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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PASS:

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

LODGING:

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

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

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

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

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

TRAVEL:

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

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

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

DC/BALTIMORE TRAIN AND METRO INFO:

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

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

Information on the DC Metro system can be found here.

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

DRIVING:

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

FLYING:

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

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

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

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

FROM DCA:

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

FROM BWI:

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

BUS/TRAIN:

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

FOOD:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: Interfusion Festival

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

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

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

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

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

After Interfusion Festival: Awakening, Umka Pele amicably stepped down from the festival’s operations and the festival went on hiatus for over a full year before returning successfully to the Westin Alexandria on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in January 2019 for Interfusion Festival: Rebirth.

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

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

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

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

PASS:

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

TRAVEL:

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

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

BUS/TRAIN:

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

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

DC TRAIN AND METRO INFO:

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

Information on the MARC trains can be found here.

Information on the DC Metro system can be found here.

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

FLYING:

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

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

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

CAR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIRECTIONS TO THE HOTEL FROM METRO LOTS:

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

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

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

LODGING:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOOD:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

#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!

#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!

#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: Zouk Heat Festival

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

[Originally published 1/22/19, updated rewritten for the 2020 festival 4/14/19 and 5/21/19]

The Zouk Heat Festival is a brand new Brazilian Zouk festival organized by former DC Zouk Festival co-organizer and DC-based zouk instructor Terrisa Widener that happens every year at the beginning of April. The 2020 edition of the Zouk Heat Festival will take place April 3rd-April 6, 2020. 2019 headliners Pedrinho & Linda will return to the festival in 2020, joined by Carlos & Fernanda, Kadu & Larissa, Leo & Thayna, and many others to be announced.

You will be busy all weekend with workshops in the morning and afternoon and performances and socials at night on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The artist and DJ lineups are both a veritable who’s who of national and international zouk instructors and DJs every year!

Zouk Heat is also a #FrugalCongressLife standout for its affordability, with a full pass very competitively priced for an event of this caliber and a hotel room block priced at only $109 per night, which is very affordable for a good event hotel in the area.

For the 2020 festival, Zouk Heat is picking up and moving northeast from its previous Dulles Airport location to the BWI Airport Marriott Hotel, located a short ride on the free airport shuttle from Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Linthicum Heights, Maryland. This is a very good move for this new festival’s continued growth as not only is this hotel larger with more food options, but it is convenient to a more accessible airport, as well as the only airport in the DC/Baltimore area served by budget air travel stalwart Spirit Airlines.

Zouk Heat is the move for fans of Brazilian Zouk on the east coast in the first weekend of April! This guide, originally our first published survival guide in 2019 and now updated for 2020 and rewritten completely for the new location, is your one-stop guide to this rapidly growing new festival!

PASS:

Even if you didn’t get one of the 15 $100 full passes sold in person at the 2019 festival, it is still early enough to get your full pass at a very good price. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all updates on artist and DJ lineups and early bird passes!

LODGING:

Last year’s hotel was very affordable and this year’s hotel continues this positive trend. Terrisa has negotiated a block of rooms for $109 per night at the BWI Marriott, the same price as last year’s Dulles location. A four-person room-share will cost the budget-minded about $30-35 per night with taxes included. Even in two—double rooms, roll-away beds are available at an extra cost of $15 per room! This is a huge and rare benefit as most hotels (including many other Marriott properties) do not supply roll-away beds to two-double rooms. There is a maximum limit of one roll-away, so one person will still have to bed-share or bring the Airlite.

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

Link to book your room coming shortly.

The hotel’s amenities include, but are not limited to, a well-equipped fitness center, a heated indoor pool, safe deposit boxes at the front desk, a free airport shuttle that takes you directly to the hotel from BWI and vice versa, and an onsite coin-operated laundry room. Room amenities include, but are not limited to, bottled water, a coffee maker, individual climate control, alarm clocks, an ironing board, foam pillows, and cable TV.

The size and usability of the laundry room is unknown at press time (the laundry room at last year’s hotel consisted of exactly one washer and one dryer that was in constant use all day and night). For this reason I recommend bringing enough clothing to last the weekend just in case. If you do need to do laundry, and the hotel’s laundry room is full, there are three laundromats located within a 15 minute drive of the hotel: the Crystal Laundromat (7446 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd, Glen Burnie), the DCA Laundromat (704 Crain Highway S, Glen Burnie), and Suds R Us (7420 E Furnace Branch Road, Glen Burnie).

For members of Marriott’s new Bonvoy rewards program (a merger of the old Marriott Rewards program, Starwood Preferred Group, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards) which is free to join and a no brainer for dance congress attendees and anyone who stays in hotels regularly, certain Marriott hotels offer 500 rewards points to the person on the hotel room’s folio for every night of refused housekeeping services. It is unclear at press time if the BWI Marriott offers such an incentive, but if they do, that’s an easy 500-1500 extra points (depending of course on how long you stay) that can go toward free or discounted hotel stays in the future for going a relatively short time without housekeeping services. Ask about this program at the front desk when you check in.

The immediate area around the BWI Marriott is a cluster of airport hotels, so there are many other alternate lodging options located nearby, but you know me by this time — I will not be discussing any other lodging options unless the BWI Marriott fully sells out (both the room block and all other rooms outside the block) and there is no official block at an overflow hotel. You’re on your own if it’s offsite options you seek.

TRAVEL:

The entire Washington DC and Baltimore area, including the area around BWI, is supported by the Citymapper app’s DC/Baltimore package, including all of their public transportation.

