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 2017: Carnival has a new 100% secure route, and sadly, no more free-zone, but tickets can be cheap, and free is still possible with a little effort. And no more silly string!
1. First, pick up the program. It’s worth it to swing by 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.
2. 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.
3. Avoid the crowds and get your ticket online. Ticket booths open 2 hours before each parade, but smart shoppers buy online and print them out at home.
4. 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.
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 via Entry E6, avoiding Place Massena altogether.
6. Decode. Now that you’ve beat the crowd and are covered with silly string and confetti, go have a drink in the Old Town and decode the hidden and ironic meanings of the 18 floats…
7. Secret skybox. The Seven Blue Bar at the Hotel Aston will have the best aerial view of the festivities, and you can spend that 26€ on cocktails instead! – Update: Aston’s bar is closed for remodeling for 2017 but will be back in 2018! Bad timing!
8. Queernaval. The one night that the tribune seating is completely free is Queernaval night, the first gay carnival in France. Everyone’s invited, gay, hetro, whatever, so if you are up for some bawdy gender-bending burlesque carnival fun, this night is for you! – Update: Queernaval is cancelled for 2017, but will be back in 2018!
9. 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!
10. 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.
Note that these tips apply only to the Corso parades, the daytime Corso Carnavalesque and the spectacular Corso Illuminé Night Carnivals. The Bataille de Fleurs is something else altogether, with different rules and different tips… so click here for Best of Nice Blog’s insider tips for the Bataille de Fleurs Flower Parade.
Here is the schedule for attending the events or avoiding downtown, depending on your preference. Day events start at 2:30pm, and nighttime at 9pm.
Click here for the Official Nice Carnival site in English
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