The fancy costumes and shows put on by the Carnival groups throughout the competition process don't quite reach their full glory until they hit the streets of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The city centre is the Street Carnival scene par excellence: the area formed between Plaza de España, the streets of the San José neighbourhood, Villalba Hervás and Plaza del Príncipe are where the party really happens.
This is the place where up to 200,000 people get together on the busiest Carnival nights: Saturday and Carnival Monday, as well as Friday and Saturday on Piñata weekend. Adding to the atmosphere on these festive days are the concerts played by the bands from stages that are put up specially for the occasion to entertain thousands with their live performances.
For decades, each Carnival has welcomed great performers such as Óscar D’León, Willy Colón, David Bisbal, Many Manuel, Carlos Baute and Quinito Méndez. But a concert that the locals remember particularly fondly is the one held in 1987 by Celia Cruz and the Billo's Caracas Boys band in Plaza de España. These salsa stars managed to gather an audience of 200,000 people, a number that made history by breaking the Guinness World Record for the most people dancing together in the open air.
In addition to these live performances, the bandstands and decorated cars also play a variety of music for all audiences. The area of Avenida de Anaga hosts many of the improvised bandstands put up by students, while the Calle San José area is where the decorated cars play their music – even the cars get dressed up here! Each of the streets round about is home to meeting points that have become quite an institution, such as El Corinto and El Águila. All the while, the restaurants and establishments selling food and drink make sure that the carnival-goers keep their energy levels topped up all through the night.
This all means that most of Tenerife's inhabitants get together on these few days to share the city with carnival-goers from all over the Canary Islands, Spain and the rest of the world, to the extent that the city centre ends up welcoming a number of people equal to its entire population.
One of the main features that sets this Carnival apart from others is its safety, despite this huge mass of people. Carefree joy is what best defines this gathering, where the main task of the security and emergency staff involves tending to people who have had a little more to drink than they could really handle.