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10 Offbeat Places to Celebrate Mardis Gras

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Call it Mardi Gras, call it Carnival. If you're spending it in New Orleans or Rio, you're just calling it in.

Oh, we're sorry, did that sour your incredibly original choices of fruity drinks, beads and samba? Well no offense to New Orleans' Mardi Gras, but its party stretches back to the 18th century, brings in scores of visitors and more than $320 million in revenue and accounts for 1.6% of the city's GDP. Carnival in Rio de Janerio, meanwhile, has been packing the streets since the early 1700s and squeezes tourists for more than $500 million each year.

In short, they're not exactly hidden gems. Going to New Orleans or Rio for Mardis Gras or Carnival is like rooting for the New York Yankees, Manchester United or Apple. It's rarely a disappointment, loads of fun along the way and will usually result in fans getting exactly what they're looking for.

It'll also result in a lot of sighs from folks on the receiving end of those stories once the fun is over. Yes, Derek Jeter always does that little hop when throwing over to first. No, we're not surprised that Wayne Rooney scored two goals and spiked an opponent in the shins during the same match.

There's an app for that? Really? We hadn't heard.

Stories about girls lifting up their shirts for beads, strategically placed sequins and feathers on samba dancers and the sheer amount of alcohol at either of these parties yield similar patronizing answers. Of course that tune could change a bit if the vacation storyteller visited one of the dozens of other cities with rich pre-Lent traditions of their own. The parties may be similar, but the location and back story can turn a traveler's tales from a booze-soaked post-collegiate screed into a cosmopolitan cultural exchange.

To that end, we offer the following 10 Mardi Gras and Carnival destinations for globetrotters who want their travel tale to sound more like a hidden gem from a well-written guide than an outtake from a Girls Gone Wild DVD:
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