Via is not supported in the Baltimore/BWI area at this time.

UberPOOL and Shared Lyft are not available in the Baltimore/BWI area at this time. The cheapest UBER/Lyft options are UberX and Lyft; these of course can be split with fellow festival attendees with some planning and coordination.

DRIVING:

Driving or a shared ride with other attendees is an excellent way to get to the BWI area. Parking around the hotel is free! No need to pay to park at the airport!

FLYING:

Whether you are flying Spirit or any other airline, fly into BWI if you can. The hotel is located about a mile away from BWI and there is a free hotel shuttle that takes you directly to and from the hotel’s front door. All shuttle buses from BWI, including the Marriott’s courtesy shuttle, pick up from the LOWER level of the airport.

If you must fly into DCA, you have two options to avoid paying close to $70 one way for an UBER from DCA to BWI. Your first option is to take the DC Metro to Washington Union Station and take the MARC Penn Line from there to BWI ($8 for the MARC and $3-4 for the Metro one way). See the public transportation section for info on the DC Metro system. Your second option is to take the Metro to the Shady Grove stop at the northwestern end of the red line and take the MTA 201 bus from Shady Grove to BWI ($5 for the 201 and $3-4 for the Metro one way). See the bus/train and public transportation sections for more info on these options.

Avoid IAD if you can as not only is it the furthest airport from the festival, but it is also not served directly by a Metro station. If you must fly into IAD, take an UBERPool (available in the Dulles area) from the airport to the Wiehle-Reston stop on the silver line, take the silver line to the red line, and follow the above directions from there.

BUS/TRAIN:

The Amtrak Northeast Regional train picks up at various locations in the northeast and stops right at the BWI rail station; it is relatively more expensive than your other options, but more comfortable.

The MARC Penn Line is your best train option for getting to BWI from anywhere in the Washington, DC city limits. It picks up at Washington Union Station and will take you the BWI Rail Station for around $6-8. A shuttle runs from the rail station to the terminal where you can catch the Marriott’s courtesy shuttle downstairs which will take you to the hotel. The MARC does not run on Sundays, so those returning on Sunday night will have to take Amtrak back to Union Station, which will cost about $16 for an economy trip.

Your bus routes are slightly trickier, but still doable.

Bolt Bus stops in downtown Baltimore two blocks west of Penn Station. Walk up Maryland Avenue to W Lanvale Street, make a right onto Lanvale and a right onto Charles Street and walk south a block on Charles Street and the station will be on your left. The area around Penn Station is reasonably safe, but staying alert, walking quickly, and being street smart is recommended.

From Penn Station, you have two options. You can take the MARC Penn Line to BWI Rail Station and then take the shuttle to the terminal as described above. Alternately, take the Light Rail Link toward BWI Airport 16 stops south from Penn Station (Penn’s light rail platform is located in the northwestern corner of the station) to the airport, where the terminal and the courtesy shuttle to the hotel are a short walk away. The light rail route takes slightly longer than the MARC, but at $1.80 one way, is 3 times cheaper.

Megabus’ Baltimore stop is at the White Marsh Mall, which is nowhere near BWI (close to 45 minutes northeast), and getting to BWI from White Marsh will be a long, expensive, and cumbersome trip. If Megabus is your best or only option, take it to Union Station in DC and take the MARC Penn Line to BWI.

If you take Greyhound, it stops in downtown Baltimore near Camden Yards. Take an UBER or Lyft about three minutes to Hamburg & Lt Rail Station and take the light rail south to BWI. This will be about $8 one way.

An UBER or Lyft directly to BWI from downtown Baltimore will be about $17-20 one way. This can, of course, be split with fellow attendees of the festival.

OTHER LOCAL PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION:

General information about the Washington DC Metro system can be found at http://www.wmata.com, and a map of the system can be found here. The Metro trains and buses require a SmarTrip card; info about how to purchase one can be found here.

There are two different specific public transportation options local to the DC Metro area that will take anyone in this area, as well as any travelers who find themselves in this area (because they flew into DCA or IAD or whatever other reason) to BWI for a very low price.

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

For residents of Prince George’s County, MD, including the College Park/University of Maryland area, the WMATA B30 bus goes from the Greenbelt Metro station at the northern end of the green line to BWI for $7.50 one way (exact change required). This bus isn’t really practical for anyone outside of PG County, however, as it is located further away from either of the DC airports than the 201 stops above.

Additionally, the B30 does not run on Saturday or Sunday, so anyone leaving for PG County on Sunday evening will have to take the 201 back to Shady Grove, then return to PG County via the red line and the green line, which will take close to three hours total.

FOOD:

You have two in-hotel dining options. Champions Sports Bar & Restaurant is a newly remodeled sports bar serving American food and a large selection of beer and wine all the way up to a half hour before the restaurant closes for the night. Chesapeake, as its name suggests, is a comfort seafood restaurant that serves a variety of seafood items including authentic Maryland crab cakes (or as we call them here, “crehhhb cakes”).

Your coffee fix will likely be supplied by the hotel’s Day/Night Bar, which serves Starbucks coffee.

For the frugal grocery shoppers, the closest Walmart Supercenter is located 11 minutes away at 3601 Washington Blvd, Arbutus, MD. Two other Walmart Supercenters are located 13 and 14 minutes away at 406 George Clauss Blvd, Severn MD and 6721 Chesapeake Center Drive, Glen Burnie, MD respectively.

