Your Ultimate Guide to Gasparilla
Gasparilla is BACK for 2023! The Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest is the quintessential uniquely Tampa holiday, festival, event, party, 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.
This is your guide to Gasparilla, covering everything you need to know in one place from parking, reserved seating, brunch and more!
Need help finding a Gasparilla hotel? Check out our Top Picks for Gasparilla hotels
When is Gasparilla?
Gasparilla Pirate Fest is on January 28, 2023 with the Parade of Pirates stepping off at 1pm. This is an all-day event though and so much more than a parade. Events kick-off at 9 am and continue through 10 pm. So, let’s get to it! Here’s how to map out your day!
Gasparilla Pirate Fest officially consists of three primary events:
- The Gasparilla Invasion (11:30am-1pm) – the pirate ship Jose Gasparilla invades the City of Tampa with cannons firing!
- The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates (2pm-6pm)– having again successfully invaded Tampa, the Pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla celebrate with a parade down Bayshore Blvd.
- Gasparilla Pirate Fest (10am-8pm) although the Parade of Pirates ends around 5pm, that doesn’t mean the partying stops, in fact there is live music all day at Curtis Hixon Park and MacDill Park in downtown Tampa.
Related: We answer the question “What is Gasparilla?” here!
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
Gasparilla Knight (Night) Parade in Ybor: Feb 11, 2023
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 11, 2023.
Jump over to our Essential Guide to the Knight Parade in Ybor to get details on road closures, reserved seating, restaurants, and more!
Pirates and Rum Experience
Friday and Saturday, February 10 and 11, 6 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
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
Where to Park for Gasparilla
We highly recommend taking a ride share service to get to the parade route if you plan on drinking or pick 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.
The City of Tampa has released their 2023 Parking Bulletin which lists the names and prices of local downtown garages. You can 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
If you haven’t experienced the Gasparilla Invasion, this is a MUST-DO! The Gasparilla Invasion is on schedule from 11:30 am-1:00 pm and begins with the Jose Gasparilla Pirate Ship and it’s band of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla Pirates leading 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 are relaunching “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 106th Annual Gasparilla Parade of Pirates!
Gasparilla Parade of Pirates
Did you know the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates is one of the largest parades in the country? The 106th 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 really want to guarantee you have the best view, we highly recommend purchasing reserved seating for the Gasparilla parade.
First time at Gasparilla? You’ll need some survival tips!
Gasparilla Reserved Seating
Since we’re on 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 are able to select your own seat which we think is awesome! There are plenty of reserved seats left, 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 thee 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 $85, bleacher eats are $70 and the Scully Hospitality Tent tickets are $200. 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 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.
Pirate Fest in Downtown Tampa from 10am-8pm
Before and after the Parade, official Gasparilla parties and stages showcase music performances at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (Ashley and Twiggs) and MacDillPark (Ashley and Whiting). This year, Pirates Fest is expanded to include stages along the Riverwalk too.
The official lineup for 2023 can be viewed here.
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:
There are some obvious 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.
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.
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 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! 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.
Need help finding a Gasparilla hotel? We detail some great Gasparilla hotel options for you!
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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