Places to go while the crowds are at Gasparilla and the NHL All-Star Weekend

Maybe you can hit Ikea and its cafe without crazy crowds this weekend/   [Times (2010)]
Maybe you can hit Ikea and its cafe without crazy crowds this weekend/ [Times (2010)]
Published January 24
Updated January 27

Downtown Tampa is going to be a proverbial kitchen this weekend.

You know how it goes. You throw a party, then a friend wants to bring a friend, and before you know it, the entire town is at your place. They all pack into one part of the house — always the kitchen, for some reason — and leave behind a sticky, messy wave of destruction, Swedish meatball toothpicks all over the countertops.

So it will go when Gasparilla, Tampa’s annual bawdy pirate parade, goes down along Bayshore Boulevard and people park and party downtown, just as the NHL All-Star Weekend rolls into town for concerts, festivities, celebrity sightings and a game on Sunday at Amalie Arena. Yikes.

If you plan on attending any or all of these events, we have you covered.

Click here for a guide to the NHL fun.

Click here for a guide to Gasparilla’s schedule (with tips!).

Click here for a guide to dining around the area.

Click here for a guide to where to park.

Click here for a guide to making your own Gasparilla wreath.

Now, for the rest of you. You want no part of this. You want to run your errands, work on your herb garden, have a quiet dinner. We wondered around here, wouldn’t this be a good weekend to get some stuff done?

This is a theory, and it could be a flawed one. After all, there are enough people in Tampa to populate Gasparilla, the NHL festivities and the mall at the same time. But it has to be a little easier to hit some notoriously crowded places this weekend. Right?

The key is avoiding downtown, where city officials are planning for a traffic jam to end all traffic jams. Think of knocking out errands or finding diversions along Dale Mabry Highway, at International Plaza or other parts of the county.

THE APPLE STORE

Getting into the Genius Bar on an average weekend can be an exercise in patience. If it’s time to finally get the screen replaced on your old iPhone 6, this could be a good weekend to try.

CHEESECAKE FACTORY

While you’re at International Plaza, slide into the Cheesecake Factory, which is notorious for long waits on the weekends. Even if it’s just a big slice of red velvet at the bar, it will feel like a victory.

IKEA

Time to get a new Millberget for your office, with the Volmar armrests. If Ikea was even a little less mayhem-filled, that endless maze wouldn’t feel so terrifying.

GROCERIES

Get in and out of Costco with your sanity mostly intact. Buy mass quantities of produce and then commence with that long-promised project of canning your own jams.

MANATEES

They’re a little calmer than the drunken dentists and lawyers throwing beads. They like lettuce. They float. They’re real cute. Practice mindfulness watching the sea cows congregate at TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach.

GET OUT OF TAMPA

It might be best to just pick a totally different part of Tampa Bay. Head up to Holiday, spend the afternoon in Dunedin, catch a sunset in St. Petersburg.

The beads will still be in the street later.

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