#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: Viva La Bachata Weekend

The Baltimore area’s newest bachata event is officially here in the form of the Viva La Bachata Weekend!

Viva La Bachata, the collaborative brainchild of DC-based international sensual bachata instructor Vladi Aragon and world-renowned bachata DJ Emerson “Emerzive” Morales, has so far produced an outstanding and wildly successful monthly Saturday night bachata social held in Tysons Corner, VA on the first Saturday of every month.

This coming February, the Viva La Bachata crew is expanding onto the congress/festival/weekend stage with this brand new weekend event as their first multi-day offering, which they hope to expand into a full festival starting in 2021.

In the search for a venue that will accommodate a larger crowd, the Viva La Bachata experience is, for this event only, shifting an hour and a half northeast from its usual Tysons Corner location to the northern Baltimore County suburb of Timonium, Maryland. The weekender will happen from February 22nd-24th, 2020 at Towson Dance Studio (hereafter abbreviated as TDS), a gorgeous, classy, and expansive studio named for the adjacent town of Towson, MD, and located next to the Maryland State Fairgrounds at 9486 Deereco Rd in Timonium.

Confirmed artists so far include Vladi & Ximena, Kat Arias, and Spain’s Luis & Andrea, with more to be announced.

Confirmed DJ’s for the evening parties include DJ Soltrix, DJ Emerzive, DJ Manuel Citro, and DJ York from Germany. The schedule so far for the weekend consists of a party on Friday night and workshops in the morning and afternoon followed by performances and a party at night on Saturday and Sunday.

PASS:

If you didn’t jump on any of the pass deals at this year’s New Jersey Bachata Festival, full passes are still available for a very low price (around $70-80) at the time of this writing. The sooner you buy the better, as always!

TRAVEL:

Baltimore City and the surrounding areas, including Towson and Timonium, are supported by Citymappervia their DC/Baltimore package at the time of this writing. Via is not supported in the Baltimore area at the time of this writing. UBERPool and Shared Lyft are not supported in the Baltimore area, making UberX and Lyft your cheapest ride hailing options.

CAR:
Timonium is accessible by public transportation, but is located quite some distance from most of the airports, train stations, and bus stops in the area. Additionally, the closest hotel is a nine minute walk, and it goes up from there, and this festival is at the end of February where temperatures are in the 30s and 40s on average. Therefore, if you are able, driving and/or ridesharing are the most practical options for this festival. There is a good amount of parking near TDS itself, and an even greater abundance of overflow parking at the Park and Ride a stone’s throw away. All the hotels, food options, and grocery stores have abundant parking as well.

Rush hour traffic in both the DC and Baltimore areas are very bad on Friday afternoon and can add multiple hours to your trip (not kidding) – be mindful of this if coming from points south of Towson/Timonium.

FLYING:

BWI is your airport for this festival whether you’re flying a budget airline or balling out in first class. From there you have a couple of transportation options. The baller option, and the time-saver option, is to take an Uber or Lyft directly from the airport to the studio or your hotel of choice. TDS is located about a 37 minute drive from the airport, so this is bound to be staggeringly expensive (about $40-50 one way on average), especially given the lack of shared/pool options. Coordinating a share with other attendees landing at or around the same time as you shouldn’t be hard to pull off, and should ease some of the financial pain of this option. If you’re stuck going it alone, I honestly would recommend renting a car at the airport if you can – it would cost roughly the same as UBER or Lyft both ways and would give you some very helpful extra mobility during the festival.

Your extreme budget option if you are willing to tack an extra 105 minutes (not a typo) on to your trip is the Baltimore LightRailLink. From BWI Airport, head to the light rail platform (about a 3 minute walk up the road from the Spirit and Frontier concourses) and take the light rail north toward Hunt Valley. From there, ride 25 stops to the Timonium Fairgrounds Light Rail station. From there, TDS is either about a 6 minute walk northwest up Deereco Road or a shorter and much less expensive UBER ride. The entire trip will take you 90-110 minutes on average, but will cost you only $1.80 one way. Light rail and UBER can also of course be mixed for a balance of saving money and saving time.

TRAIN:

Amtrak to Penn Station in downtown Baltimore. The area around Penn Station is fairly safe, but as with just about anywhere in downtown Baltimore, it’s a good idea to keep your head up and look alive.

From there you have similar options to the trip from the airport. TDS is about an 18 minute drive/UberLyft ride from downtown Baltimore and will probably be about $20-30 one way on average. I can’t imagine as many people will be taking the train or bus as flying so coordinating a shared Uber or Lyft could be tougher.

The light rail will be about 50-60 minutes from downtown Baltimore, but as with BWI, it will cost you only $1.80 one way. Make a left on Charles Street out of the station and a right onto Oliver Street, walk about 8 minutes then make a right onto Mount Royal Avenue to the Mount Royal & Lt Rail Stat stop. Ride 9 stops to the Timonium Fairgrounds light rail station and walk 6 minutes northwest up Deereco Road to TDS.

BUS:

While Megabus’ Baltimore-area stop at the White Marsh Mall is wildly impractical for the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress’ downtown location or the Zouk Heat Festival’s BWI location, it is only about a 20 minute UBER ride from TDS and UBER will be about $20-25 one way.

If you have an extra 155 minutes to space there is a public transportation route from White Marsh. Walk about 8 minutes east to the BROWN bus stop toward Br Um Medical Center, then take it 17 stops to Belair Rd & Overlea Loop SB – 6553, and transfer to the 33 bus toward Mt. Washington LR. Ride 27 stops to Kelly Ave & Sulgrave Ave WB – 5049. Walk 3 minutes northeast to the Mt. Washington & Light Rail Stat and follow the light rail directions from there.

A more practical route for Megabus, especially if coming from points south of Washington, DC, is to take it to Union Station, then take the Marc Penn Line to Penn Station and follow the train directions from there. Bolt Busstops downtown a block east of Penn Station on Maryland Avenue. Walk west toward Penn Station and follow the train directions to TDS from there.

Greyhound stops closer to the stadiums on the south end of downtown Baltimore. Take an UBER or Lyft to the Pratt Street Light Rail Station and then follow the light rail directions to TDS from there.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT OPTIONS FROM THE DMV AREA:

There are three different specific public transportation options local to the DC Metro area that will take anyone in the DC/MD/VA area to BWI for a very low price, and the light rail route from BWI can be taken to TDS from there.

The MARC Penn Line is an excellent option for getting to BWI from anywhere in the Washington, DC city limits. It picks up at Washington Union Station and will take you the BWI Rail Station for around $6-8.

For residents of Montgomery County, MD, the MTA 201 bus will take you from the Shady Grove metro station (northwestern end of the red line), the Gaithersburg Park & Ride, or the Georgia Avenue Park & Ride in Aspen Hill to BWI for $5 one way. This trip will take a little over an hour. The 201 accepts debit and credit cards for the current trip’s one-way fares only or cash in exact change (no change given if you overpay). This is also a good practical option for anyone who flew into DCA or IAD and can catch it from the Shady Grove metro station.

