[Disclosure statement: As of the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with DCBX other than being a loyal yearly attendee and Lee and Kat being personal friends of mine. I have not been hired by them to promote DCBX in any way, and everything you read is my objective advice. As of the time of this writing, I am not directly 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. 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 the very first survival guide covering a specific dance congress on the #FrugalCongressLife blog, we are covering one of the very best dance congresses out there – DCBX!
DCBX, or the DC Bachata Congress, is, if not the single largest dance congress in the United States, one of the largest dance congresses in the United States, with attendance of 7,000-10,000 people expected if previous years are any indication. The event, held at the gigantic, beautiful, and upscale Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel located at 999 9th Street NW in Washington, DC, is a massive-scale dance congress featuring international artists for a variety of Latin and African dance genres (including zouk, kizomba, and salsa – DCBX is not just a bachata congress!) teaching a variety of workshops, the biggest bachata ballroom in the US playing a mix of all bachata styles as well as two other dedicated bachata ballrooms for traditional and sensual bachata, along with separate ballrooms for salsa, kizomba, and zouk, several concerts, social dancing from midnight to 8AM each night, and even such unheard-of-elsewhere additions as a food festival and a film festival.
DCBX, the brainchild of husband-and-wife DC Latin event promotion juggernauts Lee “El Gringuito” Smith and Katherine “Kat La Gata” Aguilar-Smith, and further supported by an outstanding team handling everything from social media to artist relations, is a massive festival and the top choice of many dancers who can only go to one or two festivals a year.
DCBX 11, the 2019 edition of DCBX, takes place from August 22nd-August 26th, 2019 at the Renaissance. New to the festival this year is a staggering THREE different bachata ballrooms! A mix of urban, sensual, and traditional bachata will be played in the grand ballroom, and there will also be a dedicated sensual bachata ballroom and a dedicated traditional bachata ballroom! Additionally, there will be salsa, zouk, and kizomba ballrooms.
A partial and in no way complete list of the featured artists for 2019 includes Alien Ramirez, Maxi Solis, Bri Jones, Jonathan and Jorge (as seen on World Of Dance), De’Jon and Clo, Leo & Jomante, Ivonne Pronovich, Ferocity Dance Company, Codari Pro, Kadu & Larissa, Ry’el and Jessica, and many others. A partial list of featured DJs for 2019 includes DJ Emerzive, DJ Soltrix, DJ Chapa, DJ Alejandro, and DJ Manuel Citro, among others. The 2019 festival will also feature live concerts by Los Adolecentes, Los Cantantes Originales, and Luis Vargas!
The festival is located in the very heart of downtown DC, and DC, being a coastal metropolitan city, is very expensive by every possible metric. It’s not as expensive as NYC, but all the same, those of you coming from anywhere other than a metropolitan city should be prepared for everything costing much more than you are used to as a matter of course.
Fear not, for we at #FrugalCongressLife are here to help you attend this congress, have an outstanding time, and leave with your wallet intact.
A NOTE ABOUT DC STREETS:
DC often has two or more streets with the same name, each located in the northeast (NE), northwest (NW), southeast (SE), or southwest (SW) quadrants of the city, and distinguishes between the streets by putting NE, NW, SE, or SW at the end of the name to identify which quadrant of DC it’s in.
Pay special attention to the quadrant initials at the end of street names when planning trips or consulting your GPS for directions — if you accidentally type in L Street NE when you meant to go to L Street NW or 7th Street SE when you meant to go to 7th Street NW etc., you could wind up in an entirely different part of the city from your intended destination.
This is something us DC natives take for granted from living here for so long but can really trip up those unfamiliar with the area.
Buy early, that’s your best option. A VIP early bird pass goes for $150 and an early bird full pass goes for $125 when passes first go on sale about a year out from the festival.
Otherwise, follow the standard #FCL procedures for getting your pass as cheap as possible legitimately. The passes become more expensive closer to the festival.
The city of Washington, DC and all surrounding areas are supported by Citymapper via their DC/Baltimore package. Additionally, UBERPOOL, UBERPOOL Express, Shared Lyft, and Via are all available in DC. Via is currently available only within the DC city limits, Arlington, VA, and Alexandria, VA.
DC METRO INFORMATION:
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, 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 DC Metro system can be found here: http://www.wmata.com
A map of the DC Metro system can be found here: https://www.wmata.com/schedules/maps/upload/2017-System-Map.pdf
For those of you flying, your most frugal travel option for this congress is, naturally, Spirit Airlines. The closest airport served by Spirit Airlines to the congress is Baltimore-Washington International airport (BWI) in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, about 40 minutes north of DC.
