TAMPA, Fla. — Get ready for cannon blasts and beads galore as the 2023 Gasparilla Pirate Fest invades Tampa Bay on Jan. 28. Thousands of residents are expected to flock along the sidewalks of Bayshore Boulevard and downtown Tampa, decked out in colorful costumes and pirate gear to pay homage to the mysterious, but legendary pirate José Gaspar.
If you’re thinking of joining in on the weekend’s festivities, here’s what you need to know before you set sail.
🏴☠️ What Is Gasparilla? 🏴☠️
Think of it as Tampa’s version of Mardi Gras. Gasparilla is a huge parade featuring an “invasion” of downtown Tampa led by pirate José Gaspar and his band of swashbuckling pirates, played by local organization Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla (YMKG). Members of YMKG will sail aboard the José Gasparilla, a specially built “pirate ship” equipped with mini cannons that fire off throughout the journey.
The pirates will then make their way on land at the Tampa Convention Center, where the fate of the city lies in the hands of Mayor Jane Castor and whether she will surrender the key to the city or not. No matter the outcome, the crew will then celebrate parade around the town, throwing beads and other goodies from floats.
⏰ When Does It Start? ⏰
The Gasparilla invasion runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the parade will roll through Tampa from 2-6 p.m. This is a free event where all can attend, so all you will need to do is find a nice spot to view the action and have fun. But be sure to get out there early, because the city is preparing to host hundreds of thousands of attendees at this year’s parade.
🦜 2023 Children’s Gasparilla 🦜
Kids can pillage and plunder at a free Children's Gasparilla parade on Jan. 21 from noon to 7:30 p.m.
Festivities include a preschoolers’ stroll where kids under 5 and their families can get geared up in their best pirate attire and enjoy a half-mile walk down Bayshore Boulevard with decorated wagons, strollers and tricycles.
The event requires pre-registration and you can sign up here. There will also be an air invasion featuring airplanes that will put on a performance over Tampa’s waterfront with skywriting, and a parachute jump that starts at noon. The day will wrap with a “Piratechnic Finale,” in which fireworks will light up the sky at dusk.
Parking will be available at select garages, according to the city of Tampa:
- Main Gasparilla - $20 Event Parking: Pam Iorio, Tampa Convention Center, Fort Brook, Whiting garages and all Crosstown lots: 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.
- Royal Regional and Scott Street Lot 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- Poe Garage 7 a.m. – 1 p.m.
- Gasparilla Parking Map
Neighborhood parking will also be available in the Bayshore, Hyde Park and Palma Ceia areas. Click here to view an interactive map.
- Children’s Gasparilla - $15 Event Parking: Pam Iorio, Tampa Convention Center, Fort Brook, Whiting garages and all Crosstown lots. 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- Children's Parade Parking Map
🗺️ Parade Route 🗺️
The Gasparilla parade begins at Bay to Bay and Bayshore Boulevard. It continues along Bayshore to Brorein Street, turns east on Brorein Street, then north on Ashley Drive. The parade ends at the intersection of Cass Street and Ashley Drive. You can view the map here.
For the Children’s Gasparilla, the parade route is mostly confined to Bayshore Boulevard, instead of going into downtown Tampa. You can view the map here.
⛔ Road Closures and Detours ⛔
In order to accommodate both parades, many streets will be closed. Below is a list of road detours for the main Gasparilla parade. More will be added as the date approaches.
- SR 60 East/West (Kennedy Boulevard) Detour
- Detour Route for Amalie Arena
- Detour Route to Tampa General Hospital
The following roads will be closed for the Children’s Gasparilla:
- Saturday, Jan. 7 to Saturday, Feb. 4: Close Bayshore Boulevard crossovers at DeSoto, Nance, Albany and Gunby avenues.
- Friday, Jan. 20 at 10 p.m.: Close Bayshore Boulevard northbound/southbound from Gandy Boulevard to Platt Street/Channelside Drive.
- Close Davis Islands Bridge off-ramp onto northbound Bayshore Boulevard
- Saturday, Jan. 21 at 12:01 a.m.: Close Bay-to-Bay Boulevard from Ysabella Avenue to Bayshore Boulevard
- Saturday, Jan. 21 at 9 a.m.: Close one eastbound lane and one westbound lane on Bay-to-Bay Boulevard from MacDill Avenue to Ysabella Avenue (to accommodate pedestrian walkway)
- Saturday, Jan. 21 at 3 p.m.: Close Eastbound Bay-to-Bay Boulevard at MacDill Avenue
♿ Accessibility ♿
Accessible parking for the main parade may be found at the Fort Brooke Garage located on Whiting Street. Access to Whiting Street may be accomplished by traveling south on Tampa Street or north on Florida Avenue.
Accessible parking for the children’s parade can be found at the intersection of W. Palm Drive and S. Howard Avenue.
