The mere mention of the word “Brazil” makes our brain conjure up images of sexy women dancing, loud music playing and young people enjoying – it seems like the perfect party place.
But, do you know that Brazilians have a reputation for being extremely family oriented so much so, that you will often spot the whole families out enjoying themselves?
It is also one of the reasons that make Rio the perfect place for family vacations. Planning a trip to Rio de Janeiro with kids should be at least as exciting, if not more, as it is without kids.
With attractions aplenty for all age groups, it promises a lot of fun. From the beaches to the cable cars, to the live music and street dancing, to the museums, and zoos, it is a destination that will not disappoint you.
Caution: if you find strangers stopping to coo at your little ones, or offering to engage your kids while you finish your food at restaurants, don’t be surprised.
It is quite commonplace to them! It is also one of the few places in the world which are glad to receive children in their restaurants, and in fact, often have special seating for them!
There are options and activities galore for those looking for a perfect family vacation. The following is my list of favorite things to do, while in Rio de Janeiro-
1. Christ the Redeemer – Statue of Christ
This landmark statue, which finds itself in the Seven Wonders of the World list, needs to be on the top of your itinerary list for Rio.
The superimposing, impressive structure is made up of made of concrete and is covered in soapstone mosaic tiles and is positioned 2330 feet high on Corcovado Mountain.
It is 125 feet tall and depicts Christ with hands outstretched, as though welcoming people to its stretch. It is often taken as a symbol of warmth for the Brazilians and sees almost 2 million people every year (source www.travel.usnews.com).
Take a taxi to Cosme Velho station and get on a train to the mountains, or take a guided tour to get there directly, there are many ways to get there.
One tip – pick a clear day to make the most of the breathtaking view of the city as well as the Atlantic Ocean from the statue!
2. Pão de Açúcar – The Sugarloaf Mountain
These mountains stand tall over the beautiful Guanabara Bay and are knownfor their cableway ridesand the splendid panoramic views that they offer.
A distance totaling 1400 mm to the top of the mountain is covered over two trips in the cable car, one till the shorter Morro da Urca and the other all the way till Pão de Açúcar.
These swiss-designed glass-walled cable cars can accommodate up to 65 people and offer an unmatched view. There is a cable car every two minutes and till date has received 37 million guests!!
The mountain’s park also includes a history exhibit, a cable car Plaza, that displays the original cable cars used on the tram. You can also catch a quick bite from the many eateries and also shop!!
If you are lucky, you could also witness an event in the open theater that has a capacity of 700!
And while you are at Morro da Urca, you could catch a quick helicopter ride with Heli sight, that has a station there.
Quick fact: Remember the sequence where James Bond narrowly cheats death during mid-air transportation in the movie “Moonraker (1979)”? Well, the famous stunt scene was filmed on the “Sugar loaf Mountain.”
3. Tijuca National Park
Do you know that Tijuca National Park is the largest urban rain forest on the planet? With various waterfalls, over 1,600 plant species and more than 350 different species of mammals, birds, reptiles,and amphibians, this national park should be right on top of your list.
The park, which is divided into three sectors – Forest, Carioca Hill and Pedra Bonita and Gávea, has many things to offer. From hiking, to rock climbing and hang gliding, hiking trails to picnic areas, the park has something for everyone!
Tip: do check out the Tijuca Rain forest Jeep Tour. This open-top jeep tour makes for an excellent experience!
4. Rio de Janeiro beaches
What is a trip to Rio de Janeiro without visiting those beaches?
There are several beaches that the beautiful city offers. While it may not be possible to visit them all, pick any one of the top two for an amazing experience – Copacabana, and Ipanema.
While Copacabana is well known among adults, it makes for a great place for family and kids too! Those famous black and white mosaic sidewalks, the many informal restaurants and eateries and mouth-watering street stalls are sure to give you an unforgettable experience.
