By Griffin Smith
Dating back to 1294, the Nice Carnival is a party that you don’t want to miss. Started as a way to celebrate all the good things in life before Lent began, modern Carnival has evolved into a celebration (and mockery) of French culture. The theme of this year’s festival is the “King of the Five Continents” opening the festivities up to any and all that want to enjoy a good time. The only problem is that with almost three weeks of parades and parties the amount of revelry can feel almost overwhelming without a plan. With its bright colors, blooming flowers, and friendly atmosphere the Nice Carnival is a great way to kick off spring and forget about gloomy winter for the rest of the year. What better place to start off your spring than in the heart of the French Riviera?
Over the course of Carnival the different parades have multiple floats and over 1,000 different performers flooding the streets. The three main parades are the Carnival Parade, the Flower Parade, and the Parade of Lights. Each of these has its own unique appeal and should be visited to get the full experience of the Nice Carnival. Reserved seating tickets cost 25 euros while the standing room tickets cost 10 euros. For most people the best deal and best view is the standing tickets unless you can find a nice vantage point outside the paid area but this can be hard with locals often locking those spots up early.
The Carnival Parade is the main parade of Carnival and it takes place during the day. This parade features the large paper mache floats that the Nice Carnival is famous for. These floats are often caricatures of famous figures, and no one escapes the paper mache treatment, not even the Pope himself. The floats and figures are worked on for several months so as to try to top the floats from the year before and with as many years as the festival has been running you know the floats are going to be top-notch. Along side these artistic works of rolling art the parade route is filled with performers like musicians, theater troupes, and dancers.
If for whatever reason the Carnival Parade alone hasn’t gotten you excited about spring starting then the Flower Parade might be the next thing on your agenda. The Flower Parade, also known as the Battle of the Flowers (Bataille de Fleurs), is a parade where thousands of fresh-cut flowers are thrown off of floats into the crowd in a colorful, fragrant explosion of fun and excitement. As can be expected the performers and floats are covered in flowers as well making the parade almost a moving botanical garden of locals flowers.
The last major parade to see is the Carnival Parade of Lights. While the floats and performers during this parade are often the same as the Carnival Parade you will literally see them in a new light. The parade winds through the streets at night while the route, floats, and performers are illuminated with lights. This parade often has more of nightlife feel and although many of the performances are the same they are worth seeing again in a refreshed atmosphere.
Lastly if you are lucky enough to be in Nice during the closing ceremonies of Carnival you can kick off your spring with a bang. That is because at the end of Carnival after all the floats have been enjoyed and all the flowers have been thrown, everyone heads to the beach where the ceremonial King Carnival is burned and a fireworks show is set off. Because really after so many actual flowers being thrown around it is nice to see some giant flowers made of fire being shot up into the sky.
The atmosphere (and weather) in Nice during Carnival is almost unmatched anywhere else in the world. Besides the large events there are many experiences to be had by just wandering the streets and taking in the local culture. So while it is highly recommended to see the parades also take time to let your instincts lead you to neighborhood events that aren’t advertised. Just make sure to enjoy your time in Nice and kick off spring the right way, with parades, flowers, and fireworks.