#FCL Multi-Congress Hotel Guide: The Westin Alexandria

[Disclosure: At the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with nor have I been hired by Interfusion Festival, DC Fall Salsa Bachata Festival or Victory Inspired Events, aside from being a personal friend of these organizations’ respective proprietors, and a loyal attendee of both Interfusion and DC Fall Salsa Bachata Festival. At the time of this writing I am not directly affiliated with nor have I been hired by the Westin Alexandria or 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.]

For my second multi-congress #FCL hotel guide, I am covering one of my top five favorite congress hotels in the US, The Westin Alexandria, located at 400 Courthouse Square in Alexandria, VA, a nearby suburb of DC.  The Westin Alexandria was designed as a “wellness hotel”, a hotel that makes the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of its guests its top priority, and this is evident throughout in its gorgeous, meditative, spiritually inspired design and luxurious amenities.

The Westin Alexandria is currently home to the one and only Interfusion Festival, an eclectic mix of not only Latin and African dance workshops, but also workshops for meditation, yoga, pole dance, tantra, ecstatic dance, acro-yoga, essential oil, and other spiritual topics, in addition to all-night dance socials featuring ballrooms for salsa, bachata, zouk, EDM, and acro-yoga jams.

The festival’s creators, Christian Rodriguez and Umka Pele, could not have picked a more fitting location, as the hotel’s design and amenities complement the spirit of the festival perfectly.

After a year-long hiatus following Winter 2017’s Interfusion Festival: Unleash Your Dreams and Fall 2017’s Interfusion Festival: Awakening, this unique festival returns in the winter of 2019 with the very appropriate title Interfusion Festival: Rebirth.  Interfusion Festival: Rebirth happens at the Westin Alexandria between January 18th and January 21st, 2019.

The Westin Alexandria also recently became the new home of DC-based promoter and DJ Parker Cocolo’s DC Fall Salsa & Bachata Dance Festival, also known as DCSB Fest or DCSBF and sometimes lovingly referred to as “Parker’s Joint” by local dancers in DC. After some technical difficulties with the festival’s previous location in Crystal City, Parker has found a permanent new home for this excellent brand new up-and-coming dance festival, currently in its third year, at the familiar congress-tested Westin Alexandria location, which will provide the Westin’s atmosphere and amenities, as well as larger ballrooms, a greater variety of workshops, and social dancing until 6am.  The DC Fall Salsa & Bachata Dance Festival happens this fall from September 27th to October 1st, 2018 at the Westin Alexandria.

Up until this year, the Westin Alexandria was also the location of the Capital Congress, DC’s longest-running salsa congress (since 2005!), organized by Shaka Brown and also including workshops and ballrooms for bachata, kizomba, and zouk.  For its 2019 incarnation, the Capital Congress has picked up and moved to the Hilton Mark Center Hotel located about 16 minutes west of the Westin.  I will be researching transportation and food options for this hotel and dropping a survival guide to the new Capital Congress location on the blog around April of next year when we are closer out to that particular congress.

To my knowledge, The Westin Alexandria is the only congress hotel on the east coast and possibly in the US to have hosted three separate Latin dance-related congresses or festivals within a two year period.  Feel free to correct me if you know of any others.

With the Westin Alexandria’s credentials out of the way, on to the definitive #FCL guide to this storied congress hotel.

PASS:

Passes to DCSBF are still available for $169… buy now before they go up again!

Early bird passes to Interfusion Festival: Rebirth are available for $175 until September 10th, 2018.  Jump on it now! Prices for this festival will jump up to around $300 closer to the event. Any price is definitely worth it for this truly one of a kind festival, but if you didn’t get a $120 super early bird pass at the end of 2017, you missed the boat on the cheapest possible passes.

TRAVEL:

DRIVING:

Driving and ride-share is a solid way to get to this hotel if able.  Street parking is tight around the hotel and the hotel has no garage of its own to speak of.  However, the hotel basically has an unofficial garage in the form of the West Parking Garage, located at 550 Elizabeth Lane. This garage costs $5-10 all day on weekends and is free after 7PM.  Located right around the corner from the hotel and boasting multiple levels of abundant off-street parking at a low cost and 24-hour access, this garage is your best parking option for the Westin, whether you are staying or commuting.

