Top 5 Survival Tips for Carnaval Austin

Carnaval at the Palmer Events Center in Austin

Palmer Events Center on Carnaval night

One of the first things I noticed upon moving to Austin is the proclivity for dress up parties.

In New York, any costume you wear you have to wear on the subway, which is probably why people end up just going pantsless.

Carnaval Brasileiro is a popular event that happens during the “coldest” time of year in Austin, ironic considering the standard levels of nudity that pass for costumes at the yearly event.

There is a yearly theme. Last year, it was the Wizard of Oz. This year, the theme is Peter Pan. The theme is not overtly stated in any of the website content, but novice Carnaval attendees can be easily distinguished by their lack of theme adherence.

Carnaval Austin Wizard of Oz Theme

This guy was dressed up as the Yellow Brick Road!

The theme does not, however, have to be interpreted literally. Especially considering the proclivity towards nudity. Last year, I dressed up as a ruby slipper, my interpretation of the Wizard of Oz theme. I felt much nakeder in public than I’m usually comfortable with, wearing the equivalent of a very skimpy one piece bathing suit made of red sequins. I assure you I was close to the most clothed person at this event.

Carnaval Austin marketers have taken great pains to not scare people away from this incredibly fun event, by reassuring newbies that Carnaval is not just a sexcapade in costume.

In fact, there are a number of measures in effect to keep the fun PG-13. For all the wildness of the music and the costuming, there is a strict structure underlying the event to keep it under control.

The music and the energy of Carnaval are hard to beat.  The event organizers have done a consistently good job embodying the soul of the original Brazilian inspiration for this party. There is a ton of dancing, fantastic, authentic music, and the excitement is very palpable – even in the big open space of the Palmer Events Center.

What Can You Do to Maximize Your First Carnaval Austin Experience?

Costumed Flying Monkey Carnaval Brasileiro Austin

Giant Flying Monkey! Definitely more clothed, and potentially full of candy?

  • Get ready with a group of friends

Our friends got a hotel room within walking distance. We did one another’s bodypaint, drank cheaper self-bought beverages, and got into the revelry spirit together. It was the perfect start, and also allowed us to leave “real clothes” someplace nearby. Additionally, being able to park at the hotel and not wait in the queue to park in the facility garage was really nice.

  • Wear shoes that you can wear all night long

There is very limited seating at this event. Last year, there were just some bleachers at the periphery of the dance floor.

  • Bring the minimal amount of accoutrement.

The dancing and festivities will warrant being unencumbered throughout the night.

The Samba Circle gives you a special wristband and allows you into a private area in the back of the Palmer Events Center. There, it’s a little quieter, there are bathrooms with no lines, and you’re given a chance to decant a little between dancing sessions without being mobbed by people. Plus, the quiet actually allows you to hear people and you can make friends more easily. Also a good meet up place!

  • Go with the flow!

The spirit of Carnaval is all about a lack of inhibition and just giving yourself over to the music and the beat. Sure, you’re not used to seeing so much flesh and maybe not used to being so “out there” in public, but most people aren’t! Just go with it!

Drummers at Carnaval Brasileiro Austin

Drummers setting the mood at Carnaval Brasileiro

All in all, it was an incredibly fun night! If you’re thinking about going, but you’re afraid, don’t be! Carnaval Austin is an experience that anyone in the city should do at least once! A number of local costume shops will likely have Peter Pan costumes already in stock, but don’t feel restricted by a traditional interpretation of the characters. One of the best parts of Carnaval for me last year was witnessing the creativity that people expressed in their costumes.

Carnaval Austin is on February 2, 2013, so get your tickets now! You can visit the Carnaval Brasileiro website or go right to their ticketing site.


Photos via Flickr CC, courtesy of fragility_v2 .


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  • jo

    not sure if i would peg a newbie as someone whose costume does not adhere to the theme… themes are a very loose suggestion and Carnaval is much more about the music, atmosphere and revelry. this is my 5th year attending, i’ve always had a great time (even not drinking) and very much enjoy seeing all the creativity. anything goes though nudity is not a costume. mix it up!

    • jo

      i should clarify: the theme is picked by the samba school that performs. some revelers enjoy using the theme for costuming but there is no official theme for the event.

      • Brittany Highland

        Appreciate all of the insight @14ce1b7b60b870354b17511d4885bf0c:disqus! I look forward to my first Carnaval experience this weekend.