Rio de Janeiro is known for a few high-profile events that command the world’s attention every year, and some of the biggies are even free. Still, there are a few more rockin’ street festivals in Rio that you might want to pencil in your agenda.
New Year’s Eve (Reveillon).
Every New Year’s Eve, at the height of Brazilian summer, millions of revelers stream onto Copacabana Beach dressed in white and bearing offerings of flowers for the Afro-Brazilian sea goddess Iemanjá. The countdown begins ten seconds before midnight, when fireworks and big-name musical headliners like David Guetta and the Black Eyed Peas herald the New Year. It’s good luck to wade into the surf and jump over the waves seven times, and be it the ocean or a sudden summer shower, you’re bound to get wet.
Often called “the Greatest Show on Earth” for good reason, Rio de Janeiro Carnival is like no other party on the planet. While the main event happens at the world-famous Sambadrome, planned and spontaneous street parties, chic masquerade balls, and special nightclub events imbue every nook and cranny of the city with the spirit of Carnival. The street parties—called blocos—tend to be the most democratic, and cheapest, events around, with motley bands of costumed revelers roving the streets to the samba beat. In 2013, Carnival runs February 9-12.
Independence Day (Dia de Independência).
September 7 marks the day when, in 1821, young Dom Pedro I declared that Brazil would be free of the yoke of Portuguese rule. Brazilian Independence Day is celebrated around the country, as well as in New York, but Rio’s festivities range from the pomp of a military parade in Centro to live music concerts to beach blanket bingo on Ipanema. In 2013, September 7 falls on a Saturday, so expect the beaches to be extra-lively.
Bourbon Street Fest.
Rio and New Orleans are practically kissin’ cousins when it comes to music and partying, and the good times are definitely rolling at this three-day concert event. Jazz, blues, R&B, funk, and zydeco are all on offer, for free, at Arpoador’s Parque Garota de Ipanema every August. The crowds get down to the sounds of bands imported directly from the Big Easy and elsewhere, while tummies get filled with flavorful Cajun delights.
Gay Pride Parade (Parada do Orgulho LGBT).
Close to a million members and supporters of the LGBT community plan to stand up and be counted—and party their bundas off—every spring during the week-long run-up to Rio de Janeiro’s annual Gay Pride Parade. Starting at Copacabana’s Posto 5 lifeguard tower, the celebration is an explosion of rainbow flags, outrageous get-ups, music and dance, and expressions of love. In 2012, the parade kicks off on November 18.
-Ernest White II