+1 (Honorable Mentions)
For Carnival on a smaller, more interpersonal level, where you can immerse in a unique local culture while also spreeing up to your hearts content, Culturama is a good choice. Held each August for seven days that culminate over Emancipation Weekend, Culturama has a little bit of everything — Calypso tents, village street jams, fashion shows, beach and house parties, swim suits contests, night dances, boat rides and drama presentations. Through it all, visitors get a true sense of the real Nevis. —Steve Bennett/Uncommon Caribbean
Notting Hill Carnival, London
Some of the largest and liveliest carnivals don’t take place in the Caribbean but in the diaspora capitals of London, Toronto, New York and Miami, where they’re fed by the diversity of large populations of people from multiple Caribbean islands living side by side. Notting Hill Carnival has grown over five decades from a local community event meant to stave off then-growing racial tensions into Europe’s largest street festival. Held each year on England’s August bank holiday Monday and the preceding Sunday, today it attracts upwards of one million people to the now-gentrified Notting Hill and surrounding North London areas like Ladbroke Grove.
Toronto’s Caribana (or, technically, the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival, as it’s now known–the story behind this is long and drawn out) is celebrating its 45th birthday this year. It brings West Indians of all nationalities together over the course of events leading up to a large road march in August. It’s the largest Caribbean festival in North America, with millions of people dancing in the streets.—Erin MacLeod
West Indian American Day Carnival, Brooklyn
No one really calls Labor Day Weekend in Brooklyn “Carnival,” but it has most of the hallmarks of one, namely a vibrant street parade (with enough masqueraders, steelpan players and floats to capsize one of the smaller-sized Caribbean islands—over 2 million people every year, according to some estimates) and an epic j’ouvert to kick off things the night before.
Miami Carnival (or Miami Broward One Carnival as it’s now known) has the unusual distinction of taking place in the parking lot of a football stadium in an unpopulated area north of its titular city. Taking place in October, it’s particularly popular among New York-based Caribbeans, who come down to South Florida in droves seeking post-Labor Day thrills.