Cities around the world take on the celebration in different forms, but they always involve colorful parades, huge crowds, elaborate floats, delicious feasts and all-night parties.
1. A party for all ages at New Orleans, USA
Known as “The Greatest Free Show on Earth”, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a spectacular treat of the senses. Join a raucous crowd of over a million visitors along the historic St. Charles Avenue and the Central Business District. There is no chance of staying out of the party, as onlookers are pelted with beads, trinkets, cups, doubloons (coins) and stuffed animals from float riders, a tradition that began in the 1870s and still very much alive today.
For those with young children, opt for Family Gras, just ten minutes from downtown New Orleans, to enjoy the traditional offerings of Mardi Gras parades in a more family-friendly setting. Featuring free outdoor concerts, an arts market and a special kids’ zone, Family Gras incorporates activities like face painting and games, alongside a wide array of authentic local cuisine that is sure to suit every palette.
When: 6 January – 5 March 2019 (Family Gras 2019 takes place on 22 – 24 February)
2. Celebrate diversity and inclusion at the world’s largest LGBTQ parade in Sydney, Australia
An estimated 300,000 spectators, both from overseas and within Australia, fill the streets during the annual Sydney Gayand Lesbian Mardi Gras. At this event, which promotes diversity and inclusion, visitors can expect spectacular parades and marching groups, floats promoting LGBTQ rights, fantasy dance parties and extravagant burlesque performances.
When: 15 February – 3 March 2019 (Main parade is on 2 March, 7pm)
3. See the famed Venetian masks and masquerade balls in Italy
The Mardi Gras carnival in Venice lasts two weeks and is one of the largest annual celebrations in Italy. The unique event is also known globally for its exquisite masks and costumes. The festival kicks off with the two-day Festa Veneziana, a massive water parade. Each year, guests can also look forward to the Festa Delle Marie Parade, a re-enactment of a 10th century tradition where 12 Venetian girls from the poorest families were gifted magnificent jewels and costumes.
When: 16 February – 5 March 2019
4. Dance along to the samba beat in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Rio Carnival is one of the largest Carnivals in the world, uniting two million people per day on the streets of the seaside city of Rio de Janeiro. In the warm Brazilian climate, tourists can expect a jubilant celebration filled with sounds, colors, dances, and Brazil’s famous grilled meats. The Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí, an area designated for the samba school parades, is a must-visit for first-time Carnival goers. Costumed samba dancers from the top Samba schools compete and move along to Latino rhythm, putting on a spectacular show and igniting the passion and energy of the watching spectators.
When: 1 – 9 March 2019
5. Party the night away in Goa, India
Goa, India‘s unofficial party capital has its own Mardi Gras tradition, a nod to the town’s Portuguese heritage. The four-day Mardi Gras extravaganza here features a colorful display of beautiful floats, electrifying music and dance performances, with traditional Goan theater and art mixed in. While in the quaint city, take some time out from the partying to visit the well-preserved 17th-century churches that dot the town or sample traditional Goan curries along the beach.
When: 2 – 5 March 2019
6. Discover the cultural diversity of Barranquilla, Colombia
European, African and indigenous cultures collide in Barranquilla, Columbia, and Mardi Gras visitors to the city can expect to be treated to a wide variety of performances. The first day of the celebration kicks off with the Battle of Flowers, a highly anticipated six-hour parade complete with dazzling floats, music and dance, and intricate costumes. The following two days feature more street parties and parades. The celebration’s grand finale is the mock burial of “Joselito Carnaval,” a ceremonial character symbolizing the joy and life of the festival. His burial marks the end of the festive period, and he is reborn at the start of the following carnival season.
When: 2 – 5 March 2019
7. Be what you want to be in Rijeka, Croatia
The International Carnival Parade is the jewel in the crown of the carnival festivities in Kvarner and beyond. Competitions in creativity, humour and originality, fireworks of colours and shapes result in a parade of hundreds of allegorical floats, thousands of masks and a countless number of visitors from home and abroad.
Since the day it was organised for the first time, by the Rijeka Tourist Board, in 1982, the renewed Rijeka Carnival has, in the best possible way, continued with the centuries-long masking tradition in the Croatian Littoral and has placed the city on the Rječina River amongst the most important European carnival cities. The opening event, as always, is Rijeka Carnival Queen Pageant and Handover of the City Key as a beginning of masked madness. Nowhere in the world will you be able to experience such a distinctive blend of a European civil carnival based on historical and cultural customs and elements of folklore and mythology, so be whatever you want, come to the Rijeka Carnival!
When: 3 March 2019