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Caribana is a massive, long weekend celebration of Caribbean culture that has been taking place in Toronto for nearly five decades. The festival is one of the biggest carnivals in the world—a million people head to Toronto every August to perform, party, and show off the incredible masquerade costumes they spend the first part of the year working on. Here’s why you’ll want to pack your sunscreen and head to The Six to see how Canada does Caribana next summer:
From the floats to the bands to the dancers sweating it out to the sounds of steel drums and soca, everything is about 100 degrees hotter than any other parade you’ve been to. Caribana’s main event may be called a parade, but it’s really a moving, dancing party that takes over the city’s Lakeshore Blvd.
Caribana is the only time a year you can walk around Toronto wearing 6-foot-high wings without anyone giving you strange looks. Parade veterans call it “playing mas” and often spend hundreds of dollars on all-out, over the top masquerade looks. Of course, costumes aren’t required, but if you love dressing up, Caribana is definitely for you. The King and Queen competition is the kickoff to the weekend—that’s where the costumed performers and Mas bands compete for the Caribana crown. Check out one of this year’s winners:
Toronto is a great place to try out a wide variety of different cuisines year-round but during Caribana, the best Caribbean food in the city is all available in one central spot, from dozens of vendors that line the parade route. Think Jamaican jerk dishes, Trinidadian doubles, and West Indian roti as well as curries, patties, cane juice, BBQ butter-dipped corn on the cob, and drinks that come in pineapples and hollowed out watermelons. Caribana pro tip: get two—staying hydrated is key.
Has it ever rained during Caribana? Hmm. Let us just think about that…
The August long weekend is a hot one. After sweating it out at the parade there’s no better party that a Caribana pool party, official or unofficial. Don’t worry—you don’t have to head to a friend’s parent’s house in the suburbs. Toronto has poolside bars like Cabana, Muzik, and the rooftop pool at the Thompson Hotel—all of which are excellent places to keep the celebration going.
The three-night, Drake-curated OVO Festival has boosted Caribana’s cool factor for seven years running as the Toronto rapper brings in artists like Future, Dvsn, Big Sean, and J. Cole to be part of the lineup. The buzz is always around who’ll be the surprise special guest, though. This year it was Drake’s maybe-girlfriend Rihanna.
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