Things to do, places to go in San Diego

R. Kevin Clark
Editor, APWA Reporter

When I recently mentioned to one of my colleagues that I was working on an article concerning all the fun things Congress attendees can do in San Diego, he casually said, "Well, this ought to be a slam dunk for you."

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Earth to Kev," he said with an eyeroll that looked remarkably similar to the kind I typically receive from my nine-year-old son. "There's an ocean there."

Right, so there is. And the numerous beaches along the San Diego coastline—from Black's Beach and the Children's Pool to La Jolla Cove and Ocean Beach—certainly provide as big a draw to the city as any other activity.

Of course, the biggest draw for public works professionals in San Diego this August will be APWA's 109th annual Congress, the Best Show in Public Works. What with the excellent General Session speakers we've lined up, the more than 130 educational sessions, Super Sessions and Pre-Congress Workshops, the more than 500 exhibitors covering 100,000 square feet of the exhibit hall, and all the networking and problem solving you could possibly ask for, Congress is going to be a terrific experience for all who attend.

But give some serious thought to combining a vacation in Southern California with your Congress experience. For example, a family vacation in San Diego would be wonderful—and with many schools not starting up again until after Labor Day, Congress occurring in late August actually isn't bad timing. So if you come to San Diego a few days before Congress begins, or stay in the city a few days after the conference is over (taking advantage of the holiday), you can enjoy much of what the city has to offer, such as:

SeaWorld San Diego
Most folks who vacation in San Diego recommend SeaWorld—it's a beautiful park that has a lot to offer. Exhibits feature a variety of marine life, including whales, sharks, dolphins and sea lions. Some of the special attractions include the Shipwreck Rapids ride, Wild Artic featuring polar bears and beluga whales, and the Shamu Adventure featuring killer whales.

San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo cares for over 3,800 animals of 800 different species. Its collection of animals, as well as its plant collection of over 6,500 species, is acknowledged as one of the finest in the entire world. There's more than enough here to keep you enthralled for hours.

If you have a Lego fanatic in the family, this is one theme park you have to attend. Located in Carlsbad, just north of San Diego, Legoland is the first park of its kind to be built in the United States. Practically everything—replicas of major cities, Star Wars characters, you name it—is made out of Lego building blocks. There are more than 40 fun rides and activities aimed at Lego lovers ages 2-12 (and parents will like them too). We visited the park a couple of years ago and had a terrific time. It's certainly in the top two or three theme parks in California, right up there with Disneyland.

Padres and Chargers
If you'd like to see the Padres play you're in luck—they're playing at home August 19-24 (so if you're a baseball fan, plan on taking your vacation pre-Congress). The Padres square off against the Mets August 19-21 and the Expos August 22-24. This will be your last chance to see the team play at Qualcomm Stadium, where they've played since their inaugural season in 1969, since next year they move to PETCO Park. And since most of the games are played before the 24th, they won't interfere with your Congress experience (probably shouldn't plan on the game on the 24th—it starts at 2:00 p.m., right smack in the middle of your first day at Congress).

(Incidentally, the San Diego Chapter is organizing a "Night at the Padres" on Saturday, August 23. The game starts at 7:00 p.m. and the cost is $10. Sign-up information is available at under "Networking Events - Sports Activities." The deadline to sign up is August 1.)

If you're a football fan and want to see the Chargers play, you'll be taking your San Diego vacation after Congress is over. They have a preseason game against the 49ers on Friday, August 29 at 7:00 p.m. (the starting time is tentative as of this writing, so check the Chargers' website if you're interested in going). I don't know how tough it will be to get tickets for a Chargers game—it's almost impossible in Kansas City to get Chiefs tickets—but since it's a preseason game there might be a decent chance.

San Diego Wild Animal Park
San Diego Wild Animal Park is an experience very different from traditional zoos. Wild Animal Park is an 1,800-acre wildlife preserve featuring 38 endangered species of mammals and 11 endangered species of birds amongst its collection of over 3,500 exotic animals. Here wild animals roam freely in large herds and flocks inside canyons and along ridges. The Wgasa Bush Line Railway, a five-mile guided tour, takes guests to the remote Africa and Asia enclosures.

Museums Galore
There are a number of fascinating museums in the San Diego metropolitan area—an amazing number, in fact. These are just a handful: Aerospace Museum; Automotive Museum; Firehouse Museum; Hall of Champions Sports Museum; Maritime Museum; Museum of Art; Reuben H. Fleet Science Center; and Wyatt Earp Museum (where you can learn what really took place at the OK Corral). To see the full list of museums and a description of each, go to

Optional Tours
In the June issue I mentioned some of the optional tours that will be taking place the week of Congress, but since the tours are so darn good I'm going to mention them again. Just a few of the titles include "San Diego by Land and Sea"; "Fun in the Sun Shuttle — Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld"; "From Vine to Wine at Orfila Vineyards"; "A Day at the Races"; "Public Dinner Cruise on San Diego Bay"; and "Jazz Night at Croce's." And that's just for starters. For information on all the optional tours go to and click on "Going to San Diego — Optional Tours."

Getting back to that ocean...
I mentioned a few beaches earlier but there's plenty more, including Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and Windansea Beach. All of these beaches are surrounded by plenty of shops and restaurants. For complete descriptions of all of the beaches, go to

The list goes on...
It's impossible to list all of the wonderful things you can do and places you can go in San Diego in a short article, but suffice it to say that a vacation combined with your Congress experience would be a great way to spend your time in late August.

So if you haven't already done so, make your plans to attend Congress, August 24-27. Go to the Congress website and explore the educational sessions, exhibits, and optional tours. Most importantly, register now! And make those vacation plans as well.

After Congress, Kevin Clark will head to Legoland to build an eight-foot-tall public works employee out of Lego building blocks. In the meantime, he can be reached at (800) 848-APWA or at