The Best Carnivals in North America & Why You Must Attend!

Here are 12 amazing places to celebrate carnival in North America. From New Orleans all the way to Toronto!

New Orleans Mardi Gras, Louisiana, USA

new orleans

Where is the New Orleans Mardi Gras?

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.

What is Mardi Gras in New Orleans?

Mardi Gras is the party that made New Orleans famous! Every year about 1.5 million visitors hit the streets of New Orleans to celebrate! New Orleans’s Mardi Gras has lots of unique traditions that make this Mardi Gras so special and world renowned!  Parades, parties, Masquerade Balls, King Cake and more…..New Orleans Mardi Gras has it all!

Over 70 parades will march during New Orleans Mardi Gras Season. The parades feature amazing floats and costumes. The major Mardi Gras parades start about two weeks before Fat Tuesday. The New Orleans Mardi Gras parades throw trinkets from the floats during the parades. Throws include candies, cups, coins, toys, coconuts and the famous colourful plastic beads.

All the celebrations lead up to the biggest day of celebrations on Fat Tuesday. The most popular parades occur on this day and all the streets of New Orleans are packed with party goers. There is excess drinking, lots of socialising, dancing and fun! New Orleans Mardi Gras is actually a family friendly day.

Read more about New Orleans Mardi Gras here.

Quebec Winter Carnival, Quebec, Canada

quebec

Where is the Quebec Winter Carnival?

Quebec, Canada.

What is carnival in Quebec?

The Quebec Winter Carnival is actually one of the biggest carnivals in the world. It gives the Canadians a reason to stop hibernating and get outside and just embrace the winter weather. Quebec Carnival transforms the freezing cold Canadian winters into a fun Winter Wonderland for the whole family.

Millions come out for this event every year which takes place in Quebec City and lasts for an entire month. The Quebec Winter Carnival is filled with the most fun winter activities like dog sledding, ice-skating, ice-tubing, ice-sculptures and more. You can even if you are brave enough to take part in the festival’s snow bath which sees a nice swim in the ice-cold water.

The mascot of Quebec Winter Carnival is a giant snowman named Bonhomme who for some of the local kids is even more beloved then Santa Clause. Every year a new ice palace is created for Bonhomme which is incredible. It is an enormous palace that you can even take a tour off.

Read more about Quebec Winter Carnival here.

Caribana, Toronto, Canada

caribana toronto

Where is Caribana?

Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

What is carnival in Toronto?

Carnival in Toronto is a fabulous Caribbean Carnival celebration that takes place in Canada! This is a vibrant, colourful and lively summer carnival that is all about celebrating Caribbean culture. It started off as a three-week event but was so popular that shortly it transformed into a three-week carnival.

Caribana is attended by well over a million people and is officially the largest Caribbean carnival event in all North America. The carnival is now fifty years old and was created back in the 1960’s to embrace diversity. The event is full of cultural activities and events but the highlight of carnival is the Toronto Caribbean Carnival’s Grande Parade!

The Toronto Caribbean Carnival’s Grande Parade is a colourful procession that draws millions from all over the world to see the masquerades and steel pan performers. The city is full of parties on that day with everyone out having a good time.

Read more about Caribana here.

San Francisco Carnival, USA

san francisco

Where is San Francisco Carnival?

San Francisco, California, USA.

What is carnival in San Francisco?

Carnival in San Francisco is a vibrant and zealous celebration with an incredible Grand Carnival Parade. The San Francisco Carnival is all about highlighting Latin and Caribbean Cultures and is full of awesome drumming performances brass bands, live music, dancing, colourful costumes and lots of artistry.

The Carnival takes place every Memorial Day Weekend in the city’s Mission District which is transformed. Culture’s from all over the world are represented here you can enjoy music and dance performances from Cuba, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, and loads more.

The San Francisco Grand Carnaval parade features lots of dancers wearing colourful costumes accompanied by elaborately decorated floats. There are also loads of brass bands, drummers, and sound systems all over that pump out everything from hip-hop to salsa, soca or reggae. It is an intoxicating street party.

Read more about San Francisco carnival here.

Lafayette Mardi Gras, Louisiana, USA

lafayette

Where is Lafayette Mardi Gras?

Lafayette, Louisiana, USA.

What is Mardi Gras in Lafayette?

Lafayette Mardi Gras is an awesome celebration which features 17 different parades which are just as popular as the ones in New Orleans. Lafayette Mardi Gras is full of parties, parades, masquerade balls and other cultural traditions.

The locals call Lafayette Mardi Gras the “greatest free party on earth,” because everyone is out on the streets celebrating. Lafayette is not actually as debaucherous as New Orleans. Lafayette Mardi Gras has some unique traditions including the Mardi Gras Run, which sees masked men riding around on horseback begging for food while people throw chicken at them.

Read more about Mardi Gras Lafayette here.

