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12 Best Carnival Celebrations in North America

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The celebration of the original carnival is not a traditional celebration in North America; however, it has festivities of a similar nature. In addition, some of the countries that make up this side of the continent have integrated Caribbean carnival festivities into their calendar of celebrations, which has generated events of great caliber.

Likewise, festivals or celebrations with carnival themes are also common in this part of the continent, as well as celebrations that adapt to their climatic conditions, taking advantage of them to turn them into tourist destinations.

12. Miami Broward Carnival, United States

Miami Carnival takes place in Miami-Dade County located in Florida, United States. Miami Carnival in the city of Miami has been taking place since 1985. However, this carnival has been formally part of the city since 2009. The carnival was the result of the union of Miami Carnival Inc. and Broward Caribbean Carnival Inc, who held carnival celebrations in the same city, on the same day. The two organizations decided to join forces to hold a macro event, resulting in today’s carnival.

Miami Broward Carnivals has the purpose of providing spaces for the Caribbean community. The event is a reflection of the Caribbean identity that is transmitted through the music, the dancing and the incredible dresses characteristic of the Caribbean carnivals. In addition, the celebration includes a large number of events, entertainment of the highest level.


Miami Broward Carnival is a colorful demonstration of Caribbean traditions and cultures

Miami Broward Carnival is a colorful demonstration of Caribbean traditions and cultures



The carnival celebration in the city of Miami is a great conglomeration of events and characteristics identifying various Caribbean countries. The event features several traditional elements such as soca music, calypso and metal drums. In addition, as is tradition in the Caribbean carnivals, there are children’s carnivals, the Pan-O-Rama, the J’ouvert and the traditional Carnival Parade.

Despite having characteristics of a Caribbean carnival, the Miami Broward Carnival is not held during the traditional carnival dates, but during the month of October. The Miami Broward Carnival will be held approximately from October 8 to 10.



11. Orlando Caribbean Carnival, United States

One of the most famous Caribbean carnivals in the United States is located in Orlando, a city in Florida. This carnival emerged about 30 years ago with the aim of providing spaces for recreation and cultural development to the Caribbean community of the town. The Orlando Caribbean Carnival is a multi-day celebration, in which a large number of events entertainment and recreational activities take place.


The Orlando Caribbean Carnival is a wonderful celebration full of music, dance and delicious Caribbean food. This celebration tries to recreate to perfection how carnivals are celebrated originally from the Caribbean, but at the upper end of the continent. During the celebration, the city sets up a carnival enclosure where most of the activities take place, as well as the fair of food and the stages where the artists perform. In addition, the Pan-O-Rama, a large concert and contest between metal drum bands is held in this venue.


Orlando Carnival is a space for the Caribbean community in the city

Orlando Carnival is a space for the Caribbean community in the city



In addition to the incredible musical ambiance and delicious food, the Orlando Caribbean Carnival also offers celebrations characteristic of Caribbean carnivals. One of these is the characteristic J’ouvert. This is a street celebration of great identity value for the community. In addition, there is also the Grand Parade of carnival, which features a variety of live entertainment, music and Bandas Mas. It is not necessary to belong to the Caribbean community to participate, as everyone is welcome regardless of their roots.

Despite having traditional elements of a carnival, it is not celebrated on the traditional date, but during the month of May. The Orlando Carnival or Orlando Carnival Downtown will be held approximately from May 27th to May 31st.


10. Mobile Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama, United States

This Mardi Gras will be held in the city of Mobile, in South Alabama. The Mardi Gras in Mobile is in fact, older than that of New Orleans. The first recorded Mardi Gras in Mobile was in the year 1703 with the first French societies. As various settlers began to settle in the area, the celebrations began to take on new elements. It was not until 1830 when the first modern Mystic Society was created in Mobile.

Mardi Gras is an extremely popular celebration in the United States United States, especially in the south of the country. The celebrations in Mobile during Mardi Gras are no game and all societies take the festivities very seriously. The Mystic Societies or Mystic Societies are groups that perform the parades and dances in the city. These societies or krewes differ from city to city; however, they operate under the same concept. Individuals who join these societies must pay a membership fee, but some of these societies are exclusive to family members of former members or elite individuals.


People tackle objects thrown from floats at Mobile's Mardi Gras

People tackle objects thrown from floats at Mobile’s Mardi Gras



The streets where the carriages pass are completely covered with flags and decorations in yellow, green and purple, characteristic colors of Mardi Gras. The parades in the city of Mobile are completely out of this world. In addition, the various members of the societies wear masks during the parade in order to conceal their identity. Throughout the route, these members draw necklaces of beads, candy, commemorative doubloons and the famous Moon Pies, a marshmallow-filled cookie covered in chocolates.

