Become Immersed in the U.S. Virgin Islands Vibrant Culture

by LP Green, II

Seven flags have flown over the U.S. Virgin Islands throughout its history, leaving a unique blend of traditions, cuisine, music and history. The islands of St. Croix, St. John and
St. Thomas offer an eclectic mix of Caribbean culture that inspires travelers to explore beyond their pristine beaches. Be immersed in heritage that dates back to before 1493, when explorer Christopher Columbus anchored off St. Croix’s Salt River near Christiansted.

Savor a Diverse Cultural Stew

Flavors from all over the world fuse together, providing a mix of distinct cooking techniques and spices creating a distinctive cuisine waiting to be enjoyed. Among the local dishes found on menus today are kallaloo (a stew of okra, local greens, meat, seafood and spices), fungi (a cornmeal polenta-like dish), johnnycake (deep-fried unleavened bread) and patés (a spicy meat-filled fried pastry).

Gourmands will find modern fusion cuisine prepared by chefs trained at some of the world’s best culinary schools. Discover a spectrum of fine dining restaurants, and pair signature rum cocktails with exotic dishes featuring just-caught fish and locally-grown tropical fruits and vegetables. Downhome Caribbean food stands are also plentiful, providing an alternative way to experience local cuisine in a charming, authentic and budget-friendly way.

Holidays and Traditions with a Virgin Islands Flare

Holidays are celebrated with island music, traditional Caribbean dancing and foods mixing West Indian and Caribbean flavors. As a part of the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands celebrates all of the national holidays Americans are familiar with but with a local twist. Many local holidays also provide insight into the history and culture, the most popular being the various Carnival celebrations.

St. Thomas puts on one of the largest Carnival celebrations in the entire Caribbean. The monthlong event each April is ripe with parades, food fairs and a large Carnival village where music and dancing never stops. St. John’s version continues the celebration in June, running through July 4, celebrating Independence Day with fireworks, steel pans, dancers, floats, Mocko Jumbies and local food. St. Croix’s Crucian Christmas Carnival provides a fun-filled way to fete Christmas and the New Year.

Shop for the perfect U.S. Virgin Islands Memento

The Crucian Hook Bracelet is the most iconic souvenir from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Developed more than 40 years ago by the now famous Sonya of Sonya Limited jewelry store, this must-have accessory has become a universal symbol of love. On St. Thomas, shoppers will find the legendary Zora of St. Thomas. The brand has become world renowned for its custom sandals, made-to-fit each customer using genuine, full-grain leather and soled with durable rubber known to last a lifetime.

St. Thomas’ Native Arts & Crafts Cooperative is the largest arts and crafts emporium across all three islands, selling craft items from dozens of artisans under one roof across from Emancipation Garden. Find locally-made mahogany spice racks, calabash bowls, conch shell lamps, crocheted goods and straw crafts such as baskets and hats.

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