If you want to take advantage of the extra-long weekend to get outta Dodge, but don’t want to miss out on all the Carnival fun, there are plenty of options in the nether regions and along the coast of São Paulo state. Towns like Batatais, Rio Claro and Bragança Paulista offer up their own quality Carnivals, complete with mini-Sambadromes. In Paulínia, located between São Paulo and Campinas, the town party palace seats 60,000 spectators, almost 70 per cent of the town’s population.
Campinas, São Paulo’s second-largest city has 12 samba schools parading on 11-12 February and oodles of blocos (organised bands of merrymakers) and trios elétricos – lorries adapted with stages and huge speakers that blare out live or electronic music – that course along the main avenues and through the neighbourhoods.
But small-town Carnival’s particular charm is in the intimate atmosphere, the impromptu street parties and, in some cases, the mischievous pranks played by both adults and children in homemade disguises. Street parties and marchinhas – brass-and-percussion marching bands – also mark small-town Carnival, especially in places a few hours' drive away from the city, like São Luiz do Paraitinga, Monteiro Lobato and Cerquilho.
Beach parties and private clubs are where the action’s at on the litoral paulista (the stretch of São Paulo state along the ocean). Santos will offer the Carnabanda, a three-week event lasting from 25 January-12 February, featuring live bands and bloco parades in the city centre. Ilhabela will have six samba schools parade on 11 February. São Vicente also has a competition, with schools parading on the main seafront avenue.