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There are endless things to do in the Bahamas, with white beaches, blue waters, and fresh coconuts. But there’s a vibrant culture that’s as colorful as the tropical fruit of this idyllic beach scene.
If you want to immerse yourself in the country’s unique culture, look no further than the Junkanoo carnival. This event in Nassau is the bright light of cultural celebration in the Bahamas.
What Is Junkanoo?
Junkanoo is a bi-annual event that celebrates the sights and sounds of the Bahamian culture and takes place on Bay Street in Nassau, the Bahamas. The event occurs throughout the year, with the most popular days being Boxing Day and New Year’s morning.
The Junkanoo carnival is also celebrated on Independence Day, every Saturday in July, and on minor holidays throughout the year. So, why not book a Bahamas Christmas and celebrate the festive period with the Baha people at a Junkanoo celebration?
What Are the Parade's Origins?
There are many theories about where the Junkanoo festival originated, but no one knows exactly where and when it began. Some believe the event originated from enslaved people who had three days off over the Christmas period. They celebrated the time off by singing and dancing in colorful masks.
Others believe it was established by John Canoe, a West African Prince who became a local hero for outwitting the English. The Bahamians may not know the event’s origins, but they sure can throw a fantastic celebration regardless.
Why Is Junkanoo Important to Bahamians?
The Junkanoo carnival is a way of expressing and celebrating culture, dating back over 500 years. This celebration is a time in which carnival-goers can revel in the Bahamian culture, appreciating their roots while having a unique celebration all the while.
What Costs Should I Be Aware Of?
Expenses will involve the following:
- Transport to the island via airport or seaport
- Carnival tickets
- Food and beverages
However, there may be some other expenses, for instance:
- Club entry (read this helpful guide on Bahama’s nightlife)
- Transport to and from events
- Costumes for the event. They can cost in the range of $300 upwards!
An expense that is often overlooked is the transfers to and from your accommodation. However, high-end accommodations, like resorts and hotels, may offer a free shuttle.
Getting to the Bahamas
There are a couple of ways to get to the Bahamas, depending on your budget and your time frame.
Flights from destinations across the US are regular. The most common departure destinations to the Bahamas include:
- New York
Companies such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Qatar Airways offer flights from Europe to the Bahamas! For an alternative option, check out Buzz Airlines.
Cruise liners visit the Bahamas throughout the year. Some family-friendly cruises include:
- The Royal Caribbean
- The Disney Cruise Line & Carnival
Other companies such as Virgin Voyages, P&O cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line also frequently visit Nassau throughout the year. There’s no shortage of cruise options, and they can cater to most budgets.
Here’s all you need to know about planning a cruise trip!
How Far Is Junkanoo Beach From the Cruise Ships?
Junkanoo beach in Nassau is just one mile away from the cruise port! You could take a leisurely stroll to and from the beach without paying for transport.
Accommodations in the Bahamas
The island has accommodation options for all budgets, from luxurious resorts to guesthouses. You won’t be short of options when booking somewhere to rest your head!
Most of the celebrations take place in downtown Nassau, so if you want to be in the midst of the festivities, this area would be the best place to look for a place to stay.
However, most tourists stay in the Paradise Island area of Nassau. From there, you can take taxis to the parades and get into carnival mode.
Depending on when you go, accommodations can get pricey! If you’re looking to stay in a hotel, consider these:
Want to try and get a better deal, or at least better value for money? Then you should definitely explore options on VRBO and Airbnb!
So, Why Go to Junkanoo?
Go to the Junkanoo celebrations to learn and embrace everything Bahamian. The events represent the heart and soul of Bahamian heritage through beautiful celebrations of color and sounds. Junkanoo is all about enjoying life, filling you with joy and happiness through dance, food, music, and togetherness as one big island family.
The competition between the parade groups inspires every celebration to be different from year to year. One thing is for sure... the carnivals are constantly getting bigger and better.
The music is a blend of several different genres, including traditional mento, R&B, and Jazz. If you’re a music lover, then that’s yet another reason to experience the vibrant Junkanoo carnival.
The Junkanoo menu consists of foods sold from food stalls spread along the festival route. There’s also a range of Junkanoo restaurants serving up original Bahamian dishes. Wherever you choose to eat, it’s a flavor bonanza.
Top Tips for Enjoying the Festivities
Choose the Best Spots to Watch the Parade
Private balconies overlooking Bay street are a great option. These come in the form of cafes and restaurants that often stay open during the celebrations.
You need to book tickets for these exclusive balconies in advance to ensure you get the view you want. A good option for this is Athena Cafe bar & restaurant. A select number of Junkanoo restaurants stay open even though the event doesn’t take place until midnight through to sunrise.
Another option that won’t run up a hefty bill is the Bleacher seating located on Shirley street and Bay Street Nassau. Prices here vary depending on the Bleacher’s location.
The best option to watch the judging of the performing groups takes place at Rawson Square, and this will cost the most.
Don’t forget that if you fancy being on the street embracing the Bahamas celebration, you can always be street side for free!
Choose Bathroom Breaks Wisely!
The toilet options for bleachers or street standers are portable public toilets. These can be unpleasant, so to get a nicer toilet, use the bathrooms at the Ministry of Tourism Office next to Rawson Square.
Chat With the Locals
No matter if you attend Junkanoo every year, you’ll never see the same float or costume twice. It’s a place filled with happy souls all looking to bask in the buzz that’s Junkanoo, so get chatting!
Ask your accommodation staff for insider tips and tricks to ensure you get locals’ knowledge to make the most of your time.
Dive Into Bahamian Culture!
The Junkanoo festival is a holiday that embodies the spirit of the Bahamas - colorful, vibrant, and full of life. It’s a time to celebrate the richness and diversity of Bahamian culture. Are you ready to plan your vacation of a lifetime? Why not take the first step with Pilot?