Bermuda is the kind of place that stirs something inside you. It’s the caught-in-time British colonial aesthetic and scenic sherbet-colored houses, the spectacular natural setting, and the Bermudian spirit highlighted by the friendly locals’ passion for a celebration.
This month is no exception as Bermuda will be holding its first-ever Gay Pride. Essentially though, there’s no wrong time to visit the islands because there’s something going on every month. Here are our top 10 events not to miss.
1. Restaurant Weeks
From mid-January to beginning of February, dozens of locals’ beloved restaurants put together special prix fixe menus, offering Bermudian-inspired dishes like lip-smacking good fresh seafood - think grilled fish, raw specialties to local favorite: fish sandwiches, and don’t forget to wash it all down with an emblematic rum swizzle! A food festival like no other, it’s the perfect way to explore Bermuda’s diverse food culture. The event coincides with the Bermuda Marathon Weekend as well as the Bermuda Festival of Performing Arts, making January a great place to travel to the islands.
2. Bermuda International Film Festival
Kick back and soak up some culture while nursing a cocktail at the Bermuda International Film Festival (BIFF), during which open-air film screenings are organized all day long and well after nightfall. The festival’s trustees are none other than Hollywood A-listers Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, meaning that it’s not unusual to bump into top-tier filmmakers and actors. The BIFF was originally launched in 1997 with 27 films. Fast-forward to 2019, and the festival now shows more than 90 of the world’s best works and is one of 50 qualifying festivals for the Short Film Academy Award. Screenings last year included 2018 Palme d’Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters and Stan and Ollie, the feature film adaptation of the story of mid-century comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, as well as short films and documentary screenings.
Other events this month include the annual Beach Art Festival, the Palm Sunday Walk, allowing visitors to see places that aren’t usually open to the public, as well as an annual kite-making workshop, that's free to join in.
3. Peppercorn Ceremony
Go back in time in Bermuda and attend this rather unusual ceremony. A parade of officials, suited and booted in their smart uniforms, as well as horse-drawn carriages and even a traditional English town crier, takes place every year on King’s Square in St George’s and marks a time when a single peppercorn would be used for payment of rent, notably when the Masonic Brothers paid their annual rent for Lodge St George with a peppercorn. Other events in April include the Bermuda Golf Classic, Kit Festival and Yoga Festival, as well as the Bermuda Grand Prix international cycling race.
4. Bermuda Day
Originally known as Empire Day, celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday until the colonies became independent, Bermuda Day marks the first day of summer - and the first day real Bermudians will actually consider getting in the water.
A public holiday, the long weekend sees thousands of people take to the streets to dance, mix and mingle during the festivities. A colorful annual parade of floats, Gombey troupes and majorette dancers in Hamilton, this day is all about culture, fun and patriotic pride. Check out the various live music events that last into the early hours of the morning that you’ll find across the main island. And don’t miss the iconic fitted dinghy races at St Geroge’s harbor for a real vacation highlight.
Other events include the Bermuda End to End race and Onion Day, honoring what was once the main crop on the island and a prized item for export.
5. Annapolis Ocean Race
Covering no less than 753 miles, the biannual Annapolis Bermuda Ocean Race is the longest and most challenging ocean race on the East Coast of the US. Started in 1979, the 2020 edition of the biannual race will mark the 22nd race. Brave crews onboard each ship battle it out against the unpredictable winds of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, before crossing into the Gulf Stream and navigating its dangerous currents on to Bermuda. “The race enables sailors to fulfill a lifelong ambition of a blue water passage to an island known for its soft coral beaches in an organized event promoting friendly competition with other boats,” reads the event website. Not one for the faint-hearted. Having said that, there is also a division for casual racers who also wish to take part.
Other events include the Newport Bermuda race and Marion Yacht Race, as well as Beat Retreat Ceremony, simulating the 17th-century-old tradition of drumming to remind the army personally to get back to their barracks before nightfall, and Bermuda Heroes Weekend, a carnival style events celebrating the heroes of Bermuda.
6. Bermuda Pride
Taking place on August 31st, Bermuda’s first Gay Pride march follows World Pride Day in New York and comes nine months after the islands legalized same-sex marriages once again after it was repealed in 2018. A highly anticipated event, the parade will depart from Victoria Park in Hamilton and is set to be a joyful, colorful affair with plenty of local food to try and live music to dance to. The Bermuda Beach Tennis Tournament, an International Tennis Federation event, also takes place this month.
7. Bermuda Cup Match
Also in August, travelers who like a little sporting action shouldn’t miss this Bermudian two-day public-holiday celebration (August 1st and 2nd). The atmosphere is ripe with sporting cheer as the locals, donning their team’s colors, rejoice and gather for boating and swimming events, as well as cricket, of course. The holiday marks the remembrance of Emancipation Day, when black Bermudians were emancipated from slavery in 1834.
8. City Food Festival
If you missed January’s Restaurant Weeks food festival, then food and wine lovers will be happy to know that October is also one of the best times to visit Bermuda for the City Food Festival. The three-day event sees locals take part in wine tastings, walking foodie tours, and live chef demonstrations, in and around Hamilton. Other events include the Bermuda Gombey Festival, showcasing the islands’ folk heritage, as well as PGA Grand Slam of Golf, Food Truck Festival, and Bermuda Art Walk
9. World Rugby Classic
The World Rugby Classic is high up on sport fans’ calendar, and for good reason. Some of the world’s greatest rugby players travel to Bermuda for the thrill of the matches but also for the parties and live music where fans can rub shoulders with their favorite players. Other events this month include Bermuda Remembrance Day for its war heroes, Tree Lighting Ceremony, Santa Claus parade in Hamilton, and the Carter House Evening, one of the oldest houses in Bermuda which is decorated for the holidays and where Santa puts in an appearance to give presents to children.
10. National Trust Christmas Walkabout
Christmas is one of the best times to come to Bermuda for the contagious holiday cheer as Bermudians get ready for the end-of-year festivities. An event not to miss is the Bermuda National Trust’s Christmas Walkabout, which takes place in St George, one of the new world’s oldest towns, where the public can explore the candle-lit streets and peek inside the smattering of historic UNESCO-heritage homes, some of which date back as the 17th century. Other events include the Goodwill Golf Tournament, Christmas Boat Parade, and the Elbow Beach music festival.