Despite having a different name, Mardi Gras is celebrated on the same day as Shrove Tuesday, referencing Fat Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. Mobile’s Mardi Gras extends from the last or penultimate week of January to Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras.



9. Lake Charles Mardi Gras, United States

The City of Lake Charles is one of the cities that celebrates Mardi Gras most fervently. Lake Charles is located in the state of Louisiana, in the southern United States. The first recorded Mardi Gras in Lake Charles dates back to 1882. The celebrations were held continuously until World War I, at which time they almost died out. Today, Lake Charles Mardi Gras is considered the second largest in the entire state.


Lake Charles Mardi Gras has a much more family-friendly approach than the rest of the celebrations in the state. However, it features the traditional elements of the celebration, such as the “Throws”, objects that are thrown from floats in the parade and the krewes, carnival troupes, which are in charge of conducting the parades. The Mardi Gras krewes are traditional groups that perform private, almost secret parades and dances. These groups operate under memberships, which can be exclusive, being directed only to relatives of former members, while others are relatively open and you only need to pay dues to join.


During the celebration, dozens of krewes assemble fancy floats to parade in the streets. In these parades, the members of such groups are fully disguised and masked. In addition, from the top of the floats they throw bead necklaces and sweets. The carnival also features some other events and activities such as picnics, contests and some dances, most of these limited exclusively to members of the groupings or krewes. Mardi Gras in the city has become extremely popular, counting at least 150,00 visitors each year.

The Lake Charles Mardi Gras will be held from approximately February 6 to February 16.



8. Montreal Caribbean Carnival (Carifiesta), Canada

The Carifiesta is a celebration held in the city of Montreal, province of Quebec, Canada. The celebration is also known as Montreal Caribbean Carnival. The Carnival had emerged in the 1970s as a form of expression for the Caribbean community of the city. The project was carried out by the Caribbean Cultural Festivities Association or Caribbean Cultural Festivities Association as an instrument to promote racial harmony. In addition, its objective also contemplated the preservation and development of the Caribbean cultural heritage.

The Montreal Caribbean Carnival is held every year in an attempt to perfectly recreate the original Caribbean carnivals. During this wonderful event, the streets are completely filled with a great atmosphere of celebration, traditional Caribbean music, delicious food, dancing and many other activities. In addition to this, the Carifiesta also comprises many other major events that characterize the traditional Caribbean carnival.


Get ready for an experience as close as possible to theCaribbean carnivals that take place in any of the islands. The Carifiesta is made up of events such as the J’ouvert and the Parade of Bandas Mas, two of the most traditional elements of the Caribbean festivities. In addition, it also has some activities for children so that they can also be part of the cultural development of the entire city of Montreal.

The Montreal Caribbean Carnival is possibly one of the largest and most important street events in the city. In fact, the Carifiesta has been attended by up to one million people per year. The Montreal Caribbean Carnival will take place from approximately June 8 to 10.



7. West Indian Carnival Parade, United States

The West Indian Carnival Parade or simply the West Indian Carnival in Brooklyn, is arguably one of the largest and most popular events in all of New York City. The event began to be held in 1930 with the aim of recreating traditional Caribbean carnivals. However, due to the weather conditions of the city during the date, the celebration was held in private solons, which made it impossible to hold massive events such as the Parade or the J’ouvert. Ten years later, the carnival took to the streets of the city, specifically in Crown Heights, where they are still held.

The Carnival is held with the help of WIADCA, an organization whose purpose is to promote, develop and celebrate the art, the culture, history and traditions of the Caribbean and afro-descendant community. Each year, the streets become a great multicolored stage that gives people space to celebrate through music, dance and the incredible colorful costumes traditional of the Caribbean festivities.


The J'ouvert is one of the attractions of the West Indies Carnival in New York

The J’ouvert is one of the attractions of the West Indies Carnival in New York


The event comprises the same events that a traditional Caribbean carnival would have. One of the most popular activities is the J’ouvert, an extremely popular street celebration, full of music, dancing and good vibes. In addition, there is also the Main Parade of the carnival, which integrates the Bandas Mas, the carrozas and the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants with different flags of their countries. The event has been attended by up to 2 million people per year.

