Skip navigation
All Places > Events > User Conference > Blog > 2018 > June

This week we are bringing out the kids in all of us, (or just bringing out your kids) with family friendly events at the 2018 Esri User Conference.


Which events can I bring my family?

You can bring your family to:


Kids Fair

The Kids Fair is a set of stations, and hands-on activities focused on educating children ages 5-15 about GIS. Each station is designed with age appropriate activities that meet California K-12 educational guidelines.

The Kids Fair started as a way to introduce the children of attendees to GIS. Initially, it was given as a series of classes as defined by age groups. Over the years the fair has developed into a multi-day event where families can come and go as they please.


Each year stations and activities are designed with a theme. Past years’ themes include Weather and The Seven Wonders of the World. This year the theme will be Biomes! Station activities include matching animals with their habitats for younger kids or a buoyancy experiment for older kids. Children can work through each station at their own pace to collect stickers for their passport. OChildren Sitting in Circle at Kids Fairnce they have completed all stations, they will receive a special prize!


Kids Fair Details

Located at the Marriott Marquis & Marina Hotel in Marina Ballroom Salon D
Days and times:

  • Tuesday, July 10, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, July 11, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 12, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.


Some things to note:

  • No registration is required, though it does tend to be busy around lunchtime
  • A parent or guardian must accompany children at all times
  • Expect to spend about 1-2 hours at the fair


Little Girl Dancing at UC ExpoFamily Night

This year Family Night will be held on Wednesday, July 11 from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in the UC Expo. It is an excellent opportunity to show your family what goes on in the UC Expo and teach them about the cool applications of GIS. Exhibitors will have fun activities, demonstrations, and be giving away special prizes for the families to enjoy. Family Night is open to anyone accompanied by a registered UC attendee.

The Map Gallery and Evening Reception begins immediately after the Plenary Session concludes. Mingle with other attendees and look at the wonderful projects submitted this year.


Map Gallery Opening and Evening Reception Hours

Monday, July 9
3:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.


Registered attendees may bring their families or guests during Monday’s reception. Family and friends will not have access to the Map Gallery for the remainder of the conference.


Find more information on the Map Gallery >>


Thursday Night Party

The Thursday Night Party is an evening filled with fun activities, entertainment, and tons of food! Apart from the musicians, performers, and countless food stations around the park, each year Esri reserves seven museums in Balboa Park for UC attendees to visit. Be sure to check them out.


Little Girl Holding Heart Shpaed BalloonMuseum Listings

  • Fleet Science Center
  • Mingei International Museum
  • Model Railroad Museum
  • Museum of Photographic Arts
  • San Diego History Center
  • San Diego Museum of Art
  • San Diego Natural History Museum


One of the most kid-friendly museums is the Fleet Science Center. This year, they will have a MythBusters Exhibit!


Acrobat on a HoopWristband Information

  • Attendees can pick up wristbands at the Activities Desk or Info Booth in the SDCC Grand Lobby between 7:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Wednesday – Thursday.
  • Conference badges are required to pick up wristbands.
  • Thursday Night Party tickets are $50 per person for guests or those that do not qualify with their UC registration. These can be purchased at the Activities Desk.
  • Children 12 and under are free.
  • PLEASE NOTE: Expo-Only or Student One-Day Registrations do not include the Thursday Night Party.


Round-trip shuttle transportation is available from the San Diego Convention Center, to and from the party at Balboa Park.


Attendees look forward to the Thursday Night Party year after year. In fact, last year there were over 12,000 people!


Find more information about the Thursday Night Party or view the attached PDF.


5K Fun Run/Walk

Man Running with Arms OutstretchedThe Esri 5k Fun Run/Walk is a great opportunity to get some fresh air and take in the beautiful scenery of the San Diego waterfront before sessions start for the day. You can take this event as seriously as you would like to (I would be on the walking end of the spectrum) and families are welcome to join in!


The fun will begin on Wednesday, July 11, at 6:30 a.m. at the Hilton Bayfront – Embarcadero Boardwalk. Registration for this event is required. There is a $25 early-bird registration fee (Deadline July 5) or a $35 onsite registration fee.


Find more information about the Esri 5k Run/Walk >>


Morning YogaGroup of People doing Yoga

For the early birds out there, Esri will be hosting morning yoga sessions on Tuesday, July 10 and Thursday, July 12 from 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 a.m. This event is open to families. We would recommend registering early as this event does sell out every year. Each participant will also receive a yoga mat to take home after the conference.



Petco Park

Esri has teamed up with Petco Park to offer our UC attendees discounted tickets to see the San Diego Padres play against the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 9-12, and the Chicago Cubs on July 13-15th.


Get more information about purchasing tickets >>


Is there child care available at the conference?

