San Diego has long since shed its reputation as that sleepy Navy town just north of Tijuana, but meeting planners who haven't visited recently might be surprised at just how far it has come. There's great theater, and the classical music scene is alive and thriving under the auspices of the La Jolla Chamber Music Society. Last year, it brought in guest violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and pianist André Watts, among others. And every August the society puts on a dynamic three-week festival.

Then there's the 1,200-acre Balboa Park, with its 15 museums and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. There, the San Diego Natural History Museum has just completed a major expansion, doubling its size and now offering some intriguing meeting and event space.

During a recent trip to town, I drove a couple of freeways stops north to La Jolla for a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art and to have lunch at the stunningly restored Nine-Ten restaurant in The Grande Colonial Hotel, a short stroll away. I took a side trip to Escondido one evening to dine at El Bizcocho in the charming Rancho Bernardo Inn (which offers several venues for meetings), and hear jazz singer Jane Monheit perform at the California Center for the Arts.

The San Diego Convention Center expansion opened in September, with the two-and-a-half-year project doubling the size of the waterfront facility to 2.6 million square feet. Contact the San Diego CVB at (619) 696-9371.