San Diego may be more renowned for its coastal climate and resorts than its metropolitan attractions, but it's the second largest city in California and the eighth largest in the United States. The AAO annual session returns April 21-25 for its first visit since 1999.
Temperatures in late April consistently range into the high 60s, with lows in the upper 50s. Precipitation is unlikely, but morning fog or a shower is possible.
Ground transportation at San Diego International Airport is available at both terminals 1 and 2. Since the airport is less than four miles from the convention center, taxi fares are only about $17 one way before tips. Shared shuttles can be hired at about $10 each way. The Metropolitan Transit System bus fare is $2.25 each way.
The San Diego Trolley is the light-rail service of the MTS, connecting downtown to the eastern suburbs, Old Town, Mission Valley, and the Mexican border. One-way fares are $2.50 for adults, but various pass combinations can be purchased from one-day to monthly. The North County Transit District's
Coaster commuter train runs north from downtown to Oceanside, connecting with Amtrak and other intercity rail services. Uber and Lyft also operate in San Diego, and the Free Ride service, using electric cars supported by advertising, runs in a loop around downtown all day; these ride-sharing companies all have apps for use on mobile devices.
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- Visiting the Land of Magic (Preview of events and restaurant recommendations during the AAO annual session, May 2016) February 2016
- The Streets of San Francisco (Preview of events and restaurant recommendations during the AAO annual session, May 2015) February 2015
- The Big Easy and All that Jazz (JCO's preview of New Orleans attractions during the AAO convention) February 2014
For sightseeing, Old Town Trolley Tours offer a number of routes and packages, covering much more than just the Old Town district. In addition, many companies provide scenic harbor cruises, dolphin and whale watching, fishing charters, and water sports. Note that the protected Mission Bay is much calmer than San Diego Bay.
The historic Gaslamp Quarter (Fig. 02), adjacent to downtown, offers a self-paced audio architecture tour on a downloadable app (geotourist.com). Old Town San Diego State Historic Park contains the site of the first Spanish mission settlement in California, making it a must for aficionados of early Spanish-American history.
Coronado appears to be an island across San Diego Bay from the convention center, but it's actually connected to the mainland by the Silver Strand peninsula. There is no longer a toll to drive across the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in either direction. The 15-minute Coronado Ferry, departing every half-hour from the convention center and every hour from the Broadway Pier, costs $4.75 each way. The elegant, 128-year-old Hotel Del Coronado deserves a visit.
The Embarcadero, stretching along the waterfront near the convention center, comprises Waterfront Park (with sculptures from the Port of San Diego Public Art Program), various cruise-line docks, and the Seaport Village shopping area. The Maritime Museum of San Diego (Fig. 03) holds one of the world's largest collections of historic ships. Nearby is the USS Midway Museum (Fig. 05), aboard the nation's longest-serving aircraft carrier.
Just northeast of downtown is Balboa Park, America's largest urban cultural park at 1,200 acres. In addition to the iconic San Diego Zoo, it contains a vast array of gardens and horticultural collections, recreational activities, restaurants, and even a miniature railroad. Of its 15 museums, the most significant is the San Diego Museum of Art, with special exhibitions of sculptor Richard Deacon and modern Japanese prints on display during the convention. The San Diego Natural History Museum (Fig. 04) will feature "Ultimate Dinosaurs", using 21st-century technology to explore the Mesozoic Era. The gemlike Timken Museum of Art will be showcasing "Witness to War": etchings and lithographs by Jacques Callot, Francisco de Goya, and George Bellows. Other Balboa Park institutions include the Centro Cultural de la Raza, Fleet Science Center (with IMAX theater), Marston House (1905 home), Mingei International Museum, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego Art Institute (featuring local artists), San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum, San Diego History Center, San Diego Model Railroad Museum (the world's largest), San Diego Museum of Man (anthropology; Fig. 01), Veterans Museum & Memorial Center, and WorldBeat Center (indigenous cultures from around the world). The Spreckels Organ Society hosts a free concert at 2 p.m. every Sunday on the largest outdoor organ in the Western Hemisphere, housed in a pavilion within the park.
