Rio de Janeiro Carnival parade attendees are treated to what many consider to be the greatest show on earth. The Rio Samba Parade is the city's main Carnival parade, and it is held over the course of two days in the Sambodrome Marques de Sapucai, or Apoteose Square, as the venue is also known. Once the best Samba schools have been chosen from prior competitions, the main Rio Carnival Parade at the Sambodrome is ready to get under way. Carnival Sunday and Monday are the days for the Rio Samba Parade, with each day featuring six of the twelve best schools. These top schools are referred to as the Special Group, and they get the activities going at around 8 p.m. on either day, not stopping until the following morning. If you can get tickets for this top event, you will come away from your Rio de Janeiro vacation with a true sense of how fantastic the city's famed Carnival celebrations really are.
Rio de Janeiro Carnival Parade
If you want to see a Rio de Janeiro Carnival parade, there are different options to choose from. The highlight of the world-famous festival is the two-day Rio Samba Parade, and many iconic Rio de Janeiro carnival images are from this event. The samba schools that perform in this main parade are among the best popular clubs or dancing schools of their kind in the city. This is saying quite a lot considering the number of Samba schools that can be found in Rio. Thousands of members make up these schools, at least the largest ones, and during the main Rio Carnival Parade at the Sambadrome, the best of the best each have approximately 90 minutes to dazzle the huge crowd. During their parade time, a specific Samba school marches from one end of the large Sambadrome to the other. They move in sections, or alas, and each member of each respective section wears a spectacular costume to go with the school's chosen theme. Dazzling floats are part of the scene. If you can't make it to the Sambadrome to see the whole affair, it is broadcast live around the globe, so you just might be able to catch some of it on TV.
There are many iconic things to do on a Rio vacation, such as taking a trip to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain or spending some quality time on the beach in Copacabana. Seeing a Rio Carnival parade is also among the main endeavors for many travelers. If you can't make it to the main parade at the 90,000-capacity Sambadrome, then you might try to attend the lead-up parade on Saturday or one the follow-up parades. There's also the neighborhood parades, or block parties, which spring up all over the city and can be very lively themselves.
As for the lead-up parades at the Sambadrome, they include the Children's Samba Schools Parade, which is held on Friday and features children from various communities, and the Access Group A Parade, which sees some of the best Samba schools competing for the chance to perform in the Rio Samba Parade. As for the follow-up parades, they include the Group B Parade for smaller samba schools and the Champions Parade. The former is held on Fat Tuesday and starts at 9 p.m., while the latter, which features the six best samba schools from the main Rio Samba Parade, takes place the following Saturday. The Champions Parade also starts at 9 p.m., and it is considered to be the second best Rio Carnival parade.
While you'll have to buy a ticket to see one of the five main parades at the Sambadrome, the Rio Carnival street parades and block parties are free, so you can join in the fun without having to pay a penny. Blocos, or bandas, are what the neighborhood groups are known as, and much like the larger Samba schools, they help keep things lively during the Carnival season with their music. The Banda de Ipanema is among the best-known blocos in the city. As the name implies, this group represents the famous neighborhood of Ipanema. Other renowned blocos are the Cordao do Bola Preta and the Monobloco. The former attracts approximately 200,000 people to Rio's Downtown District with its Carnival season parade, while the latter is responsible for attracting around 80,000 people to Copacabana with its festivities.
During the main Rio de Janeiro Carnival Parade, the lavish costumes and the beautiful, The samba-dancing images of Carnival girls are among the most lasting. Many of the girls wear skimpy costumes, and things in general can get rather risque, so you might prepare yourself for a little more exposure than you're used to. Inhibitions go out the window when the Carnival parades and street festivals are under way. Take the Banda de Ipanema, for example. The majority of the men who make up this banda dress in drag queen costumes during their Carnival parades. You're encouraged to wear a costume of some kind if you plan on participating in a Rio Carnival parade or street festival, and you might take Samba lessons prior to arriving in town so that you can fit right in once the thumping music starts.
Top image: sfmission.com (flickr)