Ahh yes, Carnival is BACK! We’re obviously not counting last year because that was a test run and I didn’t participate fully. However, I’m excited for this year and would like to take you guys along for the journey to Antigua’s Carnival. Carnival in Antigua first started in 1957 which makes it one of the oldest carnival celebrations in the Caribbean. Originally started to commemorate the island’s emancipation, it has since grown into an almost 2-week festival featuring culture, pageantry, music and everyone’s favourite – mas!
Dates: July 27th – August 8th 2023
Officially our Carnival celebrations last a little over one week and culminates with Carnival Monday and Tuesday, which is the first Monday and Tuesday in August. There are also a few official pre-carnival celebrations.
Parade dates: Monday 7th & Tuesday 8th August 2023
Antigua has an international airport, V.C.Bird International Airport with direct flights from New York (JFK), New Jersey (EWR), Florida (MIA), Toronto (YYZ) and London (LGW/LHR). Airlines with direct flights include Air Canada, American Airlines (Miami, New York), British Airways, Delta (Atlanta), JetBlue (New York), United (New Jersey), Virgin Atlantic and WestJet. Regional flights are mostly connecting through Barbados, but be mindful of the days. LIAT, InterCaribbean and Caribbean Airlines are major regional airlines that service Antigua.
[Antigua and Barbuda Airport Code – ANU]
WHERE TO STAY?
The official Carnival events all happen in one spot, the Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG), dubbed “Carnival City” which is located in St. John’s (our capital). This is also where mas bands will cross the stage on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Events leading up to carnival can happen anywhere around the island but are mainly within the St. John’s and/or St George parishes (near to the airport). Here’s a list of places I would recommend which won’t require any major travel time. It is advised to either rent a car (sn: we drive on the left and you can get a temporary driver’s licence for US $20) or hire a taxi.
- Tradewinds Hotel, J. Hadeed Street, St. John’s
- Siboney Beach Club, Dickenson Bay Street, St. John’s
- Ocean Point Resort & Spa, Hodges Bay Main Road, St. John’s
- Royalton Resort, Five Islands Village, St. John’s
- Hodges Bay Resort & Spa, Sandy Lane, Hodges Bay, St. John’s
- Air BnBs – there are many accommodation types available all over the island. As customary, you may also opt for AirBnbs as they have more affordable options and can be split among a larger group.
In Antigua there are four opportunities to be on the road for Carnival which also have their various band options. To start off the carnival celebrations, there is T-Shirt Mas. As the name suggests, patrons are given a t-shirt along with other amenities when they join a band. Persons also use this as an opportunity to customise their shirts or wear an outfit which you may normally see as “Monday Wear”. On Carnival Monday there is J’ouvert (3 a.m. – 10 a.m.), you can also join a band here or simply observe from the sides of the streets. The last two are the Carnival Monday and Tuesday parades; on Carnival Monday, bands offer a Monday wear outfit, while on Tuesday patrons are adorned in their full costume (what some islands may refer to as “pretty mas”).
The official parade routes are usually released in July, but traditionally the route takes you throughout the capital city; routes are also slightly different for each parade. The route is just about 2.15 miles but movement can be relatively slow. Bands will meet up and leave from their headquarters/designated spot and make their way through the streets of St John’s. There are various judging points along the way whereby you will be encouraged to get into your section.
Figures listed below are in Eastern Caribbean Dollars (XCD), and the exchange rate is 1.00 USD – 2.70 XCD.
T-Shirt Mas Bands
The average cost to participate is XCD $150 – $300 which usually includes a t-shirt, drinks, food/snacks, and entertainment on the road. The cost can be more for women if you choose a bodysuit option.
