Nassau is known for...
Junkanoo, a street festival dating back to slavery, is the most vivid form of Bahamian cultural expression. Participants gather in the wee hours of the morning to "rush" in costumes down the main Bay Street in Nassau. Thousands of dancers and musicians adorned elaborate and colorful hand-made costumes and compete for top prizes in music and dance. The parade is most similar to Brazilian Carnival but instead of recorded music, "Junkanooers" shake cowbells, use whistles, blow brass instruments and beat goat-skin drums. The major parade takes place twice a year—Boxing Day and New Year’s Day but you can catch a glimpse of a mini “rush out” as a part of the entertainment options at any of the major resorts or restaurants.
Whether you’re eating at a high-end resort restaurant or catching a meal at an outdoor casual eatery, you’ll be sure to find conch (pronounced konk) on the menu. The sea snail is a food staple in The Bahamas. Eating it raw in a spicy conch salad is the most popular—a combination of diced conch, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, lime and scotch bonnet peppers seasoned to taste with salt and black pepper. Natives believe that conch is a natural aphrodisiac and often encourage couples to partake in the dish if they want to increase their fertility odds. And if you’re not keen on eating the mussel raw, try it in conch fritters, conch n’ rice, cracked conch or conch chowder.
3. Bay Street:
Bay Street is where Nassau’s two major industries of tourism and banking collide. It’s not uncommon to see vacationers in swimsuits walking beside business professionals in the heart of historic Nassau. For centuries, Bay Street has operated as the country’s center for trade and business. Every year millions of tourists flock to Bay Street to enjoy a mix of pubs, cafes and art galleries and to bargain hunt and buy duty-free items. International designers like Gucci, Breitling and Fendi all have storefronts on Bay Street. A visit to Nassau’s famous Straw Market is a must—it reopened in 2012 after a devastating fire in 2001. The Straw Market is the best place to find handcrafted straw goods including handbags, hats and dolls.
4. The People:
While sun, sand and sea are the things that draw more than 5 million visitors to The Bahamas every year, it’s that one-on-one interaction with the local people that makes a trip to Nassau/Paradise Island memorable. From taxi drivers to street side vendors, hospitality comes naturally to Bahamians. More than half of the country’s 300,000 plus population lives between Nassau and Paradise Island and many Bahamians work in the country’s top tourism industry. For a true local experience, the government offers a People-to-People program where visitors are paired with Bahamian families and spend a day sightseeing or storytelling over a traditional family meal.
5. Destination Weddings:
From underwater weddings with a dolphin as a ring bearer to exchanging vows on a beach at sunset, Nassau/Paradise Island is known for amazing destination weddings. More than 4,000 brides exchange vows in The Bahamas every year and the numbers are growing. Ever since Supermodel Cindy Crawford said “I Do” on a deserted beach at Ocean Club on Paradise Island in the 1990s, brides have flocked to the islands for their fantasy weddings. Couples should plan to be on island 3-5 days prior to their actual wedding date. Bahamian law dictates that both the bride and groom must reside on island no less than one day prior to applying for a wedding license and that process takes between 2-3 business days.