To the naked eye, Canada and the islands of the Caribbean couldn’t seem more different! Yet over the past few decades, Canada’s Caribbean community has grown, flourished, and shaped Canadian culture in a huge way. Thanks to this, there are so many ways these days to experience the music, food, and culture of the Caribbean islands even if you happen to be in Canada. Below are a few of our favorite ways for Canadians and visitors alike to get a taste of the Caribbean in the frozen north.
1. Toronto Caribbean Carnival: The Toronto Caribbean Carnival(also known as Caribana) is an annual summer festival that celebrates the art, culture, and food of the Caribbean. Over the course of several weeks, there are tons of parties, food fests, concerts, Calypso tents, and more! It’s the largest street festival in North America, with over 2 million people in attendance each year (which is bigger than Mardi Gras in New Orleans)! The biggest event is the Grand Parade at the carnival’s culmination, complete with floats, bands, and dancers in lavish, colorful costumes.
2. The Corn Soup King: In the heart of downtown Toronto, the Corn Soup King of Canada can be found. Guayana native Kurt Davson is owner of Vegan Thali, an Afro-Caribbean restaurant, though you can also catch him serving up the hearty soup at festivals too! He’s served the soup around the world and, as a result, amassed a loyal following not only in Toronto, but interntaionally! For those who don’t know, corn soup is a hearty Caribbean street food staple, filled with corn (of course), split peas, peppers and other veggies. Get ready for some of the best corn soup in the world!
3. Mizik Kreyol: Love all things Haiti? Then you better check out the annual Mizik Kreyol festival in Montreal, which celebrates Haitian and Creole culture through great music, food, and games. The Haitian Canadian community has helped turn Montreal into the city it is today and this three-day festival celebrates that. It’s full of concerts and parties, but also aims to bring the local Haitian community together through a huge board game zone, complete with board games, dominoes, cards, and jacks. The festival also has a fun Kids Corner with face painting, kids games, and tons inflatable bounce houses! And don’t forget the food, because here you’ll find your favorite Haitian foods such as Griot (a Haitian staple), fried Plantains, and Pikliz (Haitian pickled relish) as well as unique Haitian-Canadian fusions. Yum!
4. High Roller Thrills: Imagine yourself on a Caribbean island, enjoying the balmy nightlife and winning big at a swanky casino. The name of the game is Caribbean Stud Poker, a twist on poker first introduced at the King International Hotel on the Caribbean island of Aruba. It’s played directly against the house instead of fellow players. Many online casinos these days also have Caribbean slots. Slot lovers can check out Leo Vegas Casino or Lucky Nugget Casino, which have Carnival slots and Treasure Island slots. Our favorites can be found at PlayOjo Casino, which is among the online casinos in Canada that offer Live Caribbean Stud Poker. These days you don’t even need to leave home to feel the island vibes!
5. Taste of the Caribbean: Every summer for the past 20 years, fans of all things Caribbean have headed down to the Taste of the Caribbean festival at the Old Port of Montreal. At this yearly festival, you’ll get to experience the arts and eats of Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba, and many other Caribbean locales in one place. In addition to plenty of concerts and shows, there are also dance workshops, a Rum Zone, and plenty of delicious food. Here, you’ll find both traditional foods as well as uniquely-Canadian fusions like Jerk ChickenPoutine!
6. Club Balattou: While you’re in Montreal, the legendary Club Balattou is a must! On weekends, DJs and local bands get busy for evenings of tropical dance and world music, ranging from Rumba to Reggae, Zouk to Calypso, and everything in between! In addition to its regular nights filled with a lively dancefloor, Club Balattou also recently started hosting a cabaret-style show with a live orchestra every Thursday to Sunday evening, playing Caribbean music classics, in addition to other music styles from around the world.