Carnivals in the Caribbean region, North and South America are the most popular and largest in the world. If you want to experience a carnival of your life or the mother of all carnivals, then pack your bags, book a hotel and get a flight ticket to South America, destination Brazil or take a vacation in The Caribbean, destination Trinidad and Tobago. The carnivals in these regions will give you a taste of what a true and authentic carnival looks like. The people there are so enthusiastic and passionate when it comes to festival celebrations. It’s an occasion to celebrate, dance, listen to music and party. All of this will be going on in the streets. Brazil has even built a sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, a safe place for revelers, dedicated to hosting samba events and performances. After all, who in the world can resist the charm of Samba girls dressed in sexy costumes?
A lot of world famous carnivals are concentrated in the Americas, the following is a list of cultural carnival events in the Caribbean, South America and North America:
North America and the Caribbean
Aruba Carnaval – Costume extravaganza, street parties, parades and crowning of carnival queen. Date: January/February. The 2015 event is from 27 January to 17 February. Starts the night before Lent.
Antigua Carnival – Date: 31 July to the first week of August on a Tuesday.
Barbuda Carnival – The other name for this extravaganza is Caribana. Date: May/June
San Pedro Fiesta de Carnaval – A three day event that lasts a week, featuring street dancers, revelers painting each other, flour throwing, and mobile bands. Date: February. It begins 3 days before Ash Wednesday. The Town Council of San Pedro participates in the organization of the event. The event will run from 7 Feb to 18 Feb in 2015.
Roseau Carnival – A major carnival in the city of Roseau in Dominica. Date: February. The celebrations are held for two days on a Monday and Tuesday. The 2015 event is scheduled for 16 and 17 February.
La Vega Carnival – A big carnival featuring costumed revelers and music. Date: February. During February, parades in different cities are held every week on a Sunday.
San Pedro de Macoris Carnival – A well known parade of grand scale, with groups of street dancers and revelers. Date: February
Port-au-Prince Carnival – A significantly large carnival in the region, the local people call it Kanaval. Date: The preliminary celebrations take off in January and the largest celebrations begin in February. Ash Wednesday is the final day of celebrations. In 2015, the main event takes place from 15 to 17 February.
Jacmel Kanaval – Date: Jan/Feb
Aux Cayes Kanaval – Date: Jan/Feb
Bacchanal – Bacchanal describes the main Jamaican carnival held in cities around the country, mainly Kingston, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Date: The carnival takes place during Easter every year.
Carnaval de Loiza – revelers with masks dance in the streets. Date: July
Carnaval de Ponce – It’s a very old festival that has been held for over 200 years. Date: Celebrated in the city of Ponce, this is the main party in the country that starts 8 days before Ash Wednesday. Ponce Carnaval 2015 was held between 11 and 17 Feb and it happened to be the 157th event since its inception.
Trinidad and Tobago
Port of Spain Carnival – One of the biggest and famous celebrations in the world, which has been celebrated for over 160 years, the event is filled with contests, costumed dancers, music and partying. The Carnival King and Queen are chosen, prizes are given for the best costumes. Date: The 2016 event is planned for 8 to 9 February. The 2015 event was held on 16 and 17 February. You should note that these are the two days of the main celebrations, otherwise a lot of festival parties and events take place several months in advance of the two days of celebrations before Ash Wednesday.
Mazatenango Carnival – In this city, people engage in feasting, food is plentful, music and games are played. Date: February / the feast lasts 8 days.
La Ceiba Carnival – This city in Central America boasts the largest festival in the region. Date: May. The event is held on the fourth Saturday of the month of May.
Carnival of Bluefields – The Palo de Mayo Carnival is celebrated in this region along the Caribbean coast, and it takes a full month. Date: The whole month of May comes alive with dancing groups, parades and marches. Each day is a party, until a climax is reached towards the month end.
Carnival of Managua – Streets are lined with spectators while dance groups perform. Unlike Bluefields, the celebration here is very short, lasting only 2 days. Date: The 2015 event takes place on 24 March.
Mazatlan Carnival – Residents celebrate for six days. One of the four biggest carnivals in Mexico, which has been hosted since 1898. Date: The 115th carnival  took place between 7 and 14 February.
Carnival of Veracruz – The location has one of the biggest stadiums which hosts performances during festivities. The city is flooded with visitors each year prior to the carnival, who spill out into the streets during the celebrations. This lavish event provides visitors with 7 days of fun and extravaganza. Date: Celebrated 7 days in advance before Ash Wednesday.
Planned Events for Veracruz:
The 2015 event is planned for 11 to 17 February
The 2016 event is planned for 3 to 9 February
The 2017 event is planned for 22 to 28 February
The 2018 event is planned for 7 to 13 February
Las Tablas Carnaval – this small but magnificent town hosts an annual event called Desfile de las Mil Polleras that features beautiful women parading in traditional costumes. Date: Desfile de las Mil Polleras occurs in January. The main carnival in town is a 3 day event that ends on a Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The 2015 event is planned for 14 to 17 February. The 2016 event is scheduled for 6 to 9 February.
Carnival in Panama City – A 4 day festive celebration that takes place in the capital city of Panama, featuring day partying, drinking, dancing, parades and late night reveling. Date: Celebrations start just before Ash Wednesday on a Friday. Sunday features the pollera parade of Panamanian women in traditional attire.Apparently, the biggest celebrations of them all is on a Tuesday, Monday is relaxed and low-key, while Wednesday marks the end with a symbolical “burial” at the beach. The month of celebrations is February where Shrove Tuesday usually occurs. Carnival Tuesday also known as Shrove Tuesday falls on 17 February in 2015 and on 9 February in 2016.
