@JoshRoss: Conferences have a bunch of aspects.
1) Learning. get tons of tips and tricks from the experts. Sometimes the guys/gals that built the stuff in the first place
2) Mingle with peers. Following on Twitter and RSS feeds is fine, but if you really want to get face-to-face time with MVPs and Microsofties, then you need to go to conferences
3) Microsoft rents Universal Studios(PDC 2005) and you can drink lots and go on the Mummy ride 3 times...not sure if that is a high or low point
4) Inspiration. You do get inspired at these things. Surrounded by peers, people to make relationships with, Microsofties...I find this eye opening and inspiring, but sure about others
5) Get out of the house/office. Wife is a babe, but insane. Love the kids, but they drive you insane. Good to hop on a plane and head to Cali for a conference every year or two to avoid going nutz
6) Swag...sometimes. Filled up a whole suitcase at the 2009 PDC. But of course everyone I don't go to, they've handed out a WIndows Phone, convertible touch laptop, and a touch tablet. The last MIX I went to the highlight was a pencil.
Edit: And if I remember right conferences do go towards your companies MS certification, e.g. Gold.