While winter continues to weave a chilly spell across most of North America, things are warming up in Central and South America and across the Caribbean region as Carnival season quickly approaches.

In mid Febuary, the Yucatecan city of Merida is home to one of the best parties of the year, the annual Carnival celebration.

Although Carnival takes place nationwide in Mexico and throughout Latin America, Merida’s Carnival is one of the five most important in the entire Mexican republic and one of 12 principal carnivals in Latin America.

Pre-carnival events begin on Jan. 27 at the Carlos Iturralde Stadium in Merida, where 180 artists will dance to tropical rhythms while presentations begin to announce the kings and queens of carnival. There will also be 18 pre-carnival dances in different neighborhoods around the city and a night when the parade floats are presented, all of which are leading up to Wednesday, Feb. 14. It is on this day that bad humor and moods will be symbolically burned, the official initiation of carnival and kick off to the week’s festivities.

Carnival’s parades start on Friday, Feb. 16 and continue to Tuesday, Feb. 20 with over 110 groups competing for first prize in their division. Judging is based on choreography and costumes and over 20 local and international bands will play along the entire parade route. Ash Wednesday, Feb. 21, marks the end of Carnival and beginning of the somber period called Lent.

Merida’s Municipal Tourism office has created the Turibus so that tourists can actually take part in the parade, hopping on and off along the parade route.

Late winter travelers can experience Carnival Yucatan-style, a more tame celebration than those staged in Brazil and many Caribbean islands. While there is still plenty of merrymaking and much late night partying, the Merida version of the traditional celebration is tame by some standards, the perfect opportunity to experience the revelery without the high crime risks associated with similar celebrations in larger cities.

In addition to the big party, there is plenty to see and do in and around Merida, the White City. From the ancient ruins of nearby Chichen Itza to the not-so-distant beaches of Progresso and the nearby Mexican Riviera, you should allow ample time to explore the region. The weather is warm but mild, and the party couldn't be any better.

This February, Merida is the place to be! For more information visit www.yucatantoday.com.