FLYING:

Try to fly into Reagan National Airport (DCA) if you can – it is the closest airport to the Westin Alexandria by a longshot; BWI is too far away to be practical and you will eat into your Spirit savings a bit getting from BWI to the hotel.  IAD is also too far away to be practical.

FROM DCA: Take the DC Metro yellow line toward Huntington from Reagan National to Eisenhower Avenue.  Once there, follow walking directions from Eisenhower Avenue.

FROM IAD: Take an UBER from IAD to the Wiehle-Reston Metro stop on the silver line, take the silver line toward Largo Town Center to L’Enfant Plaza and transfer to the yellow line toward Huntington and go to Eisenhower Avenue.  Once there, follow walking directions from Eisenhower Avenue.

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 yellow line toward Huntington and go to Eisenhower Avenue.  Once there, follow walking directions from Eisenhower Avenue.

BUS/TRAIN:

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

From Eisenhower Avenue metro to the Westin: Walk out of Bay E to Eisenhower Avenue and make a right.  Make a left onto Elizabeth Lane, hang a right at Courthouse Square/The Carlyle Club and you will see The Westin Alexandria from the square, you can’t miss it.  This is about a 10 minute walk.

Information on the MARC trains can be found here: https://mta.maryland.gov/marc-train

Information on the DC Metro system can be found here: http://www.wmata.com

A map of the DC Metro system can be found here: https://www.wmata.com/schedules/maps/upload/2017-System-Map.pdf

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

LODGING:

The Westin Alexandria is where it’s at, period.

There are a few offsite budget options, but when taxes, room fees, and cost of transporting yourself between these offsite locations and the Westin are taken into account, they will save you a grand total of $0-20 per night over both congress’ room blocks at the Westin and may even cost a bit more – hardly worth it.

Stay at the Westin, both to support this outstanding hotel and because it is objectively the best option for any congress or festival held there, period.

Book your room for DCSBF here. You have until September 3rd, 2018. Jump on it!

I will add a link to the Interfusion room block in a later update.

A solid between-workshop-and-party showering option for the brokest of local commuters who can’t even swing a room-share and don’t want to double back home is the Park Center XSport Fitness at 4300 King Street, located about 14 minutes from the Westin at 4300 King Street.  This gym offers $10 day passes and $5 garage parking and full shower facilities as well as a wide variety of free weights, machines, and cardio equipment for your workout.  This option is as frugal as it gets and not really an option for out of towners.  I have done this option sometimes when I was very low on money and lived close enough to the Westin to do it feasibly.

FOOD:

For your frugal grocery shopping, the closest Walmart Supercenter is about 11 minutes south of the Westin at 6303 Richmond Hwy.

As far as other grocery stores go, there is a Whole Foods about an 8 minute walk from the Westin at 1700 Duke Street, a Safeway about a 9 minute drive away on 500 S Royal St., a Harris Teeter about 15 minutes away at 735 N. Asaph Street, and a Balducci’s near Safeway at 600 Franklin Street.  Keep in mind parking around many of these stores could be tight.

The Starbucks located immediately next door is the most convenient option for your coffee needs.

However, as a fan of Bulletproof Coffee, I can’t not mention the presence of Bon Vivant Cafe + Farm Market, one of the only coffee shops in the US at the time of this writing that sells pre-made Bulletproof Coffee, about a 10 minute drive one way from the Westin in the nearby Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria, at 2016 Mount Vernon Avenue.  For time and logistical reasons I still usually choose to save myself the trip and make my own Bulletproof coffee with my own ingredients at Starbucks, but Bon Vivant’s interpretation of Bulletproof Coffee is exceptionally good and worth the extra effort to get it if you can swing it.

As for your meal out options, The Westin’s restaurant, Trademark Drink and Eat, sometimes has special deals for festival guests and it is definitely worth a shot to ask them as their food is quite good.  Pasra Thai, a Thai food bar, is also a very excellent dining option nearby.  More casual options in walking distance include Quiznos, Dunkin’ Donuts, Panera Bread, and Potbelly.  All options I’ve mentioned outside of the hotel can be found by making a right out of the hotel’s main entrance, making a right onto Jamieson Avenue, and walking along that street.

