I love the spirit of Brazil. Before I was married, I lived on an island near Rio called Ilha Grande for just long enough to travel around a lot of the country, but not long enough to understand or be affected by the country's politics, economy, etc. My husband and I visited Brazil before we had kids. Today, my son learns capoeira and learns Brazilian Portuguese, so we all enjoy Brazilian culture in our lives. We took the kids (ages 2.5 years and almost 5 years at the time) and visited the country during spring break this year, about a hundred days before the Olympics started.
Here is my quick Top 11 list of things to do with kids during a 4-day trip to Rio de Janeiro. We stayed in two fantastic airbnb apartments, one a block away from the beach in Ipanema and the other in the hillside neighborhood of Santa Teresa. The neighborhoods have completely different vibes and I think it's worth staying in both.
1. Take the cable cars (you take two of them to get to the very top) to Pão de Açucar or Sugarloaf in English.
2. Visit Jesus at Corcovado. You take a funicular/tram up to the statue, so the kids were really into that.
3. Visit the botanical garden. They have a little playground and there's endless open spaces for the kids to run around in. We also saw huge monkeys just hanging out. Like, monkeys you'd see in a zoo, except they were just out there.
4. Ride the Bonde tram up to the Santa Teresa neighborhood.
5. Walk up and down the folk artsy Escadaria Selarón in the Lapa neighborhood.
6. Drink coconut water daily!
7. Go to the beach! We would go for an hour and play a little on the sand and then get on with our day. You can make Rio a beach vacation, but for us, that's not the main appeal of Rio.
8. Enjoy the food and drinks! We had açaí, brigadeiros, pão de queijo, caipirinhas, pastels, coxinha, fresh-squeezed juices, etc.
9. Get in a hammock. I can't imagine a visit to Rio without spending many hours in a hammock.
10. Enjoy the street art.
11. Pick up some Havaianas and some girls plastic shoes from Melissa.
Despite media craziness, Brazil is a wonderful place to visit with and without kids. It's one of the most family-friendly cities we've ever been to (first time I've ever seen an airline let you borrow a stroller) and the people are insanely warm.