Most people think of Rio de Janeiro as a decidedly adult destination: a global party capital known for its nightlife, string bikinis and of course, the debauchery of Carnival. But there’s another side to the Marvelous City, which boasts plenty of family destinations. Brazilian culture is cheerfully child-friendly too, so no matter where you go, you and your kid of any age will be welcome.
Many of the city’s iconic activities are great for children as well as adults. The cable car ride to Sugar Loaf, and visit to Corcovado Mountain and Christ the Redeemer are treks and views they’ll never forget.
Of course, the beaches are always a great escape. Though popular spots like Copacabana and Ipanem are sometimes criticized for being too touristy, the relatively safe waves, range of services, colorful street entertainers and convenience to hotels make this an easy spot to haul the whole family. Leblon even has a section specifically for children and toddlers, with games and toys.
Several operators offer day cruises and fishing trips to get everyone out on the water; Viator’s own Angrados Reis Day Trip and Schooner Cruise is specifically geared to keep families happy, with hotel pickup and visits to some of Rio’s prettiest islands.
There are several museums with spectacular exhibits sure to capture a kid’s attention, such as the Museum of the Indigenous, where kids can dress up in Brazilian native costumes, including face paint. The National Art Museum, National History Museum and Museum of the Sea—with a battleship and submarine kids can explore—are also great choices.
Active families, particularly those traveling with older children, will find a whole host of offerings, including surfing and body-boarding lessons, bike tours, pedal boats and other seaside diversions, canopy tours and even whitewater rafting. Viator’s Soccer Match and Stadium Tour will keep sporty families smiling.
There are several spots that are specifically kid-friendly, of course. Terra Encantada, a smallish amusement park in Barra de Tijuca, has rides for every age group. The Jardim Zoologico (Rio Zoo) features many of the rainforest wildlife your kids have only seen on TV (which are hard to spot even if you’ll be taking a jungle tour). Different kinds of monkeys, big cats and spectacular tropical birds make this a day to remember.
The fountains and wonderful rococo architecture of Rio’s prettiest park, Passeio Público, has been a refuge for families trying to burn off some energy since 1779. Jardim Botanico is another wonderful wide-open green space. Tijuca National Forest has easy trails with big payoffs, such as spectacular waterfalls where you can soak away the Rio heat.