#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: Future Zouk Chicago Congress

[DISCLOSURE: As of the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with Future Zouk Chicago Congress other than being an attendee and have not been hired to promote Future Zouk Chicago Congress 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 #FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide, we’re going back to Chicago to cover the Future Zouk Chicago Congress, a brand new Brazilian Zouk festival happening the third weekend of July at Dance Center Chicago, hereafter referred to as DCC. Those who attended the Chicago edition of this past year’s DCBX Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve will recognize DCC as the host venue for that event. Along the same lines, anyone who read my DCBX Tropical New Year’s Eve guide will notice large sections lifted from the Chicago section of that guide. Although the venue is the same, the circumstances of this congress (not on New Years Eve) warrant a new updated guide rather than me just pointing attendees to the NYE guide, and hey, any opportunity to repurpose old content into something new is fine by me.

Future Zouk features a comprehensive educational program for both zouk and sensual bachata with beginner tracks for both dances, classes for DJing and production, and multiple master classes and choreo challenges for advanced dancers. Parties happen each night in a zouk ballroom, a bachata ballroom, and a turn-up/chillout ballroom.

Confirmed artists for zouk include Paulo Victor and Luisa Teston, Clinton and Cristi, Sydney Charisse and Carvalho Gabriel, Brad Meccia, and Crystal Bedford.

Confirmed artists for sensual bachata include Jose Serrano and Mayah Sandock, John Manego and Shiloh Cardenas, Angel Cruz and Megan Hutsell, and Dore Kalmar. Confirmed DJs include Alex Bousgas, Jessica Jamilla, DJ Web, and Just Jacob.

Without further ado, here is the 411 on how to navigate this congress with ease.

TRAVEL:

FLYING:

You can either go to O’Hare or Midway for this congress. If you are taking Spirit, you will fly into O’Hare.

DIRECTIONS FROM O’HARE:

Take the blue line towards Forest Park to the Montrose stop. From there take the 80 bus toward Broadway to Irving Park and Damen/Lincoln and DCC is a three minute walk south on N Lincoln Avenue from there.

DIRECTIONS FROM MIDWAY:

Take the orange line north to the Harold Washington Library-State stop and transfer to the brown line north. Take the brown line to the Addison stop. From there, DCC is approximately a six minute walk north on N Lincoln Avenue.

TRAIN:

DCC is about a 40 minute trip from Chicago Union Station on the brown line. Head east on W Adams Street toward S Wells Street, make a right on S Wells Street and get on the brown line toward Kimball at the Quincy stop. Take the brown line to Addison and DCC is a 7 minute walk northwest on N Lincoln Avenue up.

BUS:

Take Megabus to W Polk Street between S Clinton Street and S Canal Street. Walk west on W Polk Street toward S Clinton Street and make a right on S Clinton Street. Take the Blue line to O’Hare from the Clinton Stop to Clark/Lake and get on the brown line toward Kimball and follow the train directions from there.

Information on all train lines and the 80 bus here: http://www.transitchicago.com/

Chicago is supported by Citymapper and Via at the time of writing.

LODGING

Lodging here is readily available, but lodging downtown sadly remains as pricey as it was on New Years Eve, especially in the summer at the height of tourist season when this congress happens. Of course, roomsharing can ease the pain, but you have to show more discretion about having more than 1-2 people in a room at a non-event hotel (meaning don’t flaunt it directly to hotel staff), and be mindful that different hotels have different policies regarding multiple room keys etc.

Since this congress is located at a dance studio rather than a hotel, I will freely discuss a multitude of lodging options.

The Hotel Versey, located about 15 minutes from DCC at 644 W Diversey Pkwy, is the option recommended by Future Zouk management, but at $267 per night, it is one of the pricier options. Regardless, it has 4.2 stars on Google and 880 mostly positive reviews. Pictures on Google show clean, modern, Wrigley Field-themed rooms.

There are two reasonably priced hostels nearby. The Wrigley Hostel, located at 3514 N Sheffield Avenue, goes for $138 per night the weekend of the congress and has mostly good reviews.

The Chicago Getaway Hostel, located 16 minutes away at 616 W Arlington Place, goes for $72 per night that weekend and has mostly good reviews as well.

The closest chain hotel is the Best Western Plus Hawthorne Terrace, located at 3434 N Broadway and going for $196 per night the weekend of the congress.

The historic Inn At Lincoln Park, located 16 minutes away, goes for $149/night and also has good reviews.

There are two Rodeway Inns located about 16 minutes away that could be good budget options as well. The Rodeway Inn, located 16 minutes from DCC and priced at $82 per night the weekend of the congress, has the outward appearance of a roadside motel, but the rooms appear to be pretty clean and modern from the pictures. Reviews are mixed, with some praising the clean rooms and excellent service and others complaining of glaring cleanliness issues in some rooms. Rodeway is a Choice Hotels hotel and is worth checking out as a budget option, but caveat emptor and bring antibacterial wipes and a light sleeping bag as a precautionary measure.