The celebration of the West Indian Carnival Parade is held during Labor Day or Labor Day. In the United States, Labor Day is always held on the first Monday of September. The West Indian Carnival in New York will be held on Monday, September 6.



6. Winterlude, Canada

The Winterlude is a large carnival-themed celebration held every year in the city of Ottawa, province of Ontario, Canada. The Winterlude had its beginnings in the year 1979 by government institutions. This project arose to celebrate the culture and climate of the city, transforming a climate that can often be quite cruel and transforming it into something fun and joyful. In addition, the organizations wanted to commemorate the city’s ancestors, who spent time together during the coldest season in the country.  Currently, the event is attended by more than half a million people who come to celebrate the carnival.


The Ottawa Winter Carnival or Winterlude features several recreational areas within the central venue of the celebrations. One of these is the Rideau Canal Skateway, which is the city’s canal, which freezes over during the dates and serves as a large ice rink. There are also other venues such as the Snowflake Kingdome or Sparks Street which offer entertainment such as activities, contests and sports events ice sports events such as Hockey.


The Winterlude is a winter holiday that encompasses hundreds of activities

The Winterlude is a winter holiday that encompasses hundreds of activities



In addition to this, carnivals hold various traditional carnival entertainment events. During the Winterlude there are some live music performances, food fairs with traditional dishes, sled racing and some bars are set up. The whole celebration takes place in a great festive and happy atmosphere despite the abrupt weather conditions that the city faces during the date.

Many cities or countries decide to move the carnival festivities to warmer seasons, but Winterlude, no. Winterlude takes advantage of the weather conditions and transforms them into a great tourist attraction. The Ottawa Winter Carnival or Winterlude will be held from approximately February 5 to 20.



5. Lafayette Mardi Gras, United States

Lafayette is the birthplace of the second largest and most important Mardi Gras in the entire state of Louisiana. The first recorded account of Mardi Gras in Lafayette was published in the year 1869 by one of the local newspapers. Since then, the party has been growing exponentially. In the beginning, the party was carried out by the residents of the city themselves. During the global war conflicts, the celebration stopped, but flourished again in the year 1948.

Lafayette Mardi Gras is an extraordinary celebration full of color, floats and beaded necklaces everywhere. This celebration is considered one of the best parties of Mardi Gras after the world-famous Mardi Gras of New Orleans. Like many other celebrations, this event is composed of a large number of krewes or groupings carnival, which are responsible for carrying out the parades of floats through the streets. During these events, it is customary to perform the “throws”, which consist of throwing bead necklaces and sweets from the floats.


King Gabriel is one of Lafayette's classic Mardi Gras characters

King Gabriel is one of Lafayette’s classic Mardi Gras characters



Every corner of Lafayette is filled with color, especially yellow, purple and green. The celebration is designed to entertain the whole family, which is why there are children’s activities, contests, parades, dances and incredible food fairs with traditional dishes and King Cake. This particular cake is quite famous among Mardi Gras celebrations and consists of a large doughnut filled and decorated with traditional holiday colors.

Mardi Gras refers to Shrove Tuesday, but like many other carnival celebrations, these are held several days before the main date Usually, the festivities start from Thursday or Friday until Shrove Tuesday. Lafayette’s Mardi Gras will be celebrated from approximately February 5 through February 16.




4. San Francisco Carnival, United States

The San Francisco Carnival or San Francisco Caribbean Carnival is one of the largest celebrations in California. The event is held in the Mission District of San Francisco. This carnival holds a deep sense of racial, cultural and human rights struggle, as it was the result of a series of social movements that included the black community, the gay community and all participants of the Hippie community. In this way, diverse social sectors, of diverse ethnicities, cultures and races congregated to celebrate the first carnival in the year 1980.

The celebration has the purpose of offering spaces to the communities, especially to the Caribbean communities and afrodescendants for recreation and preservation of traditions. The carnival is a great cultural event in which the various sectors of the city participate through dance, music, visual arts and food. In addition, the events held in the streets provide entertainment for both adults and children.


People wear colorful costumes during the San Francisco carnivals parade

People wear colorful costumes during the San Francisco carnivals parade



The San Francisco Carnival contemplates daily events and activities of a traditional Caribbean carnival. During the festivities there are competitions to elect the royal carnival court, a festival where cultural groups and musicians perform. In addition to having large and beautiful colorful parades, several folklore groups from Guatemala, Honduras and Bolivia also perform.

