#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: The FTLOB Experience

[Disclosure: At the time of this writing I am not directly affiliated with For The Love Of Bachata other than Jessica Taylor being a personal friend of mine. 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.]

[IMPORTANT NOTE: Starting in 2019, the FTLOB Experience has changed locations from Art & Style Dance Studio to the Arthur Murray Dance Center in downtown Pittsburgh. Therefore, I have rewritten all relevant sections of the original article from the ground up for the new location, leaving only the opening and closing paragraphs and any other still relevant info from the original article intact.

Original article published 9/3/18

Re-written for new location 3/5/19]

If you are a fan of traditional bachata straight from the Dominican Republic, the FTLOB Experience, formerly known as the FTLOB Festival, needs to be at the top of your list of events to attend. Promoter, blogger, and DJ Jessica “DJ Tay” Taylor has turned the city of Pittsburgh, PA into one of the #1 strongholds in the US for traditional bachata under the banner of her company, For The Love Of Bachata (FTLOB). The FTLOB Experience, named for the aforementioned company, is a bi-annual weekend festival with a fall and spring edition that delivers for fans of this style of bachata, with workshops featuring national and international traditional bachata artists in the afternoon and socials at night. This excellent event has a much smaller intimate family feel compared to a larger dance event, and is one of the few high-profile events in the US to be held at a dance studio rather than a hotel.

Each event follows a smaller “weekender” format, beginning with a Friday night kickoff party at the Cabaret Theater ($5, not included in the full pass), then moving a block west to Arthur Murray Dance Center of Pittsburgh for workshops and guided social dance practice on Saturday afternoon and a party at night from 10pm-2am, and concluding with workshops at Arthur Murray on Sunday afternoon. The music format for the parties is mostly traditional bachata with a small amount of salsa, urban bachata, and kizomba.

Starting with the Spring 2019 event, the FTLOB Experience has changed the location of its Saturday and Sunday workshops and party from Art & Style Dance Studio to the Arthur Murray Dance Center of Pittsburgh, located on 136 6th Street in downtown Pittsburgh. The Friday night kickoff party remains at the Greer Cabaret Theater (655 Penn Avenue). As much as I liked the festival’s previous location at Art & Style, the location change is ultimately for the best, as Arthur Murray’s downtown location is much more convenient and accessible than A&S (located about 30 minutes northeast of downtown), particularly for those traveling by non-car means (plane, bus, train), and will help this festival’s growth in the long term.

The Spring 2019 edition of the For The Love Of Bachata Experience will take place from Friday, May 3rd, 2019, to Sunday, May 5th, 2019, and will feature returning artists Maria and Alex of BailaMar.

PASS:

A full pass for this festival is very inexpensive. The full pass for this year’s Spring Edition is only $100-112 about two months out from the event (depending on whether or not you get the lunch package – see food section for details), and ramps up from an early bird amount of $70, so get your pass for the fall festival as soon as it goes on sale. A student full pass is available for $50-62 for full-time students with ID. A loyalty pass for the 2019 festival is also available at a cost of $80 for the no-lunch pass or $92 for the lunch option for those who attended the Fall 2018 festival.

Again, the kickoff party is a separate $5 cover which is not included in any full pass. Even with this extra charge, the weekend is very competitively priced.

TRAVEL:

All travel directions go to the festival’s kick-off party location at the Cabaret Theater. Arthur Murray Dance Center of Pittsburgh, where Saturday and Sunday’s activities take place, is a one block walk west on Penn Ave from the theater.

Pittsburgh is unfortunately not supported by Citymapper at the time of this writing.

CAR:

Driving or rideshare is a solid way to get to this festival. You will most likely be using the Pennsylvania Turnpike if you are coming from the east coast, so expect to pay about $15-20 in tolls.

The best place to park downtown near Arthur Murray and Cabaret is the PPA Ft. Duquesne & Sixth Garage, located steps from both FTLOB venues at Fort Duquesne Boulevard and 6th Street, and is open 24/7 at a cost of $8 a day on Friday after 4PM and all day on Saturday and Sunday.

FLYING:

Good news Spirit heads, Spirit goes to Pittsburgh International Airport!

Public transit directions from Pittsburgh International Airport:

Take the 28X bus toward Downtown – Oakland – Shadyside – Bakery Square – North Point Breeze to the Downtown Liberty Ave at Wood Street station.

Cabaret Theater is a one minute walk from this stop. Make a right on 7th Street and a left on Penn Avenue and the theater is on your left.

UBER/Lyft from the airport will be about 23 minutes. UberPOOL and Shared Lyft are not available in Pittsburgh, so this could get expensive. Of course, splitting with other festival attendees is an option, with some coordination.

BUS/TRAIN:

Megabus is a great way to get to this festival, as it stops downtown right down the street from the Cabaret Theater. If you can catch Greyhound on a rare day when they are actually reliable, they stop around the same area as well. The Capitol Limited and Pennsylvanian Amtrak trains also stop at the Amtrak station in the same area.