Yes! Child care is provided through KiddieCorp for children ages six months through 12 years located at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina Hotel. Here are the KiddieCorp hours:

  • Monday, July 9, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, July 10, 800 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, July 11, 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 12, 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.


The cost is $8 per hour, per child. You can find more information on our website, or by contacting KiddieCorp at (858) 455-1718 or by email at


Tips from the Team:


  • Put a few band-aids in your suitcase. They can keep a minor irritation from turning into a blister
  • Check out a map of the facility ahead of time. Spot the restrooms, elevators, escalators, Starbuck’s or anything else you anticipate needing during the week
  • Buy things from the Esri store early in the week

For Discussion:

Aside from our conference activities, where do you like to take your families when visiting San Diego?

What is the GIS Managers’ Open Summit?

Play-doh figures of dials and chartsThe GIS Managers’ Open Summit (GISMOS) is an all-day interactive experience followed by the new GIS Managers track with eight sessions on Wednesday and Thursday of the User Conference. The summit focuses on showing people with a GIS background how to be successful as leaders. Adam Carnow the Community Evangelist, explains the summit aims to “turn managers into leaders.”

The summit began in 2010 at the User Conference with a meet-up of 30 people and the Managers in GIS LinkedIn group. Since then, GISMOS has grown to include 180 attendees.


WLarge group of people shaking handsho should be attending this summit?

Anyone that is a manager or a leader of a GIS team, and even future managers/leaders can attend the GISMOS. This could mean CIO’s, managers, IT leaders or anyone that wants to one day lead their team.


Registration is free, and seating is limited. You must be registered for the User Conference to attend this summit. Please click the link below to register.


Register Now >>



What should I expect at the summit?


Among the other GISMOS activities this year, we are going to have an Esri led presentation focusing on the executive and elected officials’ view of GIS, and three guest speakers. The seating will be designed to encourage activities and discussions between presentations.


I asked the GISMOS team what made these guest speakers standout, and they expressed that the presenters have a strong handle on the business-side of GIS. They show the power that GIS can have and how their GIS work has transformed their organizations. The GISMOS team hopes that the speakers will be able to inspire the attendees in their own work.



Group discussion at a round table with sticky notes on tableGISMOS is not just a day of inspirational presentations. The emphasis is also on networking and the interactions between participants.

The day starts off with an icebreaker. This is your opportunity to make many new connections.

Group discussions are held after each presentation using the Lean Coffee method for meetings. The group discussion helps further the understanding of the presentation topics. At the end of each discussion, attendees are asked to share the topics they discussed. Fortunately, this will be very simple when you already have your sticky notes ready!


Please see the attached agenda for more details!

Tips from the Team:


For Discussion:

For our former GISMOS attendees, what made you choose to go to the GISMOS, and what was your favorite part?

This week we are talking about certification testing. Our certification program started in 2010 as a way for the Esri community to benchmark their ArcGIS skills. The program is open to Esri employees, distributors, partners, and customers worldwide. We started with only five exams and now offer nine different certifications, with certified individuals in 86 countries.


Man and woman sitting behind computers taking an examWhat is certification testing?

Certification testing is a benchmark to measure your proficiency with Esri GIS software. They typically last between 2-2.5 hours, with 80-95 multiple choice questions. Certification is a way to differentiate tech workers in the market, grow your professional resume, or reach a personal goal.


Why should I get certified?

It is a requirement for certain positions and highly valued by many companies. All of our Esri instructors must have them. Certification is a great way to grow within your organization, find a new position, increase your salary or develop your personal and professional skills.


You can read some success stories from those who have benefited from their certifications, or read this blog post about the value of certification.

Check out a recent survey about certifications and average salary.

How do I get certified?

Our certification team is excited to offer Certification testing at the Esri User Conference this year making it more convenient to take your exam. Testing will be offered Tuesday, July 10 – Thursday, July 12, 8 a.m.  –  5 p.m. in the Omni Hotel across the street from the San Diego Convention Center. You can find more information here.


Here’s a quick rundown of the process:

  1. Select your exam. You can choose from nine (9) exams across three domains with three different skill levels. If you are unsure which exam is best for you, check out this post.
  2. Prepare for the exam. There’s a post about that too!
  3. Register for the exam. Registration is optional but highly recommended.
  4. Pay for the exam. The cost of the exam is $225. You can pay when you arrive on site (click here for conference discount information).
  5. Bring two forms of ID!

Tips from the Team:


  • Wear layers
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Bring a water bottle
  • Talk to 1000 people. Talk to presenters, talk to the person sitting next to you, talk to everyone you possibly can
  • Have an energy bar in your bag for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack

For Discussion:

For our certified GeoNet members, what made you decide to get your certification? What advice do you have to prepare for the exam?