Carnival Celebrations Worldwide

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Binche, Belgium Since 1549, this town has celebrated Carnaval. The must-see event is the March of the Gilles, shown here. carnavaldebinche.be.
Stavelot, Belgium Be on guard if you visit this southern village a few Sundays before Easter, when locals interrupt Lent for a celebration. One of the white-robed figures might smack you with a dried pig's bladder—or something just as yucky. laetare-stavelot.be.
— OPT/JPRemy
Venice Once Carnevale gets underway, you'll see costumed figures in St. Mark's Square and other major piazzas. At night, flares light up the usual fog. carnivalofvenice.com.
Venice There are no cars in this city, so Carnevale revelers must walk through its piazzas and twisting alleyways to reach ballrooms. Onlookers seize the opportunity to sneak peeks at the gorgeous outfits.
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago The Carnival in this capital city is famous for its stilt-walkers. Some of their clever costumes satirize former British colonial authorities. gotrinidadandtobago.com.
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago Unlike pre-Lenten festivities elsewhere, the party here demands audience participation. If you go, expect someone to throw paint on you—and then lure you into a dance.
New Orleans Say "Mardi Gras" in the U.S., and everybody thinks of this city. The street celebrations here are tamer now than they were before the 2005 hurricane, but they're still a blast. mardigrasday.com.
New Orleans Papier-mâché jesters adorned this parade float, now on display at Mardi Gras World, a local museum. mardigrasworld.com.
Quebec City, Canada Walk through ice-and-snow sculptures as large as castles during Winter Carnival, the largest pre-Lenten festival in the Northern Hemisphere. carnaval.qc.ca.
Quebec City, Canada Canoes race in the ice-choked St. Lawrence River on the last day of Winter Carnival.
Cologne, Germany Since the Middle Ages, this city has held Kölner Karneval. A highlight is a women-only, traditional-dress gathering on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. koeln.de.
Cologne, Germany A kid-friendly parade has floats decorated with colorful faces. Kids hold out their hands hoping to catch Kamelle (candies) tossed in the air.
Rio de Janeiro Considered the granddaddy event, this coastal city's Carnaval pulses to a samba beat, the ritual music rooted in Afro-Brazilian culture. rio-carnival.net.
Rio de Janeiro During the sultry Carnaval, free street parties are easy to find, but the main event is a competition between samba performers in a 70,000-person venue, the Sambodromo. Tickets start at $110.
— Courtesy Embratur
Mazatlán, Mexico Residents of this western coastal city are fiercely proud of their Carnival. gomazatlan.com.
Mazatlán, Mexico Carnival includes a parade southward along Avenida del Mar, which hugs the Pacific Ocean.
Mazatlán, Mexico Nightlife revolves around the plaza Machado Plazuela.
Barranquilla, Colombia During Carnival in this Caribbean coastal city, visitors stand on cobbled streets and take in the sounds of Colombian funk and folk music. colombia.travel.
Barranquilla, Colombia UNESCO has recognized the multiday event here as a precious global treasure. If you go see it, don't be surprised if someone tosses a garland around your neck.

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