We’ve hunted down the ultimate places to party for Carnival. What comes to mind when you think of Carnival? Perhaps scantily-dressed women samba-ing down the streets of Rio, or singing party-goers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration, but no matter whatever Carnival evokes for you — parties, costumes, dancing and drinking are usually part of the festivities. Here are the five places where people truly know how to do Carnival.
1. Rio de Janeiro
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro means over two million revelers hit the streets for an ultimate feast of the senses. The climax of the event is the Samba Parade — where over 200 Samba schools design and produce their own floats and costumes, write and perform their own songs, choreograph their own dance routines, and practice year-round to compete for the streets of Rio. Visitors should visit the Sambadrome to view the colossal parades and Copacabana Palace to attend an extravagant ball — but if you’re looking for a more authentic experience, just head to the streets and start dancing with the locals.
2. Port of Spain
REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
One of the hidden gems of the world’s carnival celebrations lies in the heart of the Caribbean, in Port of Spain, on the island of Trinidad. The party represents a fusion of Afro-Caribbean and European culture, and is driven by the wild beats of the Calypso and the Soca — two types of music that originated in the region. Although there are only two official days of festivities, (held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday), it is said that locals eat, sleep, and breathe Carnival here year-round.
At 4 a.m. on the first day, revelers are dragged from their beds to the streets for J’ouvert — a folkloric event which originally began as a protest against slavery. Participants dress as devils and smother one another in paint, oil, mud and cocoa. Inhibitions are best left at the door.
It might surprise you that Germany makes the best Carnival party list — but actually the revelers of Carnival in the western German city that hugs the Rhine River know how to party! They begin celebrating at 11:11 a.m. on the 11th of November. The partying takes a Christmas hiatus, then heats back up again for the appropriately named, “crazy days” — starting on Shrove Thursday (February 4th this year). Through the week, streets are packed with costumed revelers sipping on Kolsch bier from and till the early hours of the morning. Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) marks a treasured national holiday and boasts the most impressive parade, featuring massive floats adorned with sweets and roses — a tradition that dates back to the year 1823.
4. New Orleans
Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of the Carnival season, it falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Most visitors to New Orleans will plan to arrive no later than the weekend before February 9th, 2016, which is the most popular time to visit New Orleans. If you come during this time it means you will see the most popular parades, like Endymion, Bacchus, Zulu, Rex and all of the festive celebrations throughout the whole city. Also be sure to head to the French Quarter (especially Bourbon Street) for some rowdy street parties, or to the Uptown/Mid-City districts along Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue for the best view of the parades.
Want to enjoy a more family-friend New Orleans? Check out how to swing a family Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
The origins of Carnival come from the hedonistic feasts of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Catholics in Europe later adopted these festivities as a way to celebrate before Lent, a period for believers to renounce certain indulgences, like meat. For centuries, the city of canals had the most impressive Carnival festival in the world. The traditional masked balls have become the hallmark of the gracefully-dressed Venice carnival. Unlike other Carnival-celebrating cities, the most impressive expositions of the event are behind closed doors — inside the city’s music, theater, and dance halls.
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