San Diego is one of the top business destinations in the US, and when you’re in town on business, you’re likely to have a packed schedule, and precious little time to explore. Luckily, America’s Finest City should also be called the city that doesn’t sleep. From fine dining experiences to popular tourist attractions, there is always something going on somewhere in the city. While you may not have time to take in an entire five-act show at Civic Center or walk the length of the Silver Strand isthmus, there are plenty of amazing views, delicious meals, and quick adventures for travelers to experience! That’s why we’ve created this ‘What to do’ Business Travel Guide, so you can make the most out of your next San Diego Tour. Here are our recommendations for the best ways to spend your limited time during your next business trip to San Diego.
Snap a Photo from Emerald Plaza’s Glass Roof Elevator
Often called The Emerald City, Emerald Plaza is San Diego’s only mixed-use business center comprising office, hotel, retail, and restaurant space. The building has been a staple of the San Diego skyline, but It was recently bought by the Westin Hotel San Diego and remodeled. The 30-story office tour and hotel are connected by a 100-foot atrium which offers a spectacular view of the San Diego Harbor, downtown, and even Balboa Park!
This skyscraper is located in the heart of downtown, just outside of San Diego’s historic gaslamp quarter, and is just a short walk or trolley ride from the Convention Center. The elevator shaft and cab’s glass roof upholds a beautiful and unique view, of the city, and the hotel maintains that they are extremely business-traveller friendly. They have a rooftop pool, WestinWORKOUT® Fitness Center and studio sessions for visitors, meeting spaces, and HDTVs and High Speed Internet Access. Visiting this scenic outlook is just one of many great things to do in downtown San Diego!
Visit the Old Jail Cells at The Headquarters Seaport District
The Headquarters is the sister property to Seaport Village, and like its twin, it’s home to some delicious restaurants and fashionable boutiques to keep you business travelers amused during your stay. The center was built in 1939 and was home to the San Diego Police Headquarters, which was the largest headquarters in the world. The World.
Today, a portion of Headquarters is a mini museum in which visitors can go in and check out the jail cells from 1939 as well as other Police Headquarter memorabilia. Many visitors like to take photos “trapped” in a cell, or at the famous mugshot wall. You can also check out the photos of old San Diego criminals before eating at any of the restaurants nearby. Restaurants include Cheesecake Factory, Seasons 52, Puesto, and Eddie V’s.
Take in the City Skyline with a Walk Along the Embarcadero
Seaport Village is a three-minute walk from Headquarters and is right along the Embarcadero (as is the Convention Center, which is where most San Diego business conferences take place). The Embarcadero (a Spanish word meaning “landing place”) is located adjacent to downtown, along the east side of San Diego Bay and is a testament to the city’s colorful maritime history complete with historic ships, museums, and harbor tours, hotels, restaurants, shops, a working fishing harbor and cruise ship terminal.
The property is administered by the Port of San Diego, and is home to the famous USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, the Star of India tall ship, seven other historic vessels belonging to the Maritime Museum of San Diego. The port has recently developed the historic Broadway Pier to create a second cruise-ship pier, and is working on new projects in the coming year. The location offers scenic views of the bay and harbor and is the perfect place for a stroll by the sea. The Embarcadero is definitely the place to be on any given beautiful San Diego day!
Grab a meal at The Fish Market or Top of the Market
This two-in-one restaurant a San Diego favorite, and the decision to eat at The Fish Market or Top of the Market basically boils down to whether or not you want tablecloths or not. Both venues are delicious, and serve only the freshest seafood, but the atmospheres are very different.
Fish Market serves only the freshest catches (they even have a case of live seafood and fresh cuts that you can take with you to go) and is a fun dining community. The staff is very friendly and attentive and if you sit outside, you can sometimes hear the tour guides spiel from the harbor tours nearby. The food isn’t “touristy” and many San Diego locals frequent the restaurant.
Top of the Market is perched upstairs above The Fish Market and presents a beautiful and expansive views of San Diego Bay from the Coronado Bridge to Point Loma, and yeah we’ll say it, offers the finest seafood cuisine in San Diego. The elegant setting of the restaurant is enhanced by the exhibition style cooking and superior service. It’s also a great option if The Fish Market below is too noisy for you to concentrate on your work or business meeting. For other amazing seafood options in San Diego, check out our list of top 10 seafood spots in San Diego!
