Carnival Destinations Around the World
It’s a week of debauchery, food and revelry, before having to hunker down and give up meat and vices for Lent. Why not celebrate Carnival this year in some place different? Rent a vacation condo or villa in an exotic locale, like Rio or stay closer to home and visit New Orleans or St. Louis.
Experience this universal festival through another culture’s perspective. Staying in someone’s private home lends itself to a more authentic experience. Shop at the local markets and cook meals at home in your vacation rental’s fully equipped kitchen. Save your money to spend on more important things, like partying at the festival instead.
Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations. Usually the festival begins on the third Sunday before Ash Wednesday, but some places begin as early as the Twelfth Night.
Party across the Pond
Beginning a couple weeks before Ash Wednesday and ending on Fat Tuesday, the Venice Carnival is all about the masquerade. Participate in the madness as the social order is overturned when revelers disguise their status by wearing different masks – anything goes. Venetian masks are made from a variety of materials, from leather to papier-mâché. Though Mussolini banned Carnival in the 1930s, it’s been rocking harder than ever since it resumed in 1979.
Goa celebrates "Carnivaal" for three days straight. The festivities are full of colorful masks and creative floats and lead up to the big carnival parade on Fat Tuesday. Dance troupes perform skits and throw water on each other. Music is played. After partying, the crowds enjoy a delightful Goan cuisine at a buffet dinner where the wine flows freely. Festivities preside under the King of Chaos, or King Momo.
Visit Rio, “The Marvelous City,” for the largest Carnival celebration in the world – and the most famous. This annual celebration attracts millions of tourists of all ethnicities. Held four days before Ash Wednesday, this annual festival marks the beginning of Lent and features “blocos” or groups of people from the same neighborhoods who dress in theme costumes and dance the samba in the streets.
Travel to the Caribbean where the Carnival celebrations last over a month and culminate in Trinidad’s capital, the Port of Spain. Get ready for a colorful collage of costume, dance, music, contests - and all the rum you can stomach. Get into the spirit by learning authentic island dances like soca and calypso. Attend Carnival Tuesday where the Calypso Monarch is elected, as well as the crowning of the best bands. Shake your groove thing on Maracas and Manzanilla Beaches.
Or Make it a Staycation!
Any American who hasn’t at least heard about Mardi Gras in New Orleans has been living under a rock. Join the Krewes as they vie for the best float in the parade. Blend in with the costumed revelers and attend a ball for every night of the week. Stay in a French Quarter apartment rental
and watch the chaos on Bourbon Street from the safety of your own private balcony. Grab a piece of King’s Cake and try to get some beads.
Mobile's Carnival celebrations start as early as November with several balls and end with a parade that halts at the stroke of midnight on Mardi Gras (the beginning of Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent). Watch from the sidelines while Mobile’s mystic societies create spectacular floats and parade through downtown. See how many “throws” (small gifts) you can catch and attend an authentic masquerade ball at midnight.
Pensacola, Florida hosts a Mardi Gras celebration, and like the others, puts its own clever twist on things. The Pensacola celebrations also use Moon Pies in combination with beads, coins, candies & Krewe related trades. The Pensacola festivities and Krewes are smaller and more family-oriented (read: wholesome) than some in other venues. But in keeping with the tradition, several Krewes are plays-on-words for the original names of puns of historic Krewes in New Orleans and Mobile.
Mardi Gras in the Midwest? Contrary to popular belief, Fat Tuesday celebrations are not just a Southern tradition. The festival in St. Louis attracts thousand of partiers, especially if the weather cooperates. The STL’s Carnival-claim-to-fame is hosting the Krewe of Barkus’ pet parade, where pets get dressed up for the annual parade – which kicks off the famous Wiener dog races. (Look into pet-friendly rentals in St. Louis if you want your pooch to tag along). But those looking for something racier shouldn’t fear – there is plenty of flesh baring and bead throwing on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday.