Fat Tuesday 2011: Top cities that celebrate Mardi Gras

Fat Tuesday is the culmination of days, weeks, or even months of celebration. Here are the cities that top the list, from the notorious French Quarter parties to a festival that is recognized by UNESCO.

Rio de Janeiro

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Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome seen on Lundi Gras during the Carnival festival, Monday.

Rio de Janeiro, the self-described capital of Carnival, is the place everyone thinks about when they think Carnival. And rightly so - the city's version of Carnival has been touted as the world's best party. Like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Rio's festival has both balls and parades. But the balls in Rio are open to the public, with tickets going for $70 to $150.

While admittance to balls doesn't always require a costume, those who don them do it with finesse and potential guests are reminded that Rio's "costume standards are very high."

Fat Tuesday's ball is the highlight of all the balls, and is broadcast throughout the country on national television. Unlike many other Fat Tuesday balls around the world, Rio's Fat Tuesday ball is a gay costume ball. Attendees and television viewers expect to see grand entrances and outlandish costumes.

Rio's parades are not orchestrated by Krewes, but rather the 70 samba schools in Rio. Using the uniquely Brazilian invention of a Sambadrome - a long stadium build to exhibit samba school dancers - Rio entertains two million people every day during the four days of Carnival. On Fat Tuesday the final samba schools take the stage in the Sambadrome. Each school will have approximately 1,500 dancers.

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