An UBER/Lyft or cab from BWI to the hotel is VERY expensive, around $60-70 or possibly even higher than that, so try to avoid this if possible or split the costs with another festival attendee if you must go this route. Although UBER and Lyft’s pool/shared options are available in DC, they are NOT available in the Baltimore area, including the area around BWI, making UberX and regular Lyft your only options for travel to and from BWI.
Directions from BWI:
If you are able, try to get into BWI during the day when the MARC train is still running. Take the MARC train’s Penn Line from BWI to Union Station in DC. Tickets for the MARC train can be purchased at a kiosk at the BWI train station near the airport for about $8.
Directions to the hotel from Union Station: Once in Union Station, take the DC Metro red line towards Shady Grove two stops to the Gallery Place-Chinatown stop and the hotel is a short walk away. Exit the Metro station from the Gallery/9th & G St. NW side; you will see signs around the station pointing out which exit is which. Once out of the station, walk down G Street NW toward 9th Street NW (if you see 7th Street NW you’re going the wrong way, turn around) then make a right on 9th Street NW and the hotel will be on your right two blocks up at 999 9th St NW. It’s hard to miss.
If you’re taking any airline other than Spirit, you will either fly into BWI, DCA (Reagan National Airport), or IAD (Dulles). DCA is the closest airport to the congress and therefore the most practical if you are flying any airline other than Spirit. Try to avoid flying into IAD if you can; not only is IAD far from the congress without the benefit of being serviced exclusively by a budget airline, but there is no Metro stop or train that services IAD directly as yet, which will force you to take UBER/Lyft, a cab, or a bus part of the way.
Follow the above directions if you are flying into BWI.
DIRECTIONS FROM DCA:
If coming from DCA, take the Metro yellow line from the Ronald Reagan National Airport station at the terminal towards Greenbelt/Fort Totten to the Gallery Place-Chinatown metro stop and follow the above directions from there. The yellow and blue lines share the same track and the blue line’s route is very different and will add extra time and transfers to your trip, so be sure the train you are getting on is a yellow line train. Follow the walking directions from Gallery Place once you get there.
DIRECTIONS FROM IAD:
If you must come from IAD, take an UBER, Lyft, or cab to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro stop on the silver line, take the silver line toward Largo Town Center to Metro Center, then transfer to the red line towards Glenmont, take the red line one stop to Gallery Place, and follow the above directions from Gallery Place.
The Washington, DC area is unfortunately home to some of the most notoriously relentless rush hour traffic in the nation, and this must be accounted for when planning any car trip using the highway system, as it can add anywhere from 1 to 2 hours to your trip. Rush hour in Washington, DC takes place on Mondays and Fridays from 5am-11am and noon-9pm (not kidding), and at various completely random intervals on Saturday and Sunday.
The streets with in the DC city proper itself, built in the late 1700s by Pierre L’Enfant with the express purpose of confusing and deterring invading armies, are very confusing and difficult to navigate for out-of-towners, even with a navigation system. Use of a good GPS and concentrated focus is recommended if driving in DC.
Parking is, as you would expect, very tight as well. Do not count on street parking to be available, especially overnight.
You have a few different options for overnight parking.
The first, closest, and most obvious option is your baller option, which is parking directly at the hotel at a cost of $35 per day for self-parking or $53.10 per day for valet parking, which some people may want to do for convenience, but which is definitely not the most frugal option.
A slightly less expensive option close by is the parking garage at Union Station, which offers overnight parking at a cost of $72 for a 48-72 hour period (about $24 per day), and is a short trip from the hotel via the directions from the station listed earlier in this entry.
DCA’s economy lot, at $17 per day with no hourly rate, is a good frugal option reasonably close to the Renaissance. Park in the economy lot, take the free shuttle to the terminal, and hop on the Metro from the terminal and follow the metro directions from DCA to the hotel. Make sure you keep your economy lot ticket with you and do not lose it if you utilize this option.
BWI’s economy lot, at $8 per day, could also work if you came from points north and have some time to spare. Arrive during the day before the MARC stops running, take the free shuttle to the terminal, then take the MARC from the terminal to Union Station as described above (another $8 one way). This will cost you about $50 total for three days and is the cheapest airport parking option. Again, keep your ticket if you use this option.
The absolute cheapest option, if it is available, is parking your car at a suburban Metro lot and taking Metro to the hotel.
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.
You can take the green line toward Branch Avenue from Greenbelt or the yellow line toward Fort Totten from Huntington directly to the Gallery Place-Chinatown stop.
From Wiehle-Reston East, take the silver line toward Largo Town Center to Metro Center, transfer to the red line toward Glenmont and take the red line one stop to Gallery Place-Chinatown.