The Rodeway Inn Chicago-Evanston, located another four minutes up the road from the other Rodeway and priced starting at $89/night, is the same deal – an unfussy budget hotel with the outward appearance of a roadside dump but updated modern rooms on the inside that people seem to either love or hate judging by the reviews. Reviews also complain of a standoffish front desk staff and overbearing security so keep this in mind as well. This could also be a good option if caveat emptors similar to the other Rodeway are applied.

Expect a commute of at least 10-15 minutes one way to and from DCC for all of these options, but since we’re pretty sure sleeping at DCC is frowned upon, commuting will be a part of this congress for as long as it is at this venue. You can help this congress grow to the point of moving to its own hotel in the near future!

A quick search of AirBNBs around the area shows a good selection priced anywhere from $42-$180 per night. They will undoubtedly go quickly, especially the less expensive ones, so book soon!

FOOD

For your grocery shopping needs, Trader Joe’s is located a block down at 3745 N Lincoln Avenue. A Walmart Supercenter is located about 21 minutes away at 4626 W Diversey Ave, but whatever you save going there you may spend getting there if you are from out of town. A Walmart Neighborhood Market is located a little closer to DCC, 15 minutes away at 2844 N Broadway.

You have several meal out options directly nearby. Wasabi Cafe, C’est Bien Thai, Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro, Xurro – Churro factory, and Spicy Mexican Grill are all located on the block of Lincoln Ave directly north of DCC, and it’s pretty self explanatory by their names what types of restaurants these are. Bricks Pizza and Barbecue is located a block south.

Portillo’s, Lou Malnati’s, and the infamous Weiner’s Circle, three notable Chicago restaurant landmarks detailed in our CSBF guide, are all 18 minutes or less away from DCC by Uber/Lyft/Via.

CONCLUSION

Chicagoans who are fans of Brazilian Zouk finally have a congress to call their own! Come out and make the 2019 edition of the Future Zouk Chicago Congress one for the books and help it grow!

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#FrugalCongressLife Resource Spotlight: Fox Outfitters Airlite Sleeping Mattress

[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.]

We are well into dance congress season in the US at this point with about three months passed and about five more to go, and as we all know and I have pointed out many times, roomsharing is the cheapest, most convenient, and most supportive way to save money on lodging at a dance congress.

One of the many areas where roomsharing can get tricky is when there are more people in a hotel room than there are beds. One solution to this is for two or more people to share beds, but not everyone is comfortable with that and that isn’t always feasible.

Whenever I can, I use the BetterHabitat Sleep Ready Memory Foam adult twin floor mattress as my portable bed for congress hotel roomshares. It is extremely comfortable, with 3 inches of memory foam and a feel much like a real mattress, but it is also very bulky. Even rolled up and in its bag, it has the footprint one would expect from a rolled up twin-size mattress, about as tall as me at 6 feet and about 18 pounds. It works well for driving distance congresses where I can just throw it into the trunk of my car and only have to carry it from the car to my hotel room, but forget about taking it on a bus, train, or plane.

Although I am happy with the BetterHabitat mattress, a situation where I would be roomsharing at a congress not within driving distance will call for a solution that is smaller and more portable. I went on the Googles this past March to look for the best small air mattress that would also deliver the comfort and usability needed to not be #TeamNoSleep at the congress, and my search brought me to the Airlite 100.

Made by stalwart camping gear company Fox Outfitters, the Airlite 100, available from Amazon.com for $49.99 with a $17 off coupon, is a sleeping pad made of Diamond Ripstop fabric specifically designed to resist being torn on rough terrain. Originally designed with outdoor camping, backpacking, and hiking in mind, this durable pad can surely withstand the rigors of an indoor hotel room at a dance congress.

The mattress rolls up to a mere 4” x 13”, a tiny footprint that can fit in the tightest of Spirit bags. A foam footpump is integrated into the mattress itself, allowing you to easily pump up the mattress to full size using no electricity and only your feet or hands in about a minute and a half. A double-brass air valve release system allows the mattress to deflate just as quickly.

Despite the low footprint, a tubular design system allows the mattress to be comfortable enough to provide support to your entire body and allow you get to sleep comfortably and stay asleep through the night.

I gave the Airlite a battle-testing this past April at one of my favorite dance congresses, the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress. I was the roomshare admin of a four-person roomshare in a two-double room at the event hotel with myself, one other guy, and two ladies. The two ladies shared one hotel bed, the guy got the other hotel bed to himself, and as a good roomshare president does, I made the sacrifice any responsible leader of a hotel roomshare is bound by duty to make and set up camp in the corner of the room with my newly-purchased Airlite.