Theme: Navy Seals
Theme: Sun, Sea & Soca
$270 (T-Shirt), $300 Bodysuit, $350 VIP
The average cost to participate is XCD $50 – $250 and usually includes a goodie bag (bottle, bandana, and other road necessities), t-shirt, drinks, food/snacks and entertainment on the road. Some of the top bands are:
- Project Sync: Caution
- Chattabox J’ouvert
- Brewmasters J’ouvert
- Revellers from the North: Mardi Gras theme launching April 15th
- Insane Dutty Mas: This is a stationary event with the same concept of j’ouvert.
Costumes range from XCD $1,000 – $3,500 (depending on certain add-ons you may select). Each band normally has their own specific amenities included, but lunch/snacks, drinks and entertainment are guaranteed.
- Insane Carnival “Riddims”
A topical presentation paying homage to music and rhythms from around the world.
Mas camp located on upper High Street, Old lottery building. Check their pages for opening hours.
- Myst Carnival “Aquatica”
A tribute to the ocean’s mesmerizing and enigmatic beauty
Mas camp is located on North Street and Bank Alley in St. John’s
- D’Road Carnival “Glow Mas – Northern Lights”
Monday 7th August
Glow Mas is a Monday Day-Mas experience that transitions from the road into an enclosed fete.
- Sechuns – The Band
“Carnival band geared to merge Traditional Mas with today’s Party Bands.” Various bands will have sections in this band, these include: Revellers, Beautiful People, Fantasy 268, DumzTree, Icons and Designer Chandy Lewis.
- Fuze Carnival Legends of Ankara, Return to the road
- Xclusive Carnival “Beyond the Horizon”
Other bands may be coming on the road, but information hasn’t been published as yet. This post will be updated accordingly.
If you’re in need of makeup services to get road ready, check out the list below for recommended service providers.
- Flawless Beaute Factory
- Devika Richards Beauty
- xAura Creative Services
- Che Artistry
- Glow Beauty Bar
- Face it Studios
The list of official Carnival events which covers most of the cultural aspect of carnival includes:
- Mr. & Miss Teenage Pageant – July 22nd
- Queen of Carnival – July 23rd
- Opening of Carnival – July 27th
- T-Shirt Mas – July 29th
- Junior Carnival / Junior Calypso – July 30th
- Jaycees Caribbean Queen Show – July 31st
- Junior Party Monarch – August 2nd
- Caribbean Melting Pot – a concert featuring local and regional artists – August 3rd
- Calypso Monarch Competition – August 4th
- Panorama – competition for pan groups – August 5th
- Soca Party Monarch Competition – August 6th
- J’ouvert & Carnival Monday – August 7th
- Parade of the Bands & Last Lap – August 8th
For pre-carnival events keep tuned to two6eight promotions on Facebook/Instagram. An event calendar is released for the majority of the summer parties happening and can be used as a guide. However, based on recommendations these are some fetes/events to have on your radar. It also depends on how long you’ll be in Antigua for. (*EB – Early Bird price)
- Blue Jeans
July 8th, 10 P.M.
Event type: Themed Party (Denim wear), Drinks Inclusive (general), All-Inclusive (VIP)
- Red Eye
Event type: Concert, General entry and VIP entry (All-Inclusive)
- Good Morning D’Inclusive
July 30th , 4 A.M.- 12 P.M., $275 (EB)
Venue: The Court Yard, Coolidge Cricket Grounds
Event type: Breakfast Party, All-Inclusive
Event type: Concert, General entry and VIP entry (All-Inclusive)
- Drink Til Yuh Weak: Boat Cruise
Event type: Boat Party, All-Inclusive
- RISE: The Festival of Colors
August 5th, 12 A.M. – 8 A.M.
Venue: Gate #23 South Stand Parking Lot (SVRCG)
Event type: Paint/Water Party, Drinks Inclusive
- Ripple x Tease
Event type: Booze Cruise & Beach Party
- De Breakfas’ Fete
August 6th, EB $300
Event type: Breakfast Party, Performances, All-Inclusive
- Carnival Dreamz
August 5th, 12 P.M. – 8 P.M.
Event type: Day fete, All-Inclusive
Purchasing event tickets is relatively easy with the use of the TickeTing Events app (available on Android and Apple).
