#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!

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#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!

#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: Capital Congress

[DISCLOSURE: As of the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with Capital Congress other than being an attendee and have not been hired to promote Capital 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.]

It is a great honor to cover the oldest and longest-running salsa festival in Washington, DC for this #FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide. The Capital Congress, established in 2005 by promoter Shaka Brown under its original name, the DC Salsa Congress, has been drawing dancers to the DC area for the last 14 years for workshops, performances, parties, and socials in four dedicated ballrooms for not just salsa, but also bachata, zouk, and kizomba.

In 2019, Capital Congress is picking up and moving about 10 minutes northwest from its longtime location at the legendary Westin Alexandria to its larger and even better permanent new home at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, a breathtakingly gorgeous lakeside hotel located near a botanical preserve! Therefore, rather than applying our Westin Alexandria guide to this congress, we will cover the ins and outs of the brand new Capital Congress location in this guide!

Capital Congress happens from June 20th to June 24th in 2019.

PASS:

Capital Congress passes get very expensive (up to $350) the closer you get to the event. Buy as soon as possible for the best prices! We have been advertising super-low early bird prices for this event on our Facebook page in the past few months so hopefully some of you were able to jump on that!

If you are in the DC area or nearby, the Capital Congress lineup reveal party happens at Mr. Mambo’s Salsa Bachata Social at Hollywood Ballroom in Silver Spring, MD on Saturday, March 23rd, 2019 at 8:00pm. In addition to the full artist lineup being revealed for the first time, there will be raffles to win free full passes and heavily discounted full passes will also be sold. $100 full passes were sold at the lineup reveal last year. Will they be this year? Come and find out.

Party and single-day passes are sold closer to the event. A party pass is currently only $60 for all four days a week out from the 2019 event!

TRAVEL:

One very important amenity that sets the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center (hereafter referred to as the HAMC) apart from many other DC area hotels is a complimentary shuttle servicing both Reagan National Airport (DCA) as well as the Pentagon and King Street metro stations. This shuttle, needless to say, will be an immense help with travel logistics.

After some looking around online, I was able to find a shuttle schedule and itinerary courtesy of the National Jewish Retreat. Take a look here.

DRIVING:

Driving or rideshare is a decent option. If coming from points north of DC, be sure to account for the DC/Northern Virginia area’s infamous rush hour traffic (6am-11am, 12pm-8pm on weekdays, not kidding) in your travels.

Self-parking at the hotel is $28 per night and valet parking is $34 per night.

A less expensive and very secure parking option for those who are staying at the hotel and don’t need to get to their cars at a moment’s notice is to park in DCA’s economy lot for $17 per day.  Once at the lot, take the economy lot shuttle (which picks up reliably at regular intervals from various points in the lot) from the lot to the terminal, and then take the free hotel shuttle from the terminal to the hotel from there.

Your most frugal parking option if you don’t have a lot of luggage is parking at one of the Franconia-Springfield Metro station’s overnight spots for $4.75 per day (first come, first served, about 15 spots available). From there take the yellow line toward Fort Totten to the Pentagon, King Street, or National Airport stop and take the shuttle to the HAMC from there.

There are also two third-party 24-hour daily garages run by Colonial Parking located near the HAMC at 4825 Mark Center Drive ($8.50 per day) and 1500-2000 N Beauregard Street ($10 per day).  There are also garages located at 1581 N Beauregard Street and 4660 Kenmore Avenue, but these garages are NOT open 24 hours and close at 5PM and 6PM respectively, so be mindful of this.  The garage at 2001 N Beauregard Street is monthly parking only, so be mindful of this as well.  

It is not clear at press time whether or not overnight parking is allowed at these garages, so for the time being, parking at DCA or the Metro as outlined above is probably your safest bet for those staying at the hotel.  Inevitably, some intrepid frugal adventurer is going to be the guinea pig for overnight parking at these garages and we will know more soon, but for now, our conservative advice is go to with other methods for parking overnight.

These garages DO work very well for local commuters driving to the congress from home — that we can say with confidence at this time. 

Colonial Parking’s online parking locator has up-to-the-minute information on current capacity (including percentage full) and daily rates for each of the garages in the surrounding area.

FLYING:

Fly into DCA (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport) and take the complimentary shuttle to the HAMC from DCA.

FROM BWI:

Try to fly in during the day. Take the MARC or Amtrak to Washington Union Station and follow the train/bus directions from there.