This congress was a particularly good testing ground for the Airlite. Due to the spotty availability of parking in downtown Baltimore and the high cost of parking at the hotel, my frugal transport method was to drive to BWI Airport, park in their long-term lot, and take an UBER with other congress attendees from BWI to the hotel. I had no trouble getting the mattress into my backpack, but I realized I would have to do some Tetrising and probably make a few other sacrifices as far as other stuff I could bring to be able to fit it into a Spirit bag, but not many. Deflated and rolled up, the mattress’ total footprint is that of about 2-3 rolled-up t-shirts.

Inflating the mattress is easy and straightforward.  You unroll and unfold the mattress, tighten the two brass valves at the end (righty tighty, lefty loosey), remove the cap on the integrated pump, then make an airtight seal over the hole with your hands and pump as if you were doing CPR on the mattress.  Alternately, you can create the airtight seal with your foot and use your foot to pump up the mattress instead.  The mattress inflated as quickly as advertised every time. I deflated the mattress and left it unrolled on the floor of my room (as recommended by the instructions) every morning before leaving for workshops.

While not quite as comfortable as my Better Habitat mattress, the Airlite was definitely comfortable enough, especially with the fitted sheet and coverlet set I bought with me to the congress (although the coverlet left a hell of a footprint in my bag — in the future I think I’m just going to leave the coverlet at home and ask for extra sheets from the hotel). By the end of a long night of burning up the floor at the Baltimore Congress’ parties, preceded by a long day of workshops, I could probably have slept in the chair if I really wanted to, so the Airlite was more than comfortable enough to drop off to sleep quickly on.

The mattress’ small footprint meant I was easily able to fit into the space between the bed and the wall (which was admittedly relatively expansive at the Hilton Baltimore), but it really is a narrow mattress; it is barely wide enough for most people to lay on their backs on, and if you move around in your sleep you’re likely to find yourself off of the mattress in the morning when you wake up. At 82 inches, the mattress was long enough even for a tall dude like me. For what it’s worth, you get more or less the same sleeping real estate you would get on a shared bed or a couch.

I found the Airlite to be as durably constructed as advertised, and it held onto air like a champ throughout the night – I got 5-6 hours of sleep a night on average at BSBC despite dancing until 5am, having 3 roommates, and sleeping on an air mattress. I haven’t been able to find a maximum weight rating for the Airlite online, but speaking from personal experience, I was about 225 pounds at the time of the test and the mattress was able to support me with no issues. Still, I have to assume individuals heavier than 250 pounds may have issues with this mattress.

Despite being an air mattress, the Airlite makes almost no noise when you move around on it. I was very impressed at how quiet it was – quite optimal for not disturbing your roommates with typical air mattress noise.

Deflating and rolling up the mattress is fairly straightforward as well.  Open the valves and the pump and roll your arm along the mattress until all the air is out.  Once it’s all out, fold the mattress back up and roll it toward the valves.  Make sure you roll it towards the valves because if you roll it toward the pump, a pocket of air forms near the pump and the mattress can’t roll up all the way.

My ultimate verdict is that while the Airlite is definitely a compromise between ultimate comfort and a low footprint, it is an acceptable and usable sleep solution when space is tight both in your bag and in your hotel room. I would definitely use it at a congress again when the situation calls for it. I hope this article and this mattress helps you find comfort and better sleep in your hotel roomshares!

#FrugalCongressLife Resource Spotlight: FlexIt App

[DISCLOSURE: At the time of writing I am not affiliated with not have been hired to promote the FlexIt company or any of the other companies or services mentioned in this article.

Any exercise program or regimen carries with it an inherent risk of injury. Consult a doctor before beginning any physical exercise program or regimen.

Read and follow any and all safety instructions on any exercise product that you purchase for your use.

All advice presented in this article is presented as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

Welcome back. This is the final part of our special three-part series for National Physical Fitness and Sports Month on fitness resources for the traveling dancer.

So you need to work out for an hour at the congress, the resistance bands and the bodyweight workouts aren’t cutting it, you need to work out in a gym, but the hotel gym sucks. What do you do? You can get on the phone with the local gyms, see who offers day passes, and pay $20-40 for a day pass to work out and shower for 1.5 hours — or you can fire up the FlexIt app for an easier and less expensive way.

Think of FlexIt as kind of an UBER for gyms: you download the app, sign up, enter your payment info, then you can use the app to locate a participating gym near your location that you want to use. Once you’ve chosen your location, the app brings up a QR code for that gym location that is scanned at the door of the location via a QR code reader, and your workout time begins, giving you full access to the gym’s facilities including the workout equipment, locker rooms, showers, and other facilities. FlexIt charges by the minute, with most of its participating gyms averaging around 15-30 cents per minute, or around $10-20 per hour. Once you leave, scan the QR code again to check out and your time stops.

For the extreme frugal commuters driving 30 minutes or more back and forth between home and the congress, FlexIt does double duty, helping dance congress commuters possibly find a relatively inexpensive place to shower and save them from having to double back home to shower in between workshops and party. This use of FlexIt will be particularly powerful for dancers attending one day of any dance event in NYC using my go-to strategy of coming up Saturday morning and leaving on the 6am MegaBus Sunday morning, as many fitness facilities in Manhattan a short subway ride away from the majority of dance events there are FlexIt participants.

