Updated on March 3, 2014
Fat Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro is at its strongest in free street Carnival, with many free parades featuring great blocos in several neighborhoods.
On Fat Tuesday, the famous Sambódromo, or samba walkway, on Avenida Marquês de Sapucaí hosts its last parade on Carnival itself, the Children's Parade. Next, the votes for the best samba schools in the Special Group and A Series votes are counted and the fun on the samba walkway will resume on the Saturday following Carnival, with the Champions' Parade.
Here are top choices among the more than 100 blocos parading in Rio on Fat Tuesday 2014. See a complete list of blocos on the 2014 Carnival guide by Agenda do Samba e Choro.
10 a.m. – Carmelitas, Santa Teresa
Starting Point: Rua Almirante Alexandrino. One of the great Sebastiana blocos, Carmelitas fills up the narrow streets of Santa Teresa. Lots of revelers wear costumes to this great parade.
10 p.m. – Rio Maracatu, Ipanema
Starting Point: Avenida Vieira Souto at Posto 8 (Lifeguard Station 8, closer to the Arpoador end than the Leblon end)
You may have been lucky to see a Rio Maracatu parade as you enjoy the nightlife at Fundição Progresso or in the streets of Lapa. During Carnival, you can join this group playing can’t-stand-still maracatu and other Pernambuco rhythms right by the seashore. www.facebook.com/riomaracatu
10 a.m. - Vagalume o Verde, Jardim Botânico
Starting Point: Corner of Rua Pacheco Leão and Rua Jardim Botânico.
Sustainable, cross-generational and inclusive: there's much to like about Firefly the Green, parading right by Rio's wonderful Botanical Garden.
11 a.m. – Bagunça meu Coreto, Laranjeiras
Starting Point: Praça São Salvador
Bagunça meu Coreto ("Mess up my Gazebo") is the group which launched the winds of change for Praça São Salvador in Laranjeiras. The pretty square, which besides a gazebo has a fountain topped by a figure of Thetis the Nereid (a work by 19th-century French sculptor Sauvignon, who also created the Thetis sculpture by the water lily lake at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden), was quite neglected until Bagunça meu Coreto started playing Brazilian music at the gazebo once a month. Other groups followed – now the square and gazebo host chorinho every Sunday morning, an Eastern European music party with Go East Orkestar, maracatu with Maracatu Brasil. The pioneers' party on Fat Tuesday is very high on the list of top picks for street Carnival as a whole if you appreciate Brazil music of great quality.
4 p.m. - Empurra que Pega, Leblon
Starting Point: Corner of Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva and Rua José Linhares
Founded in 1990, Empurra que Pega ("Push Start It") is one of the best, always with a fantastic percussion band, original songs and a crowd of thousands.
4 p.m. - Galinha do Meio-Dia, Copacabana
Starting Point: Corner of Avenida Atlântica and Avenida Princesa Isabel
The Midday Hen, a great beach bloco, is just getting started on Fat Tuesday. It will also parade in Rio's post-Carnival (on Feb.26, first at Arpoador at 10 a.m. and then on Avenida Delfim Moreira, Leblon, at 4 p.m.)
5 p.m. - Banda de Ipanema, Ipanema
Starting Point: Rua General Carneiro This is it until next year's pre-Carnival in Rio! One of the best-known Carnival blocos in Brazil, Banda de Ipanema closes its season with this parade on Fat Tuesday.
5 p.m. - Meu Bem, Volto Já, Leme
Starting Point: Avenida Princesa Isabel
One of the Sebastiana blocos, "Honey, I'll Be Right Back" is one of the most fun parades in Rio's South Side.
5 p.m. - Orquestra Voadora, Flamengo
Starting Point: Aterro do Flamengo at Avenida Infante Dom Henrique near the Modernist Gazebo
If you're staying at a Flamengo hotel, you have one more reason to be happy about your budget travel choices. Orquestra Voadora ("Flying Orchestra", www.orquestravoadora.com.br), a band with great percussion born and grown at Parque do Flamengo, is here for their Carnival parade towards MAM (the Modern Art Museum). Their eclectic repertoire includes international hits as well as fast-paced Brazilian Carnival and pop songs.
5 p.m. - Banda da Saens Peña, Tijuca
If a square is emblematic of Tijuca, it's Praça Saens Peña. It's the main background in Praça Saens Peña, a 2008 movie by Tijuca-raised Vinícius Reis, and the place of origin for this bloco founded in 2006 and a member of the area's Sebastião league. The organization founded last year (its name is a good-humored counterpart to Sebastiana) joins several Greater Tijuca blocos - Banda do Tijuca, Bloco Nem Muda Nem Sai de Cima, Banda do Jiló, Banda do Largo da Segunda-Feira, Banda da Praça Afonso Pena, Banda do Chopp Duplo and Bloco Perereca do Grajaú.
5 p.m. - Banda Haddock, Tijuca
Where: Rua Afonso Pena
Stay ensconced in the homey streets of Rio's North Side for a band with over 25 years of history, great musicians and dancers from samba schools such as Salgueiro and a loyal crowd.
6 p.m. – Banda Sá Ferreira, Copacabana
Starting Point: Corner of Avenida Atlântica and Rua Sá Ferreira
Despite parade growth through the years, Banda Sá Ferreira, in its 41st year, is still a great street Carnival option for families, including young kids and the elderly. The bloco also goes out on all the other Carnival days.
8 p.m. - Bafo da Onça, Centro
Starting Point: Av. Rio Branco, from Presidente Vargas to Cinelândia
An old-time favorite in Rio de Janeiro Carnival (see vintage photos on G1), Bafo da Onça ("Jaguar's Breath") was founded in 1956 and plays some of the most authentic Carnival music in Rio. Dressing in animal prints has everything to do with the bloco. A good way to close Fat Tuesday and get ready for post-Carnival parades.