For residents of Prince George’s County, MD, including the College Park/University of Maryland area, the WMATA B30 bus goes from the Greenbelt Metro station at the northern end of the green line to BWI for $7.50 one way (exact change required). This bus isn’t really practical for anyone outside of PG County, however, as it is located further away from either of the DC airports than the 201 stops above. Additionally, the B30 does not run on Saturday or Sunday, so anyone leaving for PG County on Sunday evening will have to take the 201 back to Shady Grove, then return to PG County via the red line and the green line, which will take close to three hours total.

LODGING:

Since this event is taking place at a studio and not a hotel, I will freely discuss a multitude of lodging options.

There are several hotels located very close to the festival at a variety of price ranges. An official hotel for the weekend has not been announced as of the time of writing.

Your best logistical bet is the Holiday Inn Timonium (9615 Deereco Rd, Timonium, MD 21093) located just up the street from TDS. The hotel is currently going for $111 per night at the time of this writing and is located a 2 minute drive or 9 minute walk from TDS. The hotel was recently renovated and reviews are mostly positive. It will likely be the most popular option for those looking to roomshare as it is closest to the event. Amenities include free high-speed wireless internet, a refrigerator, HBO, and “Refresh” bedding.

Additionally, there is at the time of this writing a cyber sale going on for members of Holiday Inn’s IHG Rewards Program where if you book your hotel room between November 11th and December 17th, 2019 and stay between November 14th, 2019 and May 31st, 2020 (which includes the weekend of the festival), you can save up to 25% on your room, making the Holiday Inn a better bet for this festival.

Another good alternative is the Hampton Inn and Suites Baltimore North/Timonium (11 Texas Station Ct, Timonium, MD 21093) going for about $97-100 per night. It is further from TDS, located about a 4 minute drive or 15 minute walk away, but it has a higher rating on Google and more positive reviews than the Holiday Inn. Amenities include free breakfast, free wifi, a fitness center, a business center, digital key entry, a refrigerator, a microwave, and a 42 inch TV.

Your closest budget option is the Extended Stay America Baltimore North/Timonium located about an 3 minute drive or 12 minute walk away from TDS at 9704 Beaver Dam Rd, Lutherville-Timonium, MD 21093 and going for about $80 per night on average, as well as featuring kitchenettes. Some reviews of this hotel complain of cleanliness issues and all are quick to point out that the Ritz this hotel ain’t. Bring the bleach wipes and caveat emptor, as with any budget hotel.

Located about a 7 minute drive up the road in the adjacent town of Cockeysville at 10100 York Rd is your budgetiest budget option, the Ramada Limited Cockeysville, which goes for about $55-60 per night for the VLB Weekend’s dates. Reviews describe not only cleanliness issues similar to the Extended Stay but bulletproof glass in the lobby and “sketchy characters” hanging out in the parking lot. I wouldn’t recommend this particular option for dancers planning on returning from the VLB socials late at night, but it is the cheapest option.

AirBNB is decidedly not an option for the 2020 edition of the VLB Weekend, as only 19 listings are left in the area for the festival’s dates, and only two of them (averaging $50-60 per night) are located within commutable distance of the studio.

FOOD:

Your closest Wal-Mart is located about 8 minutes up the road at 1 Frankel Way, Cockeysville, MD 21030. Target is located slightly closer, at 9901 York Rd, Cockeysville, MD 21030. If you happen to have a Sam’s Club membership, they are located much closer, about a 5 minute drive or 17 minute walk away at 15 Texas Station Ct, Timonium, MD 21093. Giant is located abouat a 7 minute drive away at 2145 York Rd, Timonium, MD 21093.

Green Valley Market Place, a local organic supermarket, is located about a 4 minute drive or 20 minute walk away at 15 E Padonia Rd, Lutherville-Timonium, MD 21093.

The nearest coffee spots to TDS are a Starbucks located a 5 minute drive away at 2129B York Road and a Dunkin’ a short walk south from there. My plan is to stock up on iced coffees and Bulletproof cold brews at Wal-Mart (yes, Bulletproof cold brews are available at Wal-Mart now) before the weekend.

You have quite a few options for your meal out. If you want your baby back baby back baby back baby back ribs with your bachata, there’s a Chili’s right next to the Holiday Inn at 9615 Deereco Rd, Timonium, MD 21093. If you want your comfort food to be more local, Mother’s North Grille is located about a 4 minute drive or 18 minute walk away at 2450 Broad Ave, Timonium, MD 21093. Hightopps Backstage Grille is another comfort food spot located near the fairgrounds at 2306 York Road and Gibby’s Seafood & Gourmet Market is right next door. Located in the shopping center near the Hampton Inn and Sams Club is a Japanese restaurant called Umi Sake (9726 York Road), an Italian pasta and pizza joint called Fazzini’s Taverna (9811 York Road), and, most important to the frugal congress-goer, and all-you-can eat Indian buffet called Royal Kitchen (9832 York Road). Located further up the road from Royal Kitchen are Taco Bell, Popeyes, IHOP, Wawa, and Chik-Fil-A. The Wits End Saloon (9603 Derreco Road), a whiskey-and-burgers joint, and Liberatore’s Ristorante and Catering, a family-run Italian chain (9515 Deereco Road), are good options for the Holiday Inn and the Extended Stay crowd as bpth are a short walk from both of those hotels. There is also a 7-Eleven located near the Hampton Inn, the Holiday Inn, and the Extended Stay America at 9709 Beaver Dam Road.

That’s it for this guide; hit the comments if you have anything to add and I’ll see you in Timonium this February!

There Are Three Currencies In Dance Congress Life (And Life In General)

We’re going to do something a bit different with this article and talk about a foundational principle of managing currency that is very important to the deep understanding of going to dance congresses frugally.

That principle is that there are three different currencies you have to deal with when planning to attend a dance congress as frugally as possible.

Some of you play mobile phone games and have encountered games where there are two or more different currencies. You may have coins to pay for some things, gems to pay for other things, and maybe a third or fourth currency in the case of some games.

There are parallels to real life with this – when planning for a dance congress or any other type of trip, you deal with three different currencies in real life.

The first currency is money. This is the obvious one. Dollars, pounds, pesos, rupees – whatever the currency is where you are in the world at the time. Your pass, hotel room, food, plane ticket, all of that is paid for with money. Money is the first and foremost of the three currencies of the #FrugalCongressLife.

But there is a second, less obvious currency you have to deal with: time.

How is time a currency, you ask? Simply put, many of the ways you save money at congresses have you spending extra time.

Let’s say you stay offsite from the event hotel at a cheaper motel or AirBNB 15 minutes away from the event, which to be clear is something we do not recommend doing for a variety of reasons, but that some people do regardless. You may be saving money by staying offsite but for at least a sizable chunk of the money you are saving by doing this, you are spending time instead.

We’ll assume that each day of the event, you travel from your offsite location to the event for workshops, back to your offsite location to shower up for the party, then back to the event for the party, then back to your offsite location to sleep after you finish dancing. That’s two hours you have spent on commuting that you could have spent napping, taking workshops, eating a nice meal, socializing, or doing any number of other things if you had stayed at the event hotel and just had a 30 second walk from your room to the event. What money you saved is offset at least somewhat by time spent.

This is true for many other money saving strategies as well.

If you take public transportation somewhere instead of an UBER, you have saved money, but spent time, as public transportation takes anywhere from two to four times as long as an UBER ride on average.