A 7-Eleven can also be found at 504 John Carlyle Street near Potbelly.

That’s all I got, hit the comments if you have any other suggestions and I’ll see you all at both DCSBF and Interfusion!

– Owen

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#FCL Multi-Congress Hotel Guide: Hyatt Regency Dulles

[Disclosure statement: As of the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with DC Zouk Festival other than being a loyal yearly attendee and Sami being a personal friend of mine. As of the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with DC Swing Fling. I have not been hired to promote either festival 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 the Hyatt Regency Dulles or any other companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

For yet another new series on #FrugalCongressLife, I will be writing a guide to specific hotels that are home to two or more dance congresses or festivals as of the time of writing.

The first such hotel I will be covering is the Hyatt Regency Dulles, a beautiful and large-scale airport conference hotel located near Dulles International Airport in Herndon, VA, an outer suburb of Washington, DC located about an hour’s drive northwest of the city.  The Hyatt Regency Dulles is home to both this year’s DC Swing Fling (8/9/2018 – 8/12/2018), a swing dance festival coming up in about three weeks, and the 2019 DC Zouk Festival (6/6/2019 – 6/10/2019), the DC area’s flagship Brazilian zouk festival, which also features kizomba, bachata, and, new for 2019, west coast swing.  The DC Zouk Festival, organized by DC-based promoter and DJ Sami Selo Ahmed, is returning to Dulles in 2019 after outgrowing its new downtown DC venue this year.  The Hyatt Regency Dulles will be home to the largest dedicated Brazilian Zouk ballroom in the US and will assuredly be more than enough room for the swing crowd as well.  Both of these events are well-run massive scale congresses featuring daytime workshops and all-night social dancing covering each of their respective dances.

As always, per my personal code of ethics and to encourage people to support this hotel, I will be including no information on offsite lodging options.  Offsite lodging options are plentiful and varied due to the airport location, but you are on your own for the time being if that is what you seek.  Relatively inexpensive room blocks at the Hyatt Regency Dulles are available for both DC Swing Fling 2018 and DC Zouk 2019, and rooms are clean and comfortable, as one would expect rooms at an airport hotel catering primarily to business travelers to be.

As for your pass, the usual advice of buying early or volunteering applies.  It is decidedly too late to buy early for Swing Fling, as the festival is in three weeks, but early bird passes for the 2019 DC Zouk Festival are on sale at the time of this writing in July 2018 for about $100. Buy now, the price will go up later.

As will be the case for most multi-congress hotel guides, the bulk of this guide will be on travel and food options.

TRAVEL:

DRIVING:

Driving or ride-sharing is the preferred option if possible for this hotel as there is abundant free parking around the hotel and the hotel does not have many food options within walking distance.  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 a very short distance from Dulles Airport, 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 Hyatt Regency has a free shuttle that will transport you the 4.5 miles 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 Hyatt Regency Dulles 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 Hyatt Regency Dulles 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.

See my DCBX Survival Guide for detailed info on both MARC and the DC Metro.

Information on the DC Metro system can be found here: http://www.wmata.com

A map of the DC Metro system can be found here: https://www.wmata.com/schedules/maps/upload/2017-System-Map.pdf

There will undoubtedly be multiple private rideshares going from the DC area to the Hyatt Regency for both Swing Fling and DC Zouk – I will post info on groups that can connect you with these rideshares as I get it.

FOOD:

There are some food options close by this hotel, but many of them are decidedly driving distance from the hotel, with the exception of the hotel restaurant and the Reston Town Center options, which can be reached via the Hyatt’s airport shuttle.

For your frugal grocery shopping, Walmart Supercenter is located about 12-16 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.

Aside from the hotel restaurant, an upscale bar eatery called Elements On Level One, a Spices & Beyond located right next to the hotel (which also doubles as a convenience store for last-minute staples), and Padella, the nearby Westin Dulles’ hotel restaurant, 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.  Elements On Level One is a bit pricey but good, and will be a popular option given that it is the only one you don’t have to drive to.

A 15 minute or so drive into the nearby town of Reston, VA (whose town center can also be reached via the Hyatt’s free airport shuttle) 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 the info I have for this guide, let me know in the comments if you have anything else to add and happy dancing!

– Owen