The celebration takes place during the days coming up as Day Memorial Day, a day that commemorates U.S. combatants who have died in combat. This holiday always takes place in the month of May. Ethe San Francisco Carnival will take place from approximately May 22 through May 23.



3. Toronto Caribbean Carnival, Canada

The city of Toronto in Ontario is home to one of the largest citywide events. The celebration emerged as a project carried out by various organizations, including the Canadian Association of Black Women. In its early days, the carnivals began as a fundraising event so that young people of African descent could attend schools and universities in southern Ontario. It was not until 1967 that the event was properly recognized as a carnival. Caribbean Carnival was formerly known as Caribana, although it had to change the name due to branding issues.

The Toronto Caribbean Carnivals is a multicultural event, whose purpose is to provide spaces for the Afro-descendant and Caribbean community to celebrate and preserve their traditions. In addition, the event also functions as a tool for the expression of identity, in which each person can dress and express themselves as they wish.


The Toronto Caribbean Carnival is a celebration that gives space to Toronto's Caribbean community

The Toronto Caribbean Carnival is a celebration that gives space to Toronto’s Caribbean community


The event comprises the same activities or celebrations as a traditional Caribbean Carnival. The streets are filled with color and joy with the Carnival festivities, better known as fetes. In addition, the traditional J’ouvert, one of the events with the greatest identity importance of the Caribbean carnivals, also takes place. Finally, the great carnival parade, in which the various Bandas Mas or Mas Bands offer their services to the revelers.

Due to the weather conditions in the city during the months of February and March, the organization tries to recreate these carnivals during the warmer months. In this way, the street events that characterize the festivities can take place. The Toronto Caribbean Carnival will run from approximately July 29 to August 1.




2. Quebec Winter Carnival, Canada

The historic district of Quebec, considered a Unesco World Heritage Site, is the epicenter of one of the largest winter celebrations in the entire country. Winter festivities have been a part of the city since 1894, although not in the current form. The firstwinter festivals were held by the townspeople to keep warm during the weather conditions during the dates. It was not until 1954 when the festivities began to acquire a much more defined organization and in 1955 the first winter carnivals were held in Quebec. Since then, the carnival has served as a tourist attraction, both for nationals and foreigners.


Due to the great popularity of the carnivals, the organization was forced to create a mascot that could identify the values of the festival. Thus, Bonhomme, a snowman that is present at all events in the city, was born. The objective of the Carnaval de Inverno de Quebec is to organize a festival that can generate a positive impact on both tourism and the economy. The celebration has become one of the main icons of the city. Likewise, the carnival is family-oriented, providing entertainment for every social sector, including children and adults.


The Quebec Winter Carnival mascot in a tourist and cultural symbol

The Quebec Winter Carnival mascot in a tourist and cultural symbol



The Carnival contemplates a large number of events that are adapted to the weather conditions of the city and that, at the same time, integrates traditional carnival celebrations. Among the events that stand out most in the festivities are the opening ceremony, night parades and enclosures where you can perform recreational activities and practice sports. In addition, it also has eating and drinking areas.

The Quebec Winter Carnival takes place during the months of February and March. The Quebec Carnival runs from approximately February 5 to February 14.


1. New Orleans Mardi Gras, USA

Welcome to the biggest and most well-known party in all of North America: New Orleans Mardi Gras. New Orleans is located in southern Louisiana. The city’s first official Mardi Gras was held in 1730, long after the formal establishment of Mardi Gras in other cities and towns in the state. The Mardi Gras celebration extends for months in the city of New Orleans due to the large number of carnival groups that reside in the city.


Those who organize the parades with floats and dances at the celebrations are the krewes. These krewes are nothing more and nothing less than carnival groupings that have been established for centuries. Members of these groupings must pay a membership fee in order to be part of the groupings. In addition, some krewes may be exclusive, only integrating family members of the original members, while others accept anyone who can pay the membership fee. Today, there are groups for everyone, regardless of gender, race, condition or sexual preference.


New Orleans Mardi Gras is the largest and most popular Carnival celebration in North America

New Orleans Mardi Gras is the largest and most popular Carnival celebration in North America



Like other Mardi Gras celebrations, the stars of the event are the large parades with themed floats. Although the city holds these parades as early as January, the party reaches its peak in February, when the largest and longest-running krewes parade. During the event, the floats take several streets simultaneously, each with its themed, masked characters and throws. The event also features family activities, meals and games for the little ones.

Mardi Gras takes place during the months of February through March, as do traditional carnivals. New Orleans Mardi Gras runs from January through February.


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