#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.]

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, happening every year in April at the Dulles Marriott (45020 Aviation Dr, Dulles, VA 20166) right next to Dulles Airport about an hour northwest of Washington DC, very close to the DC Zouk Festival’s longtime Dulles location.

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 DC area.

Zouk Heat is the move for fans of Brazilian Zouk on the east coast the first weekend 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. This guide, originally our first published survival guide in 2019 and now updated for 2020, 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:

Zouk Heat boasts some of the most affordable event-hotel lodging of any dance congress in the DC area. Terrisa has gone to great lengths to negotiate a block of hotel rooms at $109 per night at the Dulles Marriott, lower even than the AAA/CAA rate and lower than the vast majority of the area’s 3-star-and-up hotels. A four-person room-share will cost the budget-minded about $30-35 per night with taxes included, and 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.

Book your room here.

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, on-site coin-op laundry, valet dry cleaning, bottled water, and individual climate control, among others.

Be forewarned that the guest laundry room consists of only one washer and one dryer that are both sure to be in constant use during most people’s waking hours, so I would not count on this as an option for reducing the amount of clothes you need to pack for the weekend.

The shuttle is tracked on two monitors, one in the lobby across from the restaurant and one near the elevator leading up to the rooms. The tracker is very comprehensive and shows not only the shuttle’s ETA at each location, but it’s exact GPS position on its route.

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) which is free to join and a no brainer for dance congress attendees and anyone who stays in hotels regularly, this hotel offers an easy way to rack up rewards points quickly. The hotel offers 500 points for each consecutive day you opt out of housekeeping services for up to three consecutive days. 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.

As per usual, I won’t be discussing any other lodging options unless the Dulles Marriott fully sells out (both the room block and all other rooms outside the block). You’re on your own if it’s offsite options you seek.

TRAVEL:

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.

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

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 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.

The Marriott’s restaurant is Aviate Bar & Grille, a modern comfort food restaurant featuring a breakfast buffet and a bistro. Most of your other 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 April!

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#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: DCBX

[Disclosure statement: As of the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with DCBX other than being a loyal yearly attendee 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.]

So, with DCBX coming up in a little over a month and hotel rooms selling fast, now is a good time for me to release my comprehensive in-depth #FrugalCongressLife DCBX survival guide, the first survival guide for a specific dance congress on this blog.

DCBX, or the DC Bachata Congress, is, if not the single largest dance congress in the United States, one of the largest dance congresses in the United States, with attendance upwards of 10,000 people. The event, held at the beautiful and upscale Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel located at 999 9th Street NW in Washington, DC from August 22nd-26th, 2019, is a massive-scale dance congress featuring international artists for a variety of Latin and African dance genres (including zouk, kizomba, and salsa – DCBX is not just a bachata congress!) teaching a variety of workshops, the biggest bachata ballroom in the US playing a mix of sensual, urban, and a small amount of traditional bachata, along with separate ballrooms for traditional bachata, salsa, kizomba, and zouk, several concerts, social dancing from midnight to 8AM each night, and even such unheard-of-elsewhere additions as a food festival and a film festival.

DCBX, the brainchild of husband-and-wife DC Latin event promotion juggernauts Lee “El Gringuito” Smith and Katherine “Kat La Gata” Aguilar-Smith, and further supported by an outstanding team handling everything from social media to artist relations, is a massive festival and the top choice of many dancers who can only go to one or two festivals a year. The festival is currently in its 10th year and this year promises to be the biggest and best DCBX yet. More general info on DCBX can be found at http://www.dcbachata.com, and more info on the DCBX company and other DCBX events can be found at http://www.dcbx.org.

The festival is located in the very heart of downtown DC, and DC, being a coastal metropolitan city, is very expensive by every possible metric. It’s not as expensive as NYC, but all the same, those of you coming from anywhere other than a metropolitan city should be prepared for everything costing much more than you are used to as a matter of course.

Fear not, for the #FrugalCongressLife blog is here to help you attend this congress, have an outstanding time, and leave with your wallet intact.

A NOTE ABOUT DC STREETS:

DC often has two or more streets with the same name, each located in the northeast (NE), northwest (NW), southeast (SE), or southwest (SW) quadrants of the city, and distinguishes between the streets by putting NE, NW, SE, or SW at the end of the name to identify which quadrant of DC it’s in.