Same thing with buying groceries instead of eating out – you save money, but spend time. If you go super frugal and make your own food at the congress, you spend even more time.

About the only money-saving strategy that doesn’t also have you spending time is buying your pass early, which is frankly a no-brainer for congresses you know that you will be attending.

Thinking of time as a currency puts a lot in perspective.

But there is still a third currency one deals with in dance congress planning and budgeting: stress.

Stress is a more abstract currency, but it could be classified as a form of currency, because it takes away from your enjoyment of the event and the absence of it adds to your enjoyment of the event. Furthermore, if you have to deal after the event with a stressful caused by a money saving decision made at the event, you have still paid in stress, but it was a deferred payment.

Let’s say the budget motel you stay in is a block away from the event hotel, but your room has a bedbug infestation and some of the bedbugs come home with you in your luggage. You have not really paid in time immediately to offset what you have saved in money in this example, but you have most certainly paid in stress, both instant and deferred. A bedbug infestation you bring home from a cheap motel is something you have to pay professionals to fix and lose your bedding and other possessions as well, so going to a cheap disreputable motel possibly carries extra payments in money, time, AND stress.

If you take public transportation to the event and the train breaks down, you are paying in stress AND time what you saved by taking public transportation instead of UBER.

If you fly a budget airline or take a budget bus line and your trip is delayed or cancelled, you have paid in time and stress as well.

If you stay at an AirBNB, you have the extra time and stress of having to manage your host’s expectations (your host is likely not a dancer and doesn’t fully understand the world of the dance congress) and clean up after yourself a bit more diligently than you would at a hotel that has a cleaning staff.

The key to effectively attending dance congresses frugally without subtracting from your enjoyment of these congresses then, is to know how to manage and balance these three different currencies and understand how one can offset the other. Sometimes it is worth spending a little extra money to save time and stress, the two other currencies of dance congress planning and budgeting. Sometimes spending a little extra time or dealing with a little stress is worth the monetary savings. It’s really more of an art than a science and something that has to be felt out and applied to every individual situation, but that is something that gets easier with time and experience.

I hope this article helped some people gain more perspective as they plan and budget the rest of their congress season.

#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: Connecticut Salsa Fest

[DISCLOSURE: As of the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with Connecticut Salsa Fest other than being an attendee and have not been hired to promote Connecticut Salsa Fest in any way. As of the time of this writing, I am not affiliated with nor have been hired by any other companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding both the festival and the above companies is my objective advice and is presented as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

For today’s survival guide, we are covering Connecticut Salsa Fest, an excellent salsa festival with a strong bachata component. Connecticut Salsa Fest just celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2019, making it one of the longest-running salsa festivals in the US. In addition to world-class salsa workshops and a large salsa ballroom, there is also a strong bachata component, with equally world-class bachata workshops and an active bachata room hosted by Island Touch. The event also has had a charity component for the last 10 years, with a gala fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital on Sunday that raises over $100,000 for the hospital every year.

In addition, Connecticut Salsa Fest is one of the most child and family-friendly festivals around now, with youth passes and performances as well as special youth parties available. Expect to see a lot of young children running around at this festival.

In 2020, Connecticut Salsa Fest will take place on the weekend of June 25th-28th at the Hilton Stamford Hotel & Executive Meeting Center in Stamford, CT, a heavily urbanized metropolitan New York City-area Connecticut suburb located about an hour outside of NYC and convenient to a variety of transportation options. Stamford has shown up on many a list of the best NYC suburbs that are marginally commutable to New York City while allowing one to avoid NYC’s astronomical rents and cost of living.

PASS:

You know the deal by now, the sooner, the better. For the bachater@s who only wish to participate in the nighttime bachata parties, there is usually a bachata room-only pass sold for around $50 in the late fall season preceding the festival that is good for Friday through Sunday night.

LODGING:

The festival’s organizers offer a room block at the Hilton Stamford for $109 per night. Hilton Honors members purchasing in advance can possibly access even lower rates than this. Of course, roomsharing with up to three other people can bring the cost down to as low as $30 per night once taxes and fees are figured in.

A link to book your room for 2020 will be posted here when available.

Amenities at the hotel include clean, modern rooms and suites with all the room amenities one would expect from a modern hotel, a heated indoor pool, a seasonal patio, a fitness center, a tennis court, and, most notably, a free shuttle going to Stamford Town Center and the Stamford Transportation Center.

With Stamford being an urban transportation hub, there are many alternate hotel and motel options, including some that are less expensive, but you know me by this time. No discussion of alternate options until the hotel is completely sold out.

TRAVEL:

Citymapper supports not only the NYC area via its NYC package but also the immediate Connecticut suburbs, including Stamford, going as far out as the New Haven area. Citymapper will be immensely helpful in planning your trip and I suggest downloading it and using it for this festival and any others in supported cities.

UberPOOL and Shared Lyft are not available in the state of Connecticut at time of writing, making UberX and Lyft the least expensive options available. These options can be split with fellow attendees of the festival with some coordination. As of the time of this writing, Hilton Honors members who have linked their Lyft accounts to their HH accounts will get 3 Hilton Honors points for every dollar spent on Lyft rides. It’s not much, but every little bit helps.

No matter how you get to Stamford, the Stamford Transportation Center, served by Amtrak and MTA Metro North trains and also known as the Stewart B. McKinney Transportation Center, will likely be your ultimate destination and travel hub for the immediate area. Located at 30 South State Street in downtown Stamford, the station is small and aesthetically unfussy, but well laid-out and a breeze to navigate. The station has a Dunkin’ and a small convenience store if you get hungry or thirsty, as well as another cafe that I can’t comment on because it was closed when I was there. The Stamford Transportation Center is located about a 12 minute walk away from the Hilton.

Walking directions from Stamford Transportation Center to the Hilton:

Exit the station at South State Street and walk southwest. Make a left onto Greenwich Avenue and an immediate right onto First Stamford Place. Follow First Stamford Place all the way around the hotel, making a left at the fork in the road, and the hotel will be on your right. Follow the reverse of these directions to get back to the station.

TRAIN/BUS:

For anyone on the east coast, the train and/or the bus will likely be your preferred way of getting to this festival.

Your baller option for train travel on the east coast is the Amtrak Northeast Regional, which will take you right to Stamford Transportation Center. It is very expensive, costing an average of $100 from anywhere in the northeast within 6 hours and even more for business class, but if you want maximum comfort and legroom and a dining car and are willing to spend some extra money, this is a good option.

For most people on this blog, you’ll want to take the frugal option, which is a combination of the bus to NYC, a short walk or ride on the famous NYC subway to Grand Central Station, and the MTA Metro North New Haven Line from Grand Central to Stamford.

Megabus and Bolt Bus are the two recommended options for travel to NYC. Both buses average around $15-20 one way for a trip from anywhere within a 4 hour radius, depending on what time of the day you take the bus.

Bolt Bus stops at 11th Ave and West 34th Street in Hudson Yards near the Javitts Center. From there take the 7 subway train towards Flushing – Main St from 34 St – Hudson Yards to Grand Central – 42 St station, and Grand Central Terminal is a short walk from there. This will cost about $2.75. The walk is about 30 minutes if you have that time and want to save the subway fare.

