From drag queens in Sydney, Australia to the sexy glamour of Mardi Gras Rio de Janeiro, here’s the skinny on the world’s best places to celebrate Fat Tuesday!
Mardi Gras (translated to Fat Tuesday if you’ve forgotten your elementary school French) derives its name from the tradition of enjoying rich and fatty foods before the ritualistic penance of Lent. Commencing on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a hallowed event where observers gave up rich foods to demonstrate devotion and renounce sins. Carnevale — carne meat and vale – to leave, reveals how the original meaning of the word ‘carnival’ and how it came to be associated with this important time in the Christian calendar.
If a day dedicated to eating fried food wasn’t awesome enough, today’s events are more raucous than religious; more salacious than solemn. The holiday may be rooted in a single religion, but these celebrations are inclusive and welcoming. Legendary Mardi Gras celebrations should be part of anyone’s bucket list.
From pancakes and parades, beads and burlesque, we take a peek at the world’s biggest Mardi Gras parties.
Mardi Gras New Orleans
Mardi Gras New Orleans is North America’s biggest celebration of its kind. Louisiana’s French heritage is alive and well in exciting New Orleans, and the southern state’s French colonial roots deeply influence Mardi Gras festivities. Take our favourite example — beignets! These sugary, French fritters are a scrumptious way to mark Fat Tuesday, so do-nut leave New Orleans without trying them! Annual festivities kick off on January 6, however, the best time to go to New Orleans Mardi Gras is the weekend before Fat Tuesday, when the two most famous parades, Bacchus and Endymion, take place.
Expert travel tips for Mardi Gras New Orleans:
- Order a hand-crafted cocktail at the historic Roosevelt Hotel, built in 1894 in time for Mardi Gras.
- Travelling with kids? Outside of the French Quarter, Mardi Gras New Orleans is family-friendly, particularly in the city’s beautiful Garden District.
Rio De Janeiro Carnival
We’ve covered North America’s largest Mardi Gras, and it should come as no surprise that South America’s largest is the Rio Carnival– the biggest in the world. Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro attracts a dizzying and dazzling 2 million people on its streets. Kicking off the Friday before Mardi Gras Tuesday, the showstopper is the Samba Parade. Brazilians call it “the biggest show on Earth,” featuring the sequined and barely-there (barely being the operative term!) costumes synonymous with Carnival. Pulsating, vibrant and unlike any other celebration of its kind, Rio de Janeiro’s carnival is worth experiencing at least once in your life.
Expert tip for Mardi Gras Rio de Janeiro:
According to Dean Smith, Flight Centre Director of Americas, if you’re looking to splurge, make a reservation at Lasai, one of the hottest restaurants and best menus.
Carnival of Venice
Italy is no stranger to time-honoured festivals, and no doubt the biggest is the Carnival of Venice or Venice Carnival (Carnevale de Veneto). And while attendants may seem like strangers by donning ornate masks, everyone comes together in unified jubilation. The Venice Carnival is one of Italy’s most anticipated events, dating back to the medieval period. The week-long spectacle includes official parades and masked balls. Masquerades are associated with Mardi Gras around the world, and Venice is where it all began. Of course, no Fat Tuesday celebration would be complete without a fried sweet treat, and in Venice, it’s mouthwatering fritelle. The most significant celebrations happen at the iconic Piazza San Marco, the hub of Carnevale.
Expert travel tips for the Venice Carnival:
- Weather can be chilly and damp in Venice this time of year, so bear that in mind when dressing (in other words, the scanty costumes of Rio de Janeiro don’t work here!)
- Rent a costume! Believe it or not, tourists can rent masks and attire, although on every street corner you can find artisanal Venetian masks ranging from a moderate price to a more costly art collectible.
Mardi Gras France
Naturellement, France’s largest carnival is Mardi Gras, and the best party happens in Nice, situated on the glorious French Riviera. The annual Mardi Gras Nice festivities take place over two weeks, featuring live entertainment, exuberant themed parades and lots of sinful treats from ocean and oven! Enjoy seafood delicacies, freshly baked baguettes, and regional specialties. The famous, towering papier mache puppets are a sight to behold. These giant figures are literally a huge part of the parades, crafted in the ancient tradition. As is the Bataille de Fleurs – Battle of the Flowers — which happens on select days and sees participants throwing fresh-cut flowers from floats in a colourful and perfumed spectacle.
Expert traveller tip for Mardi Gras in Nice:
The average temperature for February in Nice is 13 degrees Celsius and a low of 6, so save your Nice beach holiday for another trip.
Sydney Mardi Gras
A departure from the Mardi Gras traditions of Europe, the Sydney Mardi Gras is Australia’s major and magnificent LGBTQ festival. Speaking of departures, you can start planning your escape to the party in 2020, as Mardi Gras Sydney 2019 just wrapped up. Highlights included the biggest drag queen party the city ever hosted and to the princess of Aussie pop herself, Kylie Minogue. Festivities begin in February, including everything from burlesque theatre to family activities, culminating in the Mardi Gras parade on Sunday. Although gay and lesbian in focus, the colourful parade goes throughout Sydney’s downtown core and includes and welcomes everyone.
Expert traveller tips for Mardi Gras Sydney:
- Unlike the Northern Hemisphere, this time of year is summer in Sydney, and while gloriously sunny, days can be scorchers and an SPF of at least 30, preferably more, is an absolute must.
- Check out the Sydney area of Newtown, where Mardi Gras parties happen every night of the two weeks leading up to the main event.
When is Mardi Gras 2019?
The date varies depending on the year as the celebration is connected to Easter, which ranges from late March to late April. This year, Mardi Gras falls on March 5, 2019. In parts of the world where it is observed, the celebrations usually take place over a longer period of time.
Happy Mardi Gras! All of these destinations are worth visiting any time of year, so talk to a Flight Centre Expert Traveller today. Besides, it’s never too early to start making plans for Mardi Gras 2020!