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2012 Annual Meeting
17-19 April
San Diego, California

Fun in Sunny San Diego

A 3-day exploration of the 2012 Annual Meeting Site
by Joy Troyer

The ads for San Diego focus on beaches. Since I’m past my swimsuit prime and am prone to sun burns, I wasn’t sure what I would find to do in sunny San Diego. But I had 3 days to kill, so I’d have to find something.

My husband and I stayed at the Town and Country Resort Hotel, the conference hotel for SSA’s 2012 annual meeting. Since I love flower gardens, this was the place for me. Roses line every path, fountains and gazebos dot the grounds, and trellises and pots of flowers seem to be everywhere. This was my idea of fun in the sun.

From the T&C, it seems you can get anywhere pretty quickly. Our first day we took the “Old Town Trolley.” The historical information about the city was nice to know and the hour and a half ride gave us a good overview of the city (though the trivia contests, bad puns and silly prizes wore thin after a while). We drove through Old Town (historical stuff), past Little Italy (Italian food), down to the harbor (sailing ships, cruise boats, submarines, and battleships), into the Gas Lamp district (shopping and restaurants), over to Coronado (beaches and a famous hotel), past Petco Park (home of the San Diego Padres baseball team), and on to Balboa Park.

I think one could spend a whole week and never get out of Balboa Park. There are 14 museums and the San Diego Zoo plus gardens, shops and restaurants. We opted to visit the small, but free, Timken Art Museum across from the visitor’s center. They have a wonderful collection of works by old masters and some not-so-well-known artists. The docents were friendly and knowledgeable. We lunched at Prado’s, a convenient restaurant with quirky glass artwork and interesting food.

I’ve heard about the San Diego Zoo since I was a kid back in Missouri, so I was determined that a trip to San Diego had to include the zoo! My expectations were pretty high and I was not disappointed. I’m sure everyone who visits has their own favorite critter and mine was the hippopotamus. Since we could see both above and below water, we could watch while mamma hippo nudged and scooted her baby all around the pool. First she rolled him across the pool floor, then up for air and back down for a walk across the bottom. Her 3000-pound body seemed to move effortlessly in the water. This mother-child dance was truly spellbinding. I also enjoyed the giant panda that sat in his hammock eating bamboo while watching us. And there were fuzzy young flamingos, lounging tigers, pacing polar bears and a humongous python. Despite the escalators that helped us make the uphill treks, when we left we were too tired to walk to a trolley, so we opted to take a cab back to the hotel.

For dinner we explored the Fashion Valley Mall. As promised, the mall is less than 5 minutes’ walk and offers a wide variety of food and shopping. For those on a budget, there is a food court offering Chinese, Mediterranean, burgers and more. (My husband went back later and reported that the falafel sandwich from Café Socrates and the smoothie from Hagen Das were both quite tasty!) But since this was our anniversary, we wanted something a little more upscale. We bypassed the California Pizza Kitchen and Cheesecake Factory because of long lines. Instead, we opted for the Market Café in Nordstrom’s. Yes, if you go up to 3rd floor, past the clothing to the back corner, there is actually a very good restaurant with no line at all. We had an amazing shrimp salad and a well-seasoned mushroom ravioli. We finished it off with to-die-for chocolate lava cake. Prices were reasonable and staff was friendly. Quite a find!

On Thursday we rented a car (from Avis right at the T&C) and headed for the beach. As frequenters of the Santa Cruz boardwalk (where we go simply to ride the Giant Dipper roller coaster), we had to ride its sister “Giant Dipper” at the amusement park at Belmont Park. Belmont Park turned out to be just over 5 miles from our hotel (I think we could have bicycled it.) So, it was an easy drive (just past Sea World) and parking was free.

After the satisfyingly hair-rising ride on the Giant Dipper, we walked the long stretch of sandy beach. We sat outside at the Wavehouse to eat a teriyaki chicken sandwich and watch visitors rent bicycles and surf boards.

Back in the car, we drove through Mission Bay Park and on down to Harbor Island. As a lover of fabric art, I had read about a small quilt museum that featured art quilts (versus the more traditional bed quilts). Visions Art Museum was in a section of town previously occupied by a military base. Now the buildings are occupied by small art societies and retail shops. Visions was smaller than I’d hoped, but there were enough fun and unusual pieces to make the trip worthwhile.

We drove only a few blocks to get to Sunset Cliffs scenic drive. We parked and walked along rocky cliffs and crashing waves. We examined tide pool communities where tiny crabs darted in and out of underwater crevices amid small fish and clumps of teeny shells. We spent an hour watching the sea and the life around it amid the beauty of the rocky coastline.

On our way back to the T&C, we stopped at Old Town for dinner. Old Town is a small area with buildings from the very beginnings of San Diego. I have to admit that we were less interested in history than in good Mexican food, so we headed toward the music and The Casa De Reyes for a fajita salad and Achiote Pork (yummy!) We browsed through the shops that carried a variety of typical Mexican art and jewelry while we listened to a humorous and talented Mariachi trio.

On Friday afternoon, we took the “Red Trolley” (on the Blue and Green lines) into downtown. The trolley costs $5 for an all-day pass. It took about 20 minutes to get from the hotel to the Santa Fe station. We got off and walked a few blocks to the USS Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier. Using the audio headset, we started off on the self-guided tour. For 90 minutes we climbed ladders, walked narrow hallways, and followed stairways to more rooms than I ever imagined could fit on one ship – always stepping over the high doorways designed to keep any leaking water contained. The ship once housed over 1000 people and we saw where they ate, slept, worked, and played while we listened to the stories of crew members who served there.

Upon leaving the ship, we headed north along the harbor. For several blocks, there are sculptures every few feet. They range from the whimsical to the stark, the beautiful (wood circles with rainbow glass centers that sparkle in the sunlight) to the truly weird (a palm-shaped tree of red rakes). But there is something for everyone and the combination of them all along the bay is a fun experience.

Dinner was at Anthony’s Fish Grotto, mostly because our feet hurt and it was there. We ate decent seafood overlooking the harbor.

The trolley took us back to our hotel. We were tired, but we had a lot of great memories of our fun days in sunny San Diego. And we didn’t even go to Sea World or Lego Land! We may have to come back again.

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Last Modified: 2011 Nov 07