For those who just want to lay there and soak up the ‘sun and the sand’, you can rent some chairs and umbrellas and just lay back.
What makes this beach extra lively and fun are the local artists; they often invite the audience (even kids) to create their pieces!
While at Copacabana, do check out Avenida Atlantica. This small stretch is full of coconut water, ice-cream vendors,and other treats and is guaranteed to make kids very happy.
If busy and touristy is not your type, then head out to Ipanema. It is known for its quieter beaches and more refined options in both restaurants and shopping.
And if you are at Ipanema, why not see the Duque de Caxias Fort? This lesser-known fort is located right off the famous beach and offers a trail through lush greens.
Be sure to keep an eye out for animals all throughout the trail. Although the entire trail is beautiful, the real reward is at the end of the trail which opens into beautiful views of the beaches, mountains and the ‘Christ the Redeemer” statue.
5. Museum of Tomorrow
The Museum of tomorrow or Museu do Amanhãlooks straight out of a sci-fi movie and is sure to get kids, especially, interested. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, its unique exterior draws its inspiration from pineapple plants from the botanical gardens.
It has many things to offer – digital interactive screens, unique egg-shaped cinemas and lab space where artists work on questions of the future.
Its unique exterior, and its proximity to a waterfrontis what makes it to the top of the list of “must visits” in Janeiro. The impressive, tall structures are built on the values and principals of sustainability and seek to communicate its message through its chapters.
It is extremely thought-provoking and promises a day of fun for the young and the old alike.
6. Rio’s Botanical Gardens
Home to over 6500 different species, these botanical gardens were declared as a biosphere reserve by the UNESCO in 1992. As much as they are interesting and full of sounds and colors, they are equally informative and educative.
These offer a close glimpse into Brazil’s exotic wildlife and also houses historical monuments and a research center, which includes the most comprehensive library in the country, with specializing in botany. It shelves 32,000 volumes!
The park lies at the foot of the Corcovado Mountains and is open all days of the year except the 25th December and 1st January!
7. Rio’s Zoo
The Rio’s Zoo or the Rio de Janeiro Zoological Gardens is located next to the National Museum of Natural History. Although it might not be one of the biggest wildlife reserves, it’s nearly 2,000 different species (mostly Brazilian) are sure to get the little ones excited.
From among animals like the elephants, lions, giraffes, and eagles, one of the special attractions also is a huge wing of birds and venomous animals.
Close the day at the zoo with some Brazilian ice-creams and snacks, that you can find inside the premises.
8. Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas
Picnic in Brazil? Yes, please!
Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is the perfect place to carry your food baskets and head out. Its breathtaking view of the mountains, cycling tracks,and swan paddleboat rides, there is something for everyone to experience and enjoy.
There are plenty of treats to choose from as well courtesy the local kiosks and vendors. If you are lucky, you might be able to see a live performance happening there as well! And if you do, just grab a spot on the lush green grass, lay back, and enjoy!
Quick tip: Do check out their bike hire shops – its 7.3km cycle park will not disappoint you.
9. Private kids photo tour
There is nothing like seeing a city with a local. With so many options around, one could simply pick a few places of interest and take a private tour.
The advantage would be that one would not have to worry about anything – being with a local guide would imply that these things are taken care of.
You could pick from their many itineraries available or custom-create the itineraries as per your need and go!
10. CCBB – Centro Cultural Banco de Brasil
Why leave without having a taste of Brazil culture? CCBB is a beautiful cultural center that aims to bring art, in its various forms, close to people.
All year round, there are art exhibits (which you can’t click, but can definitely enjoy), theatrical performances, musical concerts, and cinema.
What’s more is that entry to it is free!! Yes, usually tickets are not charged for its entry, but sometimes, a nominal charge may be payable for a specific performance or a concert.
So, it turns out that Brazil has so much to offer than just dance parties and beaches. So much so, that given the wide choice of activities available, it might emerge as your favored family destination.
Just pack your bags, and go to Rio!