FX Excursions

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Join the Carnival Fun in Brazil, the Greatest Party on the Planet

by Jarone Ashkenazi

Mar 22, 2024

PHOTO: © CELSO PUPO RODRIGUES | DREAMSTIME

Destinations / Latin America

While the annual carnival festival takes place the Friday afternoon before Ash Wednesday, some cities host a one-day event, while others explained to month long celebrations. The most popular holiday in Brazil evolved into a massive event, attracting millions of tourists and huge corporate sponsors for a nonstop party. Full of colorful costumes, feathered headdresses, and an abundance of dancing and music, attending carnival in Brazil is a must on travelers’ bucket lists.

© LEANNEVORRIAS | DREAMSTIME.COM

The Rio Carnival enjoys international acclaim, with the party starting on a Friday and going straight through Fat Tuesday. The biggest event of the Brazilian cultural calendar takes place in front of millions at Sambódromo. The top samba schools perform for the title along Marquês de Sapucaí Avenue, stretching more than 2,300 feet and seating up to 90,000 people. In the stands spectators dance along with every step and wait for the judges (usually around 40) who appraise everything in the performance including costumes, song selection and the integrity of the samba, of course, before awarding the winners. This year’s festivities began on Feb 9 and wrapped up with the samba champions’ parade on Feb. 17.

Enough about the facts — let’s get onto the streets for the greatest street party in the world. Under the bright sun of Rio, the singing, dancing and exotic costumes present an amazing sight. Throw in a lot of alcohol, and you are in for a long party that just doesn’t stop. From the beauty and sparkles of the costumes to the consistent beat of the pounding music and the delicious food, at Carnival your senses remain in overdrive.

In this carnival capital of the world, every minute detail of Rio’s production is over-the-top. From aerial performers and extremely elaborate costumes to the use of technology, you will experience an eye-opening cultural richness like no other. Among a sea of dancing, festive spectators, smiles stretch from ear to ear as each carnival attendee basks in the rhythm that takes over the streets.

© KING HO YIM | DREAMSTIME

Along with the magnificent costumes of professionals along Marquês de Sapucaí Avenue, decorations cloak every inch of Rio. Street parties are organized by street groups called blocos — with some of the most sought-after organized by Simpatia é Quase Amor — and each party is different. Each band composes its own songs and choreographs its own movements.

Unlike the organized (but still wild) party on long Marques de Sapucaí Avenue, at these inclusive street parties everyone stands on equal footing. Instead of paying for tickets to get the best seat in the stands to see professional samba schools perform, become immersed in samba with the hundreds of people surrounding you. Whether you come in a homemade costume or not, cachaça (Brazilian rum) and beer flow freely, and soon your hips start moving and the loud festivities engulf you. Throughout Centro and Zona Suls, these intense and festive parties abound, but some of the best include Cordão do Bola Preta; Bloco Volta, Alice; Bloco do Sargento Pimenta; AfroReggae; and the absolutely massive Monobloco.

© PHOTOSVIT
| DREAMSTIME

Then there are the costumed balls, bailes, adding an air of exclusivity to the festivities. For those looking for a little elegance, in keeping with the history and tradition of carnival, these more formal masquerade balls and nightclub parties feature an element of the grandiose. From the annual Magic Ball at oceanfront Copacabana Palace Hotel to Baile Glamurama at Museum of Modern Art and nightly themed balls in Centro, guests show up dressed to the nines in evening gowns, tuxedos or elegantly expensive costumes.

INFO TO GO
International flights arrive at Galeão- Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport, about 12 miles from downtown Rio de Janeiro. Blue and yellow taxis are available and bookable at arrival halls. The TransCarioca line of the BRT (bus rapid transit) links terminals 1 and 2, and passengers can access the entire subway system at the Line 2 Vincente de Carvalho station. Buses are the main form of public transportation in the city, but carnival parades and parties may suddenly disrupt regular routes. The simplest way to travel throughout Rio during carnival is either on foot or via the city’s metro system, offering three lines and 41 stations.

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