From IAD:

Take an UBER or Lyft to the Wiehle-Reston Metro station. From there, take the silver line toward Largo Town Center to Rosslyn, transfer to the blue line toward Franconia-Springfield to the Pentagon City, King Street, or National Airport metro stations and take the complimentary shuttle to the HAMC from any one of those stops.

TRAIN/BUS:

Take any train or bus line to Washington Union Station. From there, take the Metro red line to Gallery Place/Chinatown, then transfer to the yellow line toward Huntington and take the yellow line to the Pentagon City, King Street, or National Airport metro stations and take the complimentary shuttle to the HAMC from any one of those stops.

See our DCBX guide for in-depth info on the DC metro as well as the MARC and Amtrak trains.

DC and the surrounding Virginia suburbs, including Alexandria, are supported by Citymapper at the time of this writing as part of their combined DC/Baltimore package.

LODGING:

There is presently an active room block for the HAMC; book your rooms for $130 per night here.

The hotel’s amenities include:

– Gorgeous lakeside setting that is also near the Winkler Botanical Preserve.

– Incredible views of Washington, DC in suites and select standard rooms

– Shuttles to and from the airport as well as the Pentagon City and King Street metro stations

– Pet-friendly policies (pets up to 75 pounds allowed with $50 deposit)

– Fitness center

– Pool

– Blackout curtains

– 42-inch widescreen TV with Complimentary HBO

– Self laundry available

Rooms in the secluded lakeside “retreat room” are also available at a lower cost (around $125 per night) for AAA members and Hilton Honors members.

As always I will provide no info on offsite options until the event hotel fully sells out. Really, the event hotel is so gorgeous and available at such a relatively low price for the area that you want to stay there anyway.

The HAMC is located at 5000 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA.

FOOD:

The closest Wal-Mart Supercenter is located about a 20 minute drive from the HAMC in the Belle Haven neighborhood at 6303 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA 22306.

Target is located a considerably shorter distance away at 5115 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041. This is about an 8 minute drive from the HAMC. Whatever you save going with Wal-Mart over Target, you may spend on gas in this case. AL-AMAL Super Market is located nearby at 3817 – G S George Mason Dr, Falls Church, VA 22041 as an alternative.

There is also a Giant and a Global Food located in the nearby Shops at Mark Center at 1476 N Beauregard St, Alexandria, VA 22311. This Giant is about a 3 minute drive or 12 minute walk from the HAMC and probably the best bet for people not driving.

For your meal out, the in-hotel options include Finn & Porter, a contemporary surf and turf restaurant, as well as a sushi bar.

Food options nearby include a McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Sardi’s Pollo A La Brasa, Subway, Noodles, Starbucks, and CVS in the same shopping center as the Giant.

Clyde’s At Mark Center and the Mark V Deli are also located about an 8 minute walk or 3 minute drive from the HAMC at 1700 N Beauregard Street and 1900 N Beauregard Street #100, respectively.

Restaurants located near Target include McDonald’s, Five Guys, District Taco, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Popeye’s, TGI Fridays, Potbelly, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, China Delight (Chinese food), Stone Hot Pizza,

Those craving some Habesha food will be pleased to find THREE Ethiopian restaurants in the same shopping center as AL-AMAL. These restaurants are Nazret Ethiopia Restaurant, Abay Market, and Balagger Ethiopian Restaurant and Bar.

That’s it for this survival guide! Hit the comments if you have any additional info and I’ll see you all at Capital Congress!

#FrugalCongressTourism: Washington, DC – The Monuments At Night

[DISCLOSURE: At the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with or sponsored by any companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me 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.]

Another new series? Yes, another new series. Last new one for a while, promise.

I got in a comfortable groove in the final months of 2018 with congress survival guides, food guides, and resource guides but in 2019 I want to shake it up a bit and do some new things whenever I find a need, and there is a need for this new series.

Why? Because dance travel is travel, as I have said before, and frequently it is the only travel the dedicated hardcore attendee of dance congresses does. While dance congresses are fun, fulfilling, transformative, and memorable experiences in and of themselves, does anyone really want their only travel memories to be one big blur of hotel ballrooms and lobbies? This could feasibly happen if you stay exclusively around the dance congress hotel doing dance congress things.

