Girl dancing at Caribbean Carnival Grand Parade

2023 Toronto Caribbean Carnival Festival Guide

Published: July 31, 2023

Want to experience a great party? Don’t miss this year’s Toronto Caribbean Carnival, now in its 56th year! This can’t-miss event is expected to welcome one million visitors in 2023, which makes it the largest cultural festival in all of North America! Welcoming Caribbean nations and some from South America, Caribbean Carnival Toronto is running from August 3 to 7 with the theme of diversity. The event also attracts families, singles, and celebrities from across the continent to its many festivities, parties, showcases, and of course, the signature Grand Parade!

The Toronto Caribbean Carnival is a popular event, with thousands flying into Pearson Airport just for the weekend! UP Express welcomes visitors to Toronto by providing convenient, safe, comfortable, clean, and reliable train service from Pearson Airport to Union Station in downtown Toronto in only 25 minutes! Trains run every 15 minutes, 7 days a week, so you won’t miss any of the festivities waiting for the next train. This makes UP Express the quickest and best way to travel as the whole family can be accommodated with affordable fares and multiple ways to pay.

This guide will help you plan your Toronto visit along with tips, new and can’t-miss events, and why it is an important cultural festival to not only attend and enjoy but understand.

When and what is the Toronto Caribbean Festival

First launched in 1967, Toronto’s Caribbean Festival has grown exponentially each year to become the largest cultural festival in North America! It is also known for creating a feel-good vibe across the city because of its catchy music, energetic atmosphere, and variety of fun events to attend. Kicking off on Thursday, August 3 with Dayfete on the Roof at Toronto Event Centre, you won’t want to miss any day’s events. Check out the full event schedule, and remember that UP Express can get you there in time for all the events you and/or your family are looking to attend and enjoy.

Don’t Miss Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival Grand Parade

Group of revellers dancing at the Grand Parade

Taking place on Saturday, August 5, the Grand Parade is the can’t-miss event of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival. Rooted in the celebration of freedom and emancipation from slavery (acknowledged as Emancipation Day by the Canadian government), the Grand Parade is a Caribbean tradition that features live soca and calypso music while masqueraders show off their beautifully-detailed costumes referred to as ‘mas’ on the island. This one-of-a-kind event provides a vehicle to liberate people who are part of the impact.

This year’s theme of diversity is accompanied by the Toronto Caribbean Carnival slogan “FREE YUHSELF”. This represents freedom from slavery and the expression: come one, come all to the most diverse city of Toronto. Inclusivity is also highlighted, for anyone who wishes to attend is welcome, as they are.

Beginning at Exhibition Place and Lakeshore Boulevard, the streets become filled with masqueraders, revellers, and steelpan performers in a sea of colour, music, art and pulse-pounding energy! It’s this attraction that gives the Carnival its reputation and attracts visitors from Toronto, from other parts of Canada, and from around the world!

Most of the parade is free, but if you’d like to enjoy the parade of the Mas Bands at Exhibition Place, admission is required. Get your tickets to celebrate this important event.

The Grand Parade is your opportunity to get dressed up, avoid the traffic and parking stresses, and experience a fantastic carnival day! Start by getting on the UP Express to Union Station. The Grand Parade is only one-stop away from UP Union Station on GO Transit to Exhibition Grounds, or a quick transfer to TTC 509 streetcar.

Experience the Unique Caribbean Carnival Music

Steel pan

The unique Calypso and Soca music is a key element of the Grand Parade. Calypso is the traditional style, while Soca represents the combination of ‘so’ul and ‘ca’lypso. You’ll likely also hear tassa drumming from Trinidad, reggae music from Jamaica, zuk from Saint Lucia, cadence from Haiti and Dominica, some Lain salsa, and R&B and rap from North America.You will also want to witness the skill and artistry involved in the Steel Pan performances by Caribbean musicians. The best way to do that is by getting your tickets to the popular Pan Alive Panorama put on by the Ontario Steelpan Association on Friday, August 4. Taking place again at Lamport Stadium, you’ll be mesmerized by the one-of-a-kind sounds of the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago.

Hello Stunning Costumes! The King and Queen Showcase

Girl dancing at Caribbean Carnival Grand Parade

The leaders of Toronto Caribbean Carnival Mas Bands will don their elaborate and beautiful costumes and perform for both the Parade judges and the passionate audience! The competitors are judged on their costume details, how the costume represents the theme of their routine, and the performance of the Mas Band’s leader. At the end of the exciting evening, the judges will crown the Toronto Caribbean Carnival: King and Queen.

After these show-stopping live performances and coronation of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival: King and Queen at the Lamport Stadium location on King West, take advantage of Toronto’s Liberty Village neighbourhood for some delicious cuisine from local businesses. Easily accessible from the UP Express Union Station by connecting via the GO Train to Exhibition Station, the event takes place on Thursday, August 3. Tickets will go fast, so don’t miss out!

Interested in creating your own costume for Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival? Sunlime Canada Cultural Group is committed to celebrating the many cultures featured during the Carnival. They have over twenty years of experience in designing costumes and presenting masquerade at many events.

Caribbean Carnival Food

Plate of spicy Jamaican jerk chick legs on rice

There will be a vast array of different Caribbean dishes available throughout the Caribbean Carnival. Don’t miss out on the culinary richness that comes from this region of the world. From homemade sauces, to marinated jerk chicken, lentils, pork, or shrimp; to Jamaica’s “Patois”, ackee, and salted tofu, there is so much variety to choose from! Just be sure to specify the level of spice that you’re comfortable with!

Planning your Visit: Getting to Toronto Caribbean Carnival

The quick, affordable, and reliability that UP Express offers will help you get the most out of your Toronto Caribbean Carnival experience. And while you’re downtown, take advantage of the long list of other things to do near Union Station. There is also the downtown Waterfront, diverse options of incredible restaurants, and plenty of craft breweries to visit while you’re in town.

With so many experiences to choose from, it’s important to get tickets to your favourite events early! But no matter what you and your family choose to attend, there will be no shortage of delicious Caribbean food, culture, music, costumes, great energy, and that feel-good vibe that the Toronto Caribbean Carnival has been known, for over 50 years!

Whatever your plans are for the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, UP Express is the best connection to get you downtown, and for any other fun summer activities in the city. Featuring three key stops at Bloor, Weston, and Toronto Pearson Airport, there’s no better way to start your Caribbean Carnival Toronto experience!