It's called Carnival rather than Mardi Gras on the island of Aruba, but it's still a party. And when you need a break from the parades you can soak up midwinter sunshine on a sandy beach or go exploring in your scuba gear.
Check out the events on the calendar tucked under "What To Do" at Aruba.com — the island government's official tourism Web site. Carnival festivities continue up to Feb.5, with the Old Parade and the island tradition of burning "King Momo." And if you want a jolt from your winter blues, click on "Weather Update" for the latest forecast, a live Web cam shot at Eagle Beach, and statistics like the average temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Planning to take the kids? Click on "Specialized Vacations" for suggestions on family vacations. That section also has possibilities if you're thinking of a tropical wedding or honeymoon. Look under "What To Do" and "Culture" to scope out museums you might want to see, learn a little about the capital city of Oranjestad and its colorful architecture, and click on "Aruba Made" for the local beers, rum, hot (really hot!) sauce and gifts. See about getting a gift for yourself by looking under "What To Do" and "Shopping" for duty free and handicraft shops.
Check out the beach Web cams at Aruba Tourism and dip into "Things To Do" for a quick survey of water sports. Go sailing or take a submarine cruise.
Get wet with scuba gear. There's an overview under "Activities" at Aruba-Guide including brief descriptions of several wrecks and reefs. And you should go back to Aruba.com and look under "About" for "eBrochures" to download a brochure.
As long as you're in the "eBrochures" section, get the detailed General Information and Interactive Map booklets.
Along with Key West, Aruba sometimes has a sunset phenomenon known as the "green flash," according to the "Attractions" section of Meet Aruba which also touts the Bubali Bird Ponds and the ruins of two of Aruba's gold mines.
Meet Aruba mentions the island's Butterfly Farm — actually one of three in the region, with the others on St. Maarten and Grand Cayman. Before you visit the Aruba farm, check out their photo gallery, and make sure your kids read "How to Raise Butterflies."
Point your rented moped to the middle of the island to visit Arikok National Park which holds the highest point on Aruba (a whopping 616 feet), a cave with prehistoric drawings, and the Cura di Tortuga pool for a quick swim before you go to the beach. "Videos" has a library of short videos of beaches and other attractions, and "Maps" is a handy interactive display showing the way to hotels and major attractions.
The beach? Aruba has more than a dozen and Enjoy Aruba has a map showing their locations. They also provide overviews of parasailing, horseback riding, cruises, casinos and diving. Click on "Dive Map" in the left column for places to see manta rays, morays, angel fish, coral reefs and wrecks of ships and airplanes.
Aruba is also a food experience. Visit Fodor's Online and look for "Restaurants." And don't ignore the rest of their detailed information on the island. Then try the restaurant guide under "Attractions" at Visit Aruba arranged by national cuisine.