach volleyball courts, bicycles, tennis courts and jogging paths.
Just across the bay from downtown San Diego, Coronado Island is accessible through ferry or via the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, making it the perfect place for a short day trip or off-site venue for a meeting. And there’s nothing quite like this charming island, complete with several resorts, 100 restaurants, 200 shops and art galleries.
The famous Hotel del Coronado is breathtaking inside and out, with its iconic red roof that contrasts with its white exterior. The historic hotel was built in 1888 and has since become a National Historic Landmark. Today, the sprawling oceanfront property offers 679 guest rooms in three buildings, plus 78 cottages and villas. Meeting space totals 65,000 sq. ft. indoors and out, and all rooms have state-of-the-art multimedia capabilities as well as high-speed Internet access.
The Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa offers 16 waterfront acres available for meetings and receptions, as well as 300 guest rooms and suites. The property has 14,000 sq. ft. of dedicated meeting space, including the 7,455-square-foot Coronado Ballroom with maximum seating capacity for 800 guests.