California’s first city is full of meeting potential

By Malik Anderson

San Diego’s near inescapable coastline views position the city as a prime location for gorgeous meeting backdrops—if you’re into that sort of thing. Be it the beaches, the newly renovated properties or its acres-wide entertainment districts and parks, visitors might be overwhelmed with all there is to explore.

Insider Tip

“We call San Diego America’s Brightest City for a reason, and our pristine weather and sunny disposition is just the beginning. As a meetings destination, San Diego brings together bright minds in beautiful venues, leading to inspiring lightbulb moments. Add to that our gorgeous natural environment and world-class culture and cuisine, and it’s clear why the city is a great site for a successful event.”

–  Letty Canizalez, Vice President of Sales, San Diego Tourism Authority


5 Reasons Meeting Profs Love San Diego

gaslamp quarter at night
Gaslamp Quarter, photo by f11photo /

San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is one of the city’s main spots for all things entertainment and dining. home to more than 100 restaurants and venues, and 80 boutique shops, spas and salons and artisan shops. The district hosts special events throughout the year, including Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade.

Seventy miles of coastline await visitors making their way to one of California’s southernmost cities. While you could take a car to travel along the coast, San Diego Bicycle Coalition recommends a 24-mile bicycle circuit that travels around San Diego Bay, which includes 13 miles of car-free bicycle paths.

Balboa Park began in 1868 as 1,400 acres of land with no development. Today, the park made up of 1,200 acres of 18 museums, performing arts venues, gardens, areas of recreational activities and San Diego Zoo and blocks away from downtown San Diego.

San Diego offers the perfect setting for outdoor activities, like water sports—sailing, kayaking and scuba diving, as examples—and land sports—think mountain biking, horseback riding and paragliding.

Just 17 miles from the United States-Mexico border, the Mexican influence of San Diego’s cuisine can’t be overstated. The city’s home to a long list of Mexican restaurants, including Tacos El Gordo, where visitors can expect to wait for as long as an hour for its adobada meat.


5 Places to Meet

view from beach of Hotel del Coronado

Hotel del Coronado, across the bridge in Coronado, is roughly one year away from completing its multiyear development plan, which included an addition of Shore House, 75 residential-style accommodations on the property’s south end, and Vista Terrace, one of the property’s outdoor event venues.

96,000 sq. ft. of event space, 65 event venues, 367 guest rooms.

ballroom at Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina

The recently renovated Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina looks over West Harbor Drive’s private marina. These views are to be expected from its guest rooms, meetings spaces and many of its seven F&B options, including the aptly named Marina Kitchen Restaurant & Bar.

271,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, 1,366 guest rooms.

San Diego Mission Bay pool

San Diego Mission Bay’s villas and pools let out to views of the property’s gardens and bay. The property is home to four F&B options that offer cocktails and small plates (Plaza Del Sol), Mexican food (Solrisa) and acai bowls (Mission Joe).

26,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, 20 meeting venues, 357 guest rooms.

Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego guest room

Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego offers numerous experiences in and on top of its property, like movies on its fourth-floor outdoor rooftop, where guests can catch classics and new releases—there’s also lawn games, cocktails and small bites—and seaside painting accompanied by mimosas.

320,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, 1,628 guest rooms.

outdoor space at Kona Kai San Diego Resort

San Diego’s only private beach can be found at Kona Kai San Diego Resort; for the complete beach experience, the property offers s’more kits. The private beach is one of nine meeting spaces found on property, amid all the other group offerings, such as group wellness offerings and team-building exercises.

56,000 sq. ft. of event space, 170 guest rooms.


Music is in the Air (and Venue)

Music Box main floor, mezzanine and top floor
Music Box main floor, mezzanine and top floor, photo by Music Box

Although it doesn’t have the “music city” designation of other cities, San Diego is home to an impressive number of live music venues that can double as venues for colleagues to gather and as locales for diving into satisfying food and beverage.

Music Box is three-story live music landmark 1.5 miles from San Diego Convention Center. The 13,000-square-foot venue hosts an average of 260 shows annually, but there is ample space for private events as well. Music Box can accommodate 750 attendees; extending to its outdoor space increases capacity to 3,400.

House of Blues exterior at night
House of Blues

House of Blues features 30,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space across four venues, including the 200-guest House of Blues Restaurant & Bar, its walls lined with colorful murals and artwork. Its Delta Room is a cozier but no less atmospheric setting able to accommodate up to 80 attendees seated and 200 for a standing reception. Easy access to the venue’s music hall grants attendees a quick transition to the main stage in a venue buyout.

Museum of Making Music takes the beat to a new level. There, groups can learn about the process of making the instruments, providing the instruments to musicians, mastering the instruments and going beyond the instruments to what they represent. The museum typically hosts tours for up to 75 people (but arrangements can be made for even larger groups).

The waterfront Rady Shell at Jacobs Park sits behind San Diego Convention Center. Opened in August 2021, this striking venue features a 13,000-square-foot stage, a capacity to handle a reception of up to 8,000 across five seating options and plenty of food and beverage on site, provided through its culinary program, The Shell Provisions, where attendees can treat themselves to pizza at Biga Restaurant or get a sweet treat at Cali-Cream, among other options.

This article appears in the May/June 2024 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.