Our correspondent Jeff Guaracino chimes in with some news about the fantastic Rio Carnivale!
CARNIVAL IN RIO: PARTY ON!
When you picture Rio de Janeiro, do you think of sexy people partying? You’d be right.
Brazil’s Carnival is known worldwide as the “world’s biggest festival” full of culture, dance, food, samba, parades and music. Tourism officials estimate 977,000 tourists joined local revelers this week at Rio de Janeiro’s 2015 Carnival.
The highlight of the carnival is the Rio Samba Parade in the Sambodromo, a massive stadium where tickets are required. Nightly parades last until dawn. These parades are not street events but a highly organized, fierce competition between clubs who develop their own themes. Young and old, hundreds of Brazilians in official Sumba clubs compete and spend millions on elaborate costumes, entertainers and music. Clubs are complete with drag queens in fabulous outfits.
Carnival ends with this Saturday night’s Champion’s Parade—essentially the best of Carnival. In addition to the Rio Samba Parade in the Sambodromo, there are 456 blocks parties and parades and several official Balls—including an LGBT Ball—around town.
Just before Carnival officially began last week, there was a final rehearsal at the Sambodromo. Jose Marcelo Martins and Newton Mendonca Filho invited local hospitality leaders (and me) to a preview their original Sambodromo creation—a 16,000 square foot VIP lounge called “Folia Tropical.” 400 revelers and celebrities are whisked into a fantasy environment complete with massage, live DJ, open bar, a beauty salon, international gourmet foods and the best seats in the house. Tickets to the VIP “Folia Tropical” are around $400 each for the all night party. http://www.rio-carnival.net
Up all night, beach all day
Rio is all about the beach. There are two main beaches—Ipanema and Copacabana. The gay beach in Ipanema is located in front of Rua Farme de Amodeo–the gay street of Ipanema. You will notice many beach vendors with rainbow flags that sell beach chairs, umbrellas and cocktails. Bring only what you absolutely need to the public beach. Local vendors “hawk” drinks, gifts and other beach sundries like sunglasses and clothes. It is best to buy everything from the vendor that you select for your chairs and umbrella. The waters are warm and Sanctuary of Christ the Redeemer is visible from the LGBT beach. The beach is free.
Sleep (as little as possible)
Hotels are plentiful in Rio. Choosing a hotel can be overwhelming and online hotel reviews are not always helpful. It is best to choose based upon price, location, security, service and ocean view rooms. In Ipanema beach, Caesar Park Rio De Janeiro managed by Sofitel is centrally located with stunning ocean view rooms at varying price points and an English-speaking, friendly staff. Caesar Park—rumored to start a renovation soon—offers turndown service, a private lounge for early arriving guests and a rooftop restaurant with commanding views of the beach.
On the world-famous Copacabana beach the Miramar Hotel by Windsor is near perfection. You are welcomed at check-in with a glass of champagne and daily breakfast that rivals the best brunches anywhere. This new hotel focuses on luxury suites and exceptional customer service. The international staff are fluent in several languages. A rooftop infinity pool and bar is a perfect place for a romantic dinner or an evening nightcap.
Plan ahead and safety
Your hotel concierge is a resource. Use them! Luis Cesar Rodrigues, the chief concierge for the Caesar Park Hotel, recommends calling your hotel concierge before you visit to help you plan your trip. The concierge can advise on tickets, tours and restaurants. (Don’t forget to tip!) Another option is to join a small GLBT group tour to Rio’s Carnival with reputable tour operators including Zoom Vacations.
Rio is a big city and very gay-friendly. However, reminders are all around to keep yourself and your property safe. Rio is a safe city but as with travel anywhere mind your own safety. For trips to the beach small amount of Brazilian Real (the dollar) and a credit card is sufficient. Keep an eye on smart phones and try to blend in. A good idea is to take a cellphone picture and a photocopy of your identification, passport and credit cards. Bring only what you need out with you. Many hotels have restrictions on bringing non-registered guests to your hotel. So for you Grinder, Scruff and Tinder fans, “hosting at your hotel” may require that you register your guest.
There are many reasons to plan a trip to Rio since the party will not end in February. March marks Rio’s 450th anniversary and to celebrate, the Mayor’s office is kicking off a yearlong party. In addition the incredible natural beauty of Rio with its iconic beaches and mountains, the city offers a robust collection of LGBT bars and restaurants and the iconic beaches. With so much do to, next month’s column will be dedicated to all there is to do outside of Carnival in Rio. A trusted resource is the Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau’s website.
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Jeff Guaracino is the author of Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential