Sambadrome in Rio
Blocos are like foreplay.... Sambadrome is like baby making. This is the craziest parade competition celebration wtf in the world. The floats are so intricate and the dancing amazing. This is something I will tell you you SHOULD spend money on. It's worth it. The energy. The beautiful people. The coordination.
Each Samba school has a set amount of time to complete their entire routine. About 85 minutes. The first school starts around 9pm and the whole thing ends after 6am. They are scored on a number of details like timing, creativity, props, etc. To see the explanation of everything check out this link!
My advice on this one, pay money!
If you want the VIP treatment and peace of mind, you can buy tickets on gringo websites in advance. You will pay thousands but have a great time. You can also secure some decent tickets online for a couple hundred. Make sure you're in one of the first 10 sections as you will be MUCH closer to the action and the lighting will be way better (if you're into photography).
If you do your research you can also figure out where the short dance segments are planned and sit right in front of them.
NOW, the way I recommend if you're poor like me. Show up on the day and get scalped tickets. There are SO many tickets available and locals get better prices. (Tickets can be as cheap as 5 USD) & You can always show up a little late and get some good bang for your buck. The parade lasts for 9+ hours. You will probably get bored! Figure out which school you want to see and go watch them. Stay longer if you want.
The middle ground is to make a friend in Rio who can help you secure some good tickets. This comes with some peace of mind and a lower price.
As for the experience... It was interesting. Lots of condom balloons flying around. I saw a couple floats catch fire. Many people were taken out in stretchers, probably because they fainted. There are many floats that are a little too big, and they hit the over hanging press area. And, NOTHING is efficient. The only way to get into and out of some floats is a huge crane.
With that said, it all added to the drama! People rushing to meet their 85 minute deadlines. Beautiful women in the most beautiful costumes! The dancing was amazing and the creativity is mind blowing. You have to check out the transforming float of the winners this year. This is a link to their whole performance.
The funny thing about traveling to "big" things, is that it is seldom a "wow." The most amazing moments in my travel life have been unplanned and unrelated to the big attractions, but Carnival in Rio delivered. Just like the Pyramids in Egypt. I highly recommend it.
Oh yeah, one more thing. The best way to experiene the action is right in the middle of it. You can pay to be a part of it all. You wear a costume and march alone with the action. Doooo it!