What I’m saying is, get out of the hotel for at least a few hours (in the downtime between workshops and shows, for example) and see something else in the city you are visiting. After all, you are in another part of the country and who knows when you’ll be there again?

The dilemma is that tourism and sightseeing can be at odds with living the #FrugalCongressLife and saving as much money as possible so you can do more of these dance trips.

That is where our new #FrugalCongressTourism series comes in. In this new series, I will be detailing a tourist attraction or off-the-beaten-path thing to do in a city hosting one or more dance congresses that is either free or costs less than $30 to participate in and can be reached and seen in a relatively small amount of time.

I will provide information and a review on the attraction as well as its cost, its proximity to the area’s major congresses, public transit directions from all the city’s nearby major congresses to the attraction, and other miscellaneous info.

For organizers and volunteers tasked with entertaining artists while they are in your city, these are good ideas for you as well.

For today’s #FrugalCongressTourism attraction, we are going to my current city of Washington, DC, to look at the monuments along the National Mall… after dark.

GENERAL INFO

CITY: Washington, DC

ATTRACTION: The Washington, DC Monuments at the National Mall

COST: FREE (if you do not film professionally there – see below)

HOURS: Open 24 hours, but best experienced from sundown on

MINIMUM TIME NEEDED TO SEE: about 2 hours depending on transportation and distance

TRAVEL TIMES (ONE WAY)

FROM DCBX/RENAISSANCE: 10 minutes UBER/Lyft/car, 20 minutes Metro

FROM SAWA SAWA KIZOMBA FESTIVAL/UNION STATION: 12 minutes UBER/Lyft, 22 minutes Metro

FROM SENSUAL DAY/DIW: 18 minutes UBER/Lyft, 32 minutes Metro

FROM WESTIN ALEXANDRIA: 44 minutes Metro (only realistic option, parking is nonexistent near there and UBER would be too expensive)

Not readily accessible from the Dulles location of DC Zouk Festival or Zouk Heat Festival. Would have to be a Metro/UBER combo about 1 hour and 33 minutes there one way.

DIRECTIONS FROM THE METRO:

Red line: take the red line to Metro Center and take the orange line toward New Carrolton or the blue/silver line toward Largo to Smithsonian.

Green line: take the green line to L’Enfant Plaza then take the orange, blue or silver line toward Vienna/Franconia-Springfield one stop to Smithsonian.

Orange/blue/silver lines: Take any one of these lines to Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian station is right on the National Mall and right next to the Washington Monument; you can see the Monument from there.

See our DCBX guide for information on the Metro system.

DC and all surrounding Maryland/Virginia suburbs are supported by Citymapper as part of their combined DC/Baltimore package.

The monuments can, of course, be seen at all times of the day, but as the sun goes down and after dark is really when the true spectacular glory of these iconic buildings really shines. The break between workshops and performances is the ideal time to experience the monuments as the sun goes down, but make sure you are back in time for performances.

Start with the Washington Monument at sunset, walk around to Constitution Gardens, the WWII Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the MLK Jr. Memorial, Ash Woods, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and maybe end at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

A map of the National Mall can be found here.

The atmosphere of these majestic monuments at night is untouchable. As an added bonus, the National Mall and the monuments, at its busiest between 10am and 7pm, tends to be less crowded at night as well, although don’t expect to have the entire Mall to yourself, that just will not happen as the Monuments are a very popular attraction and there are bound to at least be some people there at any time of the day.

This is also a proven and tested activity to take your significant other or romantic interest on. I may or may not have taken a few dates here.

The National Mall is located in a very safe area, but use due diligence and be aware of your surroundings, especially late at night.

The Monuments would also be a good place, of course, to film a dance video if you can pull it off without attracting too much attention or getting in anyone’s way, and taking videos with a handheld consumer-level camera (such as a DSLR or phone camera with a lens adapter, which can still capture great images) does not require any permits. However, if you wish to use ANY professional video equipment including tripods, stabilizers, or high-end cameras, you need to cough up for a film permit and that’s upwards of $150 per day and will take weeks to process. There are also areas where filming is forbidden with or without a permit. Read all about the rules and the permit process here. I can not advocate any illegal activity on this blog. Make sure you are following all park rules and regulations if you decide to film a dance video here.

That’s all for this edition of #FrugalCongressTourism… this was a fairly straightforward easy frugal tourist attraction to cover, but can make for an unforgettable experience for those visiting DC for the first time or anyone who has never experienced seeing these monuments in person.

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