Carnival events in Rio de Janeiro can be placed into one of three categories:
- blocos da rua – These are block parties originally organized by neighborhood groups. One of the oldest, Banda de Ipanema, is also a gay-friendly bloco
- bailes (formal indoor balls) – These cabaret-style balls are a long standing tradition with food, drinks, and amazing live performances.
- parada / desfile – Huge spectacular parade in which escolas de samba (Samba schools) compete for the grand prize in Rio’s massive Sambadrome arena.
The Scala Rio Gay Ball is a baile (one of its many names is the Baile Gay do Rio Scala.) During Carnival, many balls are held at the Scala Rio nightclub, but they save the best (and most fabulous for last.)
Getting There / Getting Tickets
In 2017, The Scala Rio Gay Ball will take place on Tuesday, February 28. Doors open at 11:00PM, but we recommend entering after midnight. There are many blocos nearby in the Cinelândia neighborhood. There are various levels of tickets: one is general admission that gives access to an open-bar and snacks (R$118 = US$35), the others are VIP levels that have full dinner and a separate area (prices vary.)
Some websites offer tickets, but we recommend ordering them through the front desk of your hotel. Any of the hotels on our list of gay-friendly hotels in Rio will be happy to assist!
The Scala Rio nightclub is easily accessible via Metro (the Cinelândia station connects with stops in Copacabana and Ipanema.) Consult our Google Map of gay Rio.
What to Expect
The Scala Rio Gay Ball began as a costume ball, but over the years the rules have loosened. Some attendees pull out all the stops with Vegas showgirl style drag, or full S&M leather gear. Superhero costumes are increasingly popular as well as spooky outfits you might expect for Halloween. Attendees are free to not wear costumes, so throw on a festive hat and you’ll be welcome to join the fun.
If you enter at midnight, the ball will appear a bit lame. The fabulous people are still out partying in the streets. However, if you are with a group, it is a good hour to relax a bit and enjoy the free drinks. You can also watch the red carpet full of travestis in full drag regalia. At the entrance of the Scala Rio nightclub, camera crews will be set up to broadcast the over-the-top drag queens.
The main hall has a DJ and the dance floor can get crowded. Once the live samba band takes the stage, the true feeling of Brazilian carnival takes over. The atmosphere is very friendly, full of Brazilians and tourists looking to have a good time.
The crowd is a mix of ages, but men over 40 will feel very comfortable. Gays who are looking for a circuit party where they can dance until dawn with their shirts off will be much happier at The Week.