The Ultimate Guide to Caribana (Toronto's Carnival)

The Ultimate Guide to Caribana (Toronto’s Carnival)

The History of Caribana

Inspired by the original Trinidadian celebration, Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival (originally named, and still commonly referred to as, Caribana) was founded with a goal of creating a space for Toronto’s prominent Caribbean community to platform and celebrate the vibrant traditions and expressions of West Indian carnival culture. Initially organized as a gift to Canada to celebrate its centennial in 1967, it has since grown into one of the city’s largest annual events, with almost two million visitors from around the world answering its call every summer. 

Carnival Season & Parade Dates

Although Carnival officially launches on July 11th, events run throughout the summer right up until the week following the celebration’s main event, the Grande Parade, which takes place on Sat., Aug. 5, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.. The Parade moves along the city’s lakeshore route, beginning at Lakeshore Boulevard West and Exhibition Place, located at 115 Princes’ Boulevard. 

Arrivals & Departures

Depending on where you are flying from, there are two airports: Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) and the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ). 


Toronto is a large city so it’s important to think carefully about location when deciding where to stay. Whether in a hotel or Airbnb, for best access to the parade and other events—along with food, grocery and casual nightlife—a stay in the downtown core or its immediate surrounding areas will make for a convenient base for your Caribana weekend activities.

Hotels that are close to the parade route (and book up rather quickly) are:

Local Currency

The currency used in Toronto is the Canadian Dollar (C), though the US dollar is accepted at select businesses. The current conversion can be found here. Most international credit and debit cards are accepted.

Getting Around

Ubers, Lyft, and other rideshare apps are always an option for easy transport—however, depending on how far you have to go, Toronto’s public transit system, the TTC, can be a convenient and affordable alternative. Taking public transit on the day of the Grande Parade is especially recommended as there are several bus and train routes that can take you directly to the Parade grounds for as little as C$3.35 a ride.

Active Bands

In order to participate in the Grande Parade, you will need to register for a costume within a section of a mas band. Prices vary from band to band and can change depending on the kind of costume you decide on (backline, midline, frontline, etc.), ranging anywhere from C$300 to upwards of C$1,200 CAD (approximately $200-$900 USD). 

The active bands for Caribana in 2023 include:

Be sure to do a bit of research before registering in order to find the costume, section and band that works best for you!

Can’t Miss Events

Toronto Carnival carries an event roster that represents a mix of the traditional and  contemporary. In the days leading up to the main event, the official schedule includes annual mainstays such as:

  • July 16: Junior King and Queen Showcase
  • July 22: Junior Carnival Parade
  • July 30: OCPA Calypso Competition
  • August 3: King & Queen Showcase
  • August 4: Pan Alive Panorama
  • August 5: Pan in D’Park 

As for fetes and parties, Caribanal is in no short supply—check out parties and concerts like COZY: CaribanaTsunami, Soca or Die, Scorch: _uck Work, SOS Festival, Sunday Blocko, and JERK for good vibes and plenty of enjoyment! P.S. Get your tickets early, events sell out quickly!

The Road March Experience 

Road March is an incredible experience and will absolutely be the highlight of your Caribana trip. 

Once you’re registered, your band will send you information on where and when to meet on parade day, along with details on food and water provisions for your section. The parade typically runs all day, starting early at 8 a.m., ending at 8 p.m. and runs a route of approximately three miles along Lakeshore Boulevard.

The stage is located at the end of the route, which means that (depending on the placement of your band in the parade) you may not be crossing until later in the day. Additionally, the route itself (though relatively easy to walk) offers little to no shade—to prepare for a long, hot day of liming, be sure to stock up on your summertime essentials (sunscreen, personal fans, portable chargers, etc). 

The J’ouvert Experience

As is Carnival tradition, the night before the parade belongs to j’ouvert and Caribana has a number of offerings. Some of the most prominent events include Jab Jab J’ouvert, a massive paint, powder and water-filled fete that features performances by popular artists, and Friday Night Mas: a glow-in-the-dark concert parade that weaves through the city’s streets. Depending on your j’ouvert preferences, choose either one—or both— for a truly unforgettable pre-parade experience.

The Soundtrack of Carnival

Visitors to Caribana are in for a sonic treat as Toronto DJs are well-known for delivering excellently-curated sets year-round (but especially during carnival season). For the most part, the bands cater to the traditional music of carnival, so expect to hear lots of sweet, sweet soca (with perhaps a small sprinkling of dancehall) while on road. 

Most fetes will also stick to a soca-filled set, although some club-based nightlife events tend to infuse hip-hop and afrobeats into their playlists as well in order to appeal to visitors of all tastes. Our suggestion? Brush up on your 2023 soca beforehand—you’ll be hearing a lot of it.

Plainclothes Attendance

If you aren’t interested in playing mas, no problem at all—the parade can also be accessed by plainclothes spectators. Spectators can purchase tickets to watch bands cross the stage in a seated area that offers options for food and refreshment. Alternatively, the parade can be watched for free on the route along Lakeshore Boulevard.

Note: Entering and participating in the parade without registering with a mas band or paying for a costume, i.e. ‘storming’, is not only considered to be highly disrespectful to the mas, the carnival, and the culture, but also poses extreme danger with issues of safety and overcrowding. This is very highly discouraged, and we encourage you to participate in Caribana in one of the safe and respectful manners outlined above. Respect the mas!

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