There is much more to Rio than its pristine beaches, mountains, and the rainforest. The city has its distinct personality that comes to the forefront during the Rio Carnival. The weeklong festival right up to Ash Wednesday that marks the Christian season of Lent is touted to be the biggest party on the planet that is televised throughout the globe. Thousands of tourists descend on the city during the Rio Carnival in a quest to experience the true carioca spirit, the guiding force behind the festivities.
The samba schools are at very heart and soul of the Carnival. These schools consist of men, women, and children from Rio’s neighborhoods, who come together to prepare for the great spectacle of color, music, and dance at the Sambadrome, a stadium specially designed by renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer to host the samba parade competition during the Rio Carnival. The top schools like Mangueira, Beija Flor, Mocidade, and Salgueiro put up an electrifying performance at the Sambadrome in a bid to earn the coveted championship title. You can join them at the Sambadrome that now has accommodation for up to 80,000 spectators on every night of the competition.
Samba schools invite a limited number of visitors to participate in their parade. You will need to book your ticket along with the costume of the samba schools that sponsors you and get up close and personal with some of the most vivacious samba dancers in the country. 40 judges award points to the samba schools based on various aspects of their performance including the samba song, theme, and choreography. The results of the champions are declared on Ash Wednesday, a day that every samba school member waits for anxiously. Tickets to the Sambadrome include grandstand seating which are the most affordable seats. The ‘frisas’ or open boxes, and ‘camarotes’ or luxury suites are the other alternatives. Just make sure you book your tickets for the Rio Carnival at the Sambadrome as early as possible.
The Rio Carnival turns the city into the biggest party zone with many other establishments playing host to Carnival balls while hundreds of street parties are held throughout the city. From the Magic Ball at the Copacabana Palace Hotel to the Gay Costume Ball at the Scala Rio Nightclub in downtown Rio, you have a choice of extravagant and outrageous entertainment. These ticketed events are among the most sought after bashes by celebrities from around the globe. Alternatively, you can get to party in true carioca style as many neighborhoods organize blocos or street parties. The infamous Banda de Ipanema is a street parade that is worth experiencing during the Rio Carnival.
Carnival fever spreads across Brazil with Recife and Olinda, Salvador de Bahia, Sao Paulo, and Florianopolis putting up the grandest spectacles. A visit to these places during the Carnival will help you experience the Afro-Brazilian flavor of the festivities. In Sao Paulo some of the top samba schools including Unidos do Peruche and Vai-Vai perform at the Anhembi Sambadrome to a 30,000-strong audience. Florianopolis, a tropical paradise in its own right, is a great place to attend gay-friendly Carnival events. The city plays host to one of the biggest gay events, the Pop Gay Festival at Tancredo Neves Square. Wherever you may be in Brazil, you can expect to enjoy the true spirit of the Carnival. See the Carnival Beyond Rio.