Head to Rio this weekend and you'll find an entire city getting down. Every block is an explosion of music. Scantily clad beauties shimmy down spectator-lined streets, and well-heeled partygoers gather in liquor-stocked suites at the Sambadrome, the festival's unofficial headquarters.
Rio Carnival is just one of a number of global hot spots that welcomes thousands of visitors looking to take part in the most decadent of celebrations. Among the more popular: Munich's Oktoberfest, Mardi Gras and The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. While some started out as pious events and others commemorate human achievement, all the bashes on our list are testaments to the pursuit of a good time.
Of course these events also mean big bucks for their host cities. Although Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans aren't at pre-Katrina levels, the city expects this year's festivities to bring in over a billion dollars.
The world's largest Carnival celebration draws over 700,000 tourists and $500 million to Rio de Janeiro every year, according to city officials. But a prime seat in the Sambadrome, built in 1984 and designed by noted Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, will run you as much as $1,500. It may be well worth the price as the spectacle put on by the samba schools in the 65,000-capacity arena is the centerpiece of the world's craziest party.
Not to be out done, Munich sees $1.4 billion from the 17-day Oktoberfest, according to the city tourism office. During this period, the Bavarian city of just over a million people handles some six million visitors who consume over six million liters of beer.
But if you're seeking a truly decadent time, however, it's going to be hard to top Las Vegas on New Year's Eve. A city known to blow up buildings to welcome midnight is notoriously kind to vast sums of wealth and offers some truly amazing amenities like hotels with 24-hour butler service, rain forest steam showers and private salons, and personal concierges to book booths at exclusive lounges.
While some celebrations tend to be based on traditions that span centuries, others, like Burning Man, are more recent and resemble raves more than festivals. The communally organized event in the Nevada desert starts in August with volunteers constructing an entire village, Black Rock City, to house what can be up to 50,000 attendees. An expression of self-reliance and self-expression, the six-day spectacle includes radical art displays and culminates in the burning of a wooden effigy that in past years has topped 80 feet.
Not your mom's Rose Parade, Germany's one-day Love Parade features internationally famed and local disc jockeys who blast electronica music from trucks as spectators choose their favorites to follow. Revelers make a weekend of it by attending both exclusive and public dance parties throughout the city. The 2007 Love Parade drew twice the population of its host, Essen, a small coal-mining city on the French border.
At both Burning Man and the Love Parade, the drug culture is said to be extremely active. Drug overdoses aren't unheard of at either festival, and law enforcement closely monitors the crowd. Organizers have been trying to change this perception in recent years; sponsors of the Love Parade have tried to discourage drug use by handing out candy to maintain energy levels.
Of course no two people are going to party alike, especially if one of them is willing to open his wallet.
Those traveling to Rio to commemorate Carnival might choose to do it at the Copacabana Palace. One of South America's first luxury hotels, it is home to Cipriani restaurant and features 150 luxury suites with beds decked in Troussardi linen. Munich's top spot is the Mandarin Oriental; its 22 suites feature state-of-the-art entertainment systems. And in San Francisco, the 336-room Ritz Carlton offers valued guests complimentary iPods.
Perfect for handling that hangover.