Toronto’s Caribana Festival has its roots in the Caribbean and made its way to America via immigrants who wanted to retain their West Indian festival tradition. The festival is now an annual celebration of Caribbean culture in Toronto, a city with West Indian immigration dating back to 1796. From steel pan to soca and calypso, the music of Caribana is a true representation of the spirit of the West Indies. This year, Toronto’s Caribana celebrates its 50th anniversary, and two million people are expected to attend.
Caribana Dates & Location
Caribana events kick-off on Thursday, August 1st with an opening church service and continue through Sunday, August 4th, 2019. Events are spread out across the city, but the main Caribana parade will commence at Exhibition Place and progress down Lakeshore Blvd. Find more location information for Caribana events below.
Caribana events range from daytime pool parties to dancehall nightclubs — each promising a full-on Caribbean experience, from the music to the energy and, of course, the food. The celebrations start on Thursday afternoon and continue into Sunday evening. From foam parties to nightclubs and boat rides, there will be no shortage of fun at Caribana this year. Caribana events take place from Thursday through Sunday and range from $20-$50 admission per event.
The 2019 agenda has yet to be announced but the lineup from 2018 should get you inspired:
Tuesday – Carnival Official Launch sees performances from an array of musicians, complete with dancing and colorful costumes. The parade takes place at Nathan Phillips Square and serves traditional Caribbean food.
Wednesday – Lighting of the CN Tower is when the Toronto symbol is illuminated to remember the Emancipation of Slavery.
Thursday – King and Queen Parade gets competitive with men and women being judged on the details of their outfits and how they represent the theme of the festival that year.
Saturday – Grand Parade dominates Exhibition Place & Lakeshore Boulevard with a flurry of vibrant beats and masqueraders, taking over the streets with dancing and confetti.
If you’re looking to attend multiple events throughout the festival, the weekend passes are your best bet. See the ticket section below for more info.
Caribana passes allow you to select from all Caribana events and choose the three that you’d most like to attend. Tickets for each event may also be purchased individually.
Weekend Value Pass – $45/person
This pass gets you three event tickets from Thursday to Sunday. Select from nightlife events only.
Ultimate Weekend Pass – $60/person
This pass allows you to select three different events from Thursday to Sunday for both day and night parties.
Sunday Blocko Pass – $60/person
This pass gets you three events from Saturday-Sunday, including one The Sunday Blocko hosted by DJ Khaled and Fabolous.
Daylit Pass – $60/person
Get three event tickets- one daytime and two nighttime on Saturday and Sunday only.
Weekend Day and Night Pass – $100
Choose three events (two daytime and three nightlife) from Friday to Sunday.
Costumes are an integral part of the Caribana celebration. You’ll find everyone from parade participants to onlookers decked out in feathers, rhinestones, headdresses and the like. Both men and women dress up. There’s absolutely no reason to show up to Caribana without at least a touch of festive garb.
Caribana Grande Parade
There is no doubt that the Grande Parade is the highlight of the weekend. This lively event is the embodiment of Caribbean culture and a staple in the Caribana celebration. Hundreds of performers dressed in extravagant and eye-catching costumes march to the sounds of steel bands as onlookers gather along the route from Exhibition Place down Lakeshore Blvd.
The Grande Parade takes place on Saturday, August 5th at 10 am. The parade is free unless you’d like entrance to the party at Exhibition Place where Masquerade Bands, better known as Mas Bands, will play until 8 pm.
The goal of Carnival Village is to promote and celebrate Caribbean heritage within the local community. Organizers will host educational activities, workshops, performances and concerts for the week leading up to Caribana weekend. Local organizations and community members come together to create this multidisciplinary program. All events take place in Toronto’s Regent Park.
Getting to Caribana
Car – Don’t do it. Seriously.
Metro – The TTC will get you anywhere you need to be during Caribana weekend. Take advantage of this immaculate public transport system.
Walk – Stay close to the festival and walk over. Or better yet, strut over in your fancy costume.
Where to Stay in Toronto
Toronto will be in full party mode for the entire week leading up to one of the city’s largest festivals. Millions of people come from out of town to join the celebration, which means thousands of fully booked hotel rooms. If you still need a place to stay for Caribana, we’ve put together some great finds.
Accommodation options in Toronto range from $44/night in a 2-bedroom house to $336/night 4-star Noah Suites less than a mile from the parade venue. This luxury, downtown Toronto 2-bedroom goes for $64/night. Or stay close to the festival in The Fairmont Royal York for $272/night.
You have options, but they won’t last long. So grab ‘em while they’re available.