Pay special attention to the quadrant initials at the end of street names when planning trips or consulting your GPS for directions — if you accidentally type in L Street NE when you meant to go to L Street NW or 7th Street SE when you meant to go to 7th Street NW etc., you could wind up in an entirely different part of the city from your intended destination.

This is something us DC natives take for granted from living here for so long but can really trip up those unfamiliar with the area.

PASS:

Buy early, that’s your best option. A VIP early bird pass goes for $150 and an early bird full pass goes for $125 when passes first go on sale about a year out from the festival.

Otherwise, follow the standard #FCL procedures for getting your pass as cheap as possible legitimately. We are about a month out from DCBX at the time of this guide’s publication, so I can imagine the passes are much more expensive at this point.

TRAVEL:

For those of you flying, your most frugal travel option for this congress is, naturally, Spirit Airlines. The closest airport served by Spirit Airlines to the congress is Baltimore-Washington International airport (BWI) in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, about 40 minutes north of DC.

An UBER/Lyft or cab from the airport to the hotel is VERY expensive, around $50 or possibly even higher than that, so try to avoid this if possible or split the costs with another festival attendee if you must go this route.

If you are able, try to get into BWI during the day when the MARC train is still running. Take the MARC train’s Penn Line from BWI to Union Station in DC. Tickets for the MARC train can be purchased at a kiosk at the BWI train station near the airport for about $8.

Directions to the hotel from Union Station: Once in Union Station, take the DC Metro red line towards Shady Grove two stops to the Gallery Place-Chinatown stop and the hotel is a short walk away. Exit the Metro station from the Gallery/9th & G St. NW side; you will see signs around the station pointing out which exit is which. Once out of the station, walk down G Street NW toward 9th Street NW (if you see 7th Street NW you’re going the wrong way, turn around) then make a right on 9th Street NW and the hotel will be on your right two blocks up at 999 9th St NW. It’s hard to miss.

If you’re taking any airline other than Spirit, you will either fly into BWI, DCA (Reagan National Airport), or IAD (Dulles). Try to avoid flying into IAD; IAD is too far away from the congress to be practical, and there is no Metro stop that services IAD directly yet.

Follow the above directions if you are flying into BWI.

If coming from DCA, take the Metro yellow line from the Ronald Reagan National Airport station towards Greenbelt/Fort Totten to the Gallery Place-Chinatown metro stop and follow the above directions from there. The yellow and blue lines share the same track and the blue line’s route is very different and will add extra time and transfers to your trip, so be sure the train you are getting on is a yellow line train. Follow the walking directions from Gallery Place once you get there.

If you must come from IAD, take an UBER, Lyft, or cab to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro stop on the silver line, take the silver line toward Largo Town Center to Metro Center, then transfer to the red line towards Glenmont, take the red line one stop to Gallery Place, and follow the above directions from Gallery Place.

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.

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

If you are driving from any points out of town or outside of the city, know that parking at the hotel or even near the hotel can get very expensive, and street parking is tight – not as bad as other parts of the city, but I wouldn’t count on it being there and you will probably have to move your car at least once if you park on the street anyway – not very convenient.

If you are driving from out of town I personally recommend parking your car at a suburban Metro lot and taking Metro to the hotel.

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.

You can take the green line toward Branch Avenue from Greenbelt or the yellow line toward Fort Totten from Huntington directly to the Gallery Place-Chinatown stop.

From Wiehle-Reston East, take the silver line toward Largo Town Center to Metro Center,  transfer to the red line toward Glenmont and take the red line one stop to Gallery Place-Chinatown.

From Franconia-Springfield, take the blue Line toward Largo Town Center to the Pentagon station and transfer to the yellow Line toward Fort Totten/Mount Vernon Square to Gallery Place.  Do not miss your transfer at Pentagon, otherwise your trip will take much longer and you will have to transfer at Metro Center to the red line per the above directions.

Expect your Metro ride to be about 20-30 minutes.  Once at Gallery Place-Chinatown, follow the above walking directions to the hotel from there.

Of course, if you don’t want to go through all that, the baller option is valet parking at the hotel at a cost of $40 per day.  My guess is you’re reading the #FrugalCongressLife blog because you don’t want to do that.