If you prefer, the Linthicum Market is located 6 minutes from the hotel at 421 S Camp Meade Road, Linthicum Heights, MD. Additionally, the Good Day Gourmet is also located 6 minutes away at 700 S Hammonds Ferry Road, Linthicum Heights. Finally, Dollar General is located 9 minutes away at 7077 Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard, Glen Burnie, and Food Lion is located next door.

Restaurants located in walking distance of the hotel include: Maiwand Kabob (839 Elkridge Landing Road #110), McDonald’s (717 Nursery Road), Chili’s Grill & Bar (1715 W Nursery Road), Chick Fil A (1610 W Nursery Road), Potbelly (1622 W Nursery Road), NY Halal Food Court (1007 Main Avenue), and Adamm’s Airport Deli (891 Elkridge Landing Road – closes at 2:30pm).

Restaurants located slightly further away but still less than a 10 minute drive include: 700 South Deli and Cafe (1190 Winterson Road – closes at 3pm), Wendy’s (1589 W Nursery Road), Ruby Tuesday (950 International Drive), Cracker Barrel (1520 W Nursery Road), Bob Evans (996 Corporate Blvd), Urban Bar-B-Que (802 Pinnacle Dr. #100), Burger King (500 Progress Drive), El Sombrero Mexican Restaurant (529 S Camp Meade Road), and Matsu Japanese Restaurant (517 S Camp Meade Road).

Your food options directly at BWI airport are Potbelly, Chipotle, Dunkin’, Kraze Burgers, The Greene Turtle, McDonald’s, and Phillips Seafood.

Of course I can’t write about food options in the Linthicum Heights/Glen Burnie area without mentioning Crabtowne. This combination seafood restaurant and vintage video arcade, detailed in full in the above linked blog entry, is located only 15 minutes from the BWI Marriott, so if seafood and old-school arcade games are your thing, this is a can’t-miss attraction located close by!

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

#FrugalCongressLife Super Survival Guide: DCBX Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve

[Disclosure statement: As of the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with DCBX other than being a loyal yearly attendee of both the DC Bachata Congress and Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve and Lee and Kat being personal friends of mine. I have not been hired by them to promote DCBX in any way, and everything you read is my objective advice. As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with nor have been hired by any other companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

Happy Holidays #FrugalCongressLife fam! The holiday season is in full swing here in the US where #FCL is based, and we hope everyone is having an excellent holiday.

We’re also getting ready for New Year’s Eve, and for many of us in the Latin dance world, the event we have been choosing to ring in the new year at for these past few years has been the DCBX Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve super-celebration!

The creation of DCBX organizers Lee “El Gringuito” Smith and Katherine “Kat La Gata” Aguilar-Smith in collaboration with different organizers around the US, DCBX Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve is a massive Latin-dance themed New Year’s Eve celebration offering a wide variety of workshops and parties in THREE different locations: Washington DC, Chicago, and Orlando. Live video feeds including DJ sets from each location are simulcast on an Internet television circuit at all locations.

DCBX Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve is an epic NYE celebration for the ages and the NYE party of choice for #FrugalCongressLife for the last two years running!

For the final proper entry of 2018, we offer a big blowout super survival guide to EVERY DCBX Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve party across all three locations!

For up-to-the-minute info on DCBX Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve including workshop schedules and other new additions, and to buy your pass for each event, visit http://www.tropicalnye.com or look for each city’s corresponding event on Facebook.

BUYING YOUR PASS IN ADVANCE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. A VERY LIMITED NUMBER OF TICKETS WILL BE SOLD AT THE DOOR FOR EACH EVENT AND EACH EVENT IS LIKELY TO SELL OUT. IF YOU MUST BUY AT THE DOOR, GET THERE VERY EARLY.

Early bird passes for each event usually go on sale during the month of November – this is a good thing to keep in mind for next year and all subsequent years if you enjoyed the event this year. We will update the guide and notify our Facebook and Twitter followers when early bird passes go on sale.

If you were following us on Facebook (@frugalcongresslife on FB) or Twitter (@frglcngresslife) you knew about the early bird specials already. If you are not following us on Facebook or Twitter, why not?

There are some small discounts on passes of anywhere from $5 to $50 still available if you text the word NEWYEARS to 64600. Your phone carrier’s standard messaging and data rates apply to any texts you receive.

DC and Chicago are cities supported by both Citymapper and Via at the time of this writing. Orlando is unfortunately not supported by either Citymapper or Via at the time of this writing.

FIRST, A GENERAL HEADS UP FOR UBER/LYFT RIDERS:

As many of you are aware, fares for UBER and Lyft are notorious for surging into the stratosphere during prime hours on New Year’s Eve. Prices can surge as high as 9.9 times the normal fare at prime hours and horror stories such as that of one man who paid $1100 for a 21 minute UBER ride are a regular part of the pre-New Year’s Eve news cycle in the 2010s and beyond.

If using UBER or Lyft to go to and from Tropical New Year’s Eve, the best way to avoid these surges is to instead use public transportation when possible (Citymapper comes in very handy for navigating public transportation), travel to the venue in the morning or afternoon, avoid using UBER or Lyft between the hours of 8pm-11pm and 12am-3am, and travel from the venue after sunup (#TeamNoSleep). Alternately, if you must travel to or from the venue during the aforementioned prime hours, hailing a traditional taxicab may for once be the more economical, if not the fastest, option. Remember taxicabs? They’re still around. #Throwback

Via, who we just covered last week, is another new rideshare option for people celebrating the DC and Chicago New Year’s Eve parties. I just started using it in DC this year and have therefore not used it on New Year’s Eve yet but am making Via my New Year’s Eve transportation of choice for the first time in 2018!

