TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of Tampa than dressing like a pirate and going to Gasparilla?
The pirate-themed event is expected to fill the streets and waters around downtown with an estimated 300,000 swashbucklers—locals and tourists alike— sporting their best costumes and doing a little day-drinking while enjoying a number of festivities.
If you want to brave the crowd and catch all the action, you’ll need to be prepared. From what to wear to where to park, here’s what you’ll want to know.
The History of Gasparilla
Legend has it that a Spanish pirate named José Gaspar terrorized his way up and down the west coast of Florida in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
More than a century later, some prominent local social and civic leaders went to Mardis Gras in New Orleans and thought Tampa should have its own street festival. They created Gasparilla in 1904 and adopted José Gaspar as its patron saint.
Ye Mystic Krewe keeps Gasparilla alive each year by invading the shores of Tampa and capturing the key to the city before parading along Bayshore Boulevard with their doubloons and other treasures.
Main Gasparilla Events
Children’s Gasparilla: Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023
Children’s Gasparilla takes place the weekend before the main Gasparilla Pirate Invasion. The alcohol-free, family-friendly event includes a parade along Bayshore Boulevard from Bay to Bay Boulevard, moving north to Edison Avenue. Families can see more than 100 floats from the krewes and community organizations along with marching bands, dance groups and other school performance teams.
You can find more information about Children’s Gasparilla online.
Pirate Fest: Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023
This year’s Pirate Fest, presented by Bud Light Seltzer, will take place along the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa. The event will feature live entertainment and two parades, which will take place in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (Ashley and Twiggs), and MacDill Park (Ashley and Whiting) before and after the invasion. The entertainment lineup has yet to be announced.
For more information, visit main.gasparillapiratefest.com/pirate-fest.
Pirate Invasion: Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023 (11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Followed by hundreds of boats, the “world’s only fully-rigged pirate ship” will emerge at the south end of Hillsborough Bay with canons firing. The vibrant flotilla will travel across the bay into Seddon Channel (between Davis Island & Harbour Island) and dock at the Tampa Convention Center around 1 p.m. Then the mayor will surrender the key to the city.
Parade of Pirates: Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023 (2 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
The Captain and his Krewe will celebrate their capture of the city with a 4.5-mile parade along Bayshore Boulevard, showering the streets with beads and treasures. The parade will feature more than 100 elaborate floats, five marching bands and more than 50 distinct Krewes. It will begin at Bay to Bay and Bayshore and end at Cass Street and Ashley Drive.
The event is free to the public.
Other Gasparilla Events
–Nighttime Sant’Yago Knight parade in Ybor: Feb. 11
–Gasparilla Outbound Voyage: March 4
–Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic: Feb. 25 to 26
–Gasparilla Festival of The Arts: March 4-5
–GIFF-Gasparilla International Film Festival: March 23 to 26
–GMF Gasparilla Music Festival: TBD
What should I wear?
When putting together your costume, think pirate garb—corsets, eye patches, beads, etc.
You can get costumes and pirate-themed accessories at a number of stores in the area, including but not limited to:
- Pirate Fashions, 4006 W Cayuga Street in Tampa. Call (813) 348-0091 or visit piratefashions.com for more information.
- South Tampa Trading Co., 1916 South Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. Call (813) 831-7882 or visit southtampatradingco.com for more information
- Gasparilla Treasures. Visit gasparillatreasures.com for more information.
- Buccaneer Beads, 3808 East M.L.K. Jr Boulevard in Tampa. Call (813) 664-8571 or visit buccaneerbeads.net for more information
Where is the best place to watch it?
If you’re lucky enough to be on a boat, you can get the best view from there. Here are some other great spots to watch the invasion.
- American Social and Jackson’s Bistro on Harbour Island, 601 South Harbour Island Boulevard
- The Sail, 333 South Franklin Street
- Tampa’s Riverwalk
- Tampa Convention Center, 333 South Franklin Street
Alcohol and Safety
If you’re 21 and over, you’re are allowed to drink at the parade, but you must stay in a wet zone, a space designated for alcohol consumption. A drinking and wet zone map should be available on the city’s website soon. No underage alcohol consumption is allowed.
There are a number of public garages and privately operated lots throughout downtown Tampa and around Bayshore Boulevard. Your best options are the Centro Ybor Parking Garage or the Palm Avenue Garage in Ybor City. You can park at either of these garages and take the TECO Line Streetcar into downtown.
Those traveling to the festival can use HART to get there. The transit agency has a number of bus routes throughout the county, and you can buy an all-day bus pass for $4 online or on board with cash only. No change is provided. For maps and more information, visit gohart.org.
You can watch our coverage of the pirate invasion and parade online and on air. Coverage of the invasion will begin on WFLA Now at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28. The Parade of Pirates will be broadcast on News Channel 8 at 2:30 p.m.