Carnival in Rio: Our favorite places to go

CNN  — 

Before the prayer and sacrifice of Christianity’s Lenten season, there’s a time to celebrate.

And nobody celebrates like Rio de Janeiro, where people come together to party in the streets, bars and restaurants and balls of Carnival.

Carnival 2017 starts on Friday, February 24 and ends on February 28, also known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. It’s the hurrah before the Christian faithful start observing Lent, a period of contemplation and reflection before the coming of Easter.

Originally a Catholic event, Carnival in Rio is now one of the the biggest parties in the world. Last year’s Carnival welcomed over 1 million participants, including 500,000 foreign visitors, but this year, the festival is expected to attract even more people and generate over $700 million in revenue for the city, according to the Rio Times.

Here are some good things to know before packing up your sequined costumes and hopping on a Brazil-bound plane.

The Sambódromo

The moment visitors arrive in Rio, they’re completely immersed in the parties and celebration, no matter where they are. But some of the biggest and the best parties take place in the Sambódromo. Designed by world famous architect Oscar Niemeyer, it was built in 1984 in order to make Carnival even bigger and better. Mission accomplished. 

The Samba Parade

If you’ve heard of Carnival, then you’ve most certainly heard of the Samba Parade. And no, we’re not just talking about a few floats here and there. The Samba Parade attracts 3,000 to 5,000 people from the countries top samba schools in the Sambódromo to compete in a cutthroat competition. It’s a once in a lifetime event.


Throughout the city during Carnival, every bar and restaurant on every street turns into a party. (The street parties are called “blocos.”) Whether it is at a beach or a bar, people gather in exuberant costumes to celebrate.

Carnival Balls

If partying on the street isn’t really your thing, the lavish Carnival balls may be more your style. 

Held throughout the city, including the Copacabana Palace Hotel and Gala Gay ball at the Scala (which also hosts a singles ball), these glamorous parties provide an opportunity to pull out your best outfits and celebrate in style. The Gay Gala is one of the largest gay balls in the world with thousands of people attending each year.