Let's face it: Just about every technology industry veteran is burned out on Las Vegas-based conventions. Within the IT channel alone, there are dozens of Vegas-based events each year (you can track those and more on the ChannelE2E Technology Event Calendar).
But if you absolutely, positively have to host or attend a conference in Las Vegas... Then my favorite destination is the Aria Resort an Casino. Among the seven reasons why:
1. Convention Center Access: You can get off the hotel elevator at the Promenade level (second floor) and proceed to the convention area without navigating through the casino. In other words, you're in a casino without having to be "in a casino."
2. Natural Light: The multi-level convention center has massive windows that actually allow you to see outside throughout the day. As any Vegas business traveler knows, you rarely get to "go outside" during a convention in this town. Natural light -- you know, sunshine -- is a rare treat when you're inside a massive convention center complex. Except if you are at the Aria.
3. Fast WiFI That Works: Whether you're in your hotel room, working at the on-site Starbucks or in the convention center -- there's a single, massive, fast WiFi network that simply "works." Every time I opened my laptop during a convention this week, I was instantly reconnected to the speedy network.
4. Upscale Buffet: Vegas buffets are no longer cheap. And plenty of them are downright bad. But the Aria's buffet has some upscale items. The Sunday evening lineup this week included Blue Crab Claws -- strategically cracked for easy consumption. Yes, that will be on my expense report. At $45 -- but all you can eat -- it's expensive. But if it's the only meal you charge over a multi-day trip, perhaps your business partner won't be too upset when the expense report hits her inbox...
5. Did I Mention Starbucks?: Find the main Starbucks location at the Second Level Promenade near Guest Elevators. Here again, WiFi is exceptionally fast. And there's plenty of seating and power outlets to get some work done. I tend to blog by about 5:30 a.m. PT when I'm in Vegas -- at which time this Starbucks is open but empty. During high-traffic areas, it's common to see 20 to 40 people on line for coffee here. The location is typically open until 10:00 p.m.
PS: When that Starbucks location gets crowded with convention traffic, visit the other location -- which is ideally hidden in a mall right behind the Aria's check-in/registration desk. That Starbucks has an open, airy feel and free WiFi from the mall operator.
6. The Spa: Actually, I only used the gym. It's good. Not great. And the limited hours upset me a bit (closing at 8pm daily...). But there are plenty of cardio and weight lifting machines. And you'll be handed a free water bottle on arrival.
7. Repeat Success: I've attended multiple IT events at the Aria over the years -- including conferences hosted by CompTIA, Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Juniper and plenty more. Check-in at the hotel can sometimes be a bit slow, but overall my experience has been above-average to very good during every visit.
Among my other favorite conference centers in Las Vegas...
1. The Mandalay Bay: Here, you might even find a back door to the exclusive Four Seasons Hotel. For several years, Kaseya Connect was hosted at the Four Seasons -- a casino-free hotel that that allows you to focus on business... while being only a hallway away from the Mandalay Bay's casino. Potential Downside: It's at the end of the Las Vegas strip, far removed from many of the city's hot spots.
2. The Venetian & The Palazzo: The all-suites rooms are massive. And the resorts connect to the Sands Expo convention center. Potential Downside: The walk from your hotel room to the convention center is quite long. Navigating the complex can be... well, complex, for first-time visitors.
3. Red Rock Resort and Casino: This resort is about a 30-minute drive from the Las Vegas strip. That's not exactly an ideal location for those who are looking to party in Sin City. But... the Red Rock is a self-contained property with a lot to offer if you want to blend a business conference with a family vacation. There's an on-site movie theater, bowling ally and more for the kids. I've stayed here once on vacation, and look forward to another visit -- involving a Synnex conference -- in late 2016. Potential Downside: 30 minutes from the Las Vegas strip. I don't mind. But some folks might.
Which destinations did I miss? I'm all ears.