America’s Finest City
San Diego really is America’s Finest City. Warning: slight tangent. I’ll admit, I am 100% biased in agreeing with this statement. My husband was a helicopter pilot in the Navy. Our first duty station was San Diego and we lived there for four years. It was where we bought our first house right near Balboa Park, our first dog, and had our first kiddo.
It was also where I worked for my first student travel company. I learned the ropes of the industry from a small office near downtown San Diego and have many fond memories of the team I worked with and the company I worked for.
The combination of scenery, culture, and fun activities makes San Diego one of the best places to take a student group. And because the weather is amazing year round, you can go anytime. It’s often overlooked for it’s neighbors to the north, but it’s worth a visit all by itself. Let’s see why.
1. Balboa Park
Balboa Park, much like Central Park, is the heart of San Diego. It’s not only home to the world famous San Diego Zoo, but also several top-notch museums, theaters, walking trails, and gardens. Museum options are numerous and include the Fleet Science Center, the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Air and Space Museum, and the Worldbeat Center. Explore the park’s website for a complete list of museums, many of which are free.
Bonus for performance tours: there are over 10 dedicated performance venues at the park, including Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Ask your tour operator about arranging for your group to perform at the park. Or if you’re more interested in being a spectator, check out the Old Globe for some live Shakespeare.
2. San Diego Zoo
Located in Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo is one of the best zoos in the country, if not the world, and it’s a can’t miss activity for your student group. The zoo was a pioneer for open-air, cageless exhibits that mimic the animals’ natural habitats as well as being one of the first zoos in the US to successfully breed the giant panda. It’s a good spot to have lunch and offers meal vouchers that can be pre-paid for your group. Plan to spend at least half of a day here.
3. Old Town
Old Town San Diego is often called the Birthplace of California because it was the first Spanish settlement in the US West Coast. Now the area is a colorful combination of authentic, restored buildings that house museums, shops, and restaurants. If your group is interested in trying some real Mexican food, this is where you should go. The atmosphere and the food are top notch. Old Town is a great place to have lunch or dinner and give your students some free time to shop for souvenirs.
4. USS Midway
Another highlight on a trip to San Diego is the USS Midway. America’s longest serving aircraft carrier offers interactive exhibits as well as self-guided audio tours. Your students will have the chance to go below deck to explore and check out the flight deck, where numerous restored aircraft are on display.
Bonus for performance tours: your group can perform on the Midway! Ask your tour company how to make that happen.
5. Visit A Beach
If you’ve made the trip to San Diego, you have to visit the beach. This is especially important if you’ve never stepped your toes into the Pacific Ocean. There are many different beaches to choose from and everyone has their opinion as to which is “the best”. Look to La Jolla if you’re looking for rocky cliffs and a glimpse of sea lions. Visit Coronado if you want a close up view of the helicopters and jets taking off and landing at North Island. Want to do a bit of hiking? Torrey Pines is your best bet.
Download the San Diego Meeting Flyer and others here.
Disclaimer! Many sites, venues and activities are closed, have limited hours or other various restrictions due to Covid-19. Be sure to check with your tour company and/or the sites themselves for more detailed information.