Directions to the Cabaret theater from bus and train stops:

To get to the Cabaret Theater from the Megabus stop, walk up 10th Street, make a right on Penn Avenue, and the theater is on your right. Expect about a 7 minute walk.

To get to the Cabaret Theater from the Greyhound stop and the Amtrak station, walk up 11th Street, make a left on Penn Avenue, and the theater is on your right. Expect about a 9 minute walk.

LODGING:

Since this event is at a dance studio and no hotel room block exists, I will freely discuss a multitude of lodging options.

Honestly, I got a bit of sticker shock looking at general hotel prices in the Pittsburgh area and particularly downtown Pittsburgh, as they are easily on par with DC and even approaching New York City in terms of cost.

All of the hotels located nearby with available rooms for the 2019 festival are charging upwards of $200-300 per night. The Renaissance Pittsburgh, the closest hotel, to the event, is charging upwards of $300 per night, but that pain can be eased somewhat with a four-person roomshare for about $75 per night

Ironically, one of the places I listed as an extreme baller option in the previous edition of this article might be one of your budget options this time around. Townplace By Bridge Street, a luxury apartment complex inexplicably doubling as a hotel located on Stanwix Street near Market Square about a 10 minute walk from the festival locations which normally goes for a staggering $507 per night, is being offered for $256 per night on Booking.com for the Spring 2019 festival’s dates. For this, you get a fully furnished apartment room with a full kitchen, dimmable mood lighting, a basketball court, electric car charging stations, a game room, a movie/cinema room, and the ability to cast Netflix to any TV. Townplace is close to the Cabaret Theater and Arthur Murray, and if you want balling out in style to be part of your FTLOB Experience (you’re on the wrong blog if that’s the case) then this is the hotel to check out, particularly for the comparatively cheaper price at which it is being offered for the Spring 2019 festival.

The Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh Downtown, located about three blocks from the festival location, is going for about $250 per night at press time.

Your absolute cheapest local option outside AirBNB is the Fineview Inn at 419 Catoma St., a bed and breakfast located about a 9 minute drive from downtown, which goes for $86 per night that weekend.

At press time FTLOB still recommends as a budget hotel the Comfort Inn located at 180 Gamma Drive Building B, despite this hotel now being located about half an hour from the festival’s location. This hotel averages about $90-110 per night. With UBER or driving costs this hotel may still come out to being cheaper than downtown Pittsburgh’s offerings. A rental car from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car near the Greyhound and Amtrak stations may be slightly cheaper than UBERing back and forth if you go this route. Reviews online are a mixed bag, but I am told rooms here are generally clean.

But most likely, your best frugal lodging option for this festival is AirBNB. At press time, there are about 100 AirBNBs under $100 per night located in a 10 minute driving radius of Cabaret Theater and Arthur Murray for the Spring 2019 festival; you would be advised to book now before they fill up!

Likely, there will be cheaper and more expansive lodging options further out from the Fall edition of the FTLOB Experience; I will rewrite this section as soon as dates for the fall festival are announced and I can do the research.

FOOD:

First and foremost, lunch is provided at this festival! For a mere $10 extra with your pass, you can get a two day lunch bundle that typically includes some type of meat sandwich, chips, fruit, and a drink on each day. I’m sure there are also vegetarian and vegan options as well. The lunch is very good and this is, in my opinion, a must-do add-on for frugal festival goers. Lunch is served on Saturday and Sunday during a designated break time denoted on the schedule in the middle of workshops.

For your coffee fix, there is a Starbucks located directly across the street from Arthur Murray.

Wal-Mart is located about a 13 minute drive from downtown Pittsburgh, at 877 Freeport Road. The Giant Eagle Supermarket is located about a 5 minute drive from downtown on 320 Cedar Avenue and Market St. Grocery is located right in Market Square a block south of the studio. The closest Whole Foods is located an 18 minute drive one way away from downtown at 5880 Centre Avenue.

The food options for your one meal out near the new downtown location are quite expansive. Here is only the options located directly around Arthur Murray: Fu Lai Chinese, Cafe Milano, Giovanni’s Pizza and Pasta, Indian Spices, Meat and Potatoes, Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room, V3 Pizza, and täkō (as you may have guessed, a taqueria).

Market Square houses McDonalds, Chipotle, Noodles, Bruegger’s Bagela, Nola on the Square, Dunkin’ Donuts, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Bluebird Kitchen, another Starbucks, Five Guys, Primanti Bros, City Works Pittsburgh, Las Velas (Mexican), Jimmy John’s, Sienna On The Square (Italian), Prantl’s Bakery, and Vallozzi’s Pittsburgh.

Also located nearby at Liberty Avenue & Wood Street is another McDonald’s, Qdoba, and Arby’s.

That’s all I got. I enjoyed the Spring 2017 FTLOB Festival very much and highly recommend this event. I can not make it to this festival in 2019, but hopefully I can make it at least one day next year!

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