🚌 Other Transportation Methods 🚌
There are alternative ways to get around town safely during the main Gasparilla parade. Check out these transportation services:
Downtown Tampa: Ride HART to Marion Transit Center in Downtown Tampa with a $4 all-day pass. Purchase with the Flamingo Fares mobile app, on the bus with cash only (no change provided), or in advance at HART retail outlets. Monthly passes can also be used.
- From University Area: Route 1*, 5, 6, 9*, 12, 400 (MetroRapid)*
- From Temple Terrace: Route 6
- From Brandon: Route 8*, 360LX*
- From West Tampa: Route 7*
- From South Tampa: Route 19*, 360LX*
- From Tampa International Airport: Route 10*, 30*
*NOTE: Routes 1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 19, 30, 400 (MetroRapid) and 360LX will be on detour during Gasparilla, and will provide limited service within Downtown Tampa and Hyde Park.
Ybor City: Ride free on the TECO Line Streetcar with continuous service from 8:30 a.m. - 2 a.m. between Ybor (Station 2 Centro Ybor) and downtown Tampa (Station 10 Dick Greco Plaza)
- Stations 3 and 4 will be closed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Stations 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 will be closed until 2 p.m.
- Stations 1 and 11 will be closed all day
- A free bus shuttle with continuous service from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. will also be available between Stations 3 and 4 to Station 10.
Channel District: Ride a free bus shuttle with continuous service from 9:30 a.m. - 7 p.m. between Channel District (near Station 7 Cumberland Avenue) and Downtown Tampa (Station 10 Dick Greco Plaza)
The Children’s Gasparilla will be featuring a “Jolley Trolley,” a free shuttle that will be running on a continuous loop as it picks up and drops off event attendees at the intersections of both Platt Street and Bayshore Boulevard, as well as Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard. Hours of operation will be from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
🚨 Safety Tips 🚨
Siege responsibly! While you’re out celebrating the pirate takeover, the city of Tampa has a couple of reminders for you and your crew:
See Something, Say Something: The Tampa Police Department asks all attendees to remain vigilant during the parade and report any suspicious activity. There are several ways to get information from the police department.
Have a Meeting Place: Due to large crowds, there may be limited cell service during the event. It’s important to establish a meeting place ahead of time in case some of your crew get lost.
Take a Photo of Your Child in Costume: This will help law enforcement officers quickly identify your child by their pirate garb. If you lose your child, alert the closest officer immediately. They will be stationed along the entire route.
Alcohol Consumption: Drinking is not allowed at the Children’s Gasparilla. The main Gasparillia will have “wet zones” established along the parade route and in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Consuming alcohol on public property outside these wet zones is prohibited. There is zero tolerance for underage alcohol consumption and disruptive behavior.
- No underage alcohol consumption
- No open alcohol containers or consumption outside of designated wet zones
- No coolers, kegs, or vessels that provide mass distribution of alcohol
- No glass containers of any type
- Use available event port-o-lets
- All bags and backpacks are subject to search
Weapons of any kind, glass containers, coolers, kegs, styrofoam cups, grills, tents, and fencing are just a few items that are prohibited during the event.
Can you bring a pet?: With the exception of service animals, pets are not allowed at either event.
Bicycles: Bicycles are allowed for transportation to the event site, however within the event street closure, cyclists must walk with their bikes. The event site is very crowded with pedestrians, including small children. Do not leave your bicycle unattended and do not lock it on private or city property.
Boat Docking: Docking space in and around downtown Tampa for Gasparilla is extremely limited. Boaters attempting to “come ashore” along the Bayshore Boulevard balustrade or any other property without a permit are strictly prohibited. There is limited docking space available at the Tampa Convention Center or in the Marina area along Bayshore between Platt Street and the Davis Island Bridge, available through the City of Tampa Parks Department. Call 813-259-1604.
The boat ramp at Ballast Point Park will be closed on Jan. 28 from 10 a.m. to noon.
Throwing beads and other litter in the bay is prohibited. Beads and other non-biodegradable items are incredibly harmful to the environment and they pose serious threats to marine wildlife. The city of Tampa is raising environmental awareness with their campaign, #beadfreebay.
💡 Other Things You Need to Know: 💡
Before you go swashbuckling in the streets of Tampa, here are some friendly reminders:
Wear sunscreen. Even the best of pirates can’t avoid sunburn. Wearing sunglasses and/or a hat can also ward some of the edge off Florida’s harsh sun.
Stay hydrated! And no, alcohol is not a substitute for water. Bring some water and snacks along with you so that heat exhaustion and dehydration doesn’t ruin your day.
Bring cash. Some vendors will only be accepting cash, so while there will be ATMs along the parade route, it's a good idea to take out some cash beforehand.
Crowds not really your thing? Plan on having your own pirate party at home? Don’t worry, Spectrum Bay News 9 will be having coverage of the parade all day long!
And be sure to take a peek at our Spectrum News app so you can track weather before hitting the road.