Towering stilt dancers in the streets. Catamarans racing across the Caribbean Sea. The beats of calypso and soca music. When it comes to festivals in the U.S. Virgin Islands – expect the ultimate party.
From watching the mango-eating contest on St. Croix to costumed dancers and floats during Carnival on St. Thomas and St. John, these are seven popular celebrations you must experience when visiting the islands.
Mango Melee (St. Croix)
A celebration of the sweet and fragrant mango, the St. George Village Botanical Garden throws a family-friendly party in honor of this mangonificent fruit in July. In addition to local artisans, dancers, musicians, and food vendors, the event features chefs, home cooks, and mixologists serving up mango recipes in a “Mango Dis, Mango Dat” cooking competition that spotlights everything from snacks, stews, and sweets to creative cocktails and chutneys. If you haven’t gotten your fill of this tasty tropical treat after indulging in the sample line, you can also try your hand (and challenge your stomach) at the mango-eating contest. Don’t miss out on the silent auction in the Great Hall, where an array of tropical fruits are up for grabs.
Carnival (St. John, St. Thomas, St. Croix)
Colorful costumes. Masquerades. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Carnival is the biggest celebration of the year! From moko jumbie dancers on stilts to parades where crowds dance in the streets as calypso and reggae music play, the island people of USVI take honoring their ancestors seriously. St. Thomas kicks off the celebrations post-Easter, featuring a month of parades, fireworks and unique events like the greased pig contest, calypso tent comedy shows and crowning the Carnival King and Queen. The smallest of the three carnivals is on St. John, a month-long series of events beginning in early June. Celebrating the end of slavery, the festivities include the Independence Day Parade, a food fair and concerts with local and international performers. Rounding out the events is St. Croix’s Crucian Christmas Festival in December, which runs through the first week of January. Stroll through the Festival Village, watch the children’s and adult parades, dine on delicious local cuisine from street vendors and dance to the tunes of soca bands.
Jump Ups (St. Croix)
In the Caribbean, the term “jump up” means “to dance,” and that’s exactly what you’ll do during these Christiansted events. Held four times a year (with the biggest around Valentine’s Day and others in May, July, and November), these social events close down the streets for a night and fill them with local musicians, craftspeople, entertainers, food and drink vendors, and stilt-walking moko jumbies. It’s like one big block party and one of the best ways to experience the true spirit of St. Croix.
Virgin Island Jam Fest (St. John)
Enjoy incredible views of Hawknest Bay and great music at this three-day music festival on St. John. A cozy and intimate affair (only 350 tickets are available), this event is hosted by the Windmill Bar starting the first Thursday in March. Relax on the hill above the bay, sway to the music of local bands and experience the sounds of paradise from musicians such as Fortunate Youth, Black Rabbit and Erin Hart, aka Island Girl Music!
International Regatta (St. Thomas)
For three days in March, the St. Thomas Yacht Club welcomes sailors from around the world for this fast-paced event known as the “Crown Jewel of Caribbean Regattas.” Since the first race in 1974, sailing teams have flocked to St. Thomas to compete in a variety of unique courses and races, navigating the Caribbean currents with the hopes of achieving top honors. Extend the fun by arriving a day early to watch the kick-off event, the “Round the Rocks” race around neighboring St. John.
Paradise Jam (St. Thomas)
Basketball on the beach? You bet! This annual November tournament hosted by the University of the Virgin Islands brings together NCAA schools for the ultimate head-to-head matchups from both the men’s and women’s leagues. Both tournaments take place over a few days, and there’s plenty of downtime between tip-offs to soak up the sun, go on a shopping spree, and savor the local fare. If you’re a die-hard b-ball lover, grab a fan package, which includes accommodation, tickets to every match, and other perks.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade (St. Croix)
Throw on your green, throw back a good beer, and feel the luck of the Irish on St. Croix. You’d never expect to experience St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the Caribbean, but for the past 50 years, Christiansted has held its famous parade on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day.
Watch themed floats, bands, dancers, and more—think Mardi Gras mixed with Carnival—while the downtown restaurants and bars keep the fun rolling with delicious food, cocktails, and live music.