It can be fun, free, surprising, and worth the effort… IF you follow these Insider Carnival Tips that will make all the difference for your Carnival experience.
New for 2018: Great news, the route has returned to the much better loop between Place Massena, the Prom, and avenue Verdun (see map below)… yea! The route is still 100% secure like last year, but unfortunately that means still no more free-zone …but tickets are cheap, and free is still possible with a little effort. And now here’s to hoping that they’ll bring back the silly string!
Okay, on to the tips:
1. First, pick up the program. It’s worth popping in to the Tourist Office to pick up your free Official Program Guide with the drawings from each float’s conception. This will give you the inside track on decoding the humor and ironic meanings of the more esoteric floats and you will notice details that otherwise might have escaped you in the craziness.
2. Avoid the crowds and get your ticket online. Ticket booths open 2 hours before each parade, so unless you want to spend your dinnertime hanging out in a line, smart shoppers buy online and print them out at home.
3. Have a costume? Get in free! You can still get free entry into the standing B Zone if you wear a costume, but whereas in year’s past even a lame face-paint or silly hat would work: No more! The rule for this year is that it has to be a good costume, head-to-toe.
4. Don’t pay for a seat! You’ll pay 26€ and be stuck for hours subjecting your ears to the painfully loud MC as the floats crawl past at a glacial pace, and the standing A Zone (12€) is just as bad. Better to head straight for the standing B Zone, which is much more fun, much cheaper (5€ for adults and free for kids under 10), and covers 80% of the route.
5. Keep it short. Once in the less-crowded B Zone, walk the route counter-clockwise. Don’t just stand on the sidelines… jump right into the parade path and walk against the float flow, where you’ll be dodging confetti, big heads, and float tentacles; it’s really fun! And the best thing about this strategy: by walking against the flow, you keep moving and see all the floats in 30-45 minutes instead of nearly 2 hours… a much more enjoyable Carnival time frame! To make this work, arrive about an hour late and enter from the North side using entry E2 by rue Paradis, or E1 off the Prom by the Hotel Le Meridien, avoiding Place Masséna altogether.
6. Secret skybox. It’s not very glam, but the best view without diving into the crowds is the second floor of the McDonald’s at the Hotel Le Meridien. For more of a bird’s eye view (plus cocktails!), the roof terrace of the B4 Plaza Hotel is nice…
7. Secret way to beat the crowds. Approximately 1 hour before each parade, the floats drive in from the Carnaval workshop in the port. Hang out on the city side of the Promenade du Paillon and wait for the Carnival to come to you, as the impressive floats meander past with none of the muss or fuss. Even better: 15 minutes after the end of the Carnival the process happens in reverse… and for this direction you can hang out at one of the many cafes and bars on the Old Nice side of the Promenade du Paillon and get your mini-taste of the Carnival in cafe-style comfort!
8. Where to park. The NiceEtoile shopping center (5 minutes walk) is offering a deal on Carnival days of 5 hours parking for 5€. But you can park for even less: take advantage of the 5 ParcAzur park and ride lots where you can park all day for the price of a tram ticket, and the tramway will deliver you right to the action.
Here is the schedule for attending the events (or avoiding downtown, depending on your preference!)
- Saturdays: 2:30pm Bataille de Fleurs, 9pm Corso Illuminee
- Tuesdays: 9pm Corso Illuminee
- Wednesdays: 2pm Bataille de Fleurs
- Sunday, February 25th only, 2:30pm, the only daytime Corso parade
Click here for the Official Nice Carnival site in English
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