Note: shower shoes are highly recommended for showering at commercial gyms.

Major gyms participating in the FlexIt app at press time include, but are not limited to: Balance Gym, Retro Fitness, Green Fitness Studio, Tribeca Health and Fitness, Compass Fitness, Youfit Health Clubs, Charter Fitness, Mountainside Fitness, BeFitNYC, Absolute Power Fitness, and Body Elite Health & Fitness Center. A full list of participating gyms can be found at https://flexit.fit/network.

At press time, the above page claims that the FlexIt company is bringing in as future partners Crossfit Rittenhouse, Goose Island Crossfit, and most notably, Gold’s Gym. The addition of the legendary Gold’s Gym chain (including the storied Venice Beach location where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno trained in the 1970s) is potentially a huge, game-changing turning point for the FlexIt app and its general business model.

With that said, the main drawback to FlexIt currently is the limited number of participating gyms. For example, the closest FlexIt partner to the upcoming DC Zouk Festival’s Dulles hotel is the Retro Fitness in Manassas, VA, a 22 minute drive away. How usable the app is for you as a traveler really depends on how close a participating gym is to wherever you are. Additionally, being as FlexIt’s business model is potentially disruptive to the commercial gym industry, I expect many gym chains will resist coming on board for some time yet. However, there are many upsides to commercial gyms becoming FlexIt partners, such as increased revenue from travelers and casual gym users using the gym on an as-needed basis, having been given a convenient, streamlined way to do so via the FlexIt app.

CONCLUSION

Not much else needs to be said. This game-changing, potentially industry-altering app offers an excellent resource for the traveling dancer looking for inexpensive, as-needed access to local gyms in town.

We hope this three-part series on fitness resources for dancers on the go helps someone look and feel their best in their dance travels! Happy National Fitness and Sports Month!

#FrugalCongressLife Resource Spotlight: Stretching and Core Training Apps

[DISCLOSURE: At the time of writing I am not affiliated with not have been hired to promote any of the other companies or services mentioned in this article.

Any exercise program or regimen carries with it an inherent risk of injury. Consult a doctor before beginning any physical exercise program or regimen.

Read and follow any and all safety instructions on any exercise product that you purchase for your use.

All advice presented in this article is presented as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

Welcome to part two of our three part series on fitness resources for the traveling dancer for National Physical Fitness and Sports Month!

Last time we discussed resistance bands, a portable and versatile alternative to free weights and gyms for getting a full-body workout in on the go. The full-body beach-muscle workouts you get from weightlifting or resistance band training programs are certainly very important to strength and fitness for dancers. However, as I said last week, two of the most important salient components of physical fitness for dancers specifically are touched on only briefly by most weightlifting and resistance training programs aimed at bodybuilders, and can be done without a gym, weights, bands, or anything of the sort.

Those components are stretching/flexibility and core training. Training the core, in addition to training the lats, is very important to keeping a dancer’s frame solid, as much of a dancer’s frame comes from the core. Stretching and flexibility are important, particularly for follows who are led into moves requiring flexibility,

The following smartphone apps present comprehensive stretching and core training programs to increase your flexibility and strengthen your abs and core. The exercises shown in the apps are exercises you only need your body and some floor space for and can be done in your hotel room easily, although I would do them while you’re in the room by yourself if you have a lot of roommates as they do take up some real estate on the floor.

High-level dancers and performers will undoubtedly already have stretching and core training programs very similar to those shown in the apps in place already, but the apps offer an excellent framework to beginners just getting into stretching and core training, as well as structured programs.

STRETCHING AND FLEXIBILITY

Start Stretching from Gregory Dunn and Health & Fitness comes with a free stretching program featuring such foundational stretches as the rear hand clasp, shoulder extension, back bend, and lying twist, and two paid premium regular and advanced programs. The app also offers stats on which stretches you have done and for how long, and times you when you select a stretch in addition to showing you the proper form for the stretch in detail both with words and pictures. Stretch duration and countdown times can be customized in the app.

Sworkit’s Stretching app offers three programs: Full Body Stretch, Head To Toe Stretch, and Pilates Essentials, offering a very similar program of stretches as the Start Stretching app. You pick the amount of time you want to spend stretching in minutes, and the app gives you a structured program with a new stretch every 30 seconds, accompanied by videos demonstrating the stretch in detail, and all you have to do is follow along with the voice instructions.

ABS AND CORE TRAINING

Sworkit’s Abs And Core app offers three programs: Awesome Abs, Complete Core, and Back Strength. Each workout program offers exercises critical to core strength such as the plank, the situp, the 6-and-hold, the twist, the hundreds, and many others. The workout structure is identical to the stretching app.