You’re bound to get a variety of soca music from across the region at Antigua’s Carnival as well as a sprinkling of dancehall (once the sunsets), but if you’re coming to the island you should at least know some Antiguan soca. Listed below are some of our soca artists and DJs who provide mixes during the season.
Soca Artists (& new releases)
- Tian Winter
- Claudette ‘CP’ Peters (Nat U)
- Ricardo Drue
- Burning Flames
- Red Hot Flames
- Menace XL (Dust)
- Island Prince (Gimme Waist, Vandalize)
- Zamoni (We Bad)
- Ezzy Ratigan
- Young Lyrics (Everybody)
- MJ (Frank)
- Supa Mario (Till Morning)
ATBA asked Chavy (Chavdakid), a creative with a passion for Carnival, what his top 10 carnival tips are to help get you prepared for this experience.
- Get Familiar with the songs
- PACE PACE PACE, don’t play Mr Feter I can do all the fetes – know your limit
- Hydration is important, in between your drinks, coconut water or water is vital (mixing your alcohol with coconut water works also)
- Dress for comfort and not for show, nothing makes you not enjoy a fete more than feeling uncomfortable in what you’re wearing.
- Experience the essentials and you’ll be fine: 1 J’ouvert, 1 Cooler Fete, 1 Inclusive, 1 Boat ride and ofc Mas
- Drink responsibly and know your limits. Yes, you want to have fun but you must always be aware of your surroundings.
- Have a check in system, even if you’re coming solo be sure to constantly have someone to check in with (even if they’re at the carnival or away)
- Consent is key, please fellas and ladies – A no is a NO.
- Stay close to town, everything basically happens around the vicinity of St. John’s so try to avoid Jolly and English Harbour unless you’re sure of transportation.
- Come with the intention of having fun and don’t let anyone else’s experience be your experience.
Group Trip Experience
If you’re interested in experiencing Antigua’s Carnival but would rather not have to plan all the details yourself, check out Fete Fest. An experience hosted by Collin Devon Events (CDE) inclusive of accommodations, transportation, VIP fetes, sightseeing/excursions and more. Persons also have the option of having them book airfares and carnival costume packages. Check out their website for more information.
After an intense two days of jumping on the road, and all the events attended before that, you’ll definitely be in need of a cooldown activity before you return home or go back to work. Plus if you have enough time you definitely need to check out more of what Antigua has to offer.
- Find the perfect beach or beach hop along the south-western coast. Pack your cooler and beach essentials for the perfect beach day relaxing in the sun or soaking in the clear blue waters. Recommended spots: Turner’s Beach, Darkwood Beach, Ffryes Beach, Deep Bay.
- A day pass at one of our many hotels. Here you have the opportunity to just show up and have everything at your disposal, food, drinks and even spa services if you wish. Majority of the hotels are also located on a beach so that covers option one as well. Recommended spots: Blue Waters Resort & Spa, Royalton Antigua.
- Visit a beach bar or restaurant on the beach. Enjoy lunch and have the opportunity to take a swim afterwards or in between cocktails. Recommended spots: Salt Plage, Catherines Cafe, Casa Roots by the Beach.
- A day trip to the sister isle, Barbuda. You can get here by ferry which has daily return trips or by air using BMN Air (these tend to sell out faster).
- See the island from a different point of view by going on a catamaran cruise or booking a private charter. There’s also the possibility of doing an Eco Tour which is more relaxed and educational. Recommended tours: Wadadli Cats, Coco Vibes, Adventure Antigua.
Be sure to check out my Antigua and Barbuda Travel Guide for more information on visiting including activities to do and what to eat. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment. This post will be updated with more information as it becomes available. Feel free to follow the various bands tagged above as well as the Ministry of Creative Industries and Innovation.
See you on the road!
One response to “Your Ultimate Guide to the Greatest Summer Festival – Antigua’s Carnival 2023”
I love the details in this post!
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