I always hear about the Rios and the Trinidad and Tobago Carnivals, but who knew Toronto had a big festival every year? I’ve even heard and gone to a few festivals that many cities in the US host… but Toronto… never!
Well last Thanksgiving while visiting family in Buffalo, NY, I learned all about this festival. When I returned home, I asked a few friends to see if this was something I was out of the loop on and of course... everyone knew of Caribana in Toronto, but me! After doing a little research, I realized Toronto is one of the easiest ones to attend. Wanting to see what all the hype was about, a group of friends and I packed our bags and made our way to Toronto.
In this post I will I broke down the top 3 things about my Caribana experience.
PACKAGE DEALS For Toronto’s Caribana Festival, a promo/marketing company put together packages that consist of the hotel room and tickets to parties. With these packages, they provide options for several hotels in the city with rates for premium rooms with options of how many in the room and how many nights ones chooses to stay. The festival begins Thursday and goes through Sunday with Monday checkout. I personally stayed for 2 nights and did Friday through Sunday.
Lesson Learned: When asking others to pay for their portion of the room, make sure they actually want to go and have the resources to pay when needed.
When choosing a package, you are sharing the room with your friends or the people you decide to go with. It could be just two of you in a room to four. Of course, the more people you have, at times, the more trouble you have with getting people to pay. People didn’t understand that you have to pay your portion while the packages were available or lose your hotel spot. Unfortunately, I experienced that. I was booted from the first room I reserved because two people out of the four were still debating if they wanted to attend. Due to their lack of making a timely decision and prolonging the process, I lost the hotel room and had to pick another option. Once I found two new people, they paid and we secured the room.
The best part of the process is that everyone has the ability to log in and pay for their purchase of the room. At times, I hate having to front the money for people and hassle them to pay you back the money they owe. Though we were booted from the hotel, we actually ended up with a better hotel that was centrally located. This location made it easier to get around.
PARTY! PARTY! PARTY!
With the hotel packages, you receive the option of getting tickets to parties for each night you stay. Since we were staying for 2 nights, we picked the Lebron James Pool Party for Friday day and Hot 97 Trilogy for Saturday night. They also provided the option to purchase tickets to other parties throughout the weekend.
The Lebron James Pool Party was at some huge abandon warehouse, which so happen had a pool. The only thing I didn’t care for was the price of the drinks and the fact you had to pay extra to get into the pool area. Of course with a little flirting, I gained access to the pool (and a few drinks) and was able to get the full experience of the party. Yes, Lebron James was there, but of course, he was on another level looking down at us as he partied it up with his friends and the chosen ones (females who made their way to VIP). Though we purchased tickets to another party that night, this party fulfilled our party meter and we all crashed after returning to the hotel.
Saturday, after a full day of parades and partying, we made it to Hot 97 trilogy. This party was considered a “must go” so I made sure to attend to see what all the fuss was about. The party was ok. It really wasn’t something to brag about. They did, however, play all Atlanta music from the 2000s to now, so I was content. We clearly missed the memo of the free concerts and the Cardi B party, which seemed to be where everyone was. If I attend next year or go to Caribana in another country, I will definitely ask around more of about the hottest parties so I can be more "in the know".
CARIBANA PARADE AND FESTIVAL
Saturday day is the big celebration of the weekend… the parade! Each float consists of people playing mas as they drive the given parade route. For those who don’t know, playing mas is when an organized group of people who pay for costumes to participate in the carnival bands. These bands dance through the streets with their float to the sounds of soca, steel bands, and calypso. Those that choose to participate are given these really pretty, colorful and elaborate costumes to wear. I definitely what to play mas next time I go!
Being me, I had to make my way to the street and join in with the different bands. In love with the men dressed half naked in their costumes, I took this as an opportunity to act rambunctious and catcall as we laugh and snap pictures. And don’t worry, the men loved every moment of it and posed for all the pics.
Of course, you’ll find all types of vendors selling delicious plates of food, music, and crafts. You’ll also see DJs set up playing the latest hits and swarms of people make their way closer to dance along. After the parade, we made our way to a DJ area and danced into it ended leaving us tired with sore feet. Definitely a good time!
Now that I know all about Toronto’s Caribana, I wouldn’t mind going again or even visiting other countries celebration. I even ran into my sister and cousins, a few people from Houston, and a couple I met last year in Cancun! Next time I’m going to be better prepared, find out more about which parties to attend, and definitely play mas! I’ve even heard they have a huge celebration in London! Now you know I will have to add t
hat to the list! London is one of my top 5 cities so far. I think it's time to do some research... hmmm.
Until the next festival, XOXO