Despite some interesting places, the city of Aparecida itself is not very nice - dull, poor and filled with cheap souvenirs and hawkers.
The city revolves around the Basilica and the pilgrims. Everywhere you go, you'll find religious images. The atmosphere is Catholic- if this offends you, I think you should avoid Aparecida.
Do visit the main sites around (the Basilica, the Cathedral, all the churches and chapels as well as Morro do Cruzeiro) but then move on.
This hill has a good view of Aparecida. But this is hardly the reason to visit.
The most interesting are the plaques that the groups of pilgrims leave, to mark their passage. These are carried in front of the group as they travel to Aparecida (often on foot - you can see these on the roads near the feast day - oct 12th). Many are carried out every year and this is proudly noted on the plaque - the 50th pilgrimage from ???, for example.
Follow the via-sacra (which commemorates the stations of the Cross) up to the top of the hill, where there is an altar (used for masses to commemorate the end of the pilgrimage before going to the sanctuary in the Basilica).
After the impressive Basilica, the old cathedral may be something of a let down. It is very small and a bit run down. However, look closely and their are lots of lovely details.
Can you imagine what this was like when millions of pilgrims crowded in on Oct 12th (the feast of Nossa Senhora Aparecida)? It must have been chaotic!
As you approach the Basilica, you'll see sign for the Acquarium, promissing alot of excitment and even the chance to pet a real shark!
It is a collection of dark acquariums and sad panels, which were supposed to explain something.
Throw in bored and over excited children running around and it is not my idea of an interesting place.
Unique Suggestions: Check out the freshwater fish exhibits, which show the native fishes of the region.
Fun Alternatives: After the Basilica, head in to Aparecida and check all the churches - including the old shrine, where the image was originally housed- and Morro do Cruzeiro , where pilgrims arrive and leave their pilgrimage signs and has a good view of the city.