Don’t be the next person to pay $1100 for an UBER ride this New Year’s Eve.

With that said, on to the guide.

WASHINGTON, DC:

In 2017, Washington, DC’s Tropical New Year’s Eve party picked up from its previous location at the Hilton Doubletree in Crystal City and moved to its permanent new home at the Renaissance Downtown DC, also the home of DCBX’s massive world-famous flagship bachata congress in August.

Therefore, rather than reiterate everything we have already covered in our DCBX guide, we will just link it here:

https://frugalcongresslife.blog/2018/07/18/frugalcongresslife-survival-guide-dcbx/

Almost all general information in the above guide including travel and food tips is relevant to DC’s Tropical New Year’s Eve event as well!

Washington DC’s Ultimate Tropical NYE celebration promises to be the biggest yet, having expanded from one day into an ENTIRE WEEKEND. This year’s event truly has the feel of a winter edition of DCBX with a touch of New Year’s Eve extravagance and a lot of other cool extras.

The large selection of dance workshops offered in the afternoon and early evening each day feature such local, national, and international instructors as Leo Cato & Ivonne Pronovich, Kim Rottier, Mauricio and Deny, Kat Arias, Irving & Martha, Terrisa Widener, Julissa Ju, Jerry Lai, Ashley Kent, Go Go Earl Rush, Adrian Lorenzo, Bianca Chapman, Willem Engel-Holland, and Jenna Marie.

The parties feature such heavyweight Latin DJs as DJ Soltrix, DJ Selo, DJ Chuky, DJ Steve Greene, DJ Tico, DJ Jodey, DJ Enemy, and DJ Philly Boy, as well as live concerts by Los Hermanos Galvan, Los Hermanos Moreno, saxchata juggernaut Antonio Bliss, and Lola Jane performing her sultry smash hit “Kiss Me” live with bachata guitarist and singer Melvin War.

The festivities begin with a workshop and a bachata/zouk party in the Grand Ballroom at the hotel on Friday, December 28th. Activities jump off again at the hotel on Saturday the 29th with a sensual bachata/zouk day party from 3pm-6pm, workshops from 7pm-8pm, and 3 ballrooms (salsa, bachata, and zouk) of dancing from 8pm-4am. This same schedule repeats on Sunday the 30th, with the addition of a party at long-running DC salsa/bachata venue Lucky Strike nearby as well as at the hotel, and then the big New Year’s Eve blowout jumps off at the hotel with the final Latin dance workshops of 2018 happening from 12pm-6pm, followed by a dinner break (dinner menu available at the hotel) from 6pm-8pm (VIP dinner for from 9pm-10pm) and a dizzying array of parties in 10 different ballrooms including salsa, bachata, zouk, reggaeton, EDM, and Persian music, the aforementioned live concerts, comedy shows, karaoke, a four hour open bar from 10pm-2am for VIPs (VIP pass required), a champagne toast at midnight, live internet feeds from the other two DCBX NYE parties, and seemingly everything but the kitchen sink from 9pm until 8AM ON NEW YEAR’S DAY.

For the especially hearty party-to-breakfast New Year’s Day survivors, brunch will be served in the hotel lobby restaurant after the party on the morning of January 1st, 2019.

At press time, a full weekend workshop and party pass goes for $124, a general admission pass goes for $79, a table seat only pass goes for $99, and a VIP Dinner table pass goes for $199 and includes the VIP dinner and open bar. The “Pa’Riba Baller Package”, available to one person/group only for a staggering $4,995, includes an exclusive terrace suite overlooking downtown DC, a seated three course dinner and table for 10, first row seats, exclusive VIP lines and entrance, gifts and party favors, an ultimate VIP roped off section, and general admission passes for 10 friends or employees. The “Ultimate Pa’Riba Baller Package”, also available to one person/group only for an even more staggering $9,995, is similar, but offers the dinner and table for 20 and a 3000 square foot presidential suite overlooking downtown DC for your lodging. I can’t imagine visitors to this blog will widely consider these last two options.

LODGING:

At press time, rooms at the hotel or still available to DCBX group rate of $155 per night. Rooms sell out every year and they sell out fast, so jump on it now! Book your room here or mention discount code DCB if you call the hotel.

Purchasers of the early bird pass also had the option of booking rooms for the 31st or the 30th and the 31st free of taxes and fees as an add-on – this is not likely to still be an option at press time, but is something to keep in mind if DCBX does it again next year, which is likely. As we have said before, it pays big time to buy your pass early!

CHICAGO:

Surprisingly, Chicago’s Ultimate Tropical NYE celebration, a collaboration between DCBX, Dance Center Chicago and Chicago Loves Bachata, takes place at a dance studio rather than a hotel. Dance Center Chicago, hereafter referred to as DCC, a gorgeous, expansive second floor dance studio located at 3868 N Lincoln Ave in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago, is the host of DCBX Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve in this city.

Artists teaching the workshops include Matthew Owen, Jorge & Maria, Kimberly Rivera, Nadia Alvarado, Reynaldo Sanchez, Douglas Ortiz & Terri Ann Atkinson, Jeremy Feliciano, and Angel Cruz. DJs at the parties include DJ Freddy Fresh, DJ JO-Z, DJ Kimani Rashad, DJ Eric, DJ Julian, DJ Earl, and DJ Mambo Lu. The parties will also feature a four hour open bar from 10pm-2am for VIPs (VIP pass required), a champagne toast at midnight and live feeds from DJ Soltrix’ set in DC and the DC Antonio Bliss concert as well as every other Ultimate Tropical NYE party.

