I was recently contacted by the RSA Conference organizers to survey my opinions about moving the event out of San Francisco in the future. To help “continually provide the best attendee experience possible,” they are considering moving the event to Chicago, Las Vegas, or Anaheim. They are exploring several important considerations for conference planners as well as attendees: cost, ease of access, transportation, climate, tourist attractions, and other amenities.
Why San Francisco?
As a proud San Francisco resident, I will advocate that it makes sense for RSAC to continue in this city. The primary value you get from attending this conference is networking with a large community of cybersecurity specialists. More than half of RSAC attendees come from the greater Bay Area, and the demographics would undoubtedly shift if the conference location moved.
But setting aside the debate about the future of the conference—welcome in advance to San Francisco! I would like to offer you some tips to enhance your RSAC 2019 experience.
A Renovated Moscone Center
If you’ve been to RSAC in the past few years during the Moscone Center construction, you certainly found the event and its surroundings to be cramped, crowded, and confusing. But if the only San Francisco conference you’ve ever attended is RSAC, you have no idea. With its 43,000 attendees, RSAC is only the fourth-largest event held at the Moscone Center, vastly overshadowed by Salesforce’s Dreamforce (132,000) and Oracle’s OpenWorld (110,000). Have you ever seen videos of the Tokyo train-stuffers who squeeze passengers into carriages during rush hour? The largest conference organizers have had to arrange for similar help to shepherd crowds across the streets of San Francisco to minimize the inevitable gridlock.
Guess what: The four-year Moscone expansion project is now complete! It finished in January, basically on time and basically within budget. It now boasts 1.4 million square feet of space, and conventions are roaring back into the city as a result. The forecasted number of convention-related hotel room reservations will jump from 700,000 in 2018 to 1.2 million this year. (Extra tip: If you don’t know who George Moscone was, I suggest you watch the Sean Penn biopic Milk.)
Best Places for a Quick Bite
I’m not going to lie to you, getting reservations for downtown San Francisco restaurants is tricky any day of the week, not to mention during the big conferences. So I won’t make restaurant recommendations for your formal dining needs; for that I’ll direct you to try your luck with the OpenTable app. The good news is that the numerous extracurricular events planned by RSAC sponsors will offer (some) food and (ample) drinks, so you won’t suffer from an empty social calendar. And there are several places to nip in for a quick bite or a trendy hot or cold drink, all within a 5 to 10-minute walk of the Moscone Center. Here’s my list of the best ones:
- Oren’s Hummus at 71 Third Street (at Mission Street). Wonderful Mediterranean food, a casual environment, and options to eat in, grab and go, cater your larger group meals, and even order online to pick up at a certain time.
- The Grove-Yerba Buena at 690 Mission Street (at Third Street). A large menu of American food, open for breakfast (served all day), lunch, and dinner and also serving beer and wine. The Grove has a relatively large dining area including outdoor seating and it turns over pretty quickly during busy hours so you have a good chance of getting a seat if you don’t choose the grab-and-go option.
- Pizzeria Delfina at 688 Mission Street (at Third Street). Delfina has always been a personal favorite of mine, and this South of Market (SoMA) location is one of its newest. Their menu includes true Italian pizza (do you want to debate the best pizza crust with someone with my last name?) and tasty salads and sides, and hey guess what, you can order online and pick up your pizzas to go.
- SPIN at 690 Folsom Street (at Third Street). This combination eatery/ping pong parlor will allow you to get some exercise while you eat and drink. It might be just the thing you need to take a break from the RSAC crowds and busyness.
- Off the Grid 5M: 5th & Minna. This food truck location is open only on Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 am until 2 pm, and features a variety of cuisine options. Food trucks are a thing in the Bay Area, and this location offers Mexican, American, Indian, Chinese, and Asian Fusion options. No seating here, but it is a great place to grab a quick lunch between meetings.
- Blue Bottle Coffee at 66 Mint Street (at Fifth Street and Mission Street). There are two reasons to drop in to this Blue Bottle location for a coffee and pastry. First, it has become one of the most well-known “hipster” coffee brands. Here you can see it in one of its original locations. Second, the location. The granite US Mint building that stands in front of Blue Bottle is an important part of San Francisco history. This Mint location was opened in 1854 during the California Gold Rush, in its heyday converting millions of dollars of gold bullion directly into coins, and the efforts to save the currency during the 1906 earthquake and fire are an important part of San Francisco lore. Google it.
- The Cordial at 163 Jessie Street (near Third Street and Mission Street). This cocktail bar was inspired by the Italian Aperol spritz and features a menu of traditional cocktails as well as traditional and unique Italian spritz varieties. Again, you can trust someone with my last name to recommend the best place for spritz!
Seeing the Sights
Finally, if you have any free time at all, you should see some San Francisco sights. I won’t recommend traditional tourist activities—of course, you should do those if you have time—ride a cable car, visit the Painted Ladies homes in Alamo Square, marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge. But here are some things close to the Moscone Center that are easy to pop in on:
- Walk down to the Embarcadero and see the Bay Bridge lights at night.
- Walk several blocks away and watch the Salesforce Tower light show. The newly opened skyscraper, now the tallest building west of the Mississippi, is at 415 Mission Street.
- Drop into the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) at Third Street and Howard Street.
And I could go on and on. Please feel free to contact me for more personalized recommendations, and I look forward to seeing you in San Francisco.