Mardi Gras and Carnivals always invoke the most amazing reactions in people.
The colourful sights, deafening sounds and spectacular parades create an incredible party atmosphere for all ages to enjoy.
But where are the best places to go?
These aren’t listed in any particular order, we’ll let you decide how they rank, but hopefully we’ve provided a bit on an insight below as to what we at Tickboxx think are the Top 10 Mardi Gras and Carnivals from around the World.
Don’t just take our word for it though. Create your BLE Bucket List, dig out your wackiest outfit and jump on a cheap flight to your favourite destinations….
1. Mardi Gras – New Orleans, USA
When: Shrove Tuesday
What to expect: Traditionally taking place in the two weeks leading up to Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras attracts over one million visitors each year to New Orleans.
Mardi Gras literally translates to “Fat Tuesday” in French and sees people flocking to the Big Easy in the traditional Mardi Gras colours of Gold, Purple and Green.
The carnival showcases the best Creole and Cajun music, floats and parades which all combine to create an unforgettable atmosphere.
Beads are also a massive feature of this incredible parade.
People go to crazy lengths to get hold of them and you will certainly get caught up in the moment and make it your goal to collect as many bead necklaces as you can.
This really isn’t one to miss!
Flights: New Orleans
2. Carnival – Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
What to expect: If you’re looking for an event that attacks just about all of your senses then you really need to look no further than this!
The Rio Carnival is World Famous and for very good reason.
Attracting over two million visitors, the colours are so bright and the music so loud that it really needs to be seen to be believed.
The samba dancing is risqué, the drums beat endlessly and the floats are amongst the biggest and most colourful that you are ever likely to see.
Throw in some epic street food and ice cold beers and you have one hell of a carnival.
There is so much to see and do in Rio. Whilst you are visiting make sure you pay a trip to its famous harbour….
Flights: Rio De Janeiro
3. Notting Hill Carnival – London, England
When: Last weekend in August
What to expect: When you’re thinking about vibrant street festivals then the UK probably wouldn’t be the first place to spring to mind.
And its ok, we get it! Our weather is terrible and that doesn’t really contribute to the best carnival conditions.
However, Notting Hill Carnival remains one of the largest and most popular in the World.
Over one million visitors cram in to this affluent area of London to witness over 50,000 street performers strut their stuff.
With a heavy Caribbean influence, the streets are packed with stalls selling amazing jerk chicken, curries and fried plantain. The smells are just incredible and the rum cocktails are pretty potent too!
Booming sound systems and rhythmic drum parades make it an amazing day of dancing and partying for all involved.
And who knows? With it taking place later in the year compared to the other carnivals on our list, the carnival may just benefit (hopefully) from the late British summer temperatures.
4. Carnevale di Venezia – Venice, Italy
When: Last Weekend before Ash Wednesday
What to expect: Back in the seventeenth century, Venice was one of the most popular party scenes on the planet.
The Carnevale di Venezia was the social event to be seen at and its popularity is still hugely influential on this stunning City today.
Carnevale di Venezia sees both locals and visitors don original seventeenth century costumes, including masks, to attend incredible masquerade balls.
Back in the day, the carnival became so raunchy and notorious that it actually got banned until 1979!
Today it’s a slightly more relaxed affair and the carnival has adjusted to the romantic cities more sedate way of life.
The waterways host waterborne processions by candlelight and thousands of visitors attend hundreds of private events and parties.
5. Carnival – Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
When: Monday & Tuesday before Ash Wednesday
What to expect: Queens Park and the National Stadium are the places to be on carnival week in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
Over 300,000 people pack in to these famous old venues to witness the hustle and bustle of the carnivals festivities and parades.
I absolutely love the Caribbean and this carnival has something for everyone!
If you like the sound of steel drums, calypso music and Caribbean cuisine then Trinidad has the best of the vibrant festivities for you.
However, if you’re looking for a more sedate Carnival experience then hop across to the quieter and more relaxed Tobago for a slightly more peaceful affair.
Stunning beaches and great restaurants will not leave you disappointed when you visit Tobago, I can picture myself in a hammock on a bright white beach right now….
6. Santa Cruz – Tenerife, Canary Islands
What to expect: I know what you’re thinking, you’ve probably never even heard of this carnival. But this one lasts for over 3 weeks and just had to make our Top 10!
If that’s not enough to sell it to you then where else can you follow a papier mâché fish through the streets?
The ‘Burial of the Sardine’ is a bizarre routine that takes place on Ash Wednesday and attracts thousands of people in to the procession.
Add to that the performances from over one hundred music groups and the televised crowning of the carnival queen and you have a fantastic family event.
7 . Quebec Winter Carnival – Quebec City, Canada
What to expect: We thought we’d take you out of the comfort zone a little with this one.
When you think of Carnivals then you probably think of summer processions, bikini clad street performers and drinking ice cold beer in the sunshine. Sounds great right?
Well you can forget about all of that at The Quebec Winter Carnival in Canada….
As the name suggests, the carnival takes place in the middle of the abrasive Canadian Winter. But whilst the temperatures are low the atmosphere most definitely isn’t!
Over 50,000 visitors descend on Quebec for what is billed as the World’s biggest winter festival.
Winter Sports are the focal point of the festivities with events such as ice skating, sledding, dog sled racing and snow sculpture contests all taking place across the week.
The Official Ice Palace takes centre stage and you can understand why. At over 50 metres wide, 20 metres high and 20 metres deep it’s a spectacular sight to behold.
8. Fasnacht – Basel, Switzerland
When: Between February & March
What to expect: If you’re worried you’ve missed the Carnival train for this year then panic not, there’s still time to get in on the fun.
Taking place a week later than most Mardi Gras events, a trip to Basel, Switzerland for Fasnacht could be the ideal last minute break for you.
At just 3 days long, Fasnacht is relatively short compared to most Mardi Gras carnivals on our list. But it is certainly no less enjoyable.
Similar to Carnevale di Venezia in Venice, Italy, the carnival is host to a number of masquerade balls and street parades.
Open air concerts are also extremely popular in Marktplatz, Barfüsserplatz or Claraplatz where local brass marching bands play dressed as harlequins and toy soldiers.
9. Mobile – Alabama, USA
What to expect: When people think about Mardi Gras and carnivals in the USA they instantly think of New Orleans.
And who can blame them, it’s certainly the first one that pops in to my mind.
But the festivities in Mobile, Alabama pre-date those of Mardi Gras in New Orleans (it started before the US even became a country).
Starting way back in 1703, it continues to hold pride of place amongst the towns folk and the carnival is considered to be the birthplace of Mardi Gras.
This is also one of the longest festivals in the World, starting a good two weeks before Lent.
With its vibrant street floats and parades the carnival is a fantastic spectacle and one certainly well worth a visit.
10. Cologne Festival – Cologne, Germany
What to expect: Billed as the “Largest Carnival Street Festival in Europe”, The Cologne Festival attracts more than a million visitors each year.
Lasting for around six days, the city plays hosts to a number of fancy dress street parades, featuring giant papier-mâché caricatures of both German and International politicians.
Traditionally the Thursday of the carnival is women’s day, where women roam the streets, cutting off men’s ties with scissors according to an old tradition.
The festival culminates on the Monday before Ash Wednesday with the main parade.
Drummers and a procession of locals wearing traditional carnival dress take to the streets to rapturous applause from visitors lining the streets.