Mardi Gras celebrations are held throughout the world, so anyone who is looking to let loose on Fat Tuesday has plenty of options in terms of where to go. The United States alone chimes in with numerous possibilities, and there is always Brazil with its world famous Carnival affairs. These are the countries that many people focus on, and it is easy to understand why. Quite simply, they throw some of the best Carnival and Mardi Gras parties that you could hope to enjoy.
New Orleans Mardi Gras
No Mardis Gras party in the U.S. is bigger or more renowned than the party that takes place in New Orleans. More a collection of parties rather than one singular event, the New Orleans Mardi Gras features numerous parades, not to mention masked balls, and tens of thousands pour into town to take part in the general festivities. The epicenter of the rather raucous New Orleans celebrations is Bourbon Street in the famous French Quarter district, and among the most popular traditions is the throwing of bead necklaces. Due to the wildly popular nature of the New Orleans Mardi Gras, outsiders are encouraged to find their hotel rooms well in advance.
St. Louis Mardi Gras
St. Louis, you might be surprised to know, throws one of the best Mardi Gras parties in the United States. In fact, the city claims that its Mardi Gras celebration is the second-biggest in the country after the celebration in New Orleans. The early 1980's was when the notion to throw such a party was hatched, if you will, and today, the event often attracts hundreds of thousands. In 2011 alone, anywhere from 200,000 to 250,000 people are estimated to have participated in the St. Louis Mardi Gras celebration. As is true of most Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations, the St. Louis affair is more a collection of parties and celebrations, and the various events are held over a number of days. On the second Saturday before Fat Tuesday, for example, a family-friendly pet parade takes place.
Mobile Alabama Mardi Gras
The Mobile Mardi Gras celebration isn’t the largest in the United States. It is the oldest, however, at least in terms of organized Mardi Gras affairs. The first celebration was held way back in 1703, as opposed to the New Orleans Mardi Gras, which was founded in 1718. Parades and masked balls are among the side events that help to make up the Mobile Mardi Gras party, and bead necklaces aren’t the only things that are thrown from the parade floats. Among the other things that are commonly tossed to the masses are candy, wrapped cakes, doubloon coins, stuffed animals, and even frisbees or footballs.
Galveston Mardi Gras
Galveston throws the biggest Mardi Gras festival in Texas, so anyone who is looking to celebrate Fat Tuesday in the U.S. is encouraged to keep the coastal city in mind. The first Mardi Gras celebration in the city took place in 1867, and it has evolved into a collection of night parades and masked balls. Also worth noting is the fact that the Galveston Mardi Gras revelers are known to don some of the most exquisite Mardi Gras costumes that you will see anywhere .
San Diego Mardi Gras
San Diego is just one more city that is worth adding to the list if you are thinking of celebrating Mardi Gras in the United States. After all, it throws what is known to the be the biggest Mardi Gras celebration west of the Mississippi River. As you might suspect, the city’s renowned Gaslamp Quarter district is where the main events take place. You must be at least 21 years of age to participate in the official San Diego Mardi Gras party, and it should be noted that discounts are usually available for those who choose to purchase their tickets in advance.
Rio de Janeiro Mardi Gras
The Carnival season is the main tourist season in Brazil, and it is easy to understand why. The country throws some of the biggest and best Mardi Gras parties, with Rio de Janeiro playing host to the largest and most famous of the bunch. The Rio celebrations originated in the early 1640's, and over time, they came to blend European, Native American, and African tendencies. Much of the action takes place in the city’s Sambadrome, though this is very much a city-wide affair. Various neighborhood block parties spring up around Rio de Janeiro during Carnival season, for example, and the city’s numerous Samba schools work year round in order to prepare themselves for the main celebrations.
Bahia Mardi Gras
The Brazilian state of Bahia is well-known for its Mardi Gras parties and its Carnival celebration in general. In fact, the state capital of Salvador throws the world’s largest Carnival street party after Rio de Janeiro. The general festivities last about a week, and as you might imagine, there is plenty of song and dance.
Sao Paulo Mardi Gras
Sao Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, and it too can make for an excellent destination for anyone who wishes to celebrate Mardi Gras in grand style. Much like the Rio festival, the Sao Paulo affair sees various samba schools competing during huge parades, and much of the action takes place in a special "sambadrome" building.
Pernambuco Mardi Gras
Another Brazil destination to keep in mind when it comes to Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations is the northeast state of Pernambuco. More specifically, the state’s capital of Recife and its old colonial capital of Olinda are the cities to focus on. Large parades help to characterize the Pernambuco celebrations, and unlike cities such as Rio and Salvador, there are no group competitions. Instead, the various Carnival groups dance and play music side by side.
Image: brad.coy (flickr)