Both Sworkit’s stretching app and their abs and core app can be connected to your phone’s health app and any music apps on your phone.

The most comprehensive free alternative on the app store is Abs Workout from Fast Builder Limited. The app comes with a staggering eight different workout plans ranging from beginner to advanced: Beginner Abs, Beginner Core, 7 Minute Abs, Ab Blaster, Core Trainer, Plank Challenge, Angel Abs, and the toughest of them all, Hard Core. Workout times range from 7 to 21 minutes. You are shown a preview of the workout before starting and letting the voice guidance take you through your workout in a manner very similar to the other apps.

The app can be configured to skip the countdown seconds, voice guidance, and halfway prompt, as well as connect to Apple Health.

CONCLUSION

Stretching and core training are some of the most pivotal exercises for a dancer’s fitness and long-term health, and we hope these apps are useful to you in reaching your goals in this area.

If the hotel-room workouts just aren’t cutting it for you, next week we will be covering a possibly revolutionary new app that could make gym access on the road much easier – stay tuned!

#FrugalCongressLife Resource Spotlight: Resistance Bands – The Portable Gym

[DISCLOSURE: At the time of writing I am not affiliated with Bodylastics or Blake Kassel nor have I been hired to promote any of their products. At the time of writing I am not affiliated with not have been hired to promote any of the other companies or services mentioned in this article.

Any exercise program or regimen carries with it an inherent risk of injury. Consult a doctor before beginning any physical exercise program or regimen.

Read and follow any and all safety instructions on any exercise product that you purchase for your use especially weights or resistance bands.

All advice presented in this article is presented as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

Happy National Physical Fitness and Sports Month! As many dancers know, physical fitness is very important for both leads and follows, not only for looking one’s best, but also for avoiding injury, successfully executing the more athletic and dynamic moves present in certain dances, and increasing one’s overall longevity as a dancer. For the month of May, which has been recognized as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month since 1983, #FrugalCongressLife will be doing a special three-part Resource Spotlight series on resources to help dancers work out and maintain physical fitness on the road.

As anyone who travels and is into fitness is well aware, hotel gyms vary wildly in terms of equipment and quality. I’ve seen hotel gyms that are as good as or better than any commercial gym, and hotel gyms that are literally just one treadmill and a handful of small dumbbells going up to 20 pounds. Of course, many hotels, particularly the budget hotels, do not even have gyms to begin with. The latter two scenarios present a challenge to the fitness-minded traveling dancer who couldn’t get all their workouts in during the week or whose specific workout regimen demands working out 6+ days a week and now needs to carve out an hour to work out at the congress.

I will be discussing a few different solutions in this series, the first of which are resistance bands. Resistance bands are bands made of durable latex that provide resistance similar to, but not exactly the same as, that of a free weight for muscle-building resistance exercises.

A variety of different free-weight resistance training exercises such as curls, chest presses, and lateral raises can be duplicated using resistance bands. Additionally, the durable anchors that come with many of the higher end brands of resistance bands allow them to be anchored to doors or other objects, allowing many cable-machine exercises such as cable rows, crossovers, and tricep pushdowns to be replicated with resistance bands as well. Generally different colored bands in a given set have different thickness and therefore different levels of resistance, measured in pounds. Pulling or pushing a band rated at 20 pounds of resistance, for example is about the same as lifting a 17 pound free weight.

Resistance bands are very compact, have a very low footprint, and are effectively a portable gym that can be packed in even the tightest of Spirit Airlines bags effortlessly, depending of course on how many you bring with you and what attachments.

The gold standard for resistance bands that I have used before and personally recommend is Bodylastics, a dedicated manufacturer of resistance bands started by bodybuilder Blake Kassel in 1994. Bodylastics bands are stackable, meaning they have carabiner clips attached to the end of each band that attach to durable handles included in most resistance band packages, meaning different bands at a variety of different resistance levels can be combined to create even more resistance.

A full list of Bodylastics’ different resistance band packages can be found here and several different programs of resistance band exercises can be found here.  The 404-pound “Super Human Strength” package may be overkill for those just starting out, but one of the four smaller sets, priced from $28.95 to $68.95 and ranging from 96 to 202 pounds of total stackable resistance, should be more than enough for most people and should pack right into your luggage easily.  

Each package comes with two different anchors for anchoring your bands to solid objects for cable-style exercises.  The door anchor threads through a door to stay in place once its closed allowing you to loop the band through the anchor.  Be warned that some of the more fragile doors out there can be broken by attaching heavy resistance bands to it by an anchor and pulling.  If you are in a hotel room by yourself, your hotel door should be durable enough to withstand this, but note that it completely ties up the door allowing no one in or out, so probably not the best choice if you have roommates.  Your best choice in this case is to use the Anywhere Anchor, tie it to a light pole or other SOLID grounded object that can withstand a lot of heavy pulling outside, and attach your bands. 

