Parks and Gardens
In addition to numerous beaches, Rio is also blessed with a variety of parks. On the waterfront near Centro there's Flamengo Park, a good place to stroll in the late afternoon if you're looking for a nice view of the Sugarloaf.
Out in the other direction, just past the northern edge of downtown, lies the Quinta da Boa Vista, the royal family's former country residence, on Avenida Bartolomeu de Gusmã, just a short walk from the Sao Cristóvão Metrô stop. Though it's been a century or more since the exiled royals departed, their former country residence is as delightful now as it was when the royal princesses scampered round the villa gardens. Designed in the Romantic style by French landscape architect Auguste Glaziou, the Quinta da Boa Vista has all the tricks of the gardener's trade: tree-lined dells, small ponds and waterfalls, a grotto, a lookout, even a temple of Apollo. The park is also home to the city zoo and the national museum. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Closer to the city core lies the Campo de Santana, opposite the Central Metrô stop on Avenida Presidente Vargas. A pretty, formal park, its fence and four iron gates protect 50 species of trees, four ponds, and a grotto. The fence also encloses numerous agoutis (a bizarre-looking minicapybara), ducks, peacocks, and marmosets, as well as a large collection of stray cats that Cariocas seem to dump here. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Last and best, the Parque Nacional da Tijuca (Tijuca National Park) is a wonder. At more than 8,000 acres it's the biggest urban forest in the world and one of the last remnants of Atlantic rainforest on Brazil's southern coast. It's a great place to go for a hike, splash in a waterfall, or admire the view. Among its more special points are the Pico de Tijuca, the Corcovado, the Vista Chinesa, and the Pedra da Gávea.
Especially for Kids
There are few things in Rio that aren't for kids. Brazilians take their children everywhere -- restaurants, bars, even dances -- and voice no objection when others do the same. Still, there are few places that stand out as being especially kid-friendly. First and most obvious is the beach. Sun, surf, and sand castles have kind of an enduring kid appeal. For younger children the beach at Leblon features the Baixo Baby, a free play area equipped with all manner of toys and play stuff geared for toddlers. On Sundays and holidays, the waterfront avenues that line the beaches of Flamengo, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon are closed for cars. With no traffic, the miles and miles of waterfront become the world's best playground. Both adults and children will enjoy the pleasant bustle of Carioca families going for a stroll and there's plenty of entertainment to boot.
You'll find an array of buskers such as jugglers, magicians, musicians, stilt-walkers, and fire-eaters as well bike rentals and small electric toy-car rentals. For slightly older kids, the city zoo (Jardim Zoológico) is guaranteed to delight and just possibly to educate. One of the few museums of interest to kids is the Museu do Indio in Botafogo. The museum offers kids stamps and (washable) body paints so they can practice adorning themselves like natives; the re-creations of Indian houses on the grounds are fun places to crawl in and out of. In Catete, the beautiful (if slightly formal) Parque do Catete has a brinquedoteca, a kind of toy library from which you can loan out toys by the hour for a nominal fee (about R$7/US$2.90 per hour). Few kids can resist the fun of a train -- or tram ride. The Santa Teresa tram zooms over a high aqueduct, then snakes through the narrow streets of this old neighborhood. At the top station, hop off, and make your way over to the Ruin Park, the shell of an old mansion featuring numerous stairs, a tower, and catwalks to run up, down, and around on. The bonus for parents is the fabulous view of Rio.
For a complete listing of what to see and do in Rio de Janeiro, visit the online attractions index at Frommers.com.
Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.