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6 Caribbean Carnivals You Can Still Attend In 2024

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Caribbean culture has always been all around me, from the food to the dancehall and soca music to traditions carried out by all of the Caribbean people living in the city. As a youngin, I loved attending the West Indian Day Parade every September because the floats, steel drums, extravagant feathers, and upbeat music made me feel free and gave me a deeper appreciation for the culture.

As I got older, I learned that the yearly Carnivals happening across the Caribbean put NYC’s little festivities to shame. Traveling to the islands themselves and experiencing the people and culture first-hand really gives you a deeper understanding and appreciation for Caribbean culture.


The history of Carnival celebrations in the Caribbean can be traced back to enslaved people who were forbidden from participating in the Pre-Lenten celebrations and thus created their own celebrations and traditions, which over time developed into celebrations of freedom and rebellion. Each country in the Caribbean has its own unique history of celebrations, as well as its own Carnival traditions that set it apart from other festivities.

What started as a Pre-Lenten celebration is now celebrated during a range of months throughout the year and now attracts hundreds of people from all over the world. Here are six carnivals that you should go to this year to experience this culture for yourself.

Crop Over - Barbados Carnival

Crop Over Dates: July 31, 2024 - August 6, 2024

What better place to celebrate carnival than the home of our Bajan Queen Rihanna? While some festivities start as early as May, the official festival season in Barbados starts in July and ends in early August. Crop Over originally started as a way for plantation workers to celebrate the end of the sugarcane harvest season and has now evolved into a much larger celebration. Crop Over is a blend of both old and new traditions, such as the Ceremonial Delivery of the Last Canes, and Cohobblopot, where bands show off their beautiful costumes and play soca and calypso music.

All of the week's festivities culminate with the Grand Kadooment, Crop Over’s big parade featuring all of the bands and droves of people taking to the streets in their beautiful costumes and dancing to the local music.

Other things to do: Visit Hunte’s Garden in Joseph’s Parish and find peace in the picturesque garden while spotting an array of different birds and animals. If you’re looking for beach relaxation, spend a day at Carlisle Bay, the perfect beach for swimming, taking in some sun, and a possible turtle sighting.

Saint Thomas Carnival

Saint Thomas Carnival Dates: April 28, 2024 - May 5, 2024

No passport? That won’t be a problem for U.S. travelers looking to get in on the carnival experience. Saint Thomas, one of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, is known for its crystal clear beaches, scuba diving scene, and overall vibrant culture. The island celebrates its carnival in late April and features a dynamic lineup of events including colorful adult and kiddie parades, calypso competitions, and street parties. Virgin Islanders are known to love to party, so make sure to fill up before the festivities with some local favorites like johnny cakes, callaloo, and conch fritters.

With its rich cultural heritage and lively atmosphere, this is a carnival experience perfect for a first-timer who wants to ease their way into the lifestyle.

Other things to do: Visit one of Saint Thomas’ many turquoise blue beaches such as Coki, Magens Bay, Brewers Bay, or Lindquist Beach. Coki Beach is perfect if you're looking for a more lively experience and want to snorkel without swimming far out, and Brewers Bay is best known for the sea turtles that you can see from the sand. You can also take a short ferry over to Saint John, another of the Virgin Islands, and spend a day at Lime Out, a floating taco and margarita bar.

Spicemas - Grenada Carnival

Spicemas-Grenada-carnival-festival-costumes

Courtesy of Grenada Tourism Authority

Spicemas Dates: August 7, 2024 - August 14, 2024

Grenada, also known as the Spice Isle due to its production of a variety of spices, has one of the most anticipated carnivals every year. During Spicemas, revelers hit the streets for lively music, paint, oil, dancing, and good times. One of the most important aspects of Spicemas is Jab Jab, a celebration that involves covering one's body in black oil or paint. This tradition started as a post-emancipation masquerade, in which former enslaved Africans would paint themselves black emulating a “Jab” derived from the French word diable, which means devil.