Resistance bands are best used in conjunction with bodyweight exercises in a workout program.  Band-resisted pushups are very good chest exercises in this capacity.  A set of flat resistance bands such as those offered by The X Bands is recommended for band-resisted pushups, as they stay in place more easily than the Bodylastics bands in this exercise. 

I have used resistance bands as a form of resistance training while traveling, to rehabilitate injuries, and also while recovering from injury as a way of easing back into free-weight training. My personal verdict is that they do not replace free weights, but are an acceptable substitute in a pinch, and working out with them is better than not working out at all.

It seems like I am shilling for Bodylastics, but I am not – I find them to be objectively the highest-quality and most versatile resistance band system on the market today.

Of course, some of the most important exercises for any dancer can be done without weights or bands. The next part of this series will discuss various smartphone apps for stretching and core exercises – be on the lookout!

#FrugalCongressTourism: Baltimore, MD – Crabtowne

[DISCLOSURE: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with nor have been sponsored or hired by Crabtowne or 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.]

[EXTRA DISCLOSURE: I wrote almost all of this entry while listening to the Street Fighter II and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles original arcade soundtracks, because what else would I listen to while writing an article like this?]

As promised, we’re going to go off the beaten path with our second #FrugalCongressTourism entry for Baltimore this month in anticipation of the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress next weekend. This entry is for all the dancers who like seafood, video games, vintage video arcades, or some combination of all three.

We kept it in downtown Baltimore pretty close to the BSBC hotel for the first part of this informal series, but for part two, we’re going to go about 20 minutes south of the downtown Baltimore area to the working-class suburb of Glen Burnie, MD to visit Crabtowne, a small independently owned seafood joint located just off a busy stretch of Crain Highway.

“A seafood restaurant?” you ask me, “That’s tourism? How is this place different from any other seafood restaurant in America?”

How about the most comprehensive fully operational old-school video game arcade anywhere in the immediate vicinity, for starters?

For my younger readers who don’t remember the 1980s/1990s heyday of video arcades, I’ll drop a brief history lesson. Video arcades were rooms full of large vertical stand-alone coin-operated video game cabinets (pictures in the link) featuring one video game per cabinet that you could play for anywhere from one to four quarters per round. Yes, only one game per cabinet, generally (a rare few were two-in-one). Yes, the cabinets were really that big. Yes, quarters only. No, I don’t know how we survived back then either.

Video arcades began to gather steam in the late 1970s and flourished throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, long before smartphones and today’s generation of high-definition home video game consoles. Back then, coin-operated arcade cabinets provided a superior audio and visual experience to the home consoles of the time, although scaled-down home console ports of arcade classics such as Street Fighter II, Donkey Kong, Mortal Kombat, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Space Invaders did enjoy success. Another advantage of video arcades at the time was public availability and a pay-per-individual-game-played pricing model for anyone who didn’t own home video game consoles for whatever reason.

In addition to dedicated video arcades, sometimes bars, restaurants, laundromats, bowling alleys, and other similar establishments would feature video arcade cabinets in order to keep the kids busy or pull in some extra revenue, and amusement parks such as Wild World (now Six Flags America) maintained video arcades.

Video arcades and coin-operated video arcade machines began a slow decline in popularity around the early 2000s as home video game console technology began to catch up with video arcades and are today mostly a niche nostalgia experience for those of us who remember their heyday or younger folks who want to see what it was all about back then, although of course a few non-nostalgia-oriented establishments still own and maintain arcade machines.

Various spots around the US such as the Barcade chain in the northeastern US, and, to a lesser extent, the Dave & Busters chain in the US serve this nostalgic niche, and then there’s Crabtowne in Baltimore.

GENERAL INFO:

CITY: Glen Burnie, MD (near Baltimore)

ATTRACTION: Crabtowne

ADDRESS:

1500 Crain Hwy S

Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061

WEBSITE: http://www.crab-towne.com

COST: Varies – food items are around $8-15, arcade machines are 25 cents per play generally

HOURS: 11am-11pm Monday-Saturday, 11am-10pm Sunday, kitchen closes an hour before the restaurant

MINIMUM TIME NEEDED TO SEE: Varies depending on how you get there and how engrossed in the games you get

TRAVEL TIMES (ONE WAY)

FROM BALTIMORE SALSA BACHATA CONGRESS: About 17-20 minutes by car, UBER, or Lyft, about an hour and a half by light rail/bus combo

FROM BWI AIRPORT: About 10-12 minutes by car/UBER/Lyft, about an hour and a half by light rail/bus combo

TRANSIT DIRECTIONS FROM HILTON BALTIMORE: Walk a block east on Pratt Street to Pratt Street Light Rail Stat, take Light Rail – Bwi Airport | Cromwell Station to Patapsco & Light Rail Stat, walk to Patapsco Light Rail Station Bay 3 – 14091, take the 70 bus toward Annapolis to Crain Hwy & Oak Manor Dr, Crabtowne is the blue building with the Crabtowne sign out front visible from the bus stop