The celebration jumps off on the 31st with the final Latin workshops of 2018 from 2pm-6pm and parties in four different ballrooms (salsa, bachata, kizomba/zouk, reggaeton) from 9pm to 8am on New Year’s Day with dance performances at 11pm.

At press time, full passes (workshops+GA) are available for $59, workshop-only passes for $34, general admission for $39, and VIP general admission for $49.

TRAVEL:

FLYING:

Fly in to O’Hare International Airport. Unlike the Chicago Salsa Bachata Festival’s hotel venue, DCC is a significant distance from O’Hare and will require some travel. Expect a 23 minute UBER/Lyft/Via ride or 50 minutes on the Chicago Blue Line and the 80 bus.

BLUE LINE/80 DIRECTIONS FROM O’HARE:

Take the Chicago 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.

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 andget 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 the Blue Line, Brown Line, and the 80 bus here: http:// www.transitchicago.com/

LODGING:

Lodging here is readily available, but expect to pay somewhat of a premium for staying in a major city on New Year’s Eve.

Your cheapest nearby options appear to be hostels. The Wrigley Hostel, located at 3514 N Sheffield Avenue, goes for $121 per night on NYE and has mostly good reviews. The Chicago Getaway Hostel, located 16 minutes away at 616 W Arlington Place, goes for $80 per night 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 $160 per night on New Year’s Eve.

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

Expect a commute of at least 10 minutes by UBER/Lyft/Via for all of these options.

FOOD:

For your grocery shopping needs, Trader Joe’s is located a block down at 3745 N Lincoln Avenue.

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 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.

ORLANDO:

Orlando’s Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve, a collaboration between DCBX, FADE, and O-Town Social, takes place at the Avanti Palms Resort and Conference Center (hereafter APRCC), located at 6515 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819.

The final Latin workshops of 2018, featuring a mix of national, international, and local instructors including De’Jon Polanski & Clo Ferreira, one of Latin dance’s newest power couples, take place between 2pm and 6pm, and a party featuring multiple ballrooms, a four hour open bar from 10pm-2am for VIPs (VIP pass required), a champagne toast at midnight, and live internet broadcasts of DJ Soltrix’ set and the Antonio Bliss concert from DC, and as well as the other Ultimate Tropical NYE parties, takes place from 9pm-6am on New Year’s Day.

At press time, general admission passes are going for $34, general admission+workshops for $59, general admission+open bar for $89, and VIP passes for $99.

APRCC’s amenities include resort-wide WiFi, pet-friendly rooms with wood floors (so you can practice your dance moves in your room), a state of the art video arcade, a beach area with volleyball, a 24 hour fitness center, and a large pool complex with a poolside bar and grill, and even a grocery shopping service.

The hotel shuttle service goes to University Studios, Universal CityWalk, Sea World, and Aquatica, but unfortunately does not go to the airport.

TRAVEL:

TOLL ROADS:

One unfortunate characteristic for drivers of the Orlando area is an overabundance of toll roads. Expect tolls to figure into pretty much all of your UBER/Lyft rides as well as any driving you do if you are local or you rent a car.

FLYING:

Orlando International Airport (MCO), located at 1 Jeff Fuqua Blvd, Orlando, FL 32827, is the closest airport to APRCC. Expect an approximately 19 minute UBER/Lyft ride including tolls directly from the airport, or about an hour and a half on public transportation.

BUS DIRECTIONS FROM THE AIRPORT TO APRCC:

Exit the airport on the north side near Copa Airlines, walk under Jeff Fuqua Blvd and make a right and you will see the 42 Destination Parkway Superstop. Take the 42 to the International Dr and Carrier Dr stop. APRCC will be visible from this stop.

This is about an hour and a half trip at a cost of $2.

BUS:

Megabus drops off at 902 N Semoran Boulevard. The stop is about an 22 minute UBER/Lyft ride from the hotel, but it being Orlando, there are tolls on this route that will figure into your costs.

PUBLIC TRANSIT DIRECTIONS FROM MEGABUS TO APRCC:

– Walk 3 minutes southwest on FL-436 to E Colonial Dr and N Semoran Blvd.

– Take the 104 Lynx Central Station – Sunrail 17 minutes to Lynx Central Station

– Transfer to the 08 toward Regency Village Dr and Vineland Avenue

– Take the 08 69 stops to International Drive and Carrier Drive

– APRCC will be visible from this stop

This will be approximately a one hour and 38 minute trip at a cost of $4.

For information on the 42, the 104, and the 08: http://www.golynx.com/

LODGING:

A room block exists for this event at APRCC at the rock-bottom rate of $69 per night plus resort fees of $12 per night. Book your rooms here.

If the block sells out, rooms should still be available for $115 per night plus resort fees off the block.

There are other hotels nearby but you already know, I don’t talk about that. You’re on your own there.

FOOD:

Dining options at the resort include the unfussy, cafeteria-like Market Place Cafe and Grill, the idyllic and gorgeous Pool Side Bar & Grill, and the sleek, futuristic Lobby Lounge & Bar.

There is also a Starbucks in the hotel for that all-important coffee fix.