Megabus now stops at 7th Avenue and 28th Street. From here, take the 1 train uptown toward Van Cortlandt Park – 242 St 3 stops to Times Square – 42nd St. Grand Central is an 11 minute walk east on 42nd St from this famous NYC tourist trap to Grand Central. The subway fare is, again, about $2.75, and the walk is about 24 minutes if you want to save the subway fare.

If you really want to risk riding the Dirty Dog, which we do not generally recommend, Greyhound stops at the NYC Port Authority Bus Terminal, a mere 14 minute walk east on West 42nd Street from Grand Central Station.

Once at Grand Central Station, a digital kiosk for tickets to the MTA Metro North train heading in the direction of New Haven (with some terminating at Stamford station) is very easy to locate. These commuter trains run at about 20 minute intervals, even on Memorial Day. The kiosk is very easy to navigate and purchasing a one-way ticket will take about 5 minutes. The trip between Grand Central and Stamford will take about 52 minutes and cost $11.50 one way. I found the Metro North trains to be clean and comfortable, and many seats have working outlets that you can use to charge your phone and/or external battery on the train. The digital kiosk for Metro North at Stamford is located right next to the ticket window.

For residents of New Haven or any other Connecticut towns served by the train route between Grand Central and New Haven such as Fairfield, Bridgeport, Milford, and Darien, Metro North will get you to Stamford for about $8 one way.

Shore towns east of New Haven such as Branford, Guilford, and Madison are sometimes also served by Metro North, but this service is less frequent. Expect to sometimes drive or take Uber/Lyft to New Haven if you live anywhere east of New Haven, depending on when you go.

FLYING:

For all of you flying, your two most convenient airports are LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in NYC and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in NJ, both of which are served by Spirit Airlines.

The trip from EWR to Stamford is about two hours on average and costs $27.25 one way (that includes NEC/NJCL, subway, and Metro North). Take the AirTrain from Terminal A 4 stops to the Newark Liberty International Airport Stop and take the NEC or NJCL towards New York Penn Station 3 stops to New York Penn. Once at Penn, take the 1, 2, or 3 NYC Subway Trains uptown to Times Square, walk from Times Square to Grand Central following the Megabus directions above, then from Grand Central take Metro North to Stamford Transportation Center.

The trip from LGA is comparatively shorter and less expensive, at about 1.5 hours and $14.25 one way (including M60-SBS and Metro North). From LGA Terminal A, take the M60-SBS bus toward W 106 St./Broadway to the East 125th Street/Park Avenue stop. The Harlem-125th Street MTA station is about a block west, and a Metro North ticket to Stamford can be purchased here for about $8.

CAR:

For everyone driving, parking is offered at the hotel at $20 per day for self-parking, which is not a bad deal for the area. Many people driving will opt for this for convenience purposes, but it is the baller option.

The frugal option is the Harbor Point Gateway Garage which offers daily parking directly adjacent to Stamford Transportation Center for $12 per 24 hour period, for as many days as you like. Parking can be reserved in advance via a web form at the above link.

FOOD:

For the bachater@s, there exists in Stamford about an 8-10 minute drive from the hotel a restaurant that was seemingly put there just for you. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is a restaurant in Stamford called… Bachata Restaurant. This cozy Dominican eatery, located at 822 East Main Street in Stamford, offers cafeteria-style service of a wide variety of delicious Dominican food staples and a sound system that plays a steady stream of… Polish-Iranian industrial folk/death metal fusion music. What else would this restaurant play on their sound system? No really, the sound system plays a wide variety of both traditional and urban bachata. The place isn’t really set up for dancing, but there’s a small area of open floor where you and your partner can have a reasonably restrained and space-mindful dance if it isn’t too crowded and there aren’t other people there with the same idea.

A large plate filled with as much food as the plate will hold costs $11 and a small plate can be had for $9. The service is cafeteria-style with you pointing out what you would like to eat and the workers behind the counter serving it up. There’s a bit of a language barrier if you don’t speak Spanish and can’t identify some food items, but it isn’t a big deal. This restaurant is excellent and wholeheartedly recommended not just for the novelty of a restaurant called Bachata Restaurant but also because it’s a very good restaurant.

Another excellent option right next to Bachata Restaurant is Kumo Ultimate Sushi Bar & Grill. At this sushi buffet, you can fill up to your heart and stomach’s content on a variety of sushi rolls, other Chinese and Japanese foods, fruits, and dessert items for a mere $18. I also wholeheartedly recommend this restaurant as well; the food is delicious and $18 to fill your belly is as good a deal as you will get at a restaurant in this immediate area.

For all the drinkers, also located in this immediate area is a beer and wine SUPERSTORE called BevMax. The yellow and red sign is hard to miss. I don’t drink much, so I did not check this place out, but I’m sure a beer and wine superstore would have everything you need and then some.

Closer to the hotel, the hotel’s restaurant is a Mediterranean farm-to-table restaurant called Tavola selling New England staples such as lobster rolls and flat breads for lunch, and a breakfast buffet during standard breakfast hours.

There are very few coffee options close to the hotel (Starbucks is about a 14 minute walk west). Your best coffee practice is likely to buy a few iced coffee cold brews from the Dunkin’ at Stamford Transportation Center and mix in some Rapidfire powder if you want, and otherwise make coffee cold brews and energy drinks part of your grocery shopping.

My advice for your grocery shopping and staples would be to bring as much as you can from wherever you’re coming from as possible. With Stamford effectively being a New York City suburb, everything is likely to be more expensive than it is where you’re at.

The closest frugal shopping place is the Target at Stamford Town Center (21 Broad Street), which is a short trip from the Hilton on the free shuttle, 8 minutes in an UBER, or a 24 minute walk. The closest Wal-Mart is a 15 minute drive away at 680 Connecticut Ave in Norwalk. You will definitely save more ultimately by going to Target if you did not drive. Walgreens is located east of Stamford Town Center on Main Street, about 3 or 4 blocks west of Bachata Restaurant.

Alternately, Fresh Nation is a three minute walk from the Hilton at 300 First Stamford Place and Utado Grocery is located an 11 minute walk or 4 minute drive away at 60 Selleck Street.

Finally, there is a bevy of food options located in Stamford Town Center including but not limited to: Buffalo Wild Wings, Kashi, Starbucks, Fiesta Atlantic, Fairfield Pizza, Cilantro, Sushi X2, and McDonald’s.

That’s it for this guide… hope to see everyone in Stamford next year!

#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: Sensual Bachata DC Fest / Classé Dance Company 3rd Anniversary

[Disclosure: At the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with Classé Dance Company aside from being a sometime student of their classes and Linda being a friend of mine and one of my favorite dance instructors. I have not been hired to promote this event at the time of this writing nor have I been hired by or am affiliated with any of the other businesses whose services I describe, and everything I am writing is my objective opinion and advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

[UPDATE 8/31/19 – Sensual Bachata DC Fest is reportedly being moved to a new venue.  We will update as soon as announced]

If the legendary Ferocity Dance Company is considered by many to be the Harvard of sensual bachata in the mid-Atlantic region, upstart newcomer Classé Dance Company is poised to quickly become the Yale of sensual bachata in the mid-Atlantic if it has not already.

