Where to go to celebrate Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras flag in New Orleans

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is a joyous celebration that turns city streets into whimsical parties. It began life as a religious celebration, its name meaning ‘Fat Tuesday’ and signaling the beginning of the abstinence of Lent in the Christian calendar. Mardi Gras and the days preceding it thus became known as a time to celebrate and revel in the excesses that were to be denied for the next 40 days and nights. Mardi Gras’ history goes back a long way, with some historians linking it to ancient Roman pagan festivals. In the centuries since, it has become a world-famous event and a cultural highlight in many cities’ calendars.

When is Mardi Gras?

Based on the Christan calendar, Mardi Gras varies in date a little from year to year but is generally sometime in early March. The entire Carnival celebration starts on Epiphany, which is January 6th and finishes with Mardi Gras, which is the day before Ash Wednesday. This is where things get a little more complex because Ash Wednesday is not a set date. Rather, it is dictated by the date of Easter, which itself occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox.

Where to celebrate Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is one of the biggest, boldest, and best parties on the planet. It is celebrated in different styles and traditions in many places around the world, and if you’re looking for the best spots to join in the fun, take a look at some of our favorite places to go for Mardi Gras.

A woman in colorful costume celebrating Mardi Gras
Rio Carnival

Nice Carnival, South of France

Way back in 1294, Charles d’Anjou, the then count of Provence, first wrote about the Nice Carnival. So this Mardi Gras celebration has got some serious history behind it. Originally, the Carnival de Nice was a masked ball, held in the city streets, where participants would lob confetti and eggs at each other in a display of revelry. Nowadays, it’s a less messy affair, filled with music, dancing, and typical Mardi Gras floats. Nice carnival flower parades are one of the many highlights. As many as 100000 fragrant blooms are tossed into the crowd from the floats. A unique feature of the Nice Carnival is ganses, a delicious carnival donut filled with delicate orange flower water.

Mardi Gras in Orlando, Florida

Orlando knows how to put on a show, so of course, the city goes all out during the carnival season. Universal Orlando Mardi Gras is an epic 49-night celebration, with New Orleans bands and cajun food sharing the spotlight with intricate and ornately decorated carnival floats. Mardi Gras parades at Universal Orlando are themed around carnival celebrations of the word. Floats and performers evoke the iconic parties in Rio and Venice, among others. 

Venice Carnival, Italy

One of the most famous carnivals on Earth, Venice Carnival is the most romantic, historical celebration on our list. Renowned for opulent costumed balls and themed parties, the Venice Carnival has a tumultuous history. It began in the 11th century, was banned in 1797, held in secret clubs and dinner parties a century later, before being eventually relaunched in 1979. Now reinstated as the highlight of the Venetian calendar, it draws visitors from all over the world for costume balls, contests, feasts, and The Flight of the Angel. Venice Carnival masks and costumes are decadent and beautiful, with intricate embellishment and luxurious fabrics of velvet, silk, and satin. If you don’t fancy joining in with the full costume, visitors can buy handmade Venetian Mardi Gras masks from stalls and stores across the city during carnival.

A participant at Venice Carnival
Venice Carnival

New Orleans 

New Orleans hosts the most famous Mardi Gras celebration in the world. During the carnival period, many lavish parades take place. Participants are decked out in sparkling Mardi Gras outfits, resplendent with feathers, sequins, and Mardi Gras beads. Bourbon Street is the epicenter of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It is the place where all the parades, performances, and celebrations happen. Another timeless tradition is the Mardi Gras King Cake. The cake features a ‘hidden Jesus’ figurine, and whoever finds him is then responsible for creating the cake next year. Mardi Gras attracts thousands and thousands of visitors to New Orleans every year.

If you can’t make it for the celebration itself, never fear! The city is home to the Mardi Gras Museum of Costume and Culture, which offers a fabulous and fascinating insight into the history and pageantry of the carnival. If that doesn’t satisfy your need to peek behind the curtain, you can also visit Mardi Gras World. New Orleans’ calendar revolves around the carnival, and at this fantastic attraction, you can see firsthand the work that goes into creating the incredible floats and street parties that make the event such a hit, year after year. 

Rio de Janeiro Carnival, Brazil

 Rio Carnival is the largest and most extravagant carnival in the world. Although celebrations take place all over Brazil, Rio Carnival is by far the grandest. The city comes alive with the intoxicating beat of samba music, as the famous Rio Carnival dancers shake and shimmy their way through the streets. Mardi Gras costumes in Rio are flamboyant affairs, with sparkles, feathers, and glittering embellishments.

Pancake Day, UK

Things are a little quieter in the UK for Mardi Gras, but it’s a delicious time to visit. The celebration is more commonly known as Shrove Tuesday in the UK, and even more commonly known as Pancake Day. That should give you a clue as to what the day involves! Mardi Gras food is a key part of celebrations across the world, and in the UK, that food is pancakes. Traditionally a day to use up the sugar and flour in the pantry before the abstinence of Lent, Pancake Day has become an excuse to indulge in pancakes of every kind. A quirkier way that Brits celebrate is by holding pancake races. Participants have to beat opponents in a mad dash while flipping pancakes in a pan. Whether you prefer eating them or running with them, one thing’s for sure, Pancake Day in the UK is a flipping good time.

New Orleans marching band at Mardi Gras
Marching band in New Orleans

Book a fantastic vacation home with Top Villas

Here at Top Villas, we have an amazing range of luxurious vacation homes, perfect for enjoying carnival celebrations, or for any time of year. With villas perfect for intimate couples’ vacations or big family reunions, there’s a home for every occasion. Here are a couple of our top picks in the places we’ve mentioned in this post.

Orlando, Florida

Encore Resort 934

This stunning family vacation home in Orlando is the ultimate place for an unforgettable Florida holiday. Perfectly placed for the theme parks and attractions of Orlando, the home is just 7 miles from Disney World and 20 miles from Universal Studios. The facilities are unbelievable, with games rooms, themed bedrooms, a home theatre, and access to the resort’s fabulous amenities.

Reunion Resort 9000

Suitable for as many as 33 guests, this incredible villa in Orlando is perfect for family reunions and Orlando Mardi Gras celebrations. It is a truly magnificent rental property and has amazing facilities for a guaranteed good time. Themed bedrooms, games rooms, a private pool, hot tub, home gym, and much more are all part of the deal when you book this fantastic villa.

Venice, Italy


This jaw-dropping villa is pure Venetian luxury. If you want to have the ultimate experience in the floating city, you can’t do better than this. This incredible villa is just steps from St Mark’s Square and backs onto the Grand Canal.

The Cotswolds, UK

Cotswolds 14

Stay in the heart of the English countryside in this beautiful vacation home in The Cotswolds. With a breathtaking lakeside view and contemporary living space for up to 12 people, this villa is an amazing place for rest, relaxation, and exploring the heart of England.