One of my goals last year was to visit more destinations in the Caribbean, as that was one area of the globe I hadn’t explored much. I’m really glad I set that goal because I discovered three of my (now) favorite destinations: Dominica, Jamaica and Curaçao. All three of these locales exceeded my already high expectations and besides the stunning scenery, what impressed me most was the deep sense of community I witnessed in each. The people who call these spectacular islands home are some of the kindest and most sincere people I’ve met during my travels.

Even if you’re out of vacation days, there are still plenty of ways to experience Caribbean culture right from home…especially if your home is New York City. From Caribbean Week to top-notch restaurants, here are five ways to celebrate the sun in NYC.

1) Attend Caribbean Week

Caribbean Week is coming to New York June 1-June 5th and it’s shaping up to be a pretty fantastic event. During the 5 day event there’s a lot going on, most notably the Rum and Rhythm Benefit & Auction.. Taking place on June 5th from 6:30pm-10:30pm, the benefit and auction celebrates all things Caribbean, ranging from top-shelf award-winning rum tastings and fresh cuisine to dance-worthy music and folkloric presentations.

2) Splurge on authentic cuisine

New York is arguably the best city in the world for foodies so if you’re on the hunt for flavorful Caribbean cuisine, you won’t have to look too hard. I personally love Cuban food and I have two spots that I highly recommend: Agozar along the Bowery and Cafe Habana in Nolita. Negril Village is another popular spot and conveniently located downtown in Greenwich Village. Heading uptown? Try Cafe Con Leche.

3) Take a cruise

Summers in New York can be painfully hot but not when you’re sailing on a boat. Not only is it a great way to see the city, it’s also a fun way to meet new people. I actually met one of my good friends on a cruise around New York. There are a few different companies to choose from, Circle Line being one of the most reputable. Opt for the “Best of NYC Cruise or take the “Landmark Cruise” instead. Decisions, decisions.

4) Join a parade

Can’t make it to Carnival this year? The Labor Day Parade (or West Indian Carnival) might be the next best thing. Held every year on the first Monday in September, the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn transforms into a lively festival. Several of the Caribbean islands are represented, including Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and Grenada.

5) Dress the part

Having lived in New York for more than five years, I finally reached the realization that about 80% of my wardrobe consisted of black garments. When I arrived in Punta Cana two years ago, the woman at the reception desk asked why I was dressed so somber. I laughed it off but in all honestly, she did have a point. Instead of saving your vibrant dresses for a tropical getaway, get some use out of them right here in New York.

How to experience the Caribbean in New York

*This post is brought to you by our sponsor the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) / Caribbean Week via Cooperatize. 

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