Classé Dance Company was started by salsa/bachata instructor Linda Saenz in the fall of 2016. The new company quickly gained a good reputation for its fast-paced but comprehensive weekly bachata and salsa classes and outstanding performance teams. Highlights over the next few years include Linda winning best female dance instructor at the DCBX Excellence Awards in 2017 and becoming a Korke & Judith-certified sensual bachata instructor in 2018 after extensive training in Spain with the aforementioned creators of sensual bachata. In addition to teaching regular group classes in both Virginia and Maryland, Linda still directs several bachata performance teams, including the DC chapter of the Korke & Judith World Team Project.

Classé Dance Company celebrates its third anniversary from September 6th to September 8th, 2019. Unlike Classé’s previous two anniversary celebrations, which took place over one day, Classé’s 3rd anniversary has been extended to a full weekend event, officially re-christened Sensual Bachata DC Fest. At Sensual Bachata DC Fest, Classé Dance Company’s third anniversary will be celebrated in style with three nights of socials and workshops from not only Linda Saenz herself, but international bachata couples Kiko and Christina, Marco & Sara, Truji and Gloria, as well as worldwide sensual bachata ambassadors Kike and Nahir and sensual bachata creator Korke.

It all goes down at the Washington Dulles Airport Marriott (45020 Aviation Dr, Dulles, VA 20166) right next to Dulles Airport about an hour northwest of Washington DC. You may recognize the Dulles Marriott as the 2019 location of the Zouk Heat Festival. Zouk Heat has since moved to the BWI Airport Marriott, and I have written a whole new guide for that festival’s new location, but I was happy to pull my old Zouk Heat guide out of the archives and repurpose it for Sensual Bachata DC Fest.

PASS:

For those who didn’t get the $99 early bird pass last year, which I will assume is most of you, a full pass is still relatively inexpensive for an event of this caliber now, going for about $130. Performer’s passes go for $99 and one-night social-only passes are $40 per night.

LODGING:

There currently is a room block available until August 17th at a cost of $109 per night. A four-person room-share will cost the budget-minded about $30-35 per night with taxes included. For those who miss the room block, rooms at the Dulles Marriott can still be had for a relatively low price, especially for members of Marriott’s all-new Bonvoy rewards program, a merger of the old Marriott Rewards program, Starwood Preferred Group, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards. Bonvoy members whose names are on the room folio can also get 500 extra points per night on top of the points already awarded for the stay for refusing room service for up to 3 nights for a maximum of 1500 extra points; inquire about this program at the front desk. Additionally, roll-away beds are available at an extra cost of $25 per room – no one sleeps on the floor at the Dulles Marriott!

If you do the offsite congress grind regularly, take a break from it at this festival and get yourself an affordable room right in the center of the action at the event hotel.

The Dulles Marriot’s array of luxurious amenities include an airport shuttle with an up-to-the-minute tracker, a fitness center, a pool, complimentary standard WiFi or two different tiers of high-speed WiFi for $12.95 and $15.95 per day (obligatory PSA: always use a VPN on hotel WiFi or any other public WiFi to protect your personal data from hackers), breakfast buffets ($15-20 on average), tennis courts, and on-site coin-op laundry room, valet dry cleaning, bottled water, and individual climate control, among others.

Fair warning: the Dulles Marriott’s onsite laundry room consists of exactly one washer and one dryer for the entire hotel that are both in constant use throughout the day and night. I would highly recommend not counting on the onsite laundry being available. If needed, the Sterling Herndon Laundromat is located about 9 minutes away from the Dulles Marriott at 23070 Oakgrove Rd, Sterling, VA 20166, and has a star rating of 4.3 on Google as well as positive reviews.

As per usual, I won’t be discussing any other lodging options unless the Dulles Marriott fully sells out. You’re on your own if it’s offsite options you seek.

TRAVEL:

The entire DC/Baltimore area, including the areas around BWI and Dulles Airport, are all supported by Citymapper by way of their DC/Baltimore package at the time of this writing.

UberPool and Shared Lyft are both supported in the entire DC area including the area around Dulles Airport, but are not supported in the Baltimore area including the area around BWI Airport.

At the time of this writing, Via is supported within the DC city limits, Arlington, and Alexandria, but is not currently supported in the area around Dulles Airport or anywhere in the state of Maryland including the Baltimore area and the BWI area.

DC/BALTIMORE TRAIN AND METRO INFO:

Since the DC Metro system did away with paper farecards a while back, a SmarTrip card will be essential for paying the fares on the Metro system. A SmarTrip card costs $10 for the initial purchase but can be refilled as many times as you want at designated SmarTrip kiosks located at any Metro station, but prepare for this initial expense. Try and keep your SmarTrip card if you plan on visiting DC again in the future.

Information on the MARC trains from the Baltimore area can be found here.

Information on the DC Metro system can be found here.

A map of the DC Metro system can be found here.

DRIVING:

Driving or ride-sharing is the preferred option if possible for this hotel as there is abundant free parking around the hotel. Be advised that the fastest road to Dulles from DC and points east is a toll road, charging anywhere from $2.50 for a 2-axel vehicle up to $8.75 for a 6+-axel vehicle in tolls to go from the DC area to Dulles, but if you have some extra time to spare and set your GPS to avoid toll roads, you can get around the toll road by using parallel local roads instead. Prepare to add an extra 30-65 minutes on average to your trip if you go this route.

FLYING:

This goes without saying, but try to fly into Dulles International Airport (IAD) if you can. The hotel is located right next to Dulles Airport and has a free shuttle going there, and the other two airports are too far away from this particular venue to be practical.

IAD is also at the time of this writing the only airport to not be served directly by a DC Metro station.

Any money you may save by taking Spirit or any other airline to BWI or DCA will be offset at least somewhat by the cost of transporting yourself there, particularly from BWI.

Once you land at IAD, the Dulles Marriott has a free shuttle that will transport you from the airport to the hotel.

FROM DCA:

From DCA, take the DC Metro blue line (make sure you are on a blue line train as the yellow line will add extra time and transfers) toward Largo Town Center to Rosslyn, then transfer to the Silver line toward Wiehle-Reston East and take an UBER to the Dulles Marriott from there.

FROM BWI:

If you must come from BWI, try to get there during the day so you can take the MARC train to Union Station. Once at Union Station, take the Metro red line toward Shady Grove to Metro Center, then transfer to the Silver line toward Wiehle-Reston East and take an UBER to the Dulles Marriott from there.

BUS/TRAIN:

Take any bus or train line to Union Station in DC and follow the above Metro directions for BWI from there.

FOOD:

There are some food options close by and others within a reasonable driving distance.

For your frugal grocery shopping, Walmart Supercenter is located about 15 minutes up route 28, at 45415 Dulles Crossing Plaza. A Giant (1228 Elden Street, Herndon, VA), Harris Teeter (12960 Highland Crossing Dr, Herndon), and Safeway (413 Elden St, Herndon) are all located within a 15 minute drive of the hotel.

Whole Foods is located about 20 minutes east (no tolls but the toll road is faster) at 11660 Plaza America Dr, Reston, VA.

Most of your immediate food options for your daily meal out are located in the airport, and include a Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, Smashburger, District Chophouse, Wendy’s, Au Bon Pain, Bar Symon, Pei Wei (Chinese), Chef Geoff’s, and two different Subways.

