Named for legendary pirate, Jose Gaspar, who terrorized the coastal waters of West Florida during the 18th and early 19th centuries, Tampa Bay’s destination-wide annual Gasparilla celebration kicks off each January with a full schedule of exciting pirate-themed events. From a four-mile long parade of pirates and period memorabilia on display, to specialty packages and a waterfront half-marathon, the entire city of Tampa unloads untold Gasparilla treasures for visitors and locals to plunder.
On Saturday, January 18, one week before the full pirate invasion begins in all its spirited revelry, younger swabs and their families enjoy their own special celebration with the Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza. An alcohol-free event, the extravaganza includes a children’s parade, preschooler stroll, parachute jump team, “piratechnics” and much more. The event takes place along Bayshore Boulevard from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday, Jan. 25, the highly-anticipated Gasparilla Pirate Fest gets underway as the Gasparilla Flotilla sets sail at 11:30 a.m. from the south end of Hillsborough Bay. Led by the world’s only fully-rigged pirate ship, the Jose Gasparilla, a flotilla of pleasure craft follows along to participate in the annual reenactment of the historic pirate invasion. Upon landing at the waterfront Tampa Convention Center (TCC), the Mayor will hand over the keys to the city and the official celebration begins. The Gasparilla Invasion Brunch runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at TCC, followed by the 3.8-mile long Gasparilla Parade of Pirates in downtown Tampa from 2 to 5:30 p.m., including more than 90 elaborate floats, 14 marching bands, and more than 50 distinct Krewes. Along Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa, the Gasparilla Pirate Fest Street Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., complete with live entertainment, food and a colorful cast of characters.
Area restaurants and hotels also participate in the weekend-long celebration. The Wine Studio will offer $5 grottos of Sangria and $7 Pirate Pizzas, Gaspar’s Grotto is hosting its 2nd Annual Gasparilla Eve Pirates Gathering with live music and vendors, and the Saddlebrook Resort Tampa will welcome visitors with a special Gasparilla Getaway package, including transportation to and from the festivities.
For those who want to join the invasion and celebration by water and don’t have a boat, the Tampa Water Taxi Company provides hours of fun and frivolity with a special tour that includes meeting up with Gaspar and following him – while keeping out of harm’s way – to the Tampa Convention Center.
At the Henry B. Plant Museum, the new exhibit, Gasparilla: A Tampa Tradition, explores Tampa’s premier party. Find out who the motley crew was, and take in some of the pirate booty and things of beauty during the city’s only exhibit of Krewe of Gasparilla memorabilia, including coronation robes, ball invitations, programs, crowns and costumes, as well as vintage photographs of the invasion, parade floats, pirates and royal courts. Gasparilla: A Tampa Tradition will run from Jan. 17 through Feb. 23. Film footage from the 1920s titled “Memories of Gasparilla Festivals” will also be shown continuously.
A National Historic Landmark, the museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 per adult, $7 for seniors (65+ yrs.), $7 for students and $5 for children (4-12 yrs.).
The celebration continues with the Gasparilla Distance Classic, which takes place Feb. 21-23 and includes a 5K, 8K, 15K, half-marathon and even a run for kids ages 2-10. Athletes can participate in a single event or variety of combinations of two or more. All races take place along Bayshore Boulevard. A Health & Fitness Expo will be held in conjunction at the Tampa Convention Center.
On March 1 and 2, the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts takes place in downtown Tampa at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, featuring works from some of the country’s most acclaimed artists and rising stars. Featured art includes ceramic, digital, drawing, fiber, glass, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, watercolor and wood. The esteemed event also features the works of local young artists, live entertainment and a children’s art activity area.
Also in March is the Gasparilla Music Festival, which takes place in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Kiley Gardens Park on the 8th and 9th, and will feature musical acts from a wide variety of genres on several stages and cuisine from the region’s top restaurants. This year’s lineup includes, The Flaming Lips, Los Amigos Invisibles, Delta Spirit, Jason Isbell, Anders Osborne and more. General, VIP and Higher Ground admissions are available for the two-day event.
Celebrating some of the best independent filmmakers from around the world, the Gasparilla International Film Festival kicks off March 19th featuring five days of Florida and world premiere showings, shorts, indie films, educational panels and more.
For more information and events calendar, go to VisitTampaBay.com, or follow us on Facebook (Visit Tampa Bay) or Twitter (@VisitTampaBay).
ABOUT VISIT TAMPA BAY: Visit Tampa Bay leads the effort of economic development through tourism. The mission of Visit Tampa Bay is to create vibrant growth for the Tampa area by promoting, developing and expanding a united visitor industry. The independent not-for-profit organization represents more than 700 businesses throughout Tampa Bay and promotes the area as a choice destination for conventions and visitors.
Liana Lopez, APR
Director of Communications
(813) 218-3894/Cell: (813) 453-9731
SOURCE: Visit Tampa Bay
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