It may not be in a central location like Nashville or Chicago or have as many hotel rooms or golf courses as Orlando, but beautiful San Diego is one of those meetings destinations that attracts a lot of convention attendees. That’s why we anticipate a large turnout for the 2018 Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Convention, taking place in the San Diego Convention Center Aug. 11 to 15.
And if San Diego’s nearly 300 days of sunshine a year, 70 miles of pristine beaches and laid-back culture don’t entice you to get out there, perhaps GBTA’s lineup of keynote speakers — including tennis legend Billie Jean King and “Shark Tank’s” Kevin O’Leary — will.
You know who else will be there? A whole slew of us from American Express Global Business Travel (GBT). Be sure to check out the after-party we’re hosting on Aug. 13 from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. at Omnia nightclub with Mario Lopez and other celebrity guests!
be sure to come visit our booth!
So whether you’re visiting “America’s Finest City” for the GBTA Convention, another corporate event or it’ll be a mix of business and pleasure, here’s your must-read guide.
Where to lay your head at night
If you’re attending the GBTA conference or another event at the convention center, there are five four-star hotels within five minutes’ walking distance from the convention center that we recommend.
The Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina is the perfect base if the family is tagging along. They can spend time at the property’s massive resort-style pool while you’re busy networking. If you’re a night owl looking for fun, book a room at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, where there often is live musical entertainment. Make a reservation at Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter to be within steps of the convention center and the lively nightlife activities in the surrounding neighborhood. For top-notch customer service and perhaps the chance to catch a glimpse of the Padres baseball game in Petco Park from your room, check out Omni San Diego. Sophisticated foodies will enjoy a stay at Pendry San Diego, a posh property that’s home to six unique restaurants and bars, including the top-rated Lionfish.
And for even more hotels where GBTA has arranged for a room block and shuttle options, click here.
The downtown area and convention center are only a 10-minute cab ride from the airport, but if you do plan to do some sightseeing, we recommend renting a car.
San Diego is spread out and to hit the top tourist attractions when there’s a time crunch, public transportation simply isn’t feasible. Just be sure if you do rent a car to read the street signs and feed the meters. Or to make sure you’re totally safe from getting nailed with parking tickets, check out this site to find a lot.
If renting your own wheels is too much trouble, you also might take a tour of the city hopping on one of the Metropolitan Transit System’s iconic red trolleys or go cruising in the bay via a water taxi.
Eat where the locals do
It’s all about sea-to-table dining in this ocean-side city. For a place with just-caught fish and fresh oysters that’s relatively close to the convention center, check out Fish Market Restaurant, where you can enjoy al fresco dining with a view of the bay. You say fish tacos are more your thing? The ones at Tin Fish Gaslamp are absolutely scrumptious.
And on everyone’s must-visit lists is Juniper & Ivy, which offers “refined American food with a left coast edge courtesy of the acclaimed chef Richard Blais.” Need we say more?
And for excellent food, service and ambience, it doesn’t get much better than Cucina Urbana, which serves California-inspired Italian food.
For a local favorite, try carne asada fries — which are french fries topped with carne asada, guacamole, sour cream and cheese — at Lolita’s Mexican Food, the place where this dish allegedly originated.
And to satiate your sweet tooth, make a pit stop at Extraordinary Desserts for beautifully presented and outrageously tasty confectioneries.
If you have a few hours to kill…
Soak up the sunshine at one of SD’s outdoor attractions!
At Mission Bay Park, the largest man-made aquatic park in the world, you can experience quintessential San Diego watersports, such as kitesurfing, paddleboarding and sailing. For a quieter beach experience, go sunbathing at the less busy Coronado Beach and then head to Hotel del Coronado, a historic hotel where Marilyn Monroe filmed “Some Like It Hot.”
To appreciate hundreds of species in the animal kingdom, visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo or Safari Park in Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre urban cultural park that’s a destination unto itself. Or hop in the car for a day trip north to La Jolla Cove, where you can spot seals and sea lions on the beach, enjoy some of the area’s best snorkeling as well as fine-dining restaurants with breathtaking ocean views. Go a bit further north still and you’ll hit Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, where you can hike along its well-kempt trails or hit the links on its oceanside golf course.
To experience a piece of U.S. military history, tour the maritime museum at the USS Midway, the longest-serving American aircraft carrier of the 20th century.
The San Diego International Airport ranks as the 15th worst airport in the United States for flight cancellations with nearly 1,000 flights cancelled in 2017. But there are a couple of things that can help you at a time like this. If you’re traveling as an American Express GBT client, stay ahead of the game by using the Amex GBT Mobile app for instant updates on flight cancellations and delays. Also, take advantage of our Proactive Traveler Care service to receive automatic travel disruption notifications and live rebooking assistance.
Don’t have access to either of the above? That’s a shame really, but at least you can download AtYourGate, an app the San Diego Airport uses that allows you to purchase food and retail items via your mobile device and have those items delivered to you at the gate. This way you don’t need to get out of the line you’ll be stuck in to find out how you’ll be making it back home.