A 15 minute or so drive into the nearby town of Reston, VA yields several other options, including Pollo Peru, a casual Peruvian-style chicken place (1675 Reston Parkway), Hibiscus Thai Cuisine, a Thai eatery (11790 Baron Cameron Avenue), and a Silver Diner (11951 Killingsworth Avenue). Also to be found in Reston is Midtown Kabob (11990 Explorer Street), Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food and Lucky Lounge (11927 Democracy Drive), Big Bowl (11915 Democracy Drive), and sweetgreen (11935 Democracy Drive), among others.

Parking is a little tighter at Reston Town Center, but there are several parking garages located directly nearby that are all free after 5pm on Friday and all weekend. Info here: https://restontowncenter.com/parking/parking-rates/

That’s all for this entry. Hit the comments if you got anything to add and I’ll see you all at the Dulles Marriott in September!

#FrugalCongressFood Profile: Send In The Quest Bar Clones

[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with nor have been sponsored or hired by any of the companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

For my very first #FrugalCongressFood profile, I covered Quest bars, those portable, shelf-stable, and ever-reliable flavored chunks of protein, soluble fiber, and sugar-free sweeteners that have been the food source powering many dance congresses as well as, frequently, day-to-day life in general for me. Quest bars accomplish this while being free of the carbs, sugar, and low-grade soy protein present in many of the candy bars masquerading as protein bars that defined the protein bar landscape before Quest Nutrition came on the scene in 2010.

Indeed, Quest bars remain to this day the gold standard for low-carb low-sugar high-protein bars, with delicious new flavors such as birthday cake, chocolate hazelnut, mint chocolate chunk, and chocolate sprinkled donut (my new favorite Quest bar flavor btw) being introduced in just the short period of time since I wrote the above linked article and the time I wrote the first draft of this one in May of 2019. Undoubtedly at least one or two new flavors will have come out between then and press time. Quest Nutrition has also expanded their food offerings into low-carb high-protein chips, cookies and even pizza, which are all also quite good.

However, a bevy of clones are now vying for a place in the low-carb high-protein portable food arena alongside Quest’s offerings, and that is what we are covering in today’s article.

We will start with the budget alternative: Wal-Mart’s Equate brand. The Equate line covers a wide variety of adult nutrition products including protein bars, protein powder, and protein cookies. The bars are slightly less expensive at Wal-Mart than Quest’s offerings ($5 for a 4-pack vs. $7 for a 4-pack of Quest bars).

Equate’s protein bars are a functional alternative to Quest bars with much the same consistency and the same protein content. Taste wise, they are much blander and less flavorful than Quest’s offerings, but they use a blend of whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate, pea protein, and rice protein as a contrast to Quest’s use of only whey protein isolate. Equate’s cookies, by contrast, are sweet and flavorful, but only pack 10 grams of protein to the bars’ 20, and the cookies have higher net carbs so be mindful of this when using them to hit any daily protein numbers you may have.

Switching to the higher end of the Quest clones, ONE is a new direct Quest competitor who has come onto the scene in recent years. ONE’s bars are available at Wal-Mart, Target, 7-Eleven, CVS, Safeway, Harris Teeter, and GNC for roughly the equivalent cost to Quest bars at each location. Unlike the chewy consistency of Quest and Equate bars, ONE’s bars are glazed and have a very different taste and feel from Quest bars. Still, they have roughly the same calories, protein, sugar, net carbs, and fiber as their Quest counterparts.

ONE bars come in several delicious flavors, including birthday cake, peanut butter cup, dark chocolate sea salt, maple glazed doughnut, cookie dough, blueberry cobbler, and, my personal favorite, almond bliss (which is basically a low-carb low-sugar high-protein Almond Joy bar for those who are fans of that).

Protein powder mega-players Optimum Nutrition have also thrown their hats in the low-carb low-sugar high-protein snack food ring in recent years with a diverse array of products including cake bites, protein almonds, and crispy treats, all packing the same nutritionally sound numbers as the other brands and Optimum Nutrition’s tried-and-true whey protein as their basis.

The crispy treats, available in salted toffee pretzel, vanilla marshmallow, and peanut butter crunch, are basically nutritious Rice Krispie Treats packing 20 grams of protein and only 3 grams of sugar per bar. They do contain 22-24 grams of carbs per bar, which is a bit on the high side for those on low-carb diets.

ON’s cake bites are pleasantly flavored, but the downside with them is that the different flavors of their cake bite offerings kind of taste the same to me. I’m not sure how it’s possible for birthday cake, chocolate cherry, and red velvet to taste the same, but they do. Still, the flavor is pleasant and satisfying, and ON’s cake bites are about as nutritionally sound as cake bites can be.

The almonds are delicious, and the extra fat from the almonds is beneficial in filling you up, but they only pack 10 grams of protein per bag, so be mindful of that as well.

Optimum Nutrition also offers high protein chips, wafers, energy chews, and even protein water via their website.

As I stated in my previous Quest bar profile, what essentially amounts to healthy high-protein candy should NOT form the entire basis of your diet, at dance congresses or anywhere else. But these Quest clones, alongside Quest bars in order to add some new flavors and textures, and alongside other portable shelf-stable nutritional staples such as almonds, jerky, and fruit and vegetable squeeze pouches, could be a part of the reasonably balanced dance congress diet needed to power you through your weekend! I hope this helped somebody and as always, hit the comments if you have any suggestions.

#FrugalCongressFood Profile: Rapidfire Ketogenic Coffee

[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with nor have been sponsored or hired by any of the companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

For this, the first #FrugalCongressFood profile in quite some time, we will return to the well of ketogenic coffee to cover a new emerging alternative to Bulletproof Coffee – Rapidfire Ketogenic Coffee!

Unlike Bulletproof Coffee, which is available either as coffee grounds and other standalone ingredients, or pre-made cold brew Tetrapaks, Rapidfire is sold in convenient instant powder form in a small low-profile bag that can easily be tucked into a backpack, suitcase, or even your pocket.

Rapidfire is available on Amazon for $15 or in person at most GNC or Harris Teeter locations for $20 per bag and certain Walmart locations for $14 per bag or canister (although the canisters do not have the advantage of a low profile that the bags do). Each bag makes approximately 10-15 servings depending on how much you use, effectively making each serving of Rapidfire about $1-1.25 per serving. Depending on what you mix the powder with, you’ll effectively pay about $2-4 per cup or bottle – not bad!

The powder is a shelf-stable mix of instant coffee, grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and Himalayan salt that can be mixed into any hot or cold beverage, including hot coffee, hot water, iced or cold brew coffee, protein shakes, or even fruit smoothies (if you don’t mind adding coffee flavor to your fruit smoothie of course).

My personal preferred use of Rapidfire at work, where I use it almost daily, has been to mix a measured amount of the powder into the hot coffee offered at my job along with a scoop of collagen powder, a scoop of chocolate protein powder, and some stevia and consume one cup of this mixture. On the go, I mix a measured amount of the powder into a bottled cold brew coffee beverage such as any offering from Starbucks or Dunkin’ once in the morning. I notice heightened levels of focus, alertness, energy, and attention on par with what I experience after drinking Bulletproof Coffee for several hours following consumption.

