In our decade of traveling, our son with autism has created his bucket list of places to visit. Many of the places he has wanted to visit have been inspired by watching movies, like when he wanted to visit Paris after watching the Rugrats movie. When we were finalizing our South American trip, he reminded us how much he wanted to see the city of Rio de Janeiro after watching Rio. He even actively created the itinerary we would explore according to the spots seen in the movie.
Our first stop was Sugarloaf Mountain, showcased in Rio in the scene when Blu first arrives at the city. The Pao de Acucar, or Sugarloaf Mountain, is a popular attraction in Rio de Janeiro – a peak rising up on a peninsula in Guanabara Bay. A cable car takes visitors to the top, who are then rewarded with 360-degree views of the city, the harbor, and the beaches. The cable car stops in two area on the way to the top, first at the mountain of Morro de Urca, then at the head of the taller Pao de Acucar. One can see the Sagui Monkeys, which were the inspiration for the thief monkeys in Rio.
The day we visited several cruise tours mobbed the place and made the lines rather long. It took approximately thirty minutes to get through both cable cars up to the top of the mountain.
Tours start around R$71 per person, and many include a stop at the Metropolitan Cathedral, while individual tickets are R$62 for adults and R$31 for children.
Cristo Redentor Statue and Corcovado Mountain
The famous Cristo Redentor statue was our second stop. In the movie, the sculpture was featured in the scene when Blu first escapes with Jewel and tries to learn to fly. Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer, is a giant Jesus Christ statue on top of Corcovado Mountain. This statue is one of the most famous features of Rio de Janeiro. Travelers can get to the statue by taking a taxi to Cosme Velho Station and taking the train from there. They can also book a tour and ride up to the statue in a van. Admission to the statue is R$36.
Rio De Janeiro Beaches
For our third stop, we explored the Rio De Janeiro beaches, seen in the movie when Blu and Jewel land on a glider and hit the sand. There are twenty-three beaches in Rio De Janeiro to experience. There is no way one could visit them all, but we got to see the most well-known.
One of the most famous beaches in the world, the four-km Copacabana Beach is in the south of Rio de Janeiro and was one of the Olympic Zones in the 2016 Olympics. The beach is clean, and visitors can get umbrellas and chairs, but it is also one of the most crowded areas in the city. The lifeguard stations along the beach are open daily from eight am to eight pm. They offer free first aid and changing and toilet facilities for a nominal fee.
Located in the south of Rio de Janeiro near Copacabana, Ipanema Beach became public thanks to the famous “Girl from Ipanema” song written by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes. It is a favorite beach in Brazil, where visitors and locals alike sunbathe or play soccer or volleyball. It is also one of the safest districts in the area, likely because it is a more residential neighborhood. There are restrooms and showers, but these can get very busy during the hot season.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Rio can get hot during the summer months. Parents should pack plenty of water, sunscreen, and insect repellant.
- There are no barriers around the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, so families should be careful, especially with younger kids.
- Visitors on Ipanema Beach should look for Posto 8, where they can find a fun play area for younger children.
- The ocean does see unyielding currents. Parents should make sure kids know how to properly swim in the sea, even if they are playing shallow water
- The Christo Redentor statue has lots of lines depending on the time of day, and there are no accommodations for autism. The best time to visit is early in the day.
- At the Christo Redentor statue, parents can review the interactive digital information board on the platform under the figure’s left arm. This board displays information and fun facts about the statue and its history.
- We highly recommend that parents download a translator app, as most of the signs are in Portuguese and not many of the locals speak English.
- Credit cards are not as commonly used in Brazi as they are in the United States. Parents should bring cash and carry it in a money belt for safe keeping.