The downtown San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art will be exhibiting "Dimensions of Black", a collaboration with the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art; "Madame Curie", a video installation by Jennifer Steinkamp; and sculpture by Tristano di Robilant. The region also has two interactive museums devoted to kids: the downtown New Children's Museum and the San Diego Children's Discovery Museum in Escondido. Also near Escondido is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park; the Palomar Observatory, with its 200" Hale Telescope, is on Palomar Mountain to the northeast.
For marine-life lovers, the venerable SeaWorld San Diego is just north of Old Town on Mission Bay. Next door on the beach is Belmont Park, a retro-style amusement park. Birch Aquarium, housing more than 5,000 fish in 60 habitats, is farther north in La Jolla, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California-San Diego.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a spectacular wooded area with miles of walking paths and scenic ocean views, about a half-hour's drive up the coast from the city. Even farther north, in Carlsbad, The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch offer 50 acres of colorful plantings overlooking the Pacific. The Sweetwater Creek Band performs there on April 22, and April 24 is Bluegrass Day.
Facades of historic houses in the Gaslamp Quarter. Photo © Jorg Hackemann, Dreamstime.com.
HMS Surprise at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Photo © Mvogel, Dreamstime.com.
The historic aircraft carrier USS Midway, now a museum. Photo © F11photo, Dreamstime.com.
San Diego Natural History Museum. Photo © F11photo, Dreamstime.com.
The historic tower at the Museum of Man in Balboa Park. Photo © Scott Jones, Dreamstime.com.
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Opera fans won't want to miss Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata at the San Diego Opera, April 22 and 25 in the Civic Theatre. The San Diego Gay Men's Chorus offers a concert of Broadway tunes April 22 and 23 at the Historic Balboa Theatre. The San Diego Symphony Orchestra is presenting a kids' concert, "Dr. Seuss's The Sneetches", on April 23 at Copley Symphony Hall. Also for the whole family, Allegro 2017, "Bringing Classy Bach!" is an all-day festival of world classical music staged on April 23 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Reverend Horton Heat and Dale Watson perform a rockabilly show at Belly Up in Solana Beach on April 20. A seminal alt-rock band, the Pixies, brings its reunion tour to the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre on April 22. That same night, Bob Marley's old backup group, the Wailers, will be at the Music Box. Country favorite Clint Black sings at Sycuan Casino on April 23.
A play called Red Velvet, depicting a true story of backstage intrigue from early-19th-century London, will be running during the convention at The Old Globe. A new musical called The Geeze and Me is playing at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center. The San Diego Repertory Theater's Roustabouts present the suspense drama Margin of Error at the Lyceum Space. Comedian Jay Larson appears April 21 and 22 at The Comedy Store in La Jolla. The 10th annual CityBeat Festival of Beers takes place on the afternoon of April 22 in North Park.
In baseball, the San Diego Padres play host to the Arizona Diamondbacks April 18-20 and the Miami Marlins April 21-23 at Petco Park.
Many of San Diego's top dining destinations focus on seafood, including Eddie V's Prime Seafood, Island Prime, and Searsucker in the convention center area; Oceana Coastal Kitchen on Mission Bay; 1500 Ocean Restaurant at the Hotel Del Coronado; and Truluck's Seafood, Steak and Crab House and The Hake in La Jolla. Other options near the convention center are BO-beau kitchen + bar on Ocean Beach, CUCINA urbana and Mister A's on Bankers Hill, NOBU San Diego in the Hard Rock Hotel, Indigo Grill (nuevo Latino) in Little Italy, and Bice San Diego in the Gaslamp Quarter.
A local favorite, Carnitas' Snack Shack, opened a branch on the Embarcadero less than a year ago. Another new entry is the pasta-oriented sister to CUCINA urbana, cucina SORELLA, in the Kensington neighborhood.
The finest Continental cuisines are generally found north of the city, including the superb Addison Del Mar, Mille Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe, and Pamplemousse Grille in Solana Beach. Also well worth a drive are The Grill at Torrey Pines and Market Restaurant + Bar in Del Mar.