I first tried Rapidfire at the Sensual City Bootcamp in Philadelphia last February when I couldn’t get to Whole Foods for my customary Bulletproof coffee due to my schedule, and bought instead a bag of Rapidfire to try out at the 30th Street Station GNC. I found it more than capable of powering me through an intense weekend of continuous dance training, and I have also used it to help with alertness and focus in workshops at a few different congress since then with much success.

Here’s one caveat: even if you have used Bulletproof or other types of ketogenic coffee before, plan to be near a bathroom the first time you consume Rapidfire, as it takes the digestive system some getting used to, and causes minor gastrointestinal distress until then (which is common with MCT oil-based products). Sorry – that is really the classiest way I can convey this idea. Thankfully my first consumption of this product was in the morning in my hotel room well before leaving for the day. Once you have consumed it once and your body is used to it, it should not cause any further gastrointestinal distress. Don’t let this discourage you – MCT oil based products such as ketogenic coffee have multiple other health benefits and are otherwise safe to consume.

Overall, I find Rapidfire to be a very satisfactory alternative to Bulletproof that has the benefit of being less expensive, more convenient, and more portable. As always, hit the comments if you have any suggestions and I hope this helped someone.

#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: Interfusion Festival

[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with Interfusion Festival other than being a loyal attendee.  I have not been hired by Interfusion Festival to promote that organization in any way, and everything you read is my objective advice. As of the time of this writing, I am not affiliated with nor have been hired by any other companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

For this #FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide, it is my pleasure to cover the one and only Interfusion Festival, a unique, enigmatic, and surely soon to be legendary (if it is not already) dance and healing movement festival that is like no other in the US.

Interfusion Festival offers an unparalleled mix of African and Latin dance workshops (including bachata, zouk, tango, and kizomba), pole dance workshops, and a wide variety of spiritual and healing workshops including such topics as meditation, essential oils, daily self-care, Thai massage, intimacy and sexuality, tantra, yoga, and acroyoga, as well as daytime acroyoga jams and nighttime dance socials for bachata, zouk, ecstatic dance, kizomba, and EDM.

Interfusion Festival started as a small two-day local studio festival with the purpose of bringing together dance, spiritual, and healing movement topics in early 2016, and the very first Interfusion Festival was held over two days at the Dance Loft On 14 Studio in Washington, DC on August 6th and August 7th, 2016.

Interest in the festival grew rapidly from there and Interfusion Festival quickly expanded into a full weekend festival and moved in the winter of 2017 to the legendary event-tested Westin Alexandria hotel, also the site at the time of DC’s long-running Capital Congress. This new incarnation of the Interfusion Festival, called Interfusion Festival: Unleash Your Dreams, was a full three-day festival at the hotel that happened on February 10th-12th, 2017, and offered the eclectic mix of dance and spiritual workshops and night parties for which Interfusion is now well known. A second fall edition of the festival, dubbed Interfusion Festival: Awakening, happened at the Westin utilizing the same format as the previous winter’s festival on Labor Day weekend in the fall of 2017.

After Interfusion Festival: Awakening, the festival went on hiatus for over a full year before returning successfully to the Westin Alexandria on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in January 2019 for Interfusion Festival: Rebirth.

Interfusion Festival will return once again on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in 2020 for Interfusion Festival: Evolution.

Part of Interfusion’s evolution in 2020 is a new, bigger, more accessible hotel. While we here at #FrugalCongressLife are sad to see the festival leave its longtime location at the Westin Alexandria, as the Westin’s wellness theme and spiritually inspired design elements complemented the spirit of the festival perfectly, I remember commenting to my roommates at the 2019 festival how quickly the festival was growing and that it would soon outgrow the Westin. This move to a bigger and more convenient and central location is ultimately best for the festival’s continued growth and development.

Starting in 2020, Interfusion Festival will take place at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, located at 1700 Richmond Highway (formerly Jefferson Davis Highway) in downtown Crystal City, VA, hereafter referred to as the CGM. Billed as an urban oasis getaway near the city, this hotel is simultaneously visually stunning, enormous in size, packed with luxurious amenities, and conveniently located near Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA), as well as the Washington DC Metro system and the hustle and bustle of downtown Crystal City, soon to be the location of Amazon’s second headquarters. The Crystal Gateway Marriott, a newcomer to the Afro-Latin scene as well as the healing movement sphere, but already event-tested by large-scale dance events in the Lindy Hop world, is well equipped and ready to handle Interfusion Festival as it continues to grow.

As our above linked multi-congress hotel guide for the Westin Alexandria now no longer applies to Interfusion Festival, this inimitable dance and healing arts festival gets its own survival guide today!

PASS:

Tier 1 full passes to Interfusion Festival: Evolution are available now for $150 at InterfusionFestival.com. A group rate of four full passes for $140 per pass is also available. Prices for a full pass will go up to as high as $350 for one pass in the weeks before the festival… buy today!

TRAVEL:

The entire DC area, including Crystal City and all major DC-area airports including BWI, is supported by Citymapper at the time of this writing.

The DC area is supported by all of UBER and Lyft’s shared/pool options, but the BWI/Baltimore area is not, so keep that in mind if coming from BWI. Via is available in the DC city limits, Arlington (including Crystal City) and, as of June 2019, Alexandria. Via is not available anywhere in Maryland, including the BWI area.

BUS/TRAIN:

Take any bus/train line into Union Station in Washington, DC. From there, get on the DC Metro red line toward Shady Grove, and transfer at Gallery Place-Chinatown to the yellow line toward Huntington. Take the yellow line to Crystal City, and there will be an underground tunnel connecting the Crystal City metro station directly to the CGM. Expect the Metro ride to cost about $4 one way.

UBER or Lyft will be about a 20-30 minute ride from Union Station to the CGM at a cost of about $15-20 one way for those who will have too much luggage for the metro or prefer the convenience.

DC TRAIN AND METRO INFO:

Since the DC Metro system did away with paper farecards a while back, a SmarTrip card will be essential for paying the fares on the Metro system and parking at Metro lots (see below). A SmarTrip card costs $10 for the initial purchase but can be refilled as many times as you want at designated SmarTrip kiosks located at any Metro station, but prepare for this initial expense. Try and keep your SmarTrip card if you plan on visiting DC again in the future.

Information on the MARC trains can be found here.

Information on the DC Metro system can be found here.

A map of the DC Metro system can be found here.

FLYING:

Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) is the recommended airport for anyone flying to the new Interfusion location. The CGM is located minutes from DCA and a complimentary shuttle for the hotel goes back and forth from the hotel to DCA on call day and night.

If you are flying Spirit or need to fly into BWI for any other reason, try to arrive early in the day while the MARC train is running. Take the MARC to Union Station and follow the bus/train directions from there.

If you are coming from IAD, take an UBER or Lyft to the Wiehle-Reston East metro stop and from there, take the silver line toward Largo Town Center to Rosslyn, transfer to the blue line toward Franconia-Springfield, and take the blue line to Crystal City, where an underground tunnel at the station directly serves the CGM.

