The Virgin Islands has been one of the success stories of Caribbean tourism lately, claiming the highest hotel occupancy across all Caribbean destinations from June 2021 to May 2022. And hopes are that the numbers will soon match or exceed their pre-pandemic levels, as stayover visits hit a record 31 million high in 2019. From pristine beaches along turquoise waters to heritage sites, tourists have plenty of reasons to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands, indeed. But many travelers are also coming to experience the culture, building their trip around rich festivals and world-famous sports events.
Crucian Christmas Festival
The Virgin Islands comes alive during Christmas, and St. Croix even more so. The largest of all United States Virgin Islands, St. Croix is a beacon of history and cultural heritage. And winter holidays are celebrated with a unique local flair, putting on a show of pageantry, music, and dancing. Dating back to the early 1800s, when enslaved Africans were granted some time off to celebrate the Nativity, the Crucian Christmas Festival became an annual festival of events in 1952.
This month-long celebration kicks off in December with the opening of the official Festival Village in Frederiksted. While much of the action happens in the island’s second-biggest town, many events are held throughout St. Croix, including cultural activities and soca competitions. The Carnival then culminates around Three King’s Day in January with the infamous Children’s Parade and Adults’ Parade.
St. John Festival
Next up is another festival deeply rooted in ancient traditions. The Carnival has been a big deal in St. John for well over a century, as residents used to celebrate masquerades when the islands were still part of Denmark. Yet, the first official St. John festival dates back to 1945. Since then, the parades have long become the most anticipated event of the year.
The celebrations start in June, showcasing the rich local Caribbean culture through yummy food stalls, music performances, and even quirky steelpan shows. Lively parades and concerts eventually lead up to the festival’s highlight on the fourth of July, which jointly celebrates long-standing traditions and US independence. The spectacular Parade Day kicks off in the early hours with the J’Ouvert festival and lasts into the evening, building up to a fireworks display by the Cruz Bay Harbor.
St. Thomas International Regatta
The Caribbean Sea is one gorgeous backdrop for a sailing race. And the island of St. Thomas proudly boasts one of the world’s most prestigious yacht races. The St. Thomas International Regatta is an annual event that attracts skippers and crews from around the globe. Sailors tame the seas for three days while spectators soak up the scenic surroundings of the Lesser Antilles. Besides this so-called “Crown Jewel of the Caribbean,” tourists also have many opportunities for a sports-oriented vacation.
In December, runners may compete in a marathon along the picturesque shores of St. Croix. As for professional competitions, St. Croix is regularly home to must-do events for triathletes, hosting world-class athletes once more on November 27 this year. So, triathlon enthusiasts may already place their bets on top online bookies. While sportsbooks offer an array of odds, decimal odds are usually the most common. Fairly straightforward to understand, they only take a simple “stake x odds = payout” formula to calculate. Thus, punters can quickly evaluate how much their potential winnings might fare. And the best online sportsbooks boast many more options to make bank out of, from water sports to wildly popular participation sports.
St. Croix has much in store to keep party people entertained all year. Throughout the Caribbean, “jump up” is another term for “dance.” And Jump Up events bring cheer to the streets of Christiansted four times a year. Akin to a carnival, this cultural party takes the city’s downtown by storm in February, May, July, and November. Visitors may check the official calendar to plan their stay.
On the big day, things heat up at 6 PM. Streets close for the occasion, while retail stores and restaurants stay open until about 10 PM and street vendors cater to foodies and shopaholics. On a cultural note, Jump Up festivities also showcase moko jumbies. Originating from West Africa, these traditional stilt dancers parade up and down the streets during carnivals and Jump Up nights alike.