The last weekend in January is a big one for the city of Tampa Bay, especially this year as Gasparilla returns after being canceled in 2021. People from all over come to celebrate the pirate invasion of Jose Gaspar and his crew. About 300,000 people make their way to Bayshore Boulevard for the main parade of Gasparilla in the afternoon after a morning full of mimosas and rum filled drinks. With so many people coming to town from outside the Bay, there is always bound to be chaos, and you need some Gasparilla survival tips from the pros! Even those who have been to the parade for years make rookie mistakes on the big day. Make sure you make it through the day (at least to after the parade) with these Gasparilla survival tips.
If you really want to get the full Gasparilla Experience, start early! The invasion starts at 11:30am with the parade to follow and various parties happening throughout the day. With all that partying you are going to need to start with a hearty brunch to help you last through the day. It’s also a good idea to travel well before the festivities begin. Traffic will start getting crazy as early as 9am and will not slow down throughout the day. You may not be able to park close to your final destination so leave extra time to either a) find parking, or b) walk to your destination.
The sun will still be shining bright in the sky during the parade even if the temperatures are a little cooler than what Floridians are used to. It is important to protect your skin and your eyes throughout the day. I recommend carrying around a little travel sized sunscreen, a hat (preferably pirate themed), and sunglasses.
Almost every bar in South Tampa hosts a Kegs and Eggs event in the morning. Breakfast is a big deal the morning of Gasparilla, but people tend to forget about food throughout the rest of the day once they have had a few drinks and their necks are filling up with beads. It is important to have a few snacks on hand or money for food as you make your way to and from the parade.
Where To Park and Stand
If you are looking for a spot to catch a lot of beads, try to get to the parade early and stand at the beginning. Park by MacDill or Howard and walk to where the parade starts its course for great views and lots of treasure. Park in Ybor or Channelside if you’re into the crazier side of Gasparilla. You can take the trolley from where you parked to the parade to catch the end of the annual parade.
Insider Tip: Bring posters, poster board or even a white board to write down your favorite krewe names as they pass you by on the parade route. It will give you the upper hand on more beads and even the potential for special beads, bracelets, or special gifts.
Should I Travel by Boat?
If you are planning to travel by boat there are a few things to consider. First of all, know it will be extremely crowded. When the invasion starts out in the bay you will have your share of space, however if you think you are going to come into the channel and dock – you are sorely mistaken. Plan to stay on your boat for the duration of the invasion and return trip back to your docking location. Docking in downtown is extremely limited and most likely will not be an option. (Plan accordingly for restroom breaks – take them when you can.) Also be aware that the invasion is heavily monitored by law enforcement, boating regulations do apply and a designated driver should be appointed. All together being a part of the invasion and celebrating by boat is a great experience and a preferred way to enjoy Gasparilla. Just be prepared for the reality when the big day hits! Learn about buying a ticket for a Gasparilla Invasion Cruise Here!
Have Cash on Hand
If you plan to eat a at a restaurant, have pre-purchased tickets to an event, or don’t plan to purchase anything you should be fine without cash. However, it’s a good idea to have cash on hand as Charity Beer Gardens and Event Vendors may accept cash only.