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Vacations always promise a good time, but add a major festival to the mix, and you up the party ante, with the chance to soak up local color and mingle with locals at the same time. These travel destinations take the fun to the streets, with memorable, can’t-miss, seasonal fetes.

Naturally, spending Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a jazz-lover’s dream, one that reaches a pre-Lent fever pitch the day prior to Ash Wednesday. From its parade floats packed with masked, costumed participants to debauchery in the streets, action abounds. And Rio? Well, that fabled carnival festival showcases riotous performances from samba schools and its own stunning, near-endless procession of colorful floats.

Venice’s Carnival, held each February, is another case in point: its revelers are garbed in baroque costumes, and street performers are at every turn. Also in February is Nice’s Carnival, a time when oversize papier mâché caricatures, musicians, dancers and floats flood the streets. The whole fête culminates in burning of the “king” effigy, followed by fireworks.

Say St. Patrick’s Day is your thing. Then, Dublin is unquestionably the place to be. Just don your best leprechaun hat (you’ll be in good company), and hit the marching band-laden parade, presented as part of the city’s four-day-long St. Patrick’s Day Festival. Slated for March 14-17 next year, the revelry also includes walking tours, art exhibitions, live music and other entertainment.

But if you’re dreaming of Tahiti, Heiva is a summertime celebration that’s not to be missed. The longstanding Polynesian festival — a combination of music, dance, song and sports — is stunning. Most notable are the highly choreographed, ancestral-inspired performances, complete with elaborate costumes made from indigenous flora.

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Jennifer Olvera

Jennifer Olvera

Jennifer Olvera is a culinary travel writer, recipe developer and author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Chicago. Find her on Twitter at @olverajennifer.
Jennifer Olvera

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