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10 Offbeat Places to Celebrate Mardis Gras

Venice
The glass carnival masks sold here aren't just for tourists.

Venice has a long and storied Carnival history dating back to the late 13th century. Though masks could be worn from Christmas until Ash Wednesday, they were traditionally worn during Carnival to enhance the celebration by breaking down the distinctions between classes.

The Lombards shut down the party during the 18th century and Carnival didn't come back into vogue in Venice until the early 1970s. Now, however, more than 3 million people cycle through the canaled city each year to see the Grand Theater in the Piazza San Marco, to watch "The Flight of the Angel" as a costumed man is lowered by wire from the Tower of San Marco and to take part in the masked costume contest.

The whole event is usually capped by a candlelit water parade, but the city may have to wait and see about that part. While Venetians were able to float Carnival's giant bull mascot into the lagoon to start Carnival, the lagoon and canals were frozen for part of this winter as record cold gripped Europe.

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