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Local Expert’s Guide to Gasparilla Parade

Gasparilla 2024 is here! The Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest is the quintessential uniquely Tampa event, boat show, costume contest, and most of all party! More than a day or an event, Gasparilla now spans a 3-month season consisting of parades, parties, music and art festivals, movies, a marathon, and much more.

UPDATE 1/27/2024:  Weather is perfect in south Tampa for the Gasparilla Parade today!  Temps should be in the mid-70s by the time the Gasparilla parade officially starts at 2pm..and for the first Gasparilla parade in years, be sure to bring your sun screen!

This is your guide to Gasparilla and the Gasparilla parade, covering everything you need to know in one place from where to park for Gasparilla parade, reserved seating, Gasparilla Hotels, brunch and more!


When is Gasparilla Pirate Fest 2024?

Gasparilla Pirate Fest is on January 27, 2024, with the Parade of Pirates stepping off at 2pm at Bayshore and Bay to Bay. This is an all-day event though and so much more than a parade. Events kick-off at 9am and continue through 10pm. So, let’s get to it! Here’s how to map out your day – and be sure to check out our Essential Gasparilla Survival Tips!

Gasparilla Pirate Fest primary events:

Gasparilla Invasion Brunch 9:30am-1:00pm

Join the Gasparilla Invasion Brunch at Tampa Convention Center for the best view of the historic invasion! Enjoy food and cocktails while watching the infamous pirates sailing up the Seddon Channel, firing their cannons from the Jose Gasparilla. Seating is limited. You can purchase tickets here.

Pirate Fest Stage Performances 10:00am-8:00pm

Dance along to live music presented by Bud Light and 101 N. Meridian. Enjoy stages with live entertainment before and after the parade at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and MacDill Park.

Gasparilla Invasion – 11:30am-1:00pm

The only fully rigged pirate ship in the world, the Jose Gasparilla, emerges at the south end of Hillsborough Bay followed by hundreds of boats as the Gasparilla Flotilla makes its way into Seddon Channel.

Parade of Pirates – 2:00pm-6:00pm

The Gasparilla parade is what Gasparilla is all about!  The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates will boast over 140 units that include more than 103 elaborate floats, 5 marching bands, over 50 distinct Krewes, and the infamous YMKG pirates, The parade begins at Bay to Bay and Bayshore Blvd and continues 4.5 miles to end at Cass Street and Ashley Drive. Reserved seating, including Bleachers and First Mate seats, is the best way to secure premium viewing.  The Gasparilla parade officially starts at 2pm at the Bay to Bay intersection on Bayshore Blvd…but it can take an hour or more for the first floats to make it to down the multi-mile route.

Related:  We answer the question “What is Gasparilla?” here!

Key Gasparilla season event dates for 2024 are:

Where to Park for Gasparilla Parade Pirate Fest

We highly recommend taking a ride-share service to get to the parade route if you plan on drinking or picking a designated driver. We want you to get home safely and there will be a ton of law enforcement out and about so it’s just not worth it.

If you have a designated driver, there are a lot of parking options, but whatever you do, DO NOT try to park along the numerous streets that are open to local traffic only. You WILL get towed.

There are several recommended parking garages and lots in downtown Tampa for a $20 event fee. You can read more about Where to Park for Gasparilla here–we’re showing which garages are open for parking and even other cool spots to park!

There will be FREE TECO Line Streetcar service between 8:30am-2:30am and FREE HART bus shuttle service between 9:30am-7:00pm for transport between Ybor and Downtown Tampa.

Be sure to also check out Gasparilla road closures and detours for the day. Several businesses also open their parking lots for a fee, so bring cash.

Gasparilla Invasion: The Flotilla

Gasparilla Invasion Flotilla
A view of the Gasparilla Flotilla from Davis Islands.

If you haven’t experienced the Gasparilla Invasion, this is a MUST-DO! The Gasparilla Invasion is scheduled from 11:30 am-1:00 pm.

The Jose Gasparilla Pirate Ship and its band of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla Pirates lead the way from the south end of Hillsborough Bay at the Tampa Yacht Club. They’ll be followed by hundreds of boats as they make their way north into the Seddon Channel in what’s called the Gasparilla Flotilla! It’s a sight to see and you can even book a reservation to be on a boat as part of the Flotilla.

The Gasparilla Invasion Flotilla is an unbelievable site to behold. Said to be the largest annual boat parade in the United States, more than 1,300 boats, ships, and yachts of all kinds are estimated to take part in the invasion. If you’re lucky enough to be on a boat during the Invasion, it sure is a heck of a party!

