I’d never even heard of The Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival until I was invited to attend it.
I know, I know – I’m supposed to be a travel expert, and here I am completely oblivious. Still, I’m very glad that I know about it now!
So what is the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival? The multi-day cultural event consists of a music festival spanning 3 evenings, a costume competition (held on the first evening), a street parade on the third day, plus local arts and food stalls scattered around the festival site.
While the Nassau carnival in May is the main event, there are other Junkanoo events throughout the year. Nassau has Junkanoo street party parades on Boxing Day and New Years Day, and there is also a mini Junkanoo Carnival on Grand Bahama Island in April.
I attended the main Junkanoo event, so here are my tips on how to have loads of fun at The Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival in Nassau!
Where I stayed:
I stayed at the Warwick Paradise Island. Let me be honest here – I loved that this place was adults only. Not that I have anything against travelling families, but it sure is nice to have the pool to yourself without a bunch of kids splashing and squealing nearby. If you stay at the Warwick, I’d suggest renting a car to get around as the resort is a little far from the festival activities.
If you’d prefer to stay closer to the action of Junkanoo, the Courtyard by Marriott has a perfect beach location between Nassau downtown and the festival site.
Don’t miss Junkanoo World
This place was the highlight of my entire trip. I didn’t expect a Junkanoo costume supply store/museum to be so interesting!
Junkanoo World is managed by a guy called Barabas and his crew. Barabas told us all about the carnival traditions, the costumes, and the community programs that he runs to bring the Junkanoo culture to people all over the world.
At Junkanoo World, you’ll be able to try on some of the costumes and headpieces from previous Junkanoo parades. We had loads of fun taking photos with all the flair! Seriously, this place is an absolute must if you head to Nassau for Junkanoo. Don’t miss it.
Prepare to stay up late
I’m usually a huge fan of being a granny and going to bed early, but I knew that I’d need to stay up late a few times for the music festival. Afternoon naps were absolutely essential to keep me going well into the evening.
I ended up attending 2 out of the 3 music festival nights. Both times, the music didn’t really start until 10 PM. If you’re there to see the headline acts, prepare to stay until the early morning – they probably won’t appear on stage until around 2-3 AM.
By the way, you can see footage from the music festival in my Bahamas YouTube video!
Get flashy + dress up
While you don’t have to dress up for Junkanoo, a lot of people do and it sure is fun to join in.
For the parade, we saw little kids with home-made Junkanoo masks that they had made. It was so adorable! If you visit Junkanoo World, grab a few supplies to make a quick feather headpiece or bead necklace so that you fit in with the festivities.
The evening music festival was all about things that light up. There were stalls near the entrance selling flashing batons, glow sticks, and jewellery. We bought some headpieces which made us fit right in with the crowd. I don’t normally keep items like this so I gave my headpiece to the receptionist at the hotel as I checked out, and she absolutely LOVED it.
Walk around during the parade
Our group tried desperately to find an online route map for the parade and had zero success. All we could find out was that it started at the football stadium and ended at the festival site on Arawak Cay.
We were waiting for the parade near the north end of Nassau St, but it was moving so slowly that we ended up walking down to meet it. This turned out to be a great idea – even though it was crowded, we could follow the most interesting parts of the parade to get photos and then move on.
If you made it to Junkanoo World before the parade, then you’ll probably notice Barabas and his crew in full costume! We caught their float right at the end and they invited us to join them for a bit. If your bucket list includes dancing in a street parade, this is your chance to tick it off!
Do some non-carnival activities, too
There is plenty to do in Nassau, so drag yourself away from the beach/pool for a few hours to do some other activities. You can do most of these on a Nassau highlights tour.
We ended up visiting the John Watling’s Distillery to sample some Caribbean rum, and the Rum Cake Factory for free cake tastings (which was so delicious that I ended up buying an entire rum cake to take back home).
We also spent a few hours wandering around The Atlantis to check out the famous resort, which looks somewhat like a massive pink palace. It’s impressive from every angle and features a water park, 11 pools, a golf course, a casino, and a themed aquarium!
How to get to Nassau:
I flew JetBlue (who currently take the title of my favourite airline!) direct from New York City to Nassau. There are a few other airlines who fly to Nassau from various destinations in USA, especially from Fort Lauderdale or Miami.
There is also the option of taking a Bahamas Carnival Cruise from Miami to Nassau over the Junkanoo dates. I haven’t experienced this one myself but it looks like loads of fun!
*My trip to Nassau was sponsored by Visit The Bahamas, who invited me along with a few other bloggers to cover the Junkanoo Carnival. I’m proud to be an honest and transparent blogger, so every opinion expressed on AGWT is a true review of my experience!