A Newbie’s Guide To Toronto Carnival (Caribana)
Toronto Carnival is back this year, and there is so much to get excited about!
Filled with vibrant sounds, dazzling costumes, incredible food, and captivating dances, The Toronto Caribbean Carnival (TCC), AKA Caribana, is North America’s largest street festival and one of Toronto’s most beloved cultural traditions. After a 2-year hiatus due to Covid-19, those of us who have suffered from Tabanca (a deep longing for Carnival), are incredibly excited to see the TCC making a comeback to Toronto’s festival scene.
WHAT IS IT?
Originating as a celebration of Caribbean culture, the multi-day event embraces historical traditions while also acting as a festive homage to freedom, diversity, and inclusion. It’s basically a giant three-week-long party that encourages everyone from all walks of life to come out and partake in our culture, dress up, and have fun!
WHERE IS IT
Known as the most multicultural city in the world, Toronto, Ontario plays host to this incredible multi-day event. Embracing the glittery sights, soca sounds, and mouthwatering tastes, it’s your number one destination if you’re really looking for that immersive festival experience.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
Itching to play Mas this year? You’ll first need to join a Mas Band (and no I don’t mean a musical group), Mas Bands house the group of masqueraders that participate in the parade. Each year, Mas Bands select a theme and create costumes that coincide with that theme. In Toronto, Mas Bands typically launch their costumes for Carnival sometime in Spring between March and May. Once you’ve decided which Mas Band you’d like to play with, you’ll then need to purchase a costume. Costumes vary from basic bejewelled bodywear to large feathered backpacks. Once you’ve selected your costume you are now considered registered for the parade. It’s highly recommended that you register early. Costumes are hand made to order and sell out quickly! Read my full guide on how to play mas in Toronto for Caribana here.
HOW TO GET HERE
Thanks to planes, trains, and automobiles, there are actually quite a few ways to get to Toronto (hurray!)
Travel By Plane
With flight prices being as cheap as they are right now, flying is definitely a great option!
For those coming International – Pearson (YYZ) is the larger and more international of the two ports, with way more flights and airlines passing through if you’re looking for affordable, reliable, and regular airfare. It’s also 100% your best bet if you’re looking to connect from a farther location.
Heads up though, flying into this mammoth of an airport might be more convenient flight-wise, but, due to the fact that it’s actually located out of the city limits, you’ll have to navigate into the city once you land. It’s about a 40-minute drive or a 25 minute ‘Up Express’ train ride into the centre of the city.
For those looking to keep their flights a little smaller, more compact, and a wee bit more centralized Billy Bishop (YTZ) is the way to go.
Just make sure before you hop on either that your passport is valid (+ will be for at least 6 months) and that you’ve got your bags packed and ready to go!
Travel By Car
If you’re looking for a road trip, there are a lot of great ways to drive into the city! Routes into the city will change based on where you’re coming from, but the 401, 400, QEW, and Gardiner are great veins into the heart of it all.
*Pro Tip: Download the Green P parking app before you get here so you can pay for street parking with ease.
Travel By Train
Looking for a more scenic route? For those based in Ontario who don’t reside in the city centre, then our super handy train system, GO Transit is your best option!
WHERE TO STAY
Now that you’ve landed it’s about time you get settled. Make yourself at home in any of these local, hotels and homes.
Airbnb or VRBO
If you’re looking to live like a local, Airbnb or VRBO is definitely the way to go. With thousands of options to choose from you can live the city life in anything from mansions to condos.
If getting the full vacation experience is what you’re looking for – then definitely check out one of these local options.
For the Fancy Crowd: Four Seasons, Shangri-La, King Edward, or the Ritz Carlton
For the Downtown Crowd: Hotel X, The Broadview Hotel, Gladstone House, or The Drake
For the Budget Crowd: The Anndore House, Pantages, or The Beverley Hotel
Food is most definitely one of the best parts of Caribana and with so many restaurants, and food trucks around there are endless options and so many incredible flavours to try. A full blog post on the very best food spots Toronto has to offer is coming soon!
If you’re looking to really embrace the Caribbean vibe, then you’ll have to head to Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen. Located downtown, it’s the epitome of soulful hospitality with a Jamaican twist. Offering a focus on vibrant home-style cooking, their dishes are a modern twist on Caribbean classics, and every bite is infused with comfort, love, passion, and pride.
Bringing aromatic spices together with rich Caribbean flavours, Taste Seduction is a fabulous spot for gourmet Jamaican and International cuisine. With plenty of gluten-free options, they’re definitely a great go-to if you’re looking for something fresh, delicious, and easy.
Pat’s Homestyle Jamaican Restaurant:
Wanna eat some of the best Oxtail in town? Pat’s Homestyle Jamaican restaurant is definitely your go-to! They might not have a website, but what they lack in digital presence, they certainly make up for in flavour. Offering time tested classics like Curry Goat, Jerk Chicken, fried plantain and Roti, they’ve got enough to go around and are conveniently available for delivery!
Looking for new flavour fusions and twists on old classics? Patois Restaurant is where you’re going to find all that and more. With options that include ‘Pineapple Burgers’, ‘Fried Chicken and Caviar’, and ‘Michiba Crispy Brussel Sprouts’ – they’ve definitely got more than a couple of options that are sure to peak your taste bud senses.
Ready to play mas at Toronto Carnival?
Get the most out of this spectacular festival that draws in millions from all over the world by jumping into the beautiful, colourful limelight that is Toronto Carnival. Enjoy the vibrant street art performances, festivities, and all of the glitz and glam that comes with it! Sign up to register with Sunlime Mas for Toronto Carnival (Caribana) 2022.
Can’t wait to hit the road with all of you!