Although in years past, boaters have thrown beads to those on land, this year may look a bit different. Tampa Mayor, Jane Castor, and community organizers launed “Bead Free Bay” as a way to help marine animals by keeping plastics out of the water. But don’t fret – you’ll have plenty of chances to catch some loot at the actual parade later that day!

The best place to watch the Gasparilla Invasion

The best place to view the invasion is on a boat in the invasion. Other great spots are:

  • American Social and Jackson’s Bistro on Harbour Island
  • The Sail
  • Tampa’s Riverwalk
  • Tampa Convention Center

No matter which location you choose, be prepared for the crowds! If you can snag an invite to a party on Harbour Island or Davis Island, that’s a great bet too as the ships all pass along the Seddon Channel heading to the Convention Center. Many parties begin in the downtown Tampa high rises – which have stellar views of the water and provide a true birds-eye view of the invasion.

Click here for even MORE awesome spots to watch the Gasparilla Flotilla Invasion, including how to book a reservation on a boat!

Gasparilla Invasion: Brunch

The best Gasparilla Brunch to book is at the Tampa Convention Center which starts at 9:30am. This is where you’ll get the best seat in the house to view the Invasion, however, other spots are also offering awesome Gasparilla Invasion Brunches. If you haven’t made a reservation yet, do so now.

The Jose Gasparilla will dock at 1pm at the Tampa Convention Center where they’ll officially invade Tampa and this is when the excitement really begins with the start of the 108th Annual Gasparilla Parade of Pirates!

*As of January 26, the official Gasparilla Invasion Brunch at the Convention Center is sold out. 

Gasparilla Parade of Pirates

Did you know the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates is one of the largest parades in the country? It’s been going on since 1904! The Annual Gasparilla Parade of Pirates presented by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla begins at 2pm at Bayshore Boulevard and Bay to Bay and will march north up Bayshore for 4.5 miles, ending in downtown at Ashely Drive and Cass Street.  There are more than 140 krewes, bands, and floats participating which means LOTS of beads! Speaking of: Here’s how to recycle your Gasparilla beads.

It’s expected as many as 500,000 people will be in attendance, so if you want to guarantee you have the best view, we highly recommend purchasing reserved seating for the Gasparilla parade.

2024 Parade Grand Marshal and Community Hero

This year, Tampa Bay native and top stand-up comedian Bert Kreischer will serve as the 2024 Grand Marshal, while World War II US Army “Buffalo Soldier” Roy J. Caldwood as this year’s honorary Community Hero.

“There’s no better person who embodies the pirate culture and a love of Tampa than the one and only Bert Kreischer. What a delight to have Bert serve as the 2024 Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest Grand Marshal!” said Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla Captain Truett Gardner. “All I have to say is look out Tampa Bay! We look forward to Bert’s energy and hometown pride to lead this year’s festivities for a lively crowd along Bayshore Boulevard.”

2024 Community Hero Roy J. Caldwood is a World War II US Army “Buffalo Soldier” who served in the 92nd Infantry Division Reconnaissance Troop 2nd Platoon. He became a medic during the war in the 92nd Infantry Division, the only Black Infantry Division in WWII deployed for combat in Europe. He earned a Bronze Star for his heroic actions when he volunteered to remain in a village under eminent German attack to aid a sick Italian man.

“Mr. Roy Caldwood’s bravery and compassion is the definition of a community hero,” said Steve Bonner, President of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa. “His belief that there is good in all human beings and his desire to make a positive impact should be an inspiration to all of us. Even at 101, Mr. Caldwood continues to serve as a community justice advocate and share his learnings with as many people as possible. We’re grateful for the opportunity to recognize his longstanding service and history in our community and worldwide.”

First time at Gasparilla?  You’ll need some survival tips!

Gasparilla Parade Reserved Seating

Since we’re on the topic of reserved seating, let’s go over your options. There are bleacher seats, First Mate front row only seats (folding chairs), and then the ultimate VIP way to experience the parade, the Scully Hospitality Tent.

This year, you can select your seat which we think is awesome! There are plenty of reserved seats, so it’s not too late. If you do go this route, keep your email confirmation with QR code handy or print the tickets out so you can get through the lines faster and to your seats. They will be scanning the tickets at designated access points as indicated on your ticket.

We purchased First Mate seats for the Children’s Gasparilla Parade and it’s truly an awesome, less crowded way to experience the parades. (And way less competition for BEADS!)

First Mate tickets are $73-78, bleacher seats are $65-70 and the Scully Hospitality Tent tickets are $175. You can purchase Gasparilla Reserved Seating here.

