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Where and When To Celebrate Mardi Gras and Carnival in 2023

In many places around the world, the period leading up to the solemn observance of Lent is a time for Carnival, celebrations that culminate in Mardi Gras, which this year falls on Feb. 21. Travelers who want to join in the fun have plenty of choices.

With its mix of African-American, French and Spanish cultures, New Orleans is especially festive. Beginning on January 6, you’ll find music, art and costumed revelers throughout the city. On weekends leading up to Mardi Gras — or Fat Tuesday — krewes put on parades with floats and marching bands. While some have been holding parades for more than a century others are more recent, like the “Star Wars”-inspired Krewe of Chewbacchus. Be sure to try king cake, a pastry decorated in the Mardi Gras colors of yellow, green and purple, with a small plastic baby hidden inside that will bring you luck and prosperity if you find it.

Festivities in St. Louis center in the city’s historic French neighborhood of Soulard. The celebration kicks off with a Family Winter Carnival on Jan. 14. Other events include a Cajun Cook-Off on Feb. 4, followed by a Pet Parade, 5K Run and Taste of Soulard on the weekend of Feb. 11-12. Mardi Gras culminates with the Bud Light Grand Parade on Feb. 18, which ends at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, where you can take a tour and enjoy a sample of freshly brewed beer.

Carnival is the most vibrant celebration of culture in the Dominican Republic. Every Sunday in February, colorful parades take place in every city and region, with unique costumes, masks and mystical characters. The oldest, largest and most popular parade is held in La Vega, about 90 minutes north of the capital, Santo Domingo. Festivities culminate with the National Carnival Parade held on the first Sunday in March in Santo Domingo, with one last big celebration along the Malecon waterfront boulevard.

In Venice, Italy, Carnival will be celebrated from Feb. 11-21. It’s a magical time to visit this beautiful city and learn about its history and traditions. Colorfully decorated boats sail along the Grand Canal and processions and costume contests are held in St. Mark’s Square. You can choose from a full lineup of events, including costume balls, dinner cruises, treasure hunts, pub crawls and mask-making workshops. Performances range from classical music and opera to circus acts and puppet shows.

Carnival time in Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s most famous celebrations, and it has a special vibe due to Brazil’s mix of European and African cultures. The Sambadrome is a stadium built to host the parade of samba schools that takes place during the Carnival. It’s a dazzling spectacle of rhythm and dancing that you won’t want to miss. You’ll also find neighborhood celebrations and balls held in clubs and hotels across the city. This year, the festivities take place from Feb. 17-25.

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