Visit the San Diego Central library
The San Diego Central Library, located in downtown San Diego, is a nine-story WHAT with dozens of artwork and architectural features throughout. The features include an illuminated mast which spans four floors of the building’s exterior, a giant replica of an orchestral bow on the exterior of the ninth floor, and beautiful custom signs and art projects celebrating it’s gracious donors— the private support means that the library was built with no new taxes, bonds, or money from the city’s general fund. The library’s funding is unusual for a civic building, and is one of the things that make it special.
We recommend taking an elevator ride to the 8th floor and checking out the amazing panoramic view of the city, and then to the 9th floor where the you can really appreciate the architecture of the building and see the Rare Book Room, a wood-paneled private library with a collection of amazing rare books and vintage knick knacks. The library’s bookstore Library Shop (located on the first floor) is also small, but special. They sell quirky literature-themed items cute book accessories.
Take a Historic Bay Cruise at the Maritime Museum of San Diego
If you have 45 minutes to spare, the Historic Bay Cruise aboard the 1914 Pilot Boat is a great way to spend it. The cruise is an add-on activity, so you must buy Maritime Museum tickets to take it, and is sold on a first come first serve basis (no reservations).
The boat has had an active career as San Diego’s chief pilot craft and has assisted in almost every one of the thousands of major commercial ships to enter or leave the bay in its day. In 2002, it was restored and relaunched by the Maritime Museum and now hosts private tours, school groups, and public group trips around the bay.
Boarding times start at 11:15 and run until 3:45 everyday, weather-permitting, but we do recommend that you call ahead of time to make sure that it is going out, not in drydock, or at an event. As you well know, almost every day in San Diego is a beautiful day, which makes the Historic Bay Cruise a great option.
Check out the Museums and Attractions of Balboa Park
Must-see attractions are everywhere throughout Balboa Park. From iconic San Diego landmarks like the Museum of Man California Tower (pictured), to massive historical trees, to watching artists work at the famous Spanish Village art district, to the Japanese Friendship Tea Garden, to the Old Globe Theater buildings, to the World Famous San Diego Zoo! As one of the largest urban parks, bigger even than Central Park, it is a lot to see; we recommend, especially if your time is limited, having a plan and figuring out beforehand what you want and will have time to do and see. However you do it, we certainly suggest making a visit to this beautiful park part of your travel plans!
Play with Soft & Cuddly Kitties at The Cat Cafe
If you’re one of the 94% of Americans who love cats (we made up that number), you’ll love The Cat Cafe, a niche coffee shop in the Gaslamp Quarter where patrons can enjoy their caffeine surrounded by adorable and playful cats! If you are not a cat lover, allergic, or you like them, but only from afar, you can still look but don’t touch. The main cafe is separated from the cat area by door and window. So, you can drink that coffee or tea while being entertained by all of the cat lovers and cats through the window.
Let’s face it, the cats are the main draw, and they probably could have gotten away with serving mediocre coffee. However, the cafe itself is not gimmicky, and actually serves up an excellent cup of coffee! Their espresso beans come from Cafe Virtuoso and drip beans from West Coast Coffee Roasters. Prices are similar to other coffee shops and there is free Wi-Fi, which is a perk (pun intended) for any cafe. If your heart so desires, you’re even able to adopt some of the cats.
Take One of our Famous So Diego Tours Walking Tours!
As always, we would love to have you join us on one of our tours! So Diego Tours is owned and operated by San Diego locals who love to show off our city. The tour guides take you through Old Town, Gaslamp Quarter downtown, and even the hipster neighborhood of Northpark and include food, drinks, and a fantastic sightseeing experience!
On our most popular tour, Brothels, Bites, an Booze, your guide will give you a look into the red-light district of San Diego and the women who ruled the streets at that time. It’s a fun tour that lets you explore Gaslamp Quarter and learn the secrets behind the district’s historic buildings while satisfying your taste buds and thirst.
Another great tour to check out is our Tequila, Tacos, and Tombstones tour of Old Town, where you’ll experience some of the best Mexican food in San Diego as well as tour the city’s oldest graveyard complete with ghost stories.
One of our favorite tours of San Diego is our Vino! Vino! Little Italy wine stroll. The tour will take you on a walk through Little Italy— the chicest historic neighborhood in the downtown area, where you will visit 4 establishments, meet wine experts, learn the different styles of wine, learn how the Italians worked together to distribute a food that is part of day to day life in America today, and taste Italian favorites such as bruschetta, pizza, calamari, and a special sangria.
Indulge in everything Southern California has to offer by taking one of our top tours of San Diego. For all of our tours, we work with local companies to give our guests an authentic San Diego experience. We have been doing this a long time, and are able to show you plenty of attractions in a limited amount of time!