Best places to let your hair down during Mardi Gras named

SYDNEY, Australia - Time to hit the gym, drag out the spandex and dust off the glitter bag – its Mardi Gras time!

SYDNEY, Australia – Time to hit the gym, drag out the spandex and dust off the glitter bag – its Mardi Gras time! It’s more than just excessively decorated floats and people wearing (next to) nothing – it’s a celebration, a cultural experience and, quite frankly, a fantastic party. The best places to soak in the vibe of the Mardi Gras in 2011 (and maybe even get involved) have been announced today.

New Orleans, Louisiana – This famous two-week festival features parades headed by ‘Kings’ and ‘Queens’, leading a flotilla of floats manned by krewes, who throw trinkets to the crowd which lines the streets. The culmination is the mayhem of Mardi Gras Day which falls on March 8 this year (also known as Fat Tuesday), when all inhibitions are lost. Considering that the next day is a rather more somber Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent, when abstinence prevails), Fat Tuesday the ultimate excuse for a knees-up and a throw down.

Sydney, Australia – Between Sydney’s cosmopolitan outlook, glorious harbor and golden beaches, there is no better destination for the international traveler. As the sun begins to set on March 5, Mardi Gras night, the energy builds as hundreds of thousands of spectators line the streets, electric with anticipation. Meanwhile, thousands of parade participants mingle, sparkle and check their dance moves before exploding onto Oxford Street in one of the world’s most flamboyant, hilarious, creative and friendly celebration of gay pride. In 2011, all entrants have been encouraged to “Say Something”. Expect sights that will make you laugh or fill you with passion, a rainbow extravaganza of over 100 outrageous floats, lavish costumes, stunning design and wild dancing.

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – No Mardi Gras list would be complete without the mention of possibly the most famous festival, which occurs around Brazil (and most of South America), known as Carnaval, happening from March 4-8 this year. All the country’s samba schools compete in various categories of costume, dance and percussion (drumming). Rio’s famous Sambodromo plays host to the main Samba parade, with schools trying to outdo each other with floats, costumes and dancing. The city is also full of street parades know as bandas, which go around most of Rio’s neighborhoods.

Cologne and Dusseldorf, Germany – Mardi Gras, referred to as Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) falls on March 7 this year. The festival marks the beginning of Lent and is celebrated in most German speaking countries of Europe, but most actively in the ‘carnival strongholds’ of Rhineland. Celebrations usually include fancy costumes, dancing, parades, heavy drinking (of course) and public displays with floats.

Venice, Italy – The City of Water is sometimes said to have the most elaborate Carnival in Europe, which lasts ten days before Lent. Many events are held in the canals including shows, concerts, dances, and water processions with rowers wearing masks on decorated boats. On March 8 the finale in Saint Mark’s Square will be fun-filled featuring a giant group kiss at midnight, entertainment, and fireworks.

Toronto, Canada– Not wanting to totally miss out to their neighbors in the south, Canadian Mardi Gras celebrations are common and widespread throughout the country, especially on March 8 in Toronto and other major cities like Montreal and Vancouver. The French-speaking province of Quebec is where the celebrations are most exuberant, with music and food festivals, as well as street parties.

St. Louis, Missouri– From inauspicious beginnings, as drunken patrons of a bar in the Soulard neighborhood decided to march on another bar, the St. Louis Mardi Gras is now regarded as the 2nd largest in the US, behind New Orleans. On March 8 it will attracts tens of thousands of tourists and local revelers. As far as the vibe of the party – the fact that the major sponsors are Budweiser beer and Southern Comfort bourbon should pretty much tell you all you need to know.

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