Winterlude, USA  

Where is Winterlude?

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

What is carnival in Ottawa?

Winterlude is an annual winter carnival that is held in Ottawa, Ontario. Winterlude is one of the biggest events carnival celebrations in North America and it attracts an over a million people.

Similar to the Quebec Winter Carnival this event features lots of fun winter activities including ice-skating, dog sledding, ice-sledding and more. Winterlude actually features the world’s largest ice-skating ring which takes place on the Rideau Canal Skateway and is almost 8km long.

Read more about Winterlude Carnival here.

West Indian or Labor Day Parade, USA

labor day

Where is the West Indian Parade?

Brooklyn, New York, USA.

What is carnival in New York City?

The West Indian carnival also known as the Labor Day Parade is a colourful and vibrant celebration of Caribbean carnival that takes place every Labor Day weekend in Brooklyn, NYC. The West Indian Day Carnival is all about celebrating Caribbean culture and attracts over two million people every year.

The parade is full of bright costumed masquerades, steelpan and brass bands. The costumes are stunning sparkly and full of feathers the same kind of incredible costumes you would expect to see in Rio or Trinidad. Lots of costumes are satirical in nature with people dressing up as politicians or celebrities. There is lots of drinking and dancing occurring and everyone is having a good time.

Read more about the West Indian Parade here.

Universal Studios Mardi Gras, Florida, USA

orlando

Where is the Universal Studio Mardi Gras?

Universal Studios, Florida, USA.

What is carnival in Orlando?

Orlando Mardi Gras is also known as the Universal Studios Mardi Gras is one of the most popular Mardi Gras parties in the whole USA. It is hosted by Universal Studios and lasts for over 50 nights! Every single night there is a parade filled with fantastic performers. 

Universal Studios claims they throw a celebration better than the original one in New Orleans. Universal Studios Mardi Gras features spectacular street parades, serves authentic Cajun food, features festive floats and has a host of incredible performers, dancers. Universal Studios also puts on lots of concerts featuring big name musicians like Fifth Harmony.

Carifiesta, Montreal, Canada

carifiesta montreal

Where is Carifiesta?

Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

What is carnival in Montreal?

Carifiesta Montreal or Carifête in French is one of the cities most exciting and colourful events. Carifiesta has been held ever since 1975 and is all about celebrating Montreal’s Caribbean community. The carnival celebration attracts about half a million people who line the streets to watch the parade.

The Carifiesta Parade is the biggest attraction of carnival and features stunning costumed masquerades, steelpan performances and awesome floats in the parade. They host a free outdoor Jazz Festival after the parade where people go to keep partying and is full of live music shows and free entertainment.

Read more about Carifiesta here.

Lake Charles, Louisiana or Mardi Gras of Southwest, Louisiana, USA

lake charles

Where is Lake Charles Mardi Gras?

Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA.

What is Mardi Gras in Lake Charles?

Lake Charles Mardi Gras is officially the second largest Mardi Gras in Louisiana and its official name is Mardi Gras of Southwest Louisiana. Lake Charles Mardi Gras features parades and parties that begin in January and don’t stop until Lent. This Mardi Gras attracts about 150,000 celebrants who come to enjoy the parade, food and music.

Lake Charles Mardi Gras is renowned for its carnival costumes and the city even has a Mardi Gras section in their local museum. The Imperial Calcasieu Museum hosts the world’s largest display of Mardi Gras costumes and other regalia. They also host the world-famous Gumbo Cook Off, an event that lets you eat lots of delicious local cuisine and Mardi Gras specialities.

Miami Broward Carnival, Florida, USA

miami

Where is the Miami Carnival?

Miami, Florida, USA.

What is carnival in Miami?

Every year Miami hosts the Miami Broward Carnival which attracts over 50,000 spectators. The Miami Broward Carnival occurs in the lead up to Columbus Day. The event is full of awesome festivities and attractions all around the city. The Miami Broward Carnival is all about celebrating Caribbean culture, traditions and heritage.

The main attraction is the masquerade parade that features over 18,000 participants and takes place over a 10km parade route through the city. The participants parade with the hope of winning the Best Band of the Year as well as the Best Music Truck. The carnival also features the crowning of a carnival king and queen.

Read more about Miami Carnival here.

Mobile, Alabama

What is Mardi Gras in Mobile?

Mobile Mardi Gras takes place in Mobile, Alabama and is actually the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the USA. That’s right! It is much older than New Orleans Mardi Gras and first occurred back in 1703. Mobile Mardi Gras begins two weeks before Mardi Gras Day and is full of parades, marching bands, parties, balls and more.

Mobile even has a museum that is dedicated to its Mardi Gras history. Mobile Mardi Gras attracts huge crowds to its celebrations and what is unique about it is that it is a mix of many different cultures and even religions including the French, African, British, American and Creole and Catholic faiths.

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