From Franconia-Springfield, take the blue Line toward Largo Town Center to the Pentagon station and transfer to the yellow Line toward Fort Totten/Mount Vernon Square to Gallery Place. Do not miss your transfer at Pentagon, otherwise your trip will take much longer and you will have to transfer at Metro Center to the red line per the above directions.
Expect your Metro ride to be about 20-30 minutes. Once at Gallery Place-Chinatown, follow the above walking directions to the hotel from there.
Your best frugal bet is, of course, a room share at the event hotel. DCBX currently has an active room block at the event hotel featuring rooms that can accommodate up to 4 people for as low as $155 per night, or about $45 per person per night for a four person room-share when taxes and fees are included. A link to book your hotel room online can currently be found here or at DCBachata.com under the hotel section if that link doesn’t work. Rooms at the event hotel are clean, comfortable, luxurious, and aesthetically pleasing, and are well liked by the festival’s regular attendees.
Per my personal code of ethics, and to encourage attendees to support the event hotel, I will be posting no information on offsite lodging options until the event hotel fully sells out, if that happens. If the event hotel fully sells out and no DCBX room block is available at an overflow hotel, I will write a separate entry detailing offsite options then.
For the frugally-minded traveler wanting to get groceries near the congress, you have many options. The closest is Walgreens, located at 7th & H Street NW near the Gallery Place Metro stop, but this is not the most frugal option.
There is also a Safeway (east coast chain grocery store similar to Vons on the west coast) located at 490 L Street NW, a 5 minute UBER/Lyft ride or 9 minute walk each way from the hotel.
If you want to grocery shop as frugally as possible, the Walmart Supercenter at 99 H Street NW is your best bet. It is a 9-10 minute UBER/Lyft ride or 15 minute walk each way from the hotel. Expect the DC Walmart stores to be slightly more expensive than suburban and small-town Walmarts, because they have higher operating costs due to their location. However, Walmart will still be your most frugal option in the immediate area of the congress for staples.
For those wanting to go to Whole Foods for specialty items, the Logan Circle Whole Foods at 1440 P Street NW is a 9 minute UBER/Lyft Ride or 20 minute walk each way from the hotel.
There is also a Smoothie King located near the Gallery Place metro station at 703 7th St. NW. A good #FCL strategy for those who don’t want to grocery shop at the congress but still want to save some money on food is to walk to Smoothie King in the morning (about a 5 minute walk) and get a 40 oz Strawberry Hulk smoothie for $9.99. The Strawberry Hulk, as I discussed in my NYC survival guide, is a 1000+ calorie meal replacement smoothie which provides a large portion of most people’s daily calorie and macronutrient requirements and should last you until dinner. I would allow some time to digest before being active in any way if you go this route. [Disclosure: Smoothie King has been a DCBX sponsor in past years and may be again this year, but this has no bearing on my recommendation, I honestly think the Hulk smoothies are a quick easy way to knock out a good chunk of the day’s calories and macros in one fell swoop for a relatively low cost.]
For your coffee needs, the Starbucks located directly in the event hotel’s lobby is your best bet.
As far as options for your one restaurant meal, there are hundreds of restaurants directly around the hotel, most of them chains, and writing about all of them would be at least one whole separate article.
The restaurant I’m looking forward to having at least one of my daily meals out at is New Big Wong, an underground Chinese restaurant located at 610 H Street NW, a short walk from the hotel. They have some of the best General Tso’s Chicken in the city in my opinion.
Located directly next to the Renaissance at 777 Eye Street is Taco Bamba, a delicious and excellent rock-and-roll-themed taqueria owned by chef Victor Albisu that is a favorite among DCBX attendees.
Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar, the former site of area Latin event promoters the Bachata Brothers’ now-defunct Viva Fridays event, is a solid option for Cuban food located just down the street from the hotel.
I’ve also heard good things about Oyamel Cocina on 401 7th Street NW, which I have never been to but which was featured on a TV show I worked on several years ago. They serve grasshopper tacos (no kidding) for those of you with adventurous palates.
For those of you with less adventurous palates looking to eat out frugally, good old McD’s can be found at 601 F Street NW near the Metro, with Chipotle located right next door.
A small selection of some of the other restaurants located a stone’s throw from the hotel include City Tap House, Nando’s Peri-Peri, Farmers & Distillers, DBGB, Fig & Olive, Fruitive, Capitol City Bewing Company, and Zaytinya DC.
Otherwise, like I said, I could write a whole other article on the staggering amount of food options located a short walk from the hotel – this is just some of the highlights!
That’s all the info I have… sound off in the comments if you got anything else to add and I’ll see you at DCBX!