Updated: Sep 12, 2019
The Caribana festival is the biggest Caribbean Carnival in North America and has been on my “To-Do” list for the full experience for years. The Caribana festival is usually in the heart of summer, around the first Saturday of the month of August, and in the beautiful northern city of Toronto, Canada. I am a Carnival veteran and my friends have been telling me about this Carnival for years but I never fully experienced it. I went to Caribana has spectator many years ago but never played mas. This year one of my good girlfriends said come to Canada and I took her advice. So I last minute packed my bags and was fully ready for the 6 which is the known area code of Toronto!
For Planning, I recommend planning your flight first for this Carnival experience and packing a good bag with all your Carnival or weekend essentials. Toronto is quick flight from many northern cities but if you purchase a last minute flight, prices can increase drastically. This Carnival is very cool to participate as a spectator or masquerader. You can either fly, drive, or take a bus trip to Toronto. Most importantly, pack your passport and get a great fun crew of friends to enjoy the festivities.
For Flying, I recommend Porter airlines to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ). This airport is in the heart of downtown Toronto and walking distance from many tourist attractions like the CN tower. You can really see all the views of the city and walk out from the airport into the city right away which I never seen a city airport so accessible. Porter has great convenient flights and customer service as well. Flights can range from $300-$800 roundtrip depending of the timing of your purchase.
For Staying, I recommend getting a nice Airbnb in the city. Hotels can be pricey and sell out pretty fast. Airbnb is a great affordable option for individuals or group stays. If you have friends or family in the city you can make accommodations to stay with them as well. It’s always best to stay in close proximity to downtown Toronto for all the festivities. I enjoyed my stay with my friend and Airbnb. Airbnb can range from $500-1,500 depending of the timing of your purchase. Traffic can get very busy in the city during Caribana time thus staying close by can really help. You either walk or Uber around the city nicely to attend party events and the Caribana festival.
Caribana was pure vibes this year! This year Carnival in Toronto was one for the books especially with the recent win of the NBA championship of the Toronto Raptors the city was in a winning season and fully crowded of fun activities. It was my first time playing mas in Caribana and I truly enjoyed it and I’m glad I listened to my friend. I was totally impressed with my Carnival Nationz costume and band. Also, I was impressed with the parties and views of the beautiful city of Toronto.
Here are the following (4) recommendations for Caribana:
1. Costume - I played mas in the Kes’s Savannah Grass green section of Carnival Nationz band. It’s a big and known band with gorgeous costumes and vibes. I recommend this band for Caribana Carnival as well. This band had several sections with a variety of colors and the mas camp was actually organized by sections. I literally walked into Mas camp on the last day of pick up and bought a backline costume Savannah Grass in which I did not have a problem with. This is very rare for Carnival veteran like myself. Costumes can range from about $300-$1,400 Canadian dollars depending on the band, section, or type of costume (backline, frontline, or section leader). This band and costume was truly meant to be. It was my first time wearing a green costume and I loved the simplicity of the costume, color, beads, and gems. Plus the flexibility of costume was great for “wining” a famous Caribbean waistline dance down the road.
2. Band – The Carnival Nationz band had one of my favorite Soca artist Kes in the band which was a major added bonus. The band gave specific meet up location and electronic registration requirement for all masqueraders. The band route was in downtown Toronto and food options such as breakfast, lunch, and ice cream was provided on the road. Even though I was not fan of taste of the food the band provided I was overall happy there was enough it. Also, plenty of water was provided to masqueraders. This year Caribana Carnival was extremely hot weather, I even got a tan in Toronto lol. There was a judging point for masqueraders in bands to cross the stage by their respective section similar to Trinidad Carnival. I was surprised to experience this fun crossing with my favorite Soca artist Kes. The band is usually on the road from about 9am to 6pm and playing mas in a band is truly a job. The bad route in Toronto was long and I recommend wearing good sneakers, pace yourself, and drinking lots of water. I had a great time with good friends “liming and chipping” which is fun Carnival term for having fun with friends down the road.
3. Parties. There are so many parties during the Caribana festival and even afterwards as well. I experienced a few epic parties that changed my perspective of clubs and pool parties. I was very impressed with all the party venues during Caribana Carnival from boats, vibes of clubs/lounges, and even pool parties were very nice. These parties had great space, top DJs playing great music, and even breathtaking views of the city. All parties were very planned out and crowded with patrons enjoying the northern city turn up. I enjoyed the Cabana Pool Party, Friends Boat Party, White Sands Boat Party, and Icon night club party. Parties can range from about $40-$80 per ticket to enter venue and the pricing depends on the timing of purchase, venue, or type of party.
4. Views. One of the most beautiful part of Toronto is the iconic “Views” of city which are famously titled of the native rapper Drake’s album. Toronto is city with great 360 views all over with amazing skyscrapers. The city is very clean, modern, has nice people, and is very accessible city to get around. I walked around Toronto plenty of times and visited many tourist attractions such as the CN tower, Art Museums, and Nathan Philips Square. I recommend experiencing the views of Toronto’s tourist attractions and having a fun Carnival experience in the Caribana festival.
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