By Parrish Walton, Connect Magazine -- The first thing you’ll notice when arriving in Salt Lake City is how small it feels. Sure, it has all of the essentials of any major hub, but it doesn’t quite feel like a big city. It’s almost quaint. The Wasatch Mountains on one side and the Rockies on the other seem to insulate the area, giving off a mountain-town feel amidst the usual hustle and bustle of any state capital. Salt Lake City has an NBA franchise that plays in a downtown arena, is home to large and profitable mining operations, and has an unintimidating, walkable downtown. All within blocks of one another are EnergySolutions Arena, downtown hotspots like Bar X owned by “Modern Family” funnyman Ty Burrell, fine-dining options like Spencer’s, and Temple Square, headquarters of the Mormon religion.

Built for Groups

Salt Lake City International Airport is the Western hub for Delta Air Lines, but it serves all major carriers and is only eight minutes from downtown. With 105 destinations offering nonstop flights to Salt Lake City, airlift shouldn’t be a concern for planners. The Salt Palace is one of the newer convention centers in the country, and it has loads of technology for various events, be it advanced audiovisual capabilities or high-quality Wi-Fi. With 515,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, 67 meeting rooms and a 45,000-sq.-ft. ballroom, meeting areas are plentiful. And as a non-union facility, contracts are more easily completed. A total of 6,738 hotel rooms are within walking distance of the convention center, and there are more than 170 restaurants, cafes and nightspots within the convention district. Attendees want more than eight hours in a convention hall and a trip back to the hotel room, and Salt Lake City provides that. The flagship hotel in the city is The Grand America Hotel. Built in advance of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the city’s only AAA Five-Diamond hotel offers 75,000 square feet of meeting space and comes with the same luxury options as any fine hotel.

Skier’s Paradise 

Salt Lake City’s close proximity to several of the best ski resorts in the country makes it stand out among other destinations. Planners often are looking to entertain their attendees as well as educate them. What better way to entertain someone than with high-quality skiing? Within a 45-minute drive from downtown, planners will find skiing options at Park City, Deer Valley, Snowbird, Alta and Solitude, just to name a few. Forbes Magazine recently named Snowbird and Alta the second-best ski resorts in the U.S. Deer Valley is one of the more luxurious ski resorts in the world, with Stein Eriksen Lodge as its highlight.

Not What You’re Expecting

Anyone visiting Salt Lake City will notice the lack of a heavy Mormon presence other than Temple Square within the city. Temple Square is the center of the city itself both literally and physically (the streets are put on a grid with Temple Square located at the center), but the city population is actually more non-Mormon than Mormon. Most people, this author included, have a preconceived notion of what Salt Lake City will be like before they set foot in the city: maybe a bit buttoned-up. That notion is quickly rendered moot, however, with the gastropubs, microbreweries and dueling piano bars in downtown Salt Lake City in entertainment and shopping districts including City Creek Center. Squatters, one of the more popular gastropubs, opened in 1989 and brews craft beers on-site. Zy, a restaurant located less than one mile from The Salt Palace, is one of the newer and more popular dining spots in the city. Voted Salt Lake City’s best new restaurant in 2012, the food represents the city itself: modern, fresh and ever-changing. Salt Lake City has a hip feel to it, likely due in part to its base of college students who attend the University of Utah.