Carnaval is the music, costume, and hip-swinging party that has become famous all over the world. While the entire country of Brazil celebrates this festival in time for Easter, Rio de Janeiro has emerged as the capital for party-goers and all-night revelers. Here you’ll find pure samba kicking off the official four-day celebration with street parties and outdoor practices by samba schools. For 2014, dates for Carnaval are February 28 to March 4.
Where to go for the party
While in Rio, you have a choice of attending costume balls, the competition at the Sambadromo, or street parties. These options depend on your budget, how far you plan ahead, and how you like to spend your nights.
For the competition at the Sambadromo, you will need to secure tickets as soon as possible. Since these tickets are in high demand, latecomers may pay a premium rate for their seats. Highlights of the event are on Sunday and Monday, when opening ceremonies and the parades begin at 8pm. Check times as well for the Children’s Samba Schools and the Champions Parade.
Costume balls are also popular during Carnaval and require reservations and tickets. The most famous in town is the Hotel Copacabana Palace Magic Ball, which holds its annual gala on Saturday, March 1, at 11pm. Other balls are held at Clube dos Caicaras and the Hard Rock Café. Not all balls require costumes, allowing you to scout out which party suits your preferences. For themed dancing, the Scala Nightclub offers events during each night of Carnaval.
Spontaneous revelers should head to Ipanema Beach or Downtown Rio. During the festival, street bands and dancers will have their own festivities that do not require tickets and are pure fun.
When to Book
Given its worldwide reputation, Carnaval is a major event in Rio’s annual calendar. Unfortunately, this means hotel prices go up, flights are in high demand and restaurants become packed. For the venues mentioned above, accommodations will be at a premium. Look into locations further away from the center where value is better and demand is not so high. Apartments and hostels can give an even wider range of budget-flexibility. When planning your trip, also consider that many samba schools and local bands will be practicing their routines in public during the days preceding the official festival dates. This would be a great time to get in the Carnaval mindset and snap some behind the scene pictures.
Carnaval is not just one party. It is many events, spread throughout Rio de Janeiro and all of Brazil. Party-goers and samba fans will have plenty to do from sun up to sun down. No matter where you go in the city, you’ll be able to find experiences that are pure Carnaval.