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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

So You're coming for Caribana

You've heard about Caribana, and you've always wanted to come. But where do you start? Here's a Caribana visitors guide to the events, accommodation options and other must-see's in Toronto.

Visitors often ask what hotel to stay at, and even which hotels are close to the parade. Really, it doesn't matter where you stay. Many of the events are not in one neighbourhood. Staying downtown is your best bet though, for convenience and location to attractions. To find your hotel, go to: http://www.hotels.ca/
If you like a more personal touch, bed and breakfasts are the unique way to go. I've stayed at the Homewood Inn a few times and would recommend it. Check out the Toronto B&B site for many options.
As far as transportation goes, I would suggest taking the TTC rather than taxis, as cab rides in the city have gone up. A day pass for $9 is a smart idea, and it's good for 2 adults and 4 kids.
The festival starts with the official Launch on July 14, Junior Carnival on the 18th, the Gala on the 24th, Pan Alive on the 31st, and the Parade on August 1st. The complete list of Caribana events is on the Caribana festival site.

There are some musts for me. Junior Carnival is a wonderful chance for kids to start playing mas. It's also the parade you'll want to bring your kids to, as it's catered to children and has small crowds.

King and Queen is the opportunity for the bands to showcase their amazing colourful and shining creations. Seeing them dance on stage in the evening gives me goosebumps. King & Queen and Pan Alive are both held at Lamport Stadium, King St. West.
The parade itself begins outside of Exhibition Place (Princes Blvd.) & goes for 4 kilometres along Lakeshore Blvd. West. With over a million spectators, you can imagine what traffic is like, so take a streetcar to the CNE. Prime spots along the parade route are nabbed in the morning. Do be prepared for the sun, even rain, and to wait. There's often a long gap between bands, which isn't pleasant for spectators, so be ready to lime with drinks and food you've brought with you. Vendors along the route sell Caribbean cuisine, and there are several ice cream trucks.
What's better: watching others have fun, or having fun yourself? Instead of looking at the masqueraders behind the fence, be one yourself! Your Caribana experience will be so much more fulfilling if you play mas. There are 15 bands, many not sold out yet.
Check out the costumes the bands are designing (go to Toronto Mas Bands list), register, and get ready to jump, wine and wave!

When it comes to fetes - outdoor fetes, foam fetes, dj fetes, boat cruises, blockos, and Soca nights at clubs, you're going to want to refer to Toronto Lime. There's something for every taste and age group. Most of the clubs are in the entertainment district (King St. West area), and the bigger fetes like Fire Fete and Glow are at venues in the Harbourfront neighbourhood. Carnival in Yuh Backyard is in the north end of the city at Wild Water Kingdom, my personal fave fete spot.

De Caribana Lime - Island Festival! held on Toronto Centre Island (Olympic Island) is a fun family vibe where you can lime the day after the parade with music, entertainment and food. With the current City of Toronto strike, there's no ferry service, so this event is pending.

There are not only Caribana festival events happening in the city that you'll want to check out. The Harbourfront Centre (Queens Quay West) features free visual arts exhibitions, concerts, dance performances, cooking demos and films. Roy Cape and the Kaiso All Stars and The Mighty Shadow will perform on the Sirius Stage on July 31. Did you read free? Yes, you did! I'll never forget seeing Machel Montano in 2007. With the water behind me, and everyone doing the Jumbie dance, it was one of my favourite Soca performances in 10 years.

For information on more free things to do, and concerts, the many festivals, summerlicious, shopping, and events like the Honda Indy Toronto, go to Toronto.com.

Take in as much as you can of North America's largest Caribbean festival, and I'll bet it won't be your last visit.


IslandChic said...

Great info Karabana!

I heard a rumour that due to the Toronto Worker's Strike, Caribana may be cancelled? Does anyone have info on this situation? Has this ever happened in the past? Will the festival co-ordinators hire their own cleaning service? What will happen if you already purchased your costume?

Trini-in-Toronto said...

I don't think the union will stay on strike until August.(Toronto is not Windsor). That might just be wishful thinking though. As far as a private cleaning service... I don't think Caribana has Gay Pride levels of finances. Lets just hope the strike is over sooner than that.

IslandChic said...

I heard end of summer so hopefully they come to an agreement!

Anonymous said...

I really hope it doesn't get canceled, that would be really disappointing.

I wonder the same with what IslandChic said.

And I have another question..."A day pass for $9 is a smart idea, and it's good for 2 adults and 4 kids."

Where can I get this day pass?

Trini-in-Toronto said...

The day pass is available at any subway, or at corner stores that sell bus tickets.
I heard they are selling a special 2 day Caribana pass with some kind of Caribana logo as a souvenir. (Read the fine print thought, I haven't seen it myself, but I heard its a little cheaper to buy two normal daily passes) But if you want one as a souvenir, it might be cool

Anonymous said...

So, this day pass will work just for TTC and Taxi? Or just TTC?

Karabana said...

TTC day passes include subways, buses & streetcars, not taxis.

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