This was a way of mocking their former masters and also represented rebellion and freedom. Since then, the tradition has evolved into a staple of Carnival on J’ouvert morning, a celebration of freedom, and undoubtedly an element that makes Grenada stand out from other Carnivals across the diaspora. Outside of J’ouvert, Spicemas is a beautiful culmination of colorful and vibrant costumes, steel band competitions, delicious rum, and music that you’ll dance to all night.

Grenada is celebrating 50 years of independence this year, so just know that Spicemas is going to be extra special!

Other things to do: For the ocean lovers, the Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park is a must-see attraction. It is the world's first underwater sculpture park and a popular excursion for folks visiting the island. This year, five new installations are being added to the park, which can all be viewed through snorkeling, diving, or a glass bottom boat ride.

Antigua Carnival 

Antigua Carnival Dates: July 31, 2024 - August 7, 2024

Every August, carnival lovers flock to the beautiful island of Antigua for its annual carnival festival. First celebrated in 1957, Antigua’s Carnival started as a celebration of emancipation from slavery and has since expanded into a dynamic showcase of local talent, music, and cultural pride. Some events to look forward to are the Party Monarch and Calypso Monarch competitions, as well as the Caribbean Queen’s Competition.

Antigua Carnival is an almost two-week extravaganza that leads into J’ouvert on Carnival Monday and the main parade on Carnival Tuesday. If you love good music, vibrant costumes, and delicious food, this is the carnival for you.

Other things to do: Take a trip to Shirley Heights Lookout for live music and breathtaking panoramic views of the coastline and ocean. And with 365 beaches in total, you’d be missing out if you didn’t fit in a few on your itinerary.

Bermuda Carnival

Bermuda Carnival Dates: June 12, 2024 - June 17, 2024

Also known as Heroes Weekend, Bermuda Carnival may be smaller than some of the other carnivals, but is still a great time. Bermuda is one of the newer carnivals, originating in 2015. Celebrated in June, this long weekend of festivities draws inspiration from other popular carnivals while also highlighting elements of Bermudian culture. You can expect some similar elements as other countries such as daily fetes, soca music, and a parade filled with different bands and extravagant costumes.

They also celebrate Bermuda’s National Heroes during carnival with a national feast. Bermudians have immense pride in their country and culture, and their carnival is the biggest celebration of the year that you don’t want to miss.

Other things to do: Take a day trip to Crystal and Fantasy Caves, beautiful caves formed over millions of years that you can take tours of. Spend a few hours taking in these beautiful natural wonders and seeing some of the formations and underground pools.

Saint Lucia Carnival

Saint Lucia Carnival Dates: July 10, 2024 - July 17, 2024

Home to some of the most beautiful mountains and beaches in the Caribbean, Saint Lucia has the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable carnival experience. Saint Lucia Carnival didn’t take flight until the late 1940s but has grown into a favorite for both novice and seasoned masqueraders. Formerly held in February, this carnival now kicks off in July which allows it not to compete with the highly revered Trinidadian carnival that also happens at that time. Saint Lucia’s Carnival has grown in popularity over the years because of the lively music, delicious food, and turned-up fetes.

One of the highlights is the Parade of the Bands, where masqueraders adorned in elaborate costumes dance through the streets to the rhythms of soca, calypso, and steelpan music. The best way to prepare for the Saint Lucia Carnival is to stay hydrated and well-fed so that you can thoroughly enjoy the plethora of events and parties happening from early morning to nightfall.

Other things to do:The Pitons, Gros Piton and Petit Piton are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the main attractions in Saint Lucia. Take a hike of Gros Piton or just marvel at its natural beauty. If you're there on a Friday night, stop by the weekly Gros Islet Street Party, which is filled with music, drinks, and local food.

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Featured image courtesy of Grenada Tourism Authority

 

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