For those who want to do their own grocery shopping, you have a few different options located within a 3 minute drive of APRCC. The International Drive Supermarket and Disney Gifts store is two minutes away at 6500 Carrier Drive. JNM Super Market is right down the road at 7521 International Drive. J Food Mart, a Japanese grocery store, is two minutes away at 7452 Universal Boulevard. E Z Food Mart is across the street from APRCC for your last minute shopping needs.

Some of the staggering selection of meal out options located within walking distance or a five minute drive include Buffalo Wild Wings* (7004 International Dr), Cafe Mineiro Brazilian Steakhouse* (6432 International Drive), Sushiology* (6400 International Dr), Fit Bistro (7733 Turkey Lake Rd), Chili’s (7021 International Dr), CiCi’s (7437 International Dr – BUFFET ALERT), Oreganatta (6320 International Dr – ALSO A BUFFET), Japan Food Aki Restaurant (7460 Universal Blvd), Ararat Euro Food and Bistro (7540 Universal Blvd), Halal Food Express (6227 International Dr), Aashirwad Indian Food and Bar (7000 S Kirkman Rd), Del Taco (6855 Grand National Dr), and, notably, IHOP (7661 International Dr), which may be open 24/7 on New Year’s Eve. Starred options are in walking distance.

CONCLUSION:

DCBX Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve is going to be the #1 Latin dance party in DC, Chicago, and Orlando for ringing in 2019 and beyond! Skip the overpriced and overrated nightclub parties and come dance your way into the new year with your dance friends at DCBX Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve! I hope everyone going to all three NYE parties found this super-survival guide helpful and if you are going to the DC edition of the Ultimate Tropical NYE party, I will see you there!

#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I, the author of this guide and current sole proprietor of this blog, am a member of the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress Social Media Promotional Team, otherwise known as the “BSBC Social Butterflies”. However, the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress has been one of my top five favorite congresses for two years prior to me joining the team in October 2018, and the bulk of this article was written in the summer and early fall of 2018 before I joined the team. Although I admittedly have some inherent biases from being on the promo team, this was a congress I could get behind 100% before being on the team, and what you read in this article IS my objective advice. All advice is presented as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

The time has come to cover another entry in the hallowed list of my top five favorite congresses in the USA – the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress!  In 2016, local promoters and DJs Raj More and Dola Ige took over the operations of this congress from its previous management, and have since been growing it into a world-class salsa and bachata festival for the ages.

The Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress takes place at the Hilton Baltimore, a massive, sprawling, gorgeous multi-level modern conference hotel located at 401 Pratt Street right in the heart of downtown Baltimore near the Inner Harbor. The venue is more than capable of handling this large-scale dance festival, and includes clean, modern rooms and such amenities as the region’s only Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf shop, a heated pool, a fitness center, and stunning views of Oriole Park at Camden Yards from the suites as well as a select handful of standard rooms. 

The 2020 Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress, also the 10th edition of the congress, takes place from April 9th-April 12th, 2020. Over 500 attendees from all over the country are expected if previous years are any indication.

Visit http://www.baltimorecongress.com for up-to-date information, schedules, and a link to book your hotel room!

Your days at the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress will be filled with workshops from some of the best salsa and bachata instructors doing it right now, and your nights will be filled with performances, live concerts, and some of the most consistently outstanding and memorable social dancing you will have the entire year in expansive salsa, bachata, and kizomba/zouk ballrooms.  This congress is one of my favorites and I can’t recommend it enough!  Today’s blog entry is your guide to doing this truly superlative congress as frugally as possible!

But first…

A NOTE ABOUT BALTIMORE CITY IN GENERAL:

Being careful where you go is important in Baltimore. While the area of Baltimore City around the event hotel is a touristy area and very safe, neighborhood safety varies further away from the hotel and some neighborhoods can be high-crime.

I am not saying this to fearmonger or to try and discourage anyone from going to this congress – it is one of the best congresses on the east coast and well worth going to – but I have to keep it 100 for the safety of my readers, especially those who may be coming to Baltimore for the first time and may not know which neighborhoods are safe or not.

Again, the area around the hotel is very safe and you need not worry there.

Since I know some dancers are adventurous and like to explore, for those who want to explore other parts of Baltimore City, neighborhoods I recommend are the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Ridgeley’s Delight, and Federal Hill.

With that note out of the way, on to the guide…

PASS:

You know what to do by now. Buy early, use discount codes, volunteer.

We will post all early bird full and VIP passes and price changes to this congress on our Facebook and Twitter pages, as always.

TRAVEL:

Baltimore and all surrounding areas are supported by Citymapper as of the time of this writing, so the app’s combined DC/Baltimore package can be used to easily navigate transit in Baltimore and DC including real-time schedules and multiple routes.

FLYING:

If flying to the congress, your best option is good old Spirit, which flies directly into Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI). BWI is located about 18 minutes from the Hilton Baltimore by UBER/Lyft or 30-40 minutes by light rail.

Important: the Hilton Baltimore on Pratt Street in downtown Baltimore, which is the congress hotel, is not to be confused with the Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport, a smaller hotel located near the airport. Two entirely different hotels. If you go to the Hilton Baltimore BWI and ask where the congress registration desk is, all you will get is a blank stare most likely.

If you take a non-Spirit airline, make sure you fly into BWI, as DCA and IAD are both too far away from the congress to be practical. If you must fly into IAD or DCA, take Metro to Union Station and take the bus, MARC train, or Amtrak to BWI from there. Our DCBX guide has more detailed info on navigating Metro.