CAR:

One thing to keep in mind if driving to this festival is to account for the DC area’s infamous rush-hour traffic in your travel times. The DC area ties with the Los Angeles area for the worst rush-hour traffic in the US in various surveys, and can add as much as an extra two hours to your travel time on the DC area’s major highways from 6am-11am, 12pm-1pm, and 2pm-9pm on weekdays. I wish I was kidding but this is the DC area’s actual average rush hour timeframe on any given weekday.

Nonetheless, using the major highways to get to Crystal City (located in Virginia about 10 minutes south of DC) is recommended for those coming from out of town, as the streets within Washington, DC’s city proper, designed by Pierre L’Enfant in the 1700s to confuse and deter invading armies, are very confusing and difficult to navigate for anyone unfamiliar with the area, even with today’s GPS apps (although those apps certainly help).

Parking is available at the hotel for $39 per day, but our recommended frugal overnight parking option is to park in DCA’s economy lot for $17 per day and take an UBER or the free airport shuttle to the CGM.

There is an uncovered 24/7 surface lot run by Colonial Parking at 2000 S Eads Street about a 10 minute walk from the CGM that is a good option for locals commuting to and from the festival and may work for overnight parking with some due diligence (and sacrificing some sleep). This lot costs $12 per day on weekdays ($8 after 5pm) and a flat rate of $8 on weekends. Payment for this lot is handled by purchasing a ticket at an automated pay station which you display on your dashboard. If you use this option for overnight parking, you must be diligent about going back to the pay station to re-up as required (every 8 hours if I recall) or risk being ticketed or towed. Mobile parking apps such as MobileNow and ParkMobile are not supported by this lot at press time, but this may change. All the inherent risks of parking in an uncovered, unsecured public lot apply to this lot as well. Still, it is the cheapest parking option nearby. Be warned that some Google reviewers complain of being ticketed at this lot despite paying the fees, but I have used this lot a couple times myself with no issue.

The absolute cheapest overnight parking option, if you can find parking there and have a small enough amount of luggage to make this work, is to park at one of the Metro lots with overnight parking and take Metro to the CGM. Overnight parking is available at four area Metro stations: Greenbelt (green line), Wiehle-Reston East (silver line), Huntington (yellow line), and Franconia-Springfield (blue line). Each of these stations have 15-17 parking spaces allotted for overnight parking for up to 10 days available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Parking is $4.75 per day on weekdays and free on weekends and is charged to your SmarTrip card on exit.

Expect this option to add considerable travel time. Huntington and Franconia-Springfield are the closest Metro stations to this lot with overnight parking; Greenbelt and Wiehle-Reston are located on opposite ends of the Metro and will add about 30 minutes of travel time to your trip if you park there.

DIRECTIONS TO THE HOTEL FROM METRO LOTS:

From Franconia-Springfield/Huntington: blue/yellow line toward Largo/Fort Totten to Crystal City

From Greenbelt: green line to Branch Avenue, transfer to yellow line toward Huntington at L’Enfant Plaza and take yellow line to Crystal City

From Wiehle-Reston East: silver line toward Largo Town Center to Rosslyn, transfer to the blue line toward Franconia-Springfield, and take the blue line to Crystal City

LODGING:

You already know, the event hotel is where it’s at.

Interfusion’s organizers have a large room block reserved at the CGM starting at $117/night for a standard room, a jaw-droppingly incredible deal for a hotel of this caliber in a location like this. With taxes you’ll pay about $35 per night for a four-person roomshare in a standard room. No word on whether suites and M-Club Lounge rooms (see below) are part of the room block at this time.

Book your room here or call the CGM directly at (703) 920-3230 and mention the Interfusion group rate.

The CGM’s amenities include, but are not limited to, modern rooms featuring modular furniture and abundant natural light, a fitness center with on-demand digital classes, PURE allergy-friendly rooms, and spectacular views of the city.

Rooms offering access to the exclusive M-Club Lounge are available for an extra fee, or free for Platinum-level Marriott Bonvoy members. The M-Club Lounge offers a breakfast buffet, 24 hour access to snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, free premium Wi-Fi, a hydration station offering flavored water, a single-brew coffee machine, evening hors d’oeuvres dinner service, and a concierge on duty.

There are several other hotels around the area, but most of them are much more expensive than the group rate at the CGM, and you already know, I don’t talk about alternate lodging publicly unless it’s absolutely necessary.

I will detail alternate lodging options in a separate temporary post if the hotel completely sells out and no overflow block is available.

FOOD:

The M-Club Lounge access, detailed above, may be worth purchasing for the breakfast buffet (especially for the early risers and party-to-breakfast crowd), the snacks, and the hor d’oeuvres service.

The in-hotel restaurant, 15th & Eads, offers farm-to-table cuisine in a modern space.

For your grocery shopping needs, the nearest Wal-Mart Supercenter is located about a 23 minute drive from the CGM at 6303 Richmond Highway in Alexandria. Target is considerably closer, located right in Crystal City about an 8 minute drive away at 3101 Richmond Highway. Both Wal-Mart and Target have abundant lot parking nearby. In the case of this festival, whatever you save going to Wal-Mart may be spent on the extra cost of transporting yourself there. A Whole Foods is also located about a 15 minute walk from the CGM at 520 12th St S, suite 100.

The same Metro tunnel connecting the Crystal City Metro station to the CGM also connects the Metro station directly to the Crystal City Shops mall, which features Dunkin’ Donuts, Perfect Pita, Sushi Garden, Lily Bubble Tea and Smoothie, Subway, San Antonio Bar & Grill, Schakolad Chocolate Factory, and Atia Kabob Place. The CC Shops also features a Dollar Plus, where some additional frugal shopping may be done.

Jumping on the Metro and going one stop over to the Pentagon City stop will take you to Fashion Center at Pentagon City, where you can find Extreme Pizza, California Pizza, Shake Shack, Panera Bread, Matchbox Pizza, Sine Irish Pub, Lebanese Taverna, and Bonefish Grill.

Rite Aid can also be found at both the CC Shops and Fashion Center at Pentagon City.

Located about an 8 minute walk south of the CGM behind Crystal Plaza apartments is another mall featuring McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks, Cosi, Chick-Fil-A, Plaza Gourmet, Sweetgreen, Deli Works, Kora, Jaleo, Chipotle, and Starbucks among others. Right next to that mall is Bar Louie, Mezeh Mediterranean Grill, Jimmy John’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Ruth’s Chris, Legal Sea Foods, Pizza Autentica, and Cafe 59.

One other noteworthy dining establishment located about a 9 minute walk or 2 minute drive south of the CGM at 539 23rd St. S is Bob & Edith’s Diner, the Crystal City location of a well-known and highly respected regional chain of diners in Northern Virginia. The food here is excellent and reasonably priced and they are open 24 hours a day.

One notable restaurant at Reagan National Airport, for those who are flying, is a franchise chain outpost of famed DC institution Ben’s Chili Bowl, although I’m sure as a DC-area native that this airport chain is at most a respectable imitation of the U Street original. Still, even a respectable imitation of this legendary restaurant is well worth checking out.

CONCLUSION

The Interfusion Festival is truly a unique and magical experience. The festival’s calming, spiritual atmosphere is good for the soul of any dancer, yogi, acroyogi, or anyone else interested in healing movement. I look forward to witnessing its growth in its new location. For anyone going in 2020, I will see you there!