The local music, dancing, and storytelling traditions in the USVI are a mash-up of African and European influences, with roots tracing back to colonial times. Scratch bands play quelbe music with improvised instruments ranging from a squash to a car exhaust pipe—an experience worth seeking out, especially if you get to hear them accompanying a European-inspired quadrille dance performance. Look also for "moko jumbies": stilt dancers in festive garb that are present at various festivals and are said to chase away evil spirits. St. Thomas is also home to one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere.
Each of the three main islands harbors a unique blend of heritage, and the USVI is always hopping with festivals. Attend one of the colorful Carnival celebrations for a unique Caribbean extravaganza: in St. Thomas in the spring, St. John around the 4th of July, and St. Croix in December. St. Croix also plays host to one of the Caribbean’s wildest St. Patrick’s Day parades, combining elements of traditional West Indian carnival with a healthy dose of Irish charm. In April, foodies can see firsthand why the annual St. Croix Food & Wine Festival ranks among the Caribbean's top gourmet events. To get a really authentic sense of these islands, however, check out the annual Agrifest events held in St. Croix in February and St. Thomas in November.