© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You Count on Us, We Count on You: Donate to WUSF to support free, accessible journalism for yourself and the community.

Gasparilla 2024: A guide to Tampa's signature pirate events

Daylina Miller
/
WUSF

Here's what you need to know, including where to park and how to navigate downtown Tampa.

It's time for Tampa's yearly tradition of pirate invasions, flotilla, and hundreds of thousands of parade-goers flocking downtown to take it all in.

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and the festival have been a part of the culture of Tampa for more than a century. The parade began in 1904, and has since only been canceled for World Wars and a global pandemic, according to the Krewe's website.

On the day of the invasion, the crusaders typically sail up to the Tampa Convention Center, where they demand the key to the city.

The invasion, and related events, attract thousands of people to downtown Tampa's street and river.

Children's Parade

The Gasparilla festivities begin on Saturday, Jan. 20, with the Gasparilla Children's Parade.

Located on Bayshore Boulevard, between Rome Avenue and Dakota Avenue, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Rodeo from 12-2 p.m. is free and does not require registration. Little mates will get a free, brand-new bicycle helmet they can keep (while supplies last) before they hop on one of the rodeo’s bicycles and ride a mini-traffic course that teaches bicycle and pedestrian safety.

From noon to 4 p.m., turn your eyes to the skies as the Gasparilla Air Invasion features its largest airshow yet. Civilian aerobatic teams, vintage military aircraft, and the Chuters Parachute Demonstration Team will impress aviation enthusiasts and novices. The Gasparilla Nighttime Air Invasion will take place from 6:15-7 p.m.

The Gasparilla Preschooler’s Stroll features Tampa Bay’s youngest pirates. Children 5 and under donning their best pirate attire strut their stuff along Bayshore Boulevard in specially decorated wagons, bicycles and strollers. You must pre-register.

Widely considered the largest children’s event in the country, the Children’s Gasparilla Parade begins at Bay to Bay and Bayshore Boulevard. Pirates, floats, marching bands and more proceed north along Bayshore Boulevard before ending at Edison Avenue. This event is free to attend, but reserved seating is available.

WWE® Superstars Bianca Belair and Montez Ford will serve as the Grand Marshals for the 2024 Ashley Children’s Gasparilla presented by Chick-fil-A Tampa Bay. New York Mets’ first baseman and Tampa native Pete Alonso will be honored as this year’s Chick-fil-A Tampa Bay Community Hero for his philanthropic work.

The Grand Marshals and Community Hero arrive in Tampa ahead of their notable community events, WWE’s Royal Rumble (Saturday, Jan. 27) and Pete Alonso’s Battle for the Bay (Sunday, Jan. 21).

Topping it all off, the "Piratechnic” fireworks finale from 7-7:30 p.m. will recreate the imaginary battle between pirates and the City of Tampa and sets the scene for the energetic Gasparilla Pirate Fest scheduled for the following Saturday.

For more details, please visit Gasparillapiratefest.com.

Additional information:

FREE Jolley Trolley service will be running on a continuous loop from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. picking up and dropping off at the intersections of Platt Street and Bayshore Boulevard (near Publix) and Bay-to-Bay and Bayshore Boulevard.

Gasparilla Pirate Fest

On Saturday, Jan. 27, the pinnacle event of Gasparilla, the pirate festival and invasion, takes place.

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

Beginning at 2 p.m., Kreischer and Caldwood will lead more than 115 parade floats, 53 krewes, seven marching bands, and the infamous Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla pirates down a four-and-a-half-mile parade route along Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard.

The Jose Gasparilla sets sail at the south end of Hillsborough Bay at 11:30 a.m., sail north to Seddon Channel (between Davis Islands and Harbour Island), continue north and dock at the Tampa Convention Center at 1 p.m.

The parade, which is from 2-6 p.m., begins at Bay to Bay and Bayshore Boulevard and continues along downtown to Brorein Street, then turns on Ashley Drive. The parade ends at Cass Street & Ashley Drive. It touts itself as the third largest parade in the U.S.

Additional information:

Parking

The City of Tampa's interactive map allows residents to input their home addresses and access parking restrictions in their respective neighborhoods here.

Safety tips

The multiple festivities attract hundreds of thousands of people to Tampa's downtown.

Tampa Chief of Police Lee Bercaw had advice for parents ahead of the parades during a Tuesday news conference.

"Take a picture of your kids the day of the event, so if you're separated, you can share that photo with an officer so we can share it with our partners and help reunite the family," Bercaw said.

Bercaw also recommends taking a photo of where you park your car, or screenshotting its location on a map app.

Stay informed - text GASPARILLA to 888-777 to receive Gasparilla event updates, traffic alerts, and safety tips.

SeeSomething, say something: The Tampa Police Department asks all attendees to remain vigilant during the parade and report any suspicious activity. As always, officers will be stationed along the route. There are several other ways to contact the police department:

TEXT: SAFETAMPA and your tip to 847411 (TIP411) and you will receive a response.
PHONE: Call 833-872-4636 (TPA-INFO) 
Saturday, Jan. 20 from Noon-8 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 27 from 9am-8 p.m.

If you have an emergency, please dial 911.

Have a Meeting Place: Due to large crowds there may be limited cell service during the event. For this reason, it is important to establish a meeting place ahead of time in case some of your krewe gets lost at sea.

If you lose your child, alert the closest officer immediately. They will be stationed along the entire route.

Click here for more safety tips, as well as drinking and wet zone maps.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.