In search of the ultimate celebration destination? Look no further than Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! It’s home to some of the biggest and wildest celebrations in the world. Carnival is the Mardi Gras of the Southern Hemisphere and lasts for five days, drawing millions of people every year. This historic festival includes concerts, parades, and other live entertainment performances. But, if you can only make it to one event during Carnival season, let it be Rio Samba Parade in the Sambodromo.
This is the parade to end all parades. It’s what made Carnival one of the most sought after events, year after year. This parade is full of singing, dancing, and the crowning of Carnival King. But one of the best highlights is the samba school competition, which features colorful costumes and otherworldly floats–each adorned with feathers, sequins, and other extravagant accessories.
This year the fun begins on Friday, February 24th and ends on Tuesday, February 28th. It’s an extended version of Fat Tuesday; a week’s worth of activities that kick off the Lenten period before Easter. There’s no better place to experience Carnival than at its home base in Brazil, but there are plenty of cities around the world who will be celebrating in similar ways.
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
It’s no surprise that New Orleans tops the list as one of the best places to celebrate Carnival. Partiers swarm the French Quarter, dressed in elaborate costumes and clamoring for beads in an effort to embrace sinful delights before Lent strikes. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, must be experienced firsthand.
Plan to drink your fair share of Hurricanes as you make your way down Bourbon St., one of the most iconic areas in the U.S. If the New Orleans hotels book up too fast, take a short trip down the road where you’ll reach Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi, less than two hours away.
With its streets filled with vibrant colors and mariachi bands, Mazatlán hosts the largest Carnival in Mexico. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd, but visitors won’t want to miss the chance to take part in the city’s rich tradition with vendor after vendor offering delicious street cuisine. So gear up and get lost in the endless stream of confetti, flavors, colors, and costumes that make up this epic street festival.
If you think five straight days of partying is extreme, think you can last four months? Bacchanal, Jamaica’s version of Carnival, starts in February and continues through May. Events include concerts, costumes, parties, and music. While it’s the locals that keep the good times rolling, all are welcome to partake in Jamaica’s rendition of this worldly celebration.
Trinidad & Tobago
Want to go wild and crazy or are you looking for something more low-key when celebrating Carnival? You can experience both during the celebrations planned for Trinidad & Tobago. Trinidad’s carnival contains high energy celebrations attended by party-goers who dance and line the streets every night. Tobago, on the other hand, is the place to go to unwind. You’ll find plenty of post-parties on the beach. It’s the destination of choice if your vacation motto is: relax all day, party all night.
Panama City, Panama
Drinking, dancing, and… water cannons? They have it all in Panama. Boasting intricate floats, costumed dancers, and plenty of sparkle, Panama’s carnival is a wholly unique spectacle. If you aim to get wet and wild, Mojaderas is Panama’s Carnival tradition that ensures you’ll get soaked in one way or another, whether it’s straight from the fire hose or from a tossed water balloon. Fortunately, the cooling off period is a welcome relief from the city’s hot climate, but just make sure you have your electronics tucked away before you participate.
Notting Hill, London, UK
It may be a surprise to some that Carnival in Notting Hill is only second behind Rio’s famous celebration. It’s the largest street festival in Europe with 70 performing stages and approximately 15,000 costumes on display every year. That’s quite a lot of feathers and sequins stitched together all in one place. Don’t be surprised if you find a few strays in your bags on the way home. Festival goers also don’t have to worry about going hungry, since there are about 300 food stands that line the streets serving up dishes to delight all palates.
No matter where your travels take you, the spirit of Carnival knows no bounds. If you’re lucky enough to visit one of these destinations during this annual celebratory period, prepare for one truly memorable experience.