Last week I was at the ALT Summit in Salt Lake City and the experience was life-changing. I'm pretty sure I mean that literally, so maybe next year I'll come back and confirm whether or not my life has actually changed. Stay tuned.
Anyway, the experience was so immense that it would be impossible to cover the entire thing in one post, so I'm going to split it up. First things first, the venue. ALT Summit was held in the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. When I first called to book a room, only king-size suites were available, which ruled out me sharing a room (and expenses) with another blogger, but I didn't want the hassle of trying to figure out which other hotels were nice enough and close enough to warrant getting a room in, and I kind of wanted to experience the entire conference, location and all. And I like luxury hotel, but that's kind of a secret - don't tell anyone. So I booked my room. Months and months in advance.
As you pull up, it's obvious that the Grand America is special. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in downtown SLC and the bellhops are smiling even though it's freezing out. From check-in it is apparent that the staff is special, too; they're well-trained, and everyone I encountered was genuinely nice.
I asked to be put in a smaller (read it: cheaper) hotel room, but was told that the hotel was sold out. So, before 3 pm, up I went. I think it was the only time in my extensive travel experience that I've ever been able to get into a room so early.
The room itself was enormous. I think I could have entertained a basketball team in there! (Hey, people, come on. That's not the kind of entertaining I do...) It was a suite, and my living area was separated from my bedroom by French doors. The room is quite pleasant and the bathroom is beautiful. There's a tiny balcony connecting the two rooms, and the view of the city with the mountains in the background is moving enough that Xavier, who's 5, commented on it when I send the kids a picture of myself (which I do once a day while I'm out of town, and which they reciprocate).
After checking-in, it was time to attend the opening night speaker. All of the conference and event rooms in the hotel were beautiful and obviously well-cared for. There wasn't a shabby inch in the place, so that was refreshing.
Shopping at the hotel provided to be a worthy cause, because the buyer for the hotel shops deserves to call her(?)self a curator. Each and every item was high-quality and interesting. I literally did not see anything at any of the stores I was in that I had seen elsewhere. The attention to detail was phenomenal. Seriously, the toy store there, JouJou, is the best toy store I've ever been to. It's small, but exquisite. In fact, it's worth a trip just to see it.
By now you must be hungry, as I was. Food.... One of the most impressive things about the conference, and the hotel in general, was how easy it was for me to eat there. Guys, I have some serious dietary restrictions. When I was a kid, eating meat made me feel heavy and yucky, so when I was 13, I simply stopped. In the last few years, I've been diagnosed as being gluten and lactose intolerant, so between the intolerances and vegetarianism you can imagine what eating with me must be like. Even I'm annoyed. But The Grand America had me covered. Pretty much everything served during the conference that was gluten free was lactose free also - which is genius, really. Additionally, all of the meal served (not necessarily the hors d'oeuvres) were vegetarian. The food was good. Not amazing, but certainly good. One thing of note, though, was that the food was not plentiful. There was a lot of talk of room service before or after the events, and coming from a group of fashion-forward women, you can imagine how skimpy the food must have been to warrant the complaints.
One thing I couldn't complain about for sure, though, was the water that was made available everywhere. I was quite impressed that plastic cups and bottles weren't used and instead we had glasses laid out for us. First of all, it's more aesthetically pleasing and second of all, it's incredibly environmentally friendly. Yay, Grand America! Yay! Long live drinking glasses!
In a nutshell, I recommend that if you attend Alt Summit in the future (and you should! - more on that in the next posts), stay at The Grand America. Just pack a few protein bars.
Note: If you're interested in attending Alt Summit Summer 2015, tickets are on sale now. I don't imagine they'll last for long, though.