The Aria is one of the newer casinos on the Vegas strip, opening in 2009. And that is a good thing. The casino smells great, the free wifi was good. The cell signal deep inside of the convention center was strong. The convention center rooms were COLD. I am glad I took my UNSC hoodie, because it was chilly in there. But, compared to the temperature outside, I prefer the cold.
I also stayed in the Aria, since I didn’t want to walk in 100+ degree heat. During my stay, I made extensive use of the gym. I was surprised with the number of people up at 6AM PDT (8AM time for me) in the gym. But I guess us gym rats are a breed apart. I was also in the pool every afternoon. Though, I wasn’t able to swim laps since there were people having fun in the pool. I mean come, I’m trying to get some laps in and they want to play! What’s up with that!?
Food and Snacks
Breakfast was provided, but it was a continental breakfast, which only means one thing: carbohydrate fest. As a follower of a ketogenic diet I couldn’t eat any of the offerings in the morning. Instead, I ate at the Aria buffet for breakfast. The omelettes were good and there were plenty of high protein options.
The drinks and snacks in between sessions were nice. Again, I couldn’t eat a lot of the items, but there were free Diet Cokes and Coke Zeros, which was great.
Lunch was definitely the highlight of the day. There were at least 3 entrees, a soup, and a vegetarian option each day. Unsweet tea and water were provided. For the sweet tooth, there were 2 or 3 options for dessert, too. What mad me happy was there were plenty of keto friendly choices. I think everyone was happy with the lunch. We were given at least an hour for lunch, which was great. I must confess, there were Champions League matches on during lunch. Some people would relax, chat, and enjoy their lunches. Meanwhile, I would wolf down my lunch and run to the sportsbook inside of the Aria to watch the matches. I don’t know if I could live in Vegas, because I would be in the sports book all the time!
Keynotes and Sessions
The Monday keynote was focused on Microsoft and advancing your career via the cloud with Brad Anderson (Twitter). The Tuesday morning keynote from Scott Hunter (Twitter)was informative, but I was a little bummed that there wasn’t a SQL Server keynote. It’s pretty neat to see how far Visual Studio has come. Though, they did lose me towards the end of the presentation, since I am not a full time .NET dev.
The sessions themselves were great. I liked that there was a variety of levels for all users, so no one felt overwhelmed or bored. I would say I got the best take aways from the the Virtualizing SQL Server sessions from David Klee. With us virtualizing our environment at work over the next few months, I knew I had to put my listening ears on during these sessions. Plus, we had a great selection of other SQL Celebrities to choose from, so you could actually chat with your favorites in person. We also had Tim Chapman, Microsoft PFE for SQL Server on site. That was worth the price of admission alone!
The ultimate question is would I return to Dev Connections next year. And the answer is yes. I believe I got enough value out of the sessions to make it a worthwhile investment for my and my company. I also liked the new-ness of the Aria. Though, next time, I would know that if a hot breakfast isn’t offered, to hit the buffet beforehand.