Heads up – no form of UBER Pool or Shared Lyft are available in Baltimore at the time of this writing (September 2018 for this particular section, but I wrote large parts of this post this past summer). Your absolute cheapest rideshare options in Baltimore at this time are UberX or regular Lyft, which can get expensive, so figuring out the bus and light rail systems is, as always, your best frugal idea.  Of course, UberX and Lyft can be split with fellow congress attendees with some coordination and planning.

UBER or Lyft from BWI to the Hilton Baltimore is about $20 one way.

Light RailLink Directions to the Hilton Baltimore from BWI Airport:

The light rail leaves BWI from the southeastern side of the airport in between the entrance/exit for Spirit/Delta (BONUS FOR THE MAXIMALLY FRUGAL) and the entrance exit for CES Airport/British Airways/Condor. To get to the light rail, as well as the shuttles to long-term parking, you’ll have to go downstairs to the lower level of the airport.

Get on the light rail north toward Hunt Valley | Timonium Fairgrounds and take it 11 stops to the Pratt Street Light Rail Station.  From there, walk three minutes west on Pratt Street and the hotel will be on your left.

This will be a 37 minute trip one way at a cost of $1.80.

To return to BWI, walk back to the Light Rail station and get on the southbound light rail toward BWI Airport, and ride 11 stops back to the BWI Airport Stop next to the Spirit/Delta entrance.

This will be a 42 minute trip one way at a cost of $1.80.

For more info on the light rail including fares and schedules: https://mta.maryland.gov/light-rail

DRIVING:

I do not recommend driving directly to this particular congress as it is located in downtown Baltimore and parking is expensive and spottily available.

If you are driving to the congress, I recommend parking in BWI’s long-term or daily parking ($8-12 per day) and taking UBER/Lyft or the light rail to the hotel.

BWI’s long-term parking lots ($8 per day) are two large open-air surface parking lots (Long Term A and Long Term B) located on the far outskirts of the airport. These lots, run by SP+ Parking, feature 10,000 parking spaces between them, and the availability of spaces in each lot is tracked in real-time on the above-linked site. The lots are not walking distance from the airport, but a shuttle picks up reliably every 5-10 minutes from various spots around the lot 24 hours per day. These unstaffed lots are somewhat desolate and isolated, so use caution if alone there at night.

Fast Park & Relax is a 24/7 staffed slightly-higher-end open-air alternative to SP+’s surface parking also located a short shuttle ride from the airport. This lot starts at $8.40 per day and features the ability to reserve spots in advance and other amenities not found at the SP+ lot, but some reviews complain of inconsistent shuttle pickups, so keep that in mind.

If you prefer, BWI’s daily parking garage ($12 per day) is a less isolated covered parking garage with more activity much closer to the airport – although still not walking distance, and a fast and reliable shuttle to the terminal is offered here as well.

As a reminder, all shuttles to the parking lots and garages depart from the downstairs level of the airport.

The parking garage next to the hotel costs $30 per night, but there have been discounted rates for attendees of past congresses; it will be announced if this is possible again this year.

BUS/TRAIN:

Both the Amtrak Northeast Regional and the MARC Penn Line go directly to Baltimore Penn Station and the directions from Penn Station to the Hilton (see below) can be followed from there.  If you prefer, Amtrak and MARC both go to BWI, and the above light rail directions can be followed from there.

Bolt Bus stops at 1578 Maryland Avenue, about two blocks west of Penn Station, and Baltimore City’s 51 bus (see below) picks up from there as well.

Directions from Penn Station to the Hilton Baltimore:

– Walk south on Charles Street and make a right on Oliver Street

– Walk over to Maryland Avenue to the 51 bus stop at Maryland Ave and Oliver Street (SB 2172) [this is half a block south of where BoltBus drops off so if you took BoltBus walk south on Maryland Avenue to the 51 stop]

– Take the 51 Downtown 10 stops to Hopkins Place and Pratt Street

– Walk west on Pratt Street for two and a half blocks and the hotel will be on your left.

This is about a 26 minute trip one way and costs $1.80.

Directions from the Hilton Baltimore to Penn Station:

– Exit the side facing Pratt Street

– Walk about a block and a half east on Pratt Street to the Pratt Street Light Rail Station

– Get on the Light Rail northbound toward Hunt Vally | Timonium Foregrounds | Penn Station

– Ride 5 stops to the Mount Royal & Lt Rail Station

– Walk southeast on Mount Royal Avenue, swing a left on Mount Oliver Street, and walk east two blocks to Charles Street

– Make a left on Charles Street to return to Penn Station

This is about a 27 minute trip one way and costs $1.80.

More info on the 51 bus including fares and schedules here: https://mta.maryland.gov/share-bus-overview?bus_service=Local+Bus&route=Route+51

Penn Station is also an 8 minute UBER/Lyft ride away from the hotel.

The area around Penn Station is pretty safe, but use your best judgement.  If you’re going 100% public transit, the light rail route from BWI is probably your absolute safest option if you have a choice.

As excellent as Megabus normally is, taking it to the Baltimore Congress is not recommended, as Megabus stops in White Marsh, which is a considerable distance northeast of downtown Baltimore, which will add considerable time and expense to your trip.

Depending on where you’re coming from it may be more efficient if Megabus is your best or only option to go to Union Station in DC, take the MARC to Baltimore Penn Station or BWI and follow the relevant directions to the Hilton from there.  It will honestly take just as much time as trying to get from White Marsh to downtown Baltimore using exclusively public transportation.  UBER/Lyft from WM to downtown Baltimore will be stupidly expensive, especially in light of Pool/Shared not being an option.