For anyone wanting to take the train or bus, look for any Amtrak, Greyhound, MegaBus, or Bolt Bus route that goes to Union Station in DC and follow the above directions from Union Station.

LODGING:

Your best frugal bet is, of course, a room share at the event hotel. DCBX currently has an active room block at the event hotel featuring rooms that can accommodate up to 4 people for as low as $155 per night, or about $45 per person per night for a four person room-share when taxes and fees are included. A link to book your hotel room online can currently be found here or at DCBachata.com under the hotel section if that link doesn’t work. The room block is very close to selling out at the time of this writing, so jump on it now! Rooms at the event hotel are clean, comfortable, luxurious, and aesthetically pleasing, and are well liked by the festival’s regular attendees.

For those who still wish to go offsite, there are some offsite hotels and hostels within a comfortable commuting distance from the main event. I can not personally speak on these options as I have never used them; I have either commuted from home or stayed at the main hotel for as long as I have been going to DCBX.

Most of the offsite options, with the notable exception of the hostels, will only save you a very marginal amount of money over the event hotel while providing the logistical headaches inherent in offsite congress lodging.

Per my personal code of ethics, and to encourage attendees to support the event hotel, I will be posting no information on offsite lodging options until the event hotel fully sells out, if that happens. If the event hotel fully sells out and no DCBX room block is available at an overflow hotel, I will write a separate entry detailing offsite options then.

FOOD:

For the frugally-minded traveler wanting to get groceries near the congress, you have many options. The closest is Walgreens, located at 7th & H Street NW near the Gallery Place Metro stop, but this is not the most frugal option.

There is also a Safeway (east coast chain grocery store similar to Vons on the west coast) located at 490 L Street NW, a 5 minute UBER/Lyft ride or 9 minute walk each way from the hotel.

If you want to grocery shop as frugally as possible, the Walmart Supercenter at 99 H Street NW is your best bet. It is a 9-10 minute UBER/Lyft ride or 15 minute walk each way from the hotel. Expect the DC Walmart stores to be slightly more expensive than suburban and small-town Walmarts, because they have higher operating costs due to their location. However, Walmart will still be your most frugal option in the immediate area of the congress for staples.

For those wanting to go to Whole Foods for specialty items (such as my beloved Bulletproof ingredients), the Logan Circle Whole Foods at 1440 P Street NW is a 9 minute UBER/Lyft Ride or 20 minute walk each way from the hotel.

There is also a Smoothie King located near the Gallery Place metro station at 703 7th St. NW. A good #FCL strategy for those who don’t want to grocery shop at the congress but still want to save some money on food is to walk to Smoothie King in the morning (about a 5 minute walk) and get a 40 oz Strawberry Hulk smoothie for $9.99. The Strawberry Hulk, as I discussed in my NYC survival guide, is a 1000+ calorie meal replacement smoothie which provides a large portion of most people’s daily calorie and macronutrient requirements and should last you until dinner. I would allow some time to digest before being active in any way if you go this route. [Disclosure: Per the DCBX site, Smoothie King is a DCBX sponsor this year, but this has no bearing on my recommendation, I honestly think the Hulk smoothies are a quick easy way to knock out a good chunk of the day’s calories and macros in one fell swoop for a relatively low cost.]

For your coffee needs, the Starbucks located directly in the event hotel’s lobby is your best bet.

As far as options for your one restaurant meal, there are hundreds of restaurants directly around the hotel, most of them chains, and writing about all of them would be at least one whole separate article. The restaurant I’m looking forward to having at least one of my daily meals out at is New Big Wong, an underground Chinese restaurant located at 610 H Street NW, a short walk from the hotel. They have some of the best General Tso’s Chicken in the city in my opinion.

I’ve also heard good things about Oyamel Cocina on 401 7th Street NW, which I have never been to but which was featured on a TV show I worked on several years ago. They serve grasshopper tacos (no kidding) for those of you with adventurous palates. For those of you with less adventurous palates looking to eat out frugally, good old McD’s can be found at 601 F Street NW near the Metro, with Chipotle located right next door.

Other than these recommendations, Google Maps is really your best friend for navigating the staggeringly abundant food options directly around this festival.

That’s all the info I have… sound off in the comments if you got anything else to add and I’ll see you at DCBX!

– Owen