Mardi Gras. Anything with “fat” in the title is almost always a good idea, no matter how, or where, you celebrate.
While Mardi Gras means New Orleans, Bourbon Street, and the French Quarter to most people, Louisiana is just one of many awesome destinations where you can unleash your inner party animal with thousands of drunk strangers.
So, to get you ready for a truly interesting Mardi Gras, here are 3 Alternative Mardi Gras Destinations, along with a packing list and a few tips to make you the life of the party no matter where you celebrate:
Carnevale de Venezia
Screw Vegas. Venice was, and is, the world’s first adult playground. And they still throw a one heck of a party. You know that suave as hell Casanova guy? Venice is where he got down. Seriously.
Fueled by obscurity, the Venetian bacchanalia (Medieval for “YOLO”) encompassed all levels of society—from paupers to merchant kings. Home to the works of Michelangelo and Medici, this artificial archipelago of islands linked by canals is an absolute marvel—especially during Carnevale—the 10 days before Ash Wednesday—(what the uncouth call “Mardi Gras”).
Informed by centuries of history, powered by sex, alcohol, mystery, and sex, it’s just plain unique; Venice’s Carnevale is a traveler’s dream. The whole city is shaped like a freaking fish for crying out loud.
To really get Carnevale, you have to understand the maschera (mask). The icon of Carnevale, the mask is what makes the party happen. For centuries, Venetians have shrouded themselves in mystery and make believe, letting anonymity unleash their inner desires.
Choose from the three main mask options:
- Bauta – Your “everyday” mask. The bauta style covers just the upper face, leaving your mouth free to eat, drink, talk, and…do other stuff.
- Morretta – Literally meaning “dark,” the moretta is the shroud of the sinister and mysterious. If you don the moretta, you’re advertising that you’re down to get weird.
- Volto, or Larva – The most basic of —volto (Italian for “face”) and larva (Latin for “ghost”) cover the entire face with little or no expression. Traditionally accompanied by a hooded cloak. The volto mask is anonymity to the extreme. Picture all those guys in Eyes Wide Shut. So…
Strap on one of the elaborate maschera and let out your inner demons. Literally.
Elegant soirees in private estates co-mingle with public events for a dizzying array of options. Highlights include:
- “The Flight of the Angels” tightrope walk in St. Marks Square
- “Shrove Tuesday” candlelit rowboat and gondola parade
- “Night of the Tarantula” party and firework show on the Fat Tuesday
Bring your A+ game because this party is fancy, but if you can pay the price of admission, you’re in for the week of your life. And hurry up, because Venice won’t be here forever.
Pro Tip: Scared of boats? Head to Viareggio in Tuscany for some of the most intense paper mache and parade puppets on the planet.
Everyone thinks of New Orleans as the origin of Mardi Gras celebrations in the US, and while it’s certainly the most well-known, the “Mobile Mask” in Mobile, Alabama, is the oldest and longest running Mardi Gras party in the USA.
Started by Frenchman (of course) Nicholas Langlois back in 1703, the Mobile celebration is where a lot of our modern Mardi Gras traditions originated. Impromptu parades comprised of ragged themed “krewes,” tossing gifts and trinkets to crowds from floats or wagons, and secret society parties from the likes of groups called “The Cowbellions”—a lot of what makes Mardi Gras great owes a tip of the cap to Mobile, Alabama.
If you’re anything like me, and like to dig down to the roots of a tradition, the Mobile Mask is the party for you. Do yourself a favor and ask a drunk local about Joe Cain. Get ready for a super weird conversation.
Pro Tip: Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” is just the last day of the month-long festival. The party technically starts the day after the Epiphany (Jan 6th), and lasts until Ash Wednesday. The party in Mobile starts January 9th, so even if you can’t make Fat Tuesday, you can still celebrate.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Dude. I mean… just… dude! If you want excess, adventure, intrigue, and more just go to Rio in February. I don’t have to tell you that.
Carnival in Rio is the Carnival. Home to the world’s largest Mardi Gras celebration—over 1 million people partied there in 2015—it’s insane. Yes, Brazil is far away, flights are expensive, and Portuguese is hard to learn. That’s kind of what makes this festival so great.
Rio Carnival is the Mecca of parties, and simply should not be missed.
Pro Tip: Sign up to dance in the Samba Parade ($200-$500) and get a firsthand look at the biggest parade in the world.
Mardi Gras Packing List
- Bum Bag – Fanny packs, bum bags, —whatever you call em, these are freaking amazing. Honestly, the biggest threat to your stuff is drunk you. Keep your cash, ID, phone, food, beads, and flask all safe within arms’ reach. Bonus: Buy one of these sweet 80’s fanny packs and let it start every conversation for you.
- Go Girl pee funnel. Yeah, a pee funnel. Apparently, it’s super useful.
- Mardi Gras Beads Bulk buy them(144 for $16.99) – Guys, we all know why you’re going to the Mardi Gras parade. Buy smart and never run out of that sweet plastic currency.
- King Cake Babies (36 count $1.49) – King cake is as much a part of the Mardi Gras tradition as throwing up on a stranger, so why not have some fun with it? Buy this 36 pack of little plastic babies and just jam a bunch of them in every king cake you see. Then everyone gets to be special.
Apps to Pack
- Find My Friend – This app is super creepy 364 days of the year. Guess which day it’s the best thing ever?
- Find My Phone – Turn this on so you can find your friends.
- Mardi Gras Parade Tracker – No one gives a rat’s ass which float is next, but this app will give you an excuse to stop staring at all the half naked people for a few minutes. Pace yourself, dude.
- Drunk Mode – Put your phone in drunk mode, unless you want to text your exes pics of “all those sweet cans” so they can see what they’re missing. That doesn’t even make sense, and we all hope you’re better than that.
No matter where you celebrate, Mardi Gras is one of the world’s greatest parties. Join the billions that have come before you and blow off steam before you pretend to give up chocolate for Lent. Again.
- Venice: the classiest party ever
- Alabama: where America learned how to get weird
- Rio: go big, or go home, Baby
- Fanny packs are amazing
Tweet at me if you get the king cake. Actually, tweet at me if you don’t get the king cake. That’s way more likely, and I want to hear from more of you.
Image: Travis Simon (Flickr) and Dave Meier (stocksnap)