10 Best Performing Arts Venues in Aruba

Aruba Art Week

Fodor's choice

Organized by ArtisA, this annual event takes place each fall when artists from around the world are invited to collaborate on outdoor installations, sculptures, murals, and more throughout San Nicolas. Immersive and interactive events include the Aruba Art Fair, which highlights workshops with the artists; the Youth Art Fair, which showcases the island’s young aspiring creators; and the ArtFashion show, which features stunning works of local designers. There are also special events like pop-up restaurants, culinary art competitions, and lots of music and dancing turning downtown into one big festive street party. The work left behind from past years has turned the downtown core into a magical maze of outdoor art and will continue to do so for years to come.

Soul Beach Festival

Fodor's choice

Going into its 16th year in 2016, this big festival is becoming the island's top musical event. Held over May's Memorial Day weekend, it attracts big-name artists and huge crowds with concerts rotating locations from Palm Beach to downtown Oranjestad all the way to San Nicolas. There are also comedy shows, a new Soul Beach fitness Challenge, and parties galore island-wide.

Caribbean Cinemas VIP

Ideal for the rare rainy day, or just for something different than the beach, catch a first-run flick in air-conditioned comfort at this ultramodern venue with six stadium-seating auditoriums; the cinema opens daily at 2 pm. The fully reclinable leather seats and lots of space between the rows make it even more inviting for a family outing.

J. E. Irausquin Blvd. 382A, Palm Beach, n/a Aruba, Aruba

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Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival

The music begins at intimate venues around the island and leads up to a big two-day jazz, soul, and Latin music festival held at the Renaissance Marketplace, usually in the third week of September. Big-name bands draw big crowds to the harbor, and the outdoor party continues long into the night all around Oranjestad with makeshift food stands and temporary bars. There is also a big on-site art event during the fest.

Dera Gai (St. John's Day)

The annual harvest feast and "burying of the rooster" (dera gai) tradition is celebrated June 24 (the feast of St. John the Baptist). Festive songs, bright yellow-and-red costumes, and traditional dances mark this holiday dating from 1862. Today, the live rooster—which symbolizes a successful harvest—has been replaced by a plastic one. You will also notice smoke all around the island from the ceremonial bonfires traditionally lighted that day.

Gasparito Restaurant & Art Gallery

Gasparito is an historic property that houses a great dining room, featuring international and local fare, and a permanent exhibition by a variety of Aruban artists, ranging from colorful landscapes to more abstract offerings.

Hi-Winds Pro Am Windsurfing Competition

Windsurfers of all skill levels from more than 30 different countries converge in June and July to compete off the beaches at Fisherman's Huts at Hadikurari. Celebrating its 30th year in 2016, this has become the biggest wind- and kite-surfing event of the Caribbean, complete with a massive beach celebration, throngs of fans, and lots of music with a party that lasts for days. Mountain-bike races have been added, and the world's best kiteboarders compete here too.

National Anthem & Flag Day

On March 18, an official holiday, you can stop by Plaza Betico Croes in Oranjestad for folkloric presentations and other traditional festivities. Everyone has flags and is out in the streets; be prepared for just about every business to be closed that day for the celebrations. There are also special sporting events.

Principal Cinema

After nearly three decades, locals are delighted to have a modern cinema in San Nicolas again. The air-conditioned theater is state-of-the-art with large screens, VIP seats, and a modern concession stand. It’s an ideal place to catch a flick before or after an afternoon at Baby Beach or the art walk.

The Dande Festival

Aruba's New Year traditions begin with a big bang before the big day, when Arubans light pagaras—strings of hundreds of firecrackers—all over the island to celebrate a good year and chase out bad vibes. New Year's Eve sees the traditional island-wide fireworks, but they also usher in the New Year with Dande music. It used to be a "stroll" with groups of musicians going from house to house singing good-luck greetings right after midnight, but now it has become a bona-fide organized festival held with big groups competing for prizes on December 27. Dande comes from the Papiamento word dandara, which means "to have a good time."