Cities with kids: Rio de Janeiro
As part of a new series here on Simple Family Travel, we are featuring a different mum writing about her favourite city each month. You'll find tips on where to eat, what to see, best places to play and even what to do on a rainy day.
Our next feature post is from Alejandra, a mum of three. Alejandra lives in Madrid but loves all things Rio de Janeiro. Why Rio de Janeiro when she lives in Madrid, you may ask? Well Alejandra is co-founder of the travel company "Approaching Brazil", which specialises in tailor made holidays in Brazil. Having experienced the adventure of traveling in Brazil first hand, she and her business partner were surprised that such a fascinating and wonderful country receives so few overseas visitor. Alejandra hopes to change all of that with her agency. Read her post, you might very well agree that Rio is worth a visit.
Why choose Rio de Janeiro to travel with your kids?
If you’ve got kids, Brazilians are some of the nicest people I know to be around. They are always kind, but as soon you have a child with you, you become the king of the party. Better said, the servant of the king of the party, which has its privileges too.
Rio’s weather is well known for making it possible to enjoy life outdoors all year round, and if for some reason the weather isn’t cooperating and you can’t enjoy the beach, Rio offers many other things to keep a child happy.
The dress code in Rio is more than casual. For example, flip-flops are the most common footwear. The combination of weather and dress code means for kids that they can walk around almost naked and barefoot. A pure joy!
What are your favourite Restaurants when you’re with the kids?
There are very good restaurants in the city. And remember the kindness I talked about before? It applies to restaurants, too.
As an adult I would go to any restaurant with children, as I am sure they would be welcome everywhere. But if I ask my own children, the three of them would say simultaneously, “Pizzeria Capricciosa!” This pizzeria has branches in Ipanema, Copacabana and Jardim Botânico. The pizza is delicious and the waiters will try to make your child feel like the center of the world. Whatever kind of wish the child expresses, the Capricciosa staff will try to make it true.
My children were picky eaters which was a nightmare. But somehow any time we suggested getting a burger and juice at BB Lanches, it was as if we had just said that we were going to Disneyland. I have to concur, it is a great burger, and the huge offer of natural juices they have is unbeatable.
If your child is the restless type, your place is Os Esquilos. Os Esquilos is a restaurant in the middle of the rainforest in the national park “Floresta da Tijuca.” They have their own playground surrounded by the forest. Your child will have the opportunity to burn of his hyperactivity while you enjoy a romantic meal!
What are your favourite things to see and do with the kids?
There are many good plans in Rio, but plan A is probably the beach. Or better said, the beaches. If you have a car, my children always saw the beach as a playground with unlimited sand to build the greatest structures. I highly recommend the virgin beaches, which are a 30 minutes drive from the city. The urban beaches are very nice but tend to be crowded.
There also are the well-known highlights, Sugarloaf and Corcovado. I recommend hiring a guide in order to avoid queues especially if you have a small child. Regardless, if you have some bananas with you or not, it will definitely make the experience more fun. The Corcovado is in the middle of the Floresta da Tijuca and the Sugarloaf is surrounded by forest, too. This means there are monkeys to be fed everywhere. Even a queue is easier to endure if you can feed the little monkeys while waiting.
The cable car to Santa Teresa can be as exciting as a roller coaster. The adrenaline starts to pump when you see the old cable car climbing the mountain full of people hanging out of it, almost like the tropical version of the streetcars in San Francisco. Santa Teresa it is a very cute neighbourhood in which to walk around. It is on a hill, with lots of hills, so it’s better to take a stroller if you have a lazy child with you.
What are your favourite children’s playgrounds?
In the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens) there is a great playground with a picnic area, where you can eat. The Botanical Gardens in Rio is like a huge unenclosed greenhouse. Normally the tropical plants that grow inside of a greenhouse create a very humid environment, but in Rio this is all part of our normal environment. Incredibly big, incredibly nice and a wonderful place to go with children.
My top insider tip is to visit the playground in Jardim de Pernambuco in Leblon. This is a private condominium, but nobody will stop you from walking in and enjoying the playground. It used to be said that the best part of Rio is Leblon and the best part of Leblon is Jardim de Pernambuco. The wealthy cariocas (people from Rio de Janeiro) live there, and even if the residents don´t need a playground because they have their own at home, there is still one. A cute and neat one by the way. It is small but usually there aren´t so many children playing there. (And do not forget the bananas!)
At the Leblon and Ipanema beaches there are Baixo Bebê Leblon (Posto 12) and IpaBebê in front of the Fasano hotel. Playgrounds on the beach! Imagine going down the slide and landing on fluffy sand!
What are your tips for a rainy day?
If language is not a handicap, you can find different theatre plays and musicals for children all around the city. The Brazilians have a very special talent for music. That, together with their love for children, makes the shows simple but really nice.
The Museo do amanhã (the tomorrow museum) is both modern and interactive. This museum is an invitation for children and adults to think about the future of our planet. In addition to having videos and games, the museum always has a temporary exhibition.
The Planetarium in Gávea is also a good option for a rainy day. Besides the two domes, there are also three areas for interactive experiments, where visitors can learn how to play about astronomy, time, the phases of the moon and tides, the solar system, cosmology and space research. Moreover, these areas are specially designed for children, so that they can have fun learning.
My last tip is an obvious one, but it should not go unsaid that we have fabulous shopping malls. In the event of poor weather, everyone can find something they love and perhaps some souvenirs they can take home, too.
Thanks Alejandra for sharing your ideas for visiting Rio de Janeiro with kids. I will be sure to pack some bananas if I visit the city!
If you would like to be a guest blogger and share your best family tips about your city in our series Cities with Kids we'd love to hear from you! Email us at hello (at) simplefamilytravel.net.