Gasparilla Pirate Fest Invasion
11:30 a.m. Saturday
Thousands will line the downtown Tampa waterfront to watch the spectacle as the fully rigged pirate ship Jose Gasparilla sails into the south end of Hillsborough Bay with hundreds of pirates aboard, cannons booming and a massive flotilla of pleasure boats. The ship docks at the Tampa Convention Center about 1 p.m. Free.
Gasparilla Parade of the Pirates
2 p.m. Saturday
After their invasion aboard the Jose Gasparilla, hundreds of pirates get down to the serious business of the day: tossing thousands of beads to the thousands of people who line the streets along Tampa's waterfront. This parade brings more than 140 units, including 90 floats, marching bands and 50 pirate krewes. It begins at Bay to Bay Boulevard and follows Bayshore Boulevard to Brorein Street, turns east on Brorein, then north on Ashley Drive and ends at Cass Street. If you don't want to worry about finding a place to see the parade, reserve a bleacher or get a hospitality ticket. Prices start at $32.71 at gasparillatreasures.com. First-row bleacher seating is sold out.
Gasparilla Pirate Fest Street Fest
10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday
The free pirate fest goes all day with a variety of live entertainment and vendors along Ashley Drive, from Kennedy Boulevard to Cass Street in downtown Tampa. Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park will host the main stage. Entertainment includes Danny Lozada y el Latin Band, Daniel B. Marshall, C'NERGY and the Skycoasters. Get more details at gasparillapiratefest.com.
Private lots throughout downtown Tampa will be open during Gasparilla, with varying rates. The public parking garages at the Tampa Convention Center, under the Crosstown between Florida Avenue and Morgan Street, under the Crosstown east of Morgan Street, on Channelside Drive between Florida Avenue and Morgan Street, Fort Brooke and Whiting Street all charge $10. But the best option, in our experience, is to park far away and hop aboard the TECO Line Streetcar ($5 for an unlimited pass) in Ybor City and ride it into downtown Tampa. Park your car at the Centro Ybor Parking Garage or the Palm Avenue Garage. It's $1 for the first three hours; up to $10 depending on how long it's there. For Ybor City parking information, call (813) 242-5484.
There are portable toilets along the parade route, near reserved parade seating and at the downtown street festival, but plan ahead because lines typically will be long. Publix, 243 Bayshore Blvd., offers its restrooms to the public. Hyde Park Village has public restrooms on the west side of Snow Avenue, as does Kate Jackson Park at Rome and Snow avenues. Facilities at restaurants and bars near the festivities are for paying customers only. Depending on the lines elsewhere, you might find it's worth the cost of a cover charge.
Do not walk around with your red cup of beer. Look for signs about the permitted areas, but the basic rule is if you are at the parade route, you can have an open container. If you are in the neighborhoods, you cannot. Vigilant Tampa police announced new civil citations this week for offenders: $75 the first time, then $150, $300 and $450 for the fourth offense. Underage drinking is still a crime. Beer consumed along the route must be purchased from a parade vendor.
Bring cash because many of the ATMs along the parade route charge steep fees, and most vendors only take cash.
Despite its rowdy reputation, "flashing" for beads is frowned upon. There are kids here, people. But here's a tip we learned from recent years: The crowds on the last segment of the parade downtown are often half the size of those on Bayshore Boulevard, so it ups your chances of catching more beads.
No large coolers or kegs. Open containers are allowed in designated areas only. Absolutely no glass bottles. You can have soft-sided coolers or lunch bags for children or medical needs.
Remember where you parked
Text yourself where you left your car. Police complain that they are hounded for directions by lost revelers.