Gasparilla Parade of Pirates Route

The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates begins at Bayshore and Bay to Bay and continues along Bayshore before turning at Brorein and ending at Ashley Drive and Cass Street.

Gasparilla Parade of Pirates Route 2024. Image courtesy of City of Tampa.
Gasparilla Parade of Pirates Route 2024. Image courtesy of City of Tampa.

Gasparilla Parade of Pirates Staging

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. 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.

Pirates and Rum Experience

January 26 and 28, 2024 at 6pm, 8pm, and 10pm
The Cuban Club

The Pirates and Rum Experience is an interactive show, where the dead tell their tales based on the real-life events and legends of the Pirates of the South Seas. Sip on four different rum cocktails.
Age requirement: 21+ with valid ID
$55, includes four rum drinks

Gasparilla Event in February

Gasparilla Knight Parade in Ybor: Feb 10, 2024 at 7pm

Another featured parade in Tampa Bay’s Gasparilla season is the Knight Parade. Officially titled the Sant’ Yago Illuminated Knight Parade, it’s unofficially known as the Gasparilla Night Parade. This nighttime light-up parade takes place on 7th Avenue in Ybor City, on Saturday, February 10, 2024.

Jump over to our Essential Guide to the Knight Parade in Ybor to get details on road closures, reserved seating, restaurants, and more!

Koar Krewe in the Gasparilla Ybor Knight Parade - Source Krewe of Sant’ Yago
Koar Krewe in the Gasparilla Ybor Knight Parade – Source Krewe of Sant’ Yago

COMMON GASPARILLA QUESTIONS:

Can you drink alcohol at Gasparilla? 

Yes, you can drink alcohol at Gasparilla if you are 21 and older, but only in designated areas. The City of Tampa typically establishes temporary wet zones along the parade route. These wet zones are the only safe places to consume alcohol, so don’t pop open that White Claw as you make your way through the neighborhoods to the parade route. You can view the Gasparilla Wet Zone areas here or check out this map:

Gasparilla Parade Wet Zone 2023
Gasparilla Wet Zone Map 2023. Image courtesy of City of Tampa.

There are some obvious don’ts – which can 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, so 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.

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, and corporate tents, and these areas are limited access to the public. Reserved seats can be purchased from Gasparilla Treasures.

Are there bathrooms at Gasparilla?

There are bathrooms at Gasparilla, but your main option will be port-a-potties which get pretty gross, pretty fast. We highly recommend bringing your own toilet paper since they often run out of toilet paper and plenty of hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes. The lines are pretty long too, so we recommend lining up as soon as you feel the urge. Again, DO NOT PEE IN PUBLIC. There are undercover officers at Gasparilla.

Is there food at Gasparilla?

There are several food vendors and even restaurants that are open near the parade route, but we still recommend bringing some of your own snacks too. And bring plenty of water.

Can I travel to Gasparilla 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.)

What to Wear to Gasparilla

Gasparilla starts 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! We also recommend comfortable shoes because you WILL be doing a lot of walking that day.

Can I ride my bike to Gasparilla?

There’s no better place to enjoy the outdoors in January than Tampa, but on event day, they want to make public safety priority number one. That’s why they’re asking anyone considering visiting the parade by bicycle or scooter to put their safety and the safety of others first by following recommended guidelines.

  • Always wear a helmet while bicycling or scootering.
  • Do not ride your bike or scooter while under the influence of alcohol or any other substance that might impair your judgment.
  • Be cautious when riding, and do not ride in large crowds.
  • Map your route to the parade, as many roads may be closed.
  • Most importantly, do not ride your bicycle, scooter, or golf cart on Bayshore Blvd on event day. Although roads are closed, Bayshore is a very active event production space, which should only be accessed by authorized vehicles. Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, the City of Tampa, and local law enforcement ask riders to use alternate routes.

Why do we celebrate Gasparilla in Tampa?

To some locals, you aren’t a true “Tampanian” until you experience your first Gasparilla and all that it entails!  Gasparilla, named in honor of mythical pirate, Jose Gaspar, is a long-standing Tampa tradition.

But what exactly is Gasparilla and why do we celebrate it? Rodney Kite-Powell, Director of the Touchton Map Library at the Tampa Bay History Center, recently answered our questions and provided insight as to why Gasparilla is so relevant to Tampa Bay. You can read his full interview about the history of Gasparilla here.

Related: 


Other Things to Do!

If you’re looking for things to do after Gasparilla weekend passes, check out Your Guide to Fun Along the Tampa Riverwalk and our monthly roundup of things to do in Tampa, Clearwater & St. Pete.

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