The planned dates:
Feb 14 to 17 for 2015
Feb 6 to 9 for 2016
Feb 23 to 26 for 2017
Feb 10 to 13 for 2018
March 2 to 5 for 2019
Feb 22 to 25 for 2020
Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival – The country will be holding its first carnival to get in line with other Caribbean countries. Date: May. The first ever carnival celebration will take place from 7 to 9 May, 2015
Toronto Caribana – This is the most popular carnival in Canada that is celebrated in Toronto, with over a million people attending the festivities. The parade has Caribbean roots and it offers 3 weeks of fun to celebrate and enjoy the Caribbean culture. Date: July/August. The 2015 event is scheduled for 7 July, culminating in 2 August.
New Orleans Mardi Gras – The most popular carnival event in the USA, which is celebrated in New Orleans. Date: Mardi Gras 2016 is scheduled for 9 February. Visitors who want to see the biggest parades are advised to be in the city before the 5th of February.Mardi Gras 2015 falls on 17 February. The traditional celebrations start a fortnight earlier before Mardi Gras, so the 2015 event will start on 31 January.
Gualeguaychu Carnival – Samba dance festival. Date: January/February. The 2015 event takes place on 10 January to 28 February. The event is held on Saturdays throughout the period.
Corrientes Carnival – Samba dance festivity. The city is known as the capital of carnival. Date: January/February.
Oruro Carnival – A 10 day festivity also known as the La Diablada Carnival which means “Dance of the Devils” features a 4 km procession filled with dance and music. Date: February. The entrada takes place on a Saturday just before Ash Wednesday
Sao Paulo Carnival – A samba dance extravaganza which takes place at Anhembi sambadrome, streets are filled with parties, carnival balls take place in clubs and bars. Date: February. The 2016 sambadrome gathering will take place on 13 February on a Friday. There are two main events taking place on Friday and Saturday.
Salvador Carnival – [Bahian Carnival] – A very big 6-day street party attracting over 2 million participants, featuring big parades in the Barra/Ondina and Campo Grande/Avenida. People dance in the streets or watch from the sides. Dates: February. The 2016 street party will take place on 4 to 10 February.
Rio Carnival – If you were to invite aliens for a carnival on planet Earth, then you would invite them to Rio. This is the most popular cultural extravaganza, the biggest in the world which runs for 5 days.Rio de Janeiro is the world’s capital of street samba and carnival. Over 500,000 visitors from other countries make their way to Rio each year to join the millions of locals who revel in their cultural celebration. Date: February. The 2016 event is planned for 5 to 10 February. Friday is always the starting day, which opens the official celebrations.
Note – Brazil holds hundreds of carnivals in almost every town and region,
Pasto Carnival – [Blacks and Whites Carnival] Different races gather to celebrate, dressed in masks and painting each other with black and white paint. It’s a 2-day event with historical roots dating back to the slave days, when slaves were allowed to party by their masters. The first day is called the El Dia de los Negros (Day of the Blacks); the second day is called El Dia de los Blancos (Day of the Whites).Dates: January. The 2015 festive event starts on 28 December 2014 and ends on 7 January 2015.However, the official days are 5 and 6 January.
Cartagena Carnival – Over a million revelers gather in the port of Cartagena to dance, party and just have fun. A beauty pageant is also held during the event to select Miss Colombia. It’s purely an independence celebration with lots of fireworks and parades. Date: November. Celebrations start on 13 November, Independence Day and end on 17 November when Miss Colombia is crowned.
Bogota Carnival – This is a 2-day event to celebrate the founding of the Hispanic nation. Simon Bolivar Park is usually the venue for celebrations but people also take to the streets to enjoy performances by local artists and dance troupes. Dates: Celebrations are held on 5 and 6 August every year.
Popayan Carnival – This religious town holds the Semana Santa procession to commemorate Easter. Date: Easter
Guaranda Carnival – Offers 14 days of street celebrations and parties where revelers drink chichi, and traditionally brewed liquor. The celebrations begin with the Taita carnaval, the official opening which gives way to long public celebrations. Date: February
Ambato Carnival – Also known as el carnaval de Ambato in Spanish, this is a 4 day festival that includes dances, parades, folklore, music and exhibitions. It’s the most colorful celebration in the country that is preferred by travelers. According to reports, the carnival is held to commemorate the fatal 1949 earthquake that destroyed the town and killed approximately 6,000 residents. Date: February/March
Cayenne Carnival – A very big carnival where people gather to dance to exotic music and revel in costumes. Date: Starts early January up to February. The parades and parties are held every Sunday throughout the festival season.
Kourou Carnival – A cultural festival of dance and partying that features a diverse groups from different countries in South America as well as France. People gather to watch parades, drum beats and street performances. Streets are colorful, everyone is partying, glitter is thrown around and dancers are in gear. Date: January/February
Cajamarca Carnival – The city hosts a unique and most popular cultural event in the country. People engage in traditional dance and tree cutting contest which is used to chose a governor for the coming year. Date: The date is flexible. The 2014 event was held on March 1 to 5.
Other places to enjoy carnival in Peru are Iquitos, Puno and Huaraz.