Rio de Janeiro might be better known for its beaches and Carnaval, but it has plenty to offer for families. This week we have Patricia Monahan from Our Whole Village sharing her thoughts on this beautiful South American destination. These are her choices for the best things to do in Rio with kids.
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What to do in Rio with Kids
Rio de Janeiro might be better known for its lively beaches, vibrant Carnaval and sprawling “favelas” (shanty towns), but it has plenty to offer for families and kids of all ages.
Though recent spike in crime rates and violence have put a damper on tourism to the “marvelous city”, as it is fondly (and aptly) called, we hope to see this beautiful place recover to its full splendor soon.
I was lucky to be there for the 2016 Olympics with my daughters and have asked local friends for their top favorite activities to do with the kids. It’s been hard to narrow it down, but here’s our list of top 5 family-friendly things to do in Rio:
1. Sugarloaf Mountain
Rio is famous for the Christ the Redeemer statue (you can take a train through the forest up to Corcovado to see the statue up close), but the cable car (“bondinho”) ride to Sugarloaf Mountain ranks as a top favorite among both local and visiting families.
Not as crowded as Corcovado, this postcard-perfect granite peak that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean offers the most magnificent views of the city. Cable cars run every 20 minutes and you can take a picnic lunch with you to enjoy along with the breathtaking views of Guanabara Bay.
2. Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon
A great way to spend a day with kids in Rio de Janeiro, the lagoon area has a lot to offer.
Parque dos Patins (“Skate Park”), on the west side of the lagoon, offers plenty for families, from a skate park, to a playground, to paddle boats. And there’s always fun activities during the weekends. After spending some time at the park, head to Feira Hype at the Lagoon complex for a food truck feast.
Parque da Catacumba, on the east side, is a great choice for an adventure-filled afternoon of hiking, tree-climbing and ziplining. All while featuring stunning views of the lagoon.
3. More Parks: Lage, Tijuca Forest & Botanical Gardens
With so much nature and wildlife surrounding the city, parks in Rio abound and offer the perfect escape for outdoor-loving families.
A few favorites include: Parque Lage, with a nice cafe where you and family can enjoy breakfast before taking on the wooded trails with nice views of Christ the Redeemer Statue; Tijuca Forest National park, a huge area that includes a nice playground with picnic area and plenty of hiking trails that are easy on little legs; and, last, but not least, the Botanical Gardens, with a delicious spot for breakfast and over 6,000 species of tropical and subtropical plants, royal palm trees, and wildlife viewing (think toucans, hawks, capuchin monkeys…)
4. Museum of Tomorrow & Porto Maravilha
A family visit to the newly renovated Rio port includes beautiful street art, amazing architecture and plenty of opportunities for kids to roam around and enjoy themselves. Plus it provides a great introduction to cultural diversity in Brazil.
Walk along the Olympic boulevard and check out the incredible Etnias (ethnicities) mural by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra before heading to the Museum of Tomorrow a stunning, futuristic structure designed by famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Inside, the main exhibit focuses on the environment, sustainability and climate change. A great visit for kids over six or seven.
5. Family Beaches in Rio de Janeiro
No visit to Rio is complete without taking a stroll in Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon beaches, enjoying fresh coconut water at sunset, watching beach soccer and volleyball, and reveling in a slower pace of life.
Families with babies and toddlers will not want to miss the Baixo Bebe point in Leblon, a kiosk / children’s play area. Parents can sit up at the kiosk while watching the little ones enjoy the slides and play structures in an enclosed area.
Finally, since no mention of Brazil would be complete without a soccer reference, it is worth noting that Maracanã, the iconic soccer stadium, offers daily guided visits, which are sure to be a hit with that soccer fan in your family.
Patty Monahan is the founder of Our Whole Village, a travel company that curates small group departures for families looking for culturally-immersive experiences that give back.