Your Ultimate Guide to Gasparilla
When is Gasparilla?
Children’s Gasparilla, the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates, and the Knight Parade – are lumped together and commonly referred to as the Gasparilla Parades, or just Gasparilla. Two of the parades occur during the day on the last two Saturdays in January along Bayshore Blvd in south Tampa. The third parade takes place on the second Saturday in February, at night, in Ybor City, just north/north-east of downtown Tampa.
Key Gasparilla event dates for 2023 are:
- Children’s Gasparilla: Saturday, January 21, 2023
- Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest: Saturday, January 28, 2023
- Nighttime Sant’Yago Knight parade in Ybor: February 11, 2023
- Gasparilla Outbound Voyage: March 4, 2023
- Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic: February 26 – 27, 2023
- Gasparilla Festival of The Arts: March 4-5, 2023
- GIFF-Gasparilla International Film Festival: March 23-26, 2023
- GMF Gasparilla Music Festival: TBD
Children’s Gasparilla: January 21, 2023
Known as the “alcohol-free” parade, the Children’s Gasparilla consists of family-friendly and kid-orientated activities, followed by a parade along Bayshore Blvd. You’ll find it commonly referred to as the “Kids Parade” (although it’s grown to be more than just a parade).
This event always occurs a week before the primary “adult” Gasparilla pirate invasion and parade. Children’s Gasparilla provides a family-friendly, alcohol-free environment for families to see over a hundred floats, collect throw beads, engage in a preschooler stroll or a bike safety rodeo. Alcohol is prohibited along the parade route.
For detailed info on the Gasparilla Children’s Parade, check out Tampa Bay Parenting’s detailed article on the best way to enjoy this family-friendly event for kids of all ages!
Gasparilla Pirate Fest: January 28, 2023
This is the Big Deal – THE Gasparilla event that put Jose Gaspar (and maybe Tampa Bay) on the map! The Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest takes place on Saturday, January 28, 2023 from 10am-8pm in Tampa.
Sponsored by Seminole Hard Rock Casino, this main event features the 105th Gasparilla Invasion and Parade of the Pirates presented by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla. Expect between 500k to a million people to take part.
The Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest officially consists of three primary events:
- The Gasparilla Invasion – the pirate ship Jose Gasparilla invades the City of Tampa with cannons firing!
- The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates – having again successfully invaded Tampa, the Pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla celebrate with a parade down Bayshore Blvd.
- Gasparilla Pirate Fest – although the Parade of Pirates ends around 5pm, that doesn’t mean the partying stops!
GASPARILLA PARADE OF PIRATES: 2PM
To celebrate their stunning victory, these friendly pirates parade down the streets of Tampa, showering the crowds with treasures along the 4.5-mile parade route.
The parade begins at 2pm at the intersection of Bay to Bay and Bayshore Blvd and proceeds down Bayshore Blvd. towards downtown. With over 140 groups participating in the Parade of Pirates – consisting of over 103 high tech, elaborate floats, 5 marching bands, and over 50 Krewes, the parade is a cool and unique Tampa spectacle.
The first float is staged along Bayshore just south of Bay to Bay – but with 140+ units in the parade, the staged units extend more than 2 miles all the way south to Gandy Blvd and Bayshore Blvd. Federal, state and local law enforcement enforce a tight security zone around the staging area, and access is often limited to parade participants on floats or in groups with special passes.
Lots of people line up along Bayshore south of Bay to Bay, but there’s a reason the crowds are thin.
The floats and Krewes cannot interact or throw beads before the official starting point at Bay to Bay.
Alcohol and Safety
The City of Tampa typically establishes temporary wet zones along the parade route. These wet zones are the only safe places to consume alcohol.
Unofficially, the law enforcement officers working the parade tend to be pretty cool as long as you’re respectful. There are some certain don’ts – which can basically be summed up by saying don’t be an idiot. If you’re underage, don’t drink; the police can and do make underage drinking arrests every year. Don’t pee in public – there are porta-potties throughout the route, use those, don’t pee on the shrubs and houses around the parade route.
Don’t have glass, don’t bring coolers, don’t bring weapons, etc. Check out the City of Tampa’s Gasparilla Safety Page for more info.
The pirates and krewes in the parade celebrate by throwing beads and trinkets to the crowds (think Mardi Gras). Most of the beads are cheap “throw beads”, but if you’re lucky enough to catch the attention of somebody in the parade, you might end up snagging a really cool set of beads – some of them are pretty fancy!
Where can I watch the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates?
The non-water side of Bayshore Blvd is mostly open to the public, whereas large chunks of the water side of Bayshore are restricted and reserved for private paid seating or viewing areas, corporate tents, and these areas are limited access to the public.
Reserved seats can be purchased from Gasparilla Treasures.
Gasparilla is in January, and while it is Tampa, the parades along the water on Bayshore can get chilly sometimes. If there’s a wind coming off the water it’ll feel cooler. Dress appropriately – in pirate garb of course!
With almost a million people descending on a 4.5 mile route, there’s barely any room for people to move, much less park tens of thousands of cars. Best bet is to not park if possible. Grab a hotel, carpool, Uber/Lyft, bus, etc. If you simply must drive and park, allow ample time to arrive to your destination and secure parking.
PIRATE FEST: BEGINNING AT 10AM
Before and after the Parade, official Gasparilla parties and stages showcase music performances at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and MacDill Park.
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE GASPARILLA INVASION + PARADE?
This is an excellent question, considering how crowded the parade is each year. If you are interested in a more low key afternoon, where you can collect a lot of treasure, you should try and get as close to the starting point as possible. Once the Gasparilla Invasion lands at the Convention Center, the starting point is Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard. Other than that, any spot is a good spot for the parade. Just make sure to get there early in order to get a good place to stand.
Advice from our resident Pirate, “The best way to watch is by purchasing bleacher seats through Gasparilla Treasures. You can also arrive early and line up on the land side of Bayshore blvd between Bay to Bay blvd and Rome to find a section of grass and line up against the barricades along Bayshore. Another good Section is downtown along the barricades.”
Both the festival and other third-party hosts have ticketed brunch options available for purchase online around Gasparilla to better convenience families and other swash-bucklers looking for a bite to eat.
Our guide to the best Gasparilla Brunch Spots will satisfy your appetite!