Last updated: 10:46 AM ET, Thu August 04 2016

What Not to Miss in Rio During the Olympics

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | June 02, 2016

What Not to Miss in Rio During the Olympics

PHOTO: New enhancements encourage tourism in Rio de Janeiro. (photo by David Cogswell)

Brazilian Tourism Board (Embratur) has some suggestions for those headed to the country for the Summer Olympic Games. There are fewer than 70 days left before the opening ceremony and, for those who haven’t been to Rio during the last couple of years, there is a lot to look forward to in the city.

Brazil has recently made headlines for its political chaos and turmoil surrounding the Olympic Games, but that doesn’t seem to be scaring off visitors to the country who are determined to see their countrymen compete for Olympic gold. In fact, recently released numbers show that spending by visitors in the country has grown over the first quarter of the year. International tourists spent 11.5 percent more in Brazil between January and April this year compared to the same period last year, according to new numbers released by Embratur.

Urban projects have updated declining areas of the city, according to Embratur, and new transportation hubs and attractions have reconnected Rio. New sports facilities, cultural spaces, leisure areas and more have been created for the Games and for the citizens of the city to enjoy for years to come. Travel restrictions have been eased for visitors this summer, further streamlining a visit to the country.

Here are some of the city’s newest enhancements that visitors should not miss:

Visa-Free Travel

Officially launched on June 1, the visa waiver program could generate up to a 20 percent increase in the flow of visitors between the countries of Australia, Canada, the U.S. and Japan, according to the World Tourism Organization. Citizens of these four countries are guaranteed visa-free entry between June 1 and Sept. 18, with a limited stay of 90 days from the date of their first entry into Brazil. The exemption is for international visitors who are going to Brazil exclusively for tourism purposes and visitors do not need to prove that they are traveling to attend any Olympics event.

READ MORE: Could Brazil's Political Upheaval Derail The Olympics?

Cultural Passport

Earlier in May, the mayor of Rio and the Rio 2016 Organization launched the Rio Cultural Passport that offers free or discounted entry to more than 700 cultural attractions within the city. Like the visa waiver program, the passport is available throughout the summer months, May to September, and includes plays, concerts, dance performances, art exhibitions, films and street events. For visitors, the passport costs approximately $5.

Porto Maravilha

In addition to new conveniences for visitors to Rio, one of the city’s largest new attractions is Porto Maravilha. The area is being transformed into an entertainment and amusement zone during the Olympic Games and will be a hub for Olympic action, taking place on big-screen televisions. It will also serve as the the location for a new "Olympic Boulevard" that will stretch approximately 1.9 miles along the dock side.

To help tourists navigate the excitement, the crowds and the parties and events within the historic center, a new light-rail system will begin operating in the city at the beginning of June. The Olympic Boulevard will be free to enter and open from 9 a.m. to around 10 p.m. every day.

Museum of Tomorrow

The stunning, otherworldly Museum of Tomorrow is another new sight to behold within the city. The new museum is a centerpiece of the reinvigorated port area and is devoted to exploring a sustainable future through interactive exhibits that marry science, art, technology and culture in a giant spaceship-like building. The building itself was inspired by the bromeliads in Rio’s Botanical Gardens and was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who has a history with the Olympics, designing the Athens 2004 Olympic Stadium.

READ MORE: Americans Head to Brazil in Droves

Olympic Cauldron

Finally, visitors will want to check out the Olympic Cauldron, which for the first time, will be placed outside of the stadium and become easily accessible to visitors. It will be lit in the Estadio Mario Filho (Maracana) during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games and live in the Porto Maravilha site, in the city center.

"It will be a very democratic approach,” said Rio mayor Eduardo Paes. “I was given the idea and readily accepted, because, there, the pyre can be seen by all: whether or not (they are) involved with the Games."

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