Rio de Janeiro Feature

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Carnival in Rio

The four-day Carnival weekend, marked on every Brazilian's calendar, is by far the biggest event of the year, with planning and preparation starting months ahead. What began as a pre-Lent celebration has morphed into a massive affair of street parties, masquerades, and samba parades. Elaborate costumes, enormous floats, and intensive planning all unfurl magically behind the scenes as Brazilians from all walks of life save their money for the all-important desfile (parade) down the Sambódromo. Even though Carnival has set dates based on the lunar calendar that determine when Lent occurs, the folia (Carnival festivities) start at least a week before and end at least a week after the samba schools parade. Five-star hotels such as the Sheraton and Copacabana Palace have balls that are open to the public, as long as you can afford tickets (which run upward of R$3,000). A cheaper option is partying at the Carnival blocos (street parties), along the streets of Centro and Santa Teresa and the beaches of the Zona Sul. If you really want to get close to the action, then you'll need to buy tickets (well in advance) for a seat at the Sambódromo. Most samba schools begin their rehearsals around October; if you're in Rio from October to January, visit one of the samba schools on a rehearsal day. Whether your scene is hanging out at the bars, partying in the street, parading along the beach, masked balls for the elite, or fun in a stadium, Rio's Carnival is an experience of a lifetime.

Updated: 09-2013

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