11 Mardi Gras Celebrations Around the World
Break out the masks and the beads and laissez les bon temps rouler!
It’s Carnival time!
Mardi Gras is right around the corner, and it is time to celebrate. Also known as Carnival, there are a variety of festivities (big and small) taking place around the Americas. We round up some of the liveliest to give you a chance to get out and explore, if not this year, then in 2021. You make recognize some of these big-time parties, but sometimes the smaller events and parades can be the most fun.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Sure, you already know about this one, but no roundup would be complete without pointing out that Mardi Gras in New Orleans is not just a one-day event. It actually starts in January after Kings Day, then ramps up with multiple daily parades, parties, and events the two weeks before Lent. Across Louisiana, in fact, you will find lengthy event schedules. Lest you think Mardi Gras in New Orleans is about catching beads in raucous fashion in the French Quarter, we remind you it is as much a family event as anything else. While the Quarter may not be family-friendly, plenty of the parades are, including Endymion, during which you’ll see children lining the streets shouting for float riders to throw them something as they make eye contact, and sometimes say thank you in appreciation. There’s an event for every kind of traveler during Mardi Gras in the Big Easy. Here are more iconic adventures you should take in each of the 50 states.
Much like its neighbor to the west, Mobile does Mardi Gras right. Mobile calls it “America’s Original Mardi Gras”, which is quite fitting considering Mardi Gras was the first celebration of Carnival in the United States back in 1703. The celebrations here are just as lively and draw big crowds—overall it tends to skew more family-friendly than NOLA’s celebration. If you’ve done the Big Easy, sample another Gulf Coast experience in Mobile (once the capital of Louisiana, in fact). For a primer on all things Mardi Gras, be sure to visit the Mobile Carnival Museum. Here are more historic firsts from every U.S. state.
The family-friendly Mardi Gras celebrations in Shreveport-Bossier are quite impressive with plenty of parades and parties to attend. Flashing for beads has been banned and many schools close so that kids can enjoy the fun (as do other schools in towns where Mardi Gras is celebrated). Last year, a quarter of a million people attended various parades during Mardi Gras with a third being from out of town. Tame, yet exciting, Shreveport-Bossier celebrations are a great way for younger visitors to enjoy Mardi Gras. These are 11 of the best small-town festivals in America.
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis will surprise you with the festivities that take place in the Soulard District for Mardi Gras, but, after all, St. Louis was founded by the French. There’s the Bud Light Grand Parade, a free event that draws large crowds to catch over 10 million strands of beads tossed out to the crowds. It’s more than parades as it is an entire season of parties and get-togethers. It includes cook-offs, a 5K run, pet parades, and a formal ball. Many of the events are open to the public meaning that visitors to the city can enjoy just like locals. Here are more of the best family-friendly destinations in every state.
Quebec City, Canada
Winter Carnival in Quebec City spans almost two weeks and draws amazing crowds. Kids love looking for Bonhomme during a parade or exploring the ice castles constructed for the festivity. Dress warmly as this is one of the coldest Mardi Gras parties out there. Concerts, ice-carving workshops, sleigh rides, ice skating, and even a canoe race assure that you will be spending ample time in the crisp, cold Canadian air.
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
In the Caribbean, it doesn’t get much flashier than Carnival in Trinidad, home of the steel pan drum. Seductive, big-feathered costumes and plenty of tropical music make this one Mardi Gras festival that is a fusion of traditions from around the world. Don’t miss the annual party at Hyatt Regency Trinidad, LIME. Not only is it in the center of the action, but this United Way fundraiser also kicks off a huge celebration with live entertainment, traditional buffets, and Gulf of Paria views. When you’re visiting, make time to see the Green Market, one of the undiscovered gems of the Caribbean.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Like New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro is another traveler favorite drawing nearly 2 million revelers from around the world. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this is the largest Carnival event on the planet. Numerous parades, street parties, and beachfront events keep Mardi Gras going for days. You’ll hear plenty of samba music, all kinds of thumping drums and whistles, and singing arising from all neighborhoods in town.
Base yourself along Copacabana Beach so that you have parties to explore in every direction of your hotel. Some of the most popular events take place at the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí, which is about 15 minutes away. Learn about more of the most popular destinations in South America.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Trade the dazzling beaches and mountainous backdrop of Rio for another Brazilian party. The biggest city on the continent does not let Rio’s Carnival fame dwarf its own festivities, which are based at the Anhembi Sambadrome. Competitions between various samba schools create just as lively a setting. The Sambadrome, designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, is the city’s largest outdoor event venue, and it assures the biggest party in town.
Particularly unique to Bahia’s Carnival are the various musical instruments like the berimbau, agogos, and atabaques. It is also dominated by the “trio elétricos,” music trucks with singers and dancers on top. To join one of the many neighborhood block parties, visitors simply buy a t-shirt for that part of town and are welcomed immediately into the fun. No wonder Salvador has been dubbed the “land of happiness.” Find out what people in New Orleans actually think about Mardi Gras.
UNESCO has named the Carnaval de Barranquilla in Colombia to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Expect plenty of parades including a nocturnal option and another for families. The variety of colors in the costumes and different types of music and dance make this a spectacular display of energy and celebration that goes on for days.
This South American capital surprises with plenty of parades, dance parties, and street festivals. Various stages around the city host dance and music performances from local groups; bring earplugs because the signature rhythm of beating drums fills the streets and echoes in your ears for days. Don’t miss the street performers, with painted faces, whose acts are often satirical and critical of government and society. It’s all in good fun, and Montevideo proves to be a lively experience, especially for those that have already checked out the world-famous parties in Rio. Next, read on to find out 17 things you never knew about Mardi Gras.