At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.
Mardi Gras and Carnival are celebrated the world over. Whether this is a secular or nonsecular event for you, there are plenty of places to take part in the festivities.
Party time can be made even better when you have a convenient and comfortable hotel awaiting your return, and these hotels can be ideal places to celebrate. Note that the dates for each city’s festivities can vary quite a bit depending on what party or event you choose to attend. If you can’t get in this year, consider this your advance-notice guide for the year to come.
New Orleans, LA
Perhaps the most well-known Mardi Gras parades in the U.S. are in New Orleans. Many of the Uptown New Orleans parades make a pass down Canal Street, where two high-rise hotels provide an ideal birds-eye vantage point.
While many visitors want to stand on the street to catch beads and trinkets, try to experience one of the parades from Canal Street-facing rooms at either the New Orleans Marriott or Sheraton New Orleans Hotel. Both are Category 5 Marriott Bonvoy properties, with free nights ranging between 30,000 and 40,000 points.
Guests of the Sheraton can even purchase access to exclusive viewing stands reserved for hotel guests, with private restrooms and a bar assuring the best views (and best position to catch all of those beads).
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
The Hyatt Regency Trinidad is an ideal home base for one of the Caribbean’s liveliest Carnival events. The hotel even holds an annual party, LIME, with live entertainment.
Taking place on Feb. 19, 2020, the United Way fundraising event is open to the public, but guests will undoubtedly be up close and personal with the event from start to finish. A free night in a standard room at this Category 3 World of Hyatt hotel goes for 12,000 points per night.
» Learn more: Your guide to booking award nights with Hilton Honors
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Guinness Book of World Records asserts that Rio’s is the largest Carnival event in the world, attracting nearly 2 million people per day to its festivities.
The beat of samba music will be ringing in your ears when you return to your room at the JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro, which faces the Atlantic Ocean and popular Copacabana beach. As a Category 5 hotel, a free night here costs between 30,000 and 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
When the city is at its busiest and rooms are sure to be expensive, this could be an exceptional use of loyalty points. On Feb. 22, 2020, the hotel is hosting a Nando do Cavaco concert with tickets available for guests and locals. (Sometimes the hotel can be its own celebration!)
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Competitions between various samba schools make this two-day Carnival event in Sao Paulo’s Anhembi Sambadrome a major celebration. In fact, the stadium was purpose-built for Carnival events.
A great option here is the Holiday Inn Parque Anhembi, which is the largest hotel in all of Brazil and offers standard rooms for 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night. Solid value continues even during the busiest of Mardi Gras festivities when the 10,000-point rate is available.
Colombia’s Carnaval de Barranquilla draws a diverse crowd. In 2008, UNESCO listed the event on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The Holiday Inn Express Barranquilla Buenavista is a good place to stay for this annual event. A free night here goes for 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night during Carnival.
One of Europe’s popular Carnival cities is Cologne, where one night at Hilton Cologne puts you within close walking distance of the festivities. From here, it is only a five-minute walk to the Rhine River and just steps to the Cologne Dom Cathedral. A free night during the festivities can be yours for 50,000 Hilton Honors points.
Close to many of the famous water parades that take place during Venice’s famous Carnival, a room at the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice is a great option for travelers. If you want to get to St. Mark’s Square and other city hot spots, the Hilton has its own water taxi that will shuttle you back and forth on a set schedule for an 8.5-euro fee per stay. Hilton Honors rates typically fluctuate depending upon the date; during Carnival, rooms are going for 70,000 points per night.
The Danieli is just steps from St. Mark’s Square, making it ideal for important Carnival events. As a Category 8 Marriott Bonvoy hotel, it does not come cheap. But its elegance and location can save the day after a big party. A standard room goes for 70,000 - 100,000 points per night.
» Learn more: Your complete guide to earning Marriott Bonvoy points
St. Louis, MO
Perhaps it's not the first Mardi Gras celebration that comes to mind, but St. Louis knows how to throw a party. The Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch is next to the famous Gateway Arch and just blocks from where the Bud Light Grand Parade starts.
This World of Hyatt Category 2 hotel is only 8,000 points for a free night in a standard room.
Photos courtesy of Sheraton and Mardi Gras, Inc.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: How to get to Google’s 2020 trending cities on points and miles 5 hotel loyalty programs that offer free nights Find the best travel credit card for you