New Orleans Holds Citywide Mardi Gras Celebration
Revelers party in the French Quarter despite the rain on Mardi Gras Day on March 4, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Photograph by Sean Gardner — Getty Images

3 destinations for Carnival

Feb 12, 2015

New Orleans

Sleep
Set two blocks off the St. Charles Avenue Mardi Gras parade route, where the Garden District meets Uptown, five handsomely appointed guest rooms open onto a lush courtyard tucked behind the Chimes Bed & Breakfast, Jill and Charles Abbyad's magnolia-shaded buttermilk inn. The couple has run the Chimes continuously for 29 years—including in the wake of Katrina, when Reuters journalists moved in for a year. These days, you're more likely to find dialed-in Texans and New Yorkers sharing travel tips over breakfast pastries from the neighborhood boulangerie.

Eat
Even the grins on the Day of the Dead skeletons look extra enthusiastic at Casa Borrega, a vivacious tequila-and-taco spot housed in a once-derelict Haley Boulevard cottage. It took Mexico City native Hugo Montero and his environmentalist wife, Linda Stone, more than four years to transform the space with Christmas lights, Latin pop art, Telavera tiles and reclaimed church pews—a labor that has given New Orleans its first proper cantina. Set to live Latin music nightly, Borrega's taco platters come with sidecars of rice, beans and guac and feature toppings like Gulf shrimp with watermelon salsa on earthy house-made corn tortillas. So affordable you can order another round of Montero's fantastically peppy, cilantro-stuffed Micheladas.

See
In the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras (February 17th), the organizations known as krewes put on parades all through New Orleans and the surrounding parishes. Fill a thermos with coffee—preferably spiked—and grab a spot on St. Charles early on Fat Tuesday. The Zulus, a krewe established in 1909, begin their march across town at 8 am sharp.

Buy
Amy Knoll wastes no space in her wee, periwinkle-blue Bywater boutique, Bon Castor. Locally made treasures leave no square-inch uncovered: Bijoux brand bath products like "Lakeview Lavender"' lotion, potholders inspired by neighborhood manhole covers and greeting cards by artist/historian Carolyn Long, a Madame LaLaurie and Marie Laveau expert who consulted for the New Orleans-set American Horror Story: Coven. There's even a funky salon in the back.

Venice

Sleep
Housed in the palazzo of a 16th-century merchant family, the new Aman Grand Canal in Venice is the first Italian property in the hospitality legend's portfolio. The location is unbeatable, right on the floating city's main waterway, which several of the mansion's 24 rococo bedrooms overlook. Modern furniture set against a backdrop of embossed gold leather walls, Renaissance art, carved wood doors and sculpted marble mantles, Aman Venice feels less like the hotel than the pied-a-terre of a design-savvy Italian aristocrat. Perhaps because it is; Gilberto Arrivabene Gonzaga, a real-life count, owns the bricks.

Eat
A 15-minute stroll from St. Mark's Square takes you out of Venice's tourist crush and into a (comparatively) relaxed residential sesitere of Cannareggio. Look for the flapping blue awnings of Hosteria Al Vecchio Bragosso on Strada Nuova near the San Apostoli church for textbook takes on fisherman classics: pasta in squid ink sauce, sardines in saor (sweet and sour), giant grilled prawns and more. It's all served in a casual, wood-clad atmosphere that looks like the cabin of an old sea captain.

See
Carnival is a big deal in Venice, and the celebratory season runs long past the historic killjoy of the beginning of Lent. Scheduled for March 14th, Il Ballo del Doge (the Duke's Ball) is the most exclusive masquerade party in the city, populated by exiled royals and Parmesan tycoons. This year's theme is Cupid in Wonderland, and tickets start at 800 euros. (The 2500-euro VIP tickets are already sold out.)

Buy
Not only is Antonia Sautter the de facto costumer for attendees of Il Ballo; she’s also the organizer of the party, born of a chance encounter with Terry Jones of Monty Python and BBC. Says a 2003 New York Times article: "She impulsively offered to create the period ball that they wanted for the production [of a Crusades-era ball], devising scores of costumes and inviting her friends to serve as extras. Ms. Sautter enjoyed it so much that the Doge ball was born." In her fabric-draped, crystal-beaded atelier, the German-Italian designer builds elaborate costumes for purchase or rent; a traditional Carnevale mask makes the perfect souvenir.

Lisbon

Sleep
Young lemon trees line the hidden alley that leads to year-old Memmo Alfama, a three-story 42-room boutique as white as a sun-bleached sand dollar. Inside, the Scandinavian-inspired spaces are lean and cool—there's a great breakfast in the library/living room, and the aqua Smeg fridge is always stocked with complimentary juice and water—but the multilayered terraces carved into the back of the house are pure Lisbon, with commanding views over the red-roofed city sloping down the to Tagus River.

Eat
The Portuguese, like their Spanish neighbors, usually do dinner late. But the epic lines at Cervejaria Ramiros in the gritty Estefania hood bring even the staunchest night owls out early in the hopes of scoring a table at this convivial beer-and-seafood hangout. Giant aquariums line the windows; inside is dinner: spiny blue lobsters, fearsome spider crabs, gooseneck barnacles (a delicacy in this part of the world, harvested by hand on dangerous, surf-pounded jetties) and other aquatic exotics priced by the kilo.

See
About 20 minutes north of Lisbon, the city of Loures is ground zero for Carnival festivities. Occurring between February 14th and 18th, the town is electrified by a dozen-deep event schedule, the centerpiece of which the corso carnivalesco, a parade with 14 floats and over a thousand participants. There’s a different theme every year; 2015's is movies.

Buy
What silk is to China, wool is to Portugal. Contemporary designers infuse modern edge into the traditional fabric, like at CHIcoração, a snug wood-beamed boutique in Alfama. A funny sheep statue, head poking out of a cotton candy cloud of wool, announced the specialty from the windows. Inside, the shelves and racks are lined with patterned pashminas, capes, cloche hats and scarves, as well as spools of luxurious yarn for DIY knitters.

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