We do not generally recommend Greyhound as a travel option, but if you can catch them on a day when they are actually reliable, they stop near the stadiums, a 5 minute UBER/Lyft ride from the hotel. In our opinion, you use them at your own risk.

OTHER LOCAL PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION:

General information about the Washington DC Metro system can be found at http://www.wmata.com, and a map of the system can be found here. The Metro trains and buses require a SmarTrip card; info about how to purchase one can be found here.

There are two different specific public transportation options local to the DC Metro area that will take anyone in this area, as well as any travelers who find themselves in this area (because they flew into DCA or IAD or whatever other reason) to BWI for a very low price, and the above directions from BWI to the hotel can be followed from there.

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

For residents of Prince George’s County MD, including the College Park/University of Maryland area, the WMATA B30 bus goes from the Greenbelt Metro station at the northern end of the green line to BWI for $7.50 one way (exact change required). This bus isn’t really practical for anyone outside of PG County, however, as it is located further away from either of the DC airports than the 201 stops above.

Additionally, the B30 does not run on Saturday or Sunday, so anyone leaving for PG County on Sunday evening will have to take the 201 back to Shady Grove, then return to PG County via the red line and the green line, which will take close to three hours total.

LODGING:

Your best and safest option is to stay at the event hotel or, if the event hotel sells out (as it did in 2018 and 2019) before you can get a room, the nearby overflow hotel.

As with most congresses, but to even more of a degree with this one due to the varying nature of neighborhood safety in Baltimore, your best option is to stay onsite.

The Baltimore Congress team offers a room block at the event hotel at a heavily discounted rate for both one-king and two-double rooms.  This is almost guaranteed the best deal you will find on this hotel or any other four-star hotel in the immediate vicinity; rooms at the event hotel normally go for close to $200 per night outside of this room block.

Of course, a roomshare of up to four people can bring the cost per room as low as $35 per night once taxes are figured in.

Be advised that you need a room key to access certain elevators, especially when going to upper floors, so staying in the hotel is recommended for that reason as well.

The hotel has sold out consistently every year I have gone so booking your room as early as possible is recommended. A nearby overflow hotel will be announced when the event hotel inevitably sells out for 2020.

If you are going to insist on staying at any other offsite location, which I do not recommend, do extensive research beforehand on the neighborhood you are staying in and make sure it is a safe neighborhood.

FOOD:

For the grocery shoppers, I recommend doing your food shopping before the congress if you can. If you are driving from points north there’s a Walmart in Aberdeen, MD (645 S Philadelphia Blvd) or if you are coming from points south there’s one in Laurel, MD (3549 Russett Green E). There are also three Walmarts located near BWI airport in the Glen Burnie/Linthicum Heights area, at 3601 Washington Blvd, Arbutus, MD, 406 George Clauss Blvd, Severn MD and 6721 Chesapeake Center Drive, Glen Burnie, MD.

If you can’t get your shopping in beforehand for any reason, Price Rite of Baltimore, located on 1205 W Pratt Street near the B&O Railroad Museum (9 minute UBER/Lyft one way), is your best bet, and is in a safe part of Baltimore.

The aforementioned Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is the most convenient option for your coffee fix, but be warned that they close at 4:00pm on Friday and Saturday and 6:00pm on Sunday. On the upside, they now take debit and credit cards after being cash-only in previous years (per attendee reports).

The closest Starbucks is located about a 5 minute walk east (one way) at 1 W Pratt Street in the nearby Baltimore Convention Center, and Heavenly Manna Coffee House is located across the street.

Walk a little further east and you will find two more Starbucks shops, both across the street from one another at 100 and 200 East Pratt Street respectively.  According to comedian Lewis Black, two Starbucks coffee shops across the street from one another is the End Of The Universe, so we can put the End Of The Universe down as one more cool spectacle to see in downtown Baltimore.

Alternately, Peace & A Cup Of Joe, a cozy local independent coffeehouse, is located about a 8-10 minute walk west (one way) in the Ridgley’s Delight area of Baltimore at 713 W. Pratt Street.

As far as places to eat out go, there’s Jimmy John’s, Subway, and Chipotle near the hotel, and you can also find a Shake Shack, Cheesecake Factory, Hooters, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Hard Rock Cafe, Fogo de Chao, Johnny Rockets, and Phillip’s Seafood near The End Of The Universe at the Inner Harbor as well. A CVS is located near Shake Shack for your emergency supply needs.

Another noteworthy spot near the harbor is Sajhoma Restaurant, a cozy Dominican restaurant located on Fleet Street in Fells Point. If you get a ticket for the Baltimore Congress’ infamous party bus (sold separately from all passes), a stop here for food and dancing will be part of the trip.

All locations mentioned are safe areas of Baltimore.

Closer to the hotel, there’s always the hotel’s in-house dining option, an upscale American restaurant called The Diamond Tavern.

Of course, I can’t discuss food at the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress without mentioning their flagship taco artist, the Mexican On The Run food truck, which can be found parked outside the hotel’s ground floor down the escalator from the registration desk between 10pm and 3am on Friday and Saturday night. This is a top-notch food option, especially late at night, but it tends to sell out by 1am or thereabouts, so jump on it early in the night. Hopefully the truck’s operators continue bringing a larger and larger supply every year, because their food is quite good, and it will be a popular option.

That’s all for this survival guide, holla in the comments if you have anything else and I’ll see you at BSBC!