TRANSIT DIRECTIONS FROM BWI: Walk to light rail stop, take Light Rail – Hunt Valley to Linthicum Lt Rail, change platforms to Light Rail Cromwell Station, take Light Rail – Cromwell Station to Cromwell Station & Glen Burnie, walk to Cromwell Light Rail Station Bay 2 – 14138, take the 69 bus toward Jumpers Hole to Crain Hwy & Main Ave SB and walk about 15 minutes south on Crain Hwy to Crabtowne

Baltimore and all its surrounding suburbs including Glen Burnie are supported by Citymapper as part of their combined DC/Baltimore package. Unfortunately, neither Via, UberPOOL, or Shared Lyft are available in the Baltimore area at press time — it’s either UberX or regular Lyft (which can of course be split between multiple festival attendees) if you’re going the rideshare route.

A very normal un-fussy cafeteria-style seafood restaurant is located at the front of this unassuming blue building. However, once you enter the back room located just to the right of the service counter, you will be whisked away to yesteryear as you are greeted by a large room full of old-school video arcade machines and pinball machines (lovingly maintained in perfect condition by a local company called Game Time specializing in vintage arcade machine maintenance), and your ears fill with the familiar cacophony of several arcade machines all playing their respective in-game sounds at once. Well, familiar to anyone who remembers video arcades, anyway.

“Wait… pinball machines?” – youngins

Remember that pinball game on Windows that some of you used to play when you were bored and the Internet was down? Think real-life mechanical non-computer version of that. First appearing as early as the 1940s and popular during the 1960s and 1970s, pinball machines were the mechanical analog precursor to the video arcade machine, and were often themed around a band, movie, or similar concept.

Make sure you bring quarters in abundance, because just like old times, these games run on QUARTERS. If you did not bring enough quarters and need more, Crabtowne has plenty of change machines in good working condition.

The selection of games in the arcade spanning the full glory days of video arcades from 1977-2000 or thereabouts includes, but is not limited to: Arkanoid, Asteroids*, Blitz 99, Centipede*, Donkey Kong, Final Fight, Galaga*, Klax, Mario Bros., Mortal Kombat 1/2/Ultimate, Ms. Pacman, Pacman, Street Fighter II (Champion Edition, the first of approximately 18,000 different remakes of SF2), Pole Position, Q-Bert, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Terminator 2, Tetris, The Simpsons, and Tron.

For the starred games, Crabtowne owns and maintains two separate cabinets located in both the arcade and the restaurant.

Another very notable machine found in Crabtowne’s arcade is Vs. Super Mario Bros., a special arcade port of Nintendo’s revolutionary 1985 NES platforming classic Super Mario Bros. and a rare example of a game originating on home consoles later ported to the arcade (the Vs. Super Mario Bros port was released to arcades in 1986, a year after the NES original). This cabinet is rare and Crabtowne is one of the few places where you can find it.

The selection of pinball machines includes, but is not limited to: Baby Pac Man, Chicago, Cyclone, Dirty Harry, Ghostbusters, KISS (both the 1979 and 2006 editions!), Playboy, Terminator 3, The Addams Family, Strikes And Spaces, Twilight Zone, Twister, and World Cup Soccer.

The full list of arcade and pinball machines can, of course, be found on Crabtowne’s website.

Of course, this IS still a restaurant as well, and the food menu offers excellent seafood, pizza, sandwiches, and other such items at very reasonable prices. Although anyone here for the weekend will obviously miss the weekly specials, the value meals offer an entree, a side, and a can of soda for the low price of $8.99 between 10am and 4pm. The bar offers very competitive prices for beer and wine as well as such signature drinks as the Ms. Pacman and the Crabtowne Cosmo and seasonal drinks such as the Apple Cider Margarita and the Peach Sangria.

Crabtowne also hosts special night events during the week.

Expect to dedicate a few hours to fully enjoying this attraction, and for time reasons driving or splitting an UBER/Lyft there is the recommended way to get there. The evening downtime between workshops and performances on any day of the festival would be the perfect time to check this place out (unless you are going for the value meals of course). Due to Crabtowne’s relative proximity to BWI, it would be good to check out for those leaving the festival on Monday afternoon or evening with some time to kill before their flight leaves. Just don’t get so caught up in playing the games that your flight leaves without you.

Crabtowne is fairly out-of-the-way from BSBC’s downtown Baltimore location, but it is still a good off-the-beaten-path fairly inexpensive attraction that is worth checking out, especially for seafood lovers and old-school video-arcade aficionados alike. In fact, I’m about due to pay them another visit…

As always, hit the comments if you have anything else to add and I hope this helped someone!

