When flying or traveling to an event – be that a festival, conference, or even a shorter event like a concert, you are always trying to find the best ways to optimize your time to ensure you get the most out of your time. Especially if you are traveling with younger children. This is exactly how I felt when boarding the plane to Venice to attend Carnival!
I will be sharing with you how to get the most out of your time at Carnival while traveling with children and what to expect. Before I get too far into the actual advice, I wanted to share a little history of Carnival with you!
Unlike what most people think when they hear Carnival, this is not like New Orleans or Brazil’s festivals. This is the OG of Carnivals around the world!
History of Carnival
Starting back in 1162 the Venice Carnival began in celebration of the Venice Republic’s victory over its enemy. The people of Venice gathered in Saint Mark’s Square (San Marco) to dance and celebrate their victory. Ever since then, the victory was celebrated in the streets of Venice. As time went on, the carnival was celebrated for its own sake and most revelers probably had no idea how it began. It was simply an excuse to have a lot of fun!
The Venice Carnival carried on for several centuries until it was outlawed in 1797 while Venice was under the rule of Francis II, the Holy Roman Emperor. Venetians’ use of masks to conceal their identities was also banned at the time. Occasionally, during the 19th century, the festival came back for brief periods, but it was always practiced privately, lacking the huge public displays and festivities it’s known for today!
Jumping ahead to 1979… the Italian government decided to help Venice reconnect with its festival heritage in order to rejuvenate the culture and economy of Venice. The city’s tourism industry also saw a marked surge of interest. Needless to say, this was a very good idea from the Italian government, and the Venice Carnival has grown and grown over the years into one of the world’s biggest and most popular celebrations.
If you haven’t been to Venice before, let me mentally prepare you for the narrow pathways and alleyways that connect the waterways of the streets of Venice. On a NORMAL day in Venice in the Summer these tiny streets can be packed – now times that by 5x more people. During a normal year of Carnival (before COVID) the streets of Venice would see up to 3 million people! 2022 is the first year since COVID that Carnival has even been held, so needless to say that I got to experience the festival a little differently than most people have in the past.
With numbers like that, you add traveling with kids to the mix and it can give even the most experienced traveling parent a little anxiety, speaking from experience here. This is why I wanted to share some insider experience and insight on how to navigate traveling with kids to Carnival.
1) Ditch the stroller:
I know that for most parents that this might be a deal-breaker when traveling with small kids, but trust me, Venice was NOT designed for strollers. The main bridges as you walk along the Grand
Canal to Saint Mark’s Square have ramps but for the rest of the hundreds of bridges you’ll need to cross to get anywhere else in the city – ramps are not a thing. It is going to be easiest if you either wear your kid if they are small enough for a backpack or wrap. If your child is older and a little “free-spirited” consider having them wear a backpack leash, and holding to that leash close there are a lot of bottleneck areas and you don’t want your leash to get wrapped up around people’s legs. My daughter went as a 5-year-old and she just held my hand or onto my backpack when we were trying to navigate tight and crowded spaces.
Don’t be intimidated by this – there are only a few places that you need to be aware of that were serious “bottleneck” areas and so it isn’t THAT bad EVERYWHERE all the time. Also, don’t be afraid to stick your elbows out a little to create space in the crowd for you and your kids. Unfortunately, I did experience that people weren’t really keen on looking down when in these bottleneck situations so I found it was just a little easier to create space for me and my little going through the crowds to ensure she didn’t get moshed or stepped on.
2) Avoid “Main Spaces”
Depending on when you are visiting Carnival will greatly differ on this suggestion. When we landed it was Saturday and we were there over a weekend, which was PACKED! But staying over into the week
the roads emptied out greatly and I didn’t have to deal with the crowds as much until later in the evening when the locals were off of work and out dressed up in costumes. If you’re coming during the week, it won’t be as crazy – I promise! Some of the main spaces you might want to avoid during the weekend are going to be the obvious ones:
- Rialto Bridge
- St. Mark’s Square
- Bridge of Sighs
- Doge’s Palace
These are going to be the areas that are more crowded and when someone is out in costume – it causes a bottleneck in tight spaces when they are out and about. But believe me, the photos are worth weeding through the crowds for.
3) Want a Cinderella Moment?
You might know that Carnival hosts a lot of balls during the festival and if you are wanting to go while experiencing every aspect of carnival, this, however, isn’t possible to bring kids. There is still a great option! A lot of the nicer hotels provide “in-room childcare”. This is perfect if you’d like to take the evening away, get dressed like it is the 1600s, and party like it is 1999!
If you’ve never used an in-room service, it can be a little nerve-racking at first. But trust me – it is worth it! This is how you’re going to be able to live out your dreams of being a real-life Cinderella or Prince Charming!
4) Eat off the Beaten Path
We didn’t have an issue finding food for the little one – she was told that she could have pizza every day while in Italy. But if you have a picky eater, you definitely don’t want to eat in the main areas. In these areas, you will find that there are smaller menus and higher prices.
Once you start winding through some of the “back” streets of Venice you will find amazing food (not hard in Italy) and better prices, which I know we all need when traveling as families.
These are just a few tips on how to best navigate the beautiful and magical festival of Carnival in Venice with children! Be sure to subscribe to be notified when every new post is published!
Also, check out my other blog posts for Venice!