Visiting Trinidad for Carnival with Teens
A friend once told me, “You’re like that woman who’s got a crush on a guy and can’t see any faults. You have a crush on Trinidad!” Maybe I have a slight crush, but if so, it’s lasted for 20 years since my first visit for Carnival. On the 20th anniversary and with many visits in between, I returned for Carnival again, but this time with my teenage children in tow.
I’ve seriously considered if Trinidad Carnival is a trip a family could make if they had no one to guide them during their stay. Trinidad is not your stereotypical Caribbean island with beach resorts and quiet days by the pool. Trinidad does not depend on tourist dollars and is often busy, loud and gritty. It is also filled with music, addictive food and people with a sly wit who know how to have a good time. Let me emphasize that: they know how to have a good time. Carnival multiplies all of this times ten. So I’d say Trinidad Carnival isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for some.
During Carnival there are so many events that it would be difficult to see them all. Here’s what I’d suggest for a first visit for Trinidad Carnival with teens and kids.
4 Favorite Trinidad Carnival Events for Kids & Teens
1. Trinidad Kiddies’ Carnival
Held on Carnival Saturday, this event gives you a great taste of the bigger event for the adults held later in the week. As with the adult’s event, there is a contest for best costumes and bands, which are groups of masqueraders sharing a common theme. However for this event, the bands are made up of children, some quite tiny. Grab a free seat in the stands, get ready to be immersed in Carnival music, and enjoy the parade of costumes.
2. Steel Band Camp
Steel drums were created in Trinidad, and if your only experience with steel drum music is listening to a single drummer, seeing a full band will rock your world. The large steel drum bands may have over 100 different sized drums and practice for many hours leading up to the final contest called Panorama.
Down the hill from Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre is the practice area for the Renegades, one of the oldest steel drum bands. You’ll be able to hear the band practice from the Hilton. Visitors are welcome, so wander down the hill once you hear the music to get an up close view of one of these amazing bands. I think the ground literally shakes from the force of so many drums.
J’ouvert is the kick off to the final two days of Carnival and starts before dawn on Carnival Monday. Find a reputable band to join online and decide whether you want to be covered in paint or mud. You’ll crawl out of bed and wonder why you’re doing such a crazy thing as dragging your teens out in the middle of the night. But then the Carnival music starts, blasting from speakers piled on trucks, and you’ll dance down the streets in the dark, eventually watching the sun come up on Carnival Monday. Your teens will think it’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever experienced and so will you.
4. Maracas Bay
Make time for an afternoon at Maracas Bay, If you get out there “early” in the day (like 10 am), you’ll mostly have the beach to yourself. It’s a beautiful little beach, a lovely drive, and some of the best, the absolute best, shark and bake you can find.
Tips for Visiting Trinidad Carnival
Attending Carnival with kids means missing a few days of school, since it’s usually held in February or March, immediately before Ash Wednesday, but it’s a trip that I think is worth the extra work to catch up. Plan to book your airfare and hotel as far in advance as possible. Hilton Trinidad is an excellent choice as it’s located right above the Savannah, where so many of the Carnival events occur. However, don’t expect your hotel room to be an oasis of calm during Carnival. You will be able to hear music, and hear it pretty loudly, nearly 24 hours a day.
I don’t recommend renting a car; taxis are easy to come by and reasonably priced. Driving can be a little harrowing if you’re not used to driving on the left and to driving fairly aggressively. You can walk to the Savannah, but keep in mind that you will have to cross two busy roads, includimg one without a crosswalk or streetlight. Certainly at night, especially, you may want to spring for a taxi.
I hope you take the leap and experience an amazing Trinidad Carnival for yourself.
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Andrea is a single mom in Arlington, Virginia with a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. Her children took their first trips when they were just four…