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A traveler’s tour of Caribana, Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival

Shirley Jones-Luke

Fashionistas and shopaholics, take note: Eaton Centre is definitely the place to get your shopping fix. The multilevel metal and glass structure contains many well-known (Coach, Gap, HandM) and newer (Aritzia, Jacob, Mango) stores, as well as a food court that would satisfy the most finicky eater. I could have spent my entire weekend exploring every aspect of the mall, but Toronto had many more treasures to share.

Toronto’s nightlife is another major draw, with a wide assortment of clubs from which to choose. We spent time at Level, a three-floor club that played the latest reggae, RandB and hip-hop hits, and another night at Tonic, featuring old school reggae and soca. Some of our traveling companions went to Fluid, another club playing the latest urban hits, and as we walked through the area, I saw clubs such as Seven, Metro and Republik.

During the Caribana weekend, every club was filled to capacity, with lines out the door and snaking around the building. Celebrities like Akon and Rick Ross were in town to host their own events.

Saturday brought what everyone was waiting for — Caribana’s parade. The event was held on the waters of Lake Shore Boulevard at Ontario Place, a beautiful area with an amusement park nearby and a replica of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

Our group arrived in the early afternoon, just before the start of the parade. We followed the growing crowd to a large gated section where parade participants threw out souvenir whistles and headscarves. Lake Shore Boulevard was lined with vendors selling everything from water to T-shirts. We made our way down the strip, stopping along the way to take pictures and people-watch. We eventually made it to the beginning of the parade route and snagged a prime viewing spot.

After several minutes waiting, the parade began — and what a spectacle it was. The floats and costumes were rich with the color and heritage of the Caribbean. We saw floats from Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados and Guyana, just to name a few, and joined in on the dancing and singing with the costumed participants. We snapped pictures of the men, women and children wearing costumes as the floats passed, with musicians riding on decorated tractor-trailer trucks, laying down the beats.

Our trip back to Boston was filled with laughter and reminiscing on our trip. Being a part of Caribana made me want to continue the experience in Boston. That’s why I’m so excited for Boston’s week of events and activities during its Caribbean Festival Week from Aug. 16-23, all leading up to this year’s Caribbean Festival Parade on Saturday, Aug. 23, from noon to 6 p.m.

I will be there, along with the many thousands lining the festival route singing and dancing the day away.