#FrugalCongressTourism: Baltimore, MD – Top Of The World Observation Level / Baltimore Museum Of Art

For a special two-part edition of #FrugalCongressTourism for this month, we are going to go to Baltimore, MD in anticipation of the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress happening later this month. This first part of the series will be a two-for-one, covering two different very touristy attractions located right in downtown Baltimore, walking distance or a very short drive away from the Hilton Baltimore, where BSBC takes place. The second part of the series, dropping next week, will cover a more off the beaten path attraction located slightly further away from the congress.

The first attraction of this two-for-one entry is the Top of the World Observation Level, located on the top floor of Baltimore’s World Trade Center.

GENERAL INFO:

CITY: Baltimore, MD

ATTRACTION: Top of the World Observation Level

ADDRESS: 401 E. Pratt Street

WEBSITE: http://www.viewbaltimore.org/about

HOURS: Thursday 10am-6pm, Friday/Saturday 10am-7pm

Last tickets sold 30 minutes before closing. Special events affect regular hours, however no special events are scheduled for the weekend of BSBC at press time.

MINIMUM TIME NEEDED TO SEE: about one hour

COST: $6 for adults, $5 for 60+ or military with ID, $4 for children 3-12 years old, free for children under 3

TRAVEL TIMES (ONE WAY)

FROM BALTIMORE SALSA BACHATA CONGRESS: 13 minutes walking, 3 minute drive/UBER/Lyft, 7 minutes on public transit

TRANSIT DIRECTIONS FROM HILTON BALTIMORE:

Walk out of hotel to Pratt St & Howard Street EB – 1265, Take the NAVY or BROWN bust to Pratt Street & Gay Street FS EB, walk back down Pratt Street to the World Trade Center

7 minute trip, $1.80

The Top Of The World Observation deck, located on the 27th floor of Baltimore’s WTC and managed by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, offers breathtaking 360-degree views of downtown Baltimore, MD including the Inner Harbor and the skyline. These views can be taken in either through the windows or provided binocular stations.

Fair warning: bags will be searched at the door. Leaving any nonessential items in your hotel room is advisable.

Due to the relatively early closing time, the downtime between workshops and performances won’t work as a time to see this attraction. If your chosen workshop schedule ends earlier in the afternoon, that would be a good time to see this attraction. As this is a tourist attraction, expect it to be busy at peak hours.

Group tours are available as well.

The second attraction we will cover in this two for one guide is the Baltimore Museum Of Art.

GENERAL INFO:

CITY: Baltimore, MD

ATTRACTION: Baltimore Museum Of Art

ADDRESS:

10 Art Museum Drive

Baltimore, MD 21218

WEBSITE: http://www.artbma.org/

COST: Free for everyone all the time

HOURS:

Gallery:

Thursday: 10am–5pm

Friday: 10am–5pm

Saturday: 10am–5pm

Sunday: 10am–5pm

Monday: closed

Shop:

Thursday: 10am–8pm

Friday: 10am–8pm

Saturday: 10am–8pm

Sunday: 10am–5pm

Monday: closed

MINIMUM TIME NEEDED TO SEE: 1-2 hours

TRAVEL TIMES (ONE WAY)

FROM BALTIMORE SALSA BACHATA CONGRESS: 13 minutes driving/UBER/Lyft, 26 minutes on transit

TRANSIT DIRECTIONS FROM HILTON BALTIMORE:

Walk 8 minutes east from the hotel on Pratt Street to Charles St & Pratt St NB – 121, take the MTA Silver Sv Morgan State University bus to Charles St & 31st St NB – 543, museum is visible from the bus stop.

The Baltimore Museum of Art is an expansive three-level art museum featuring special galleries for Asian art and African art on the first level, American, European, and English sporting art and textiles on the second level, and contemporary art on the second and third levels.

The museum also features a series of special exhibitions on the first and second levels. The special exhibitions that will be running around the time of the 2019 Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress include, but are not limited to:

DIS | A Good Crisis – a video series on the impact of the 2008 financial crisis

Commons Collaboration: Get Your Life!

Subverting Beauty: African Anti-Aesthetics

Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s

Located directly outside the museum is the beautiful idyllic Janet and Alan Wurtzburger Sculpture Garden and the adjoining Ryda and Robert H Levi Sculpture Garden. These garden are open year-round Wednesday-Sunday 10am to sundown unless there is inclment weather.

The hours page on the website lists detailed rules and policies that apply to both the galleries and the sculpture gardens.

BMA also features a gift shop and Gertrude’s, a cozy restaurant serving chef John Shields’ Chesapeake Bay dishes.

Due to the museum closing in the early evening most days, the morning or during a break in workshops would be the best time to visit.

CONCLUSION:

The Top of the World Observatory and the Baltimore Museum of Art are excellent attractions to see and are both right in downtown Baltimore a short drive away from the Hilton Baltimore.

Museums and observation decks, while excellent and memorable in their own right, are along the lines of what one would expect from tourist attractions in any given city. In the second part of this informal series, we will visit an unexpected very off-the-beaten-path attraction just outside Baltimore City… tune in next week!