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All Out: How to avoid Tampa's Gasparilla mayhem at all costs

Pirates and wenches can walk the plank.

Tampa's annual answer to the Mardi Gras festival is a headache for anyone who'd like to go out and enjoy the spring-like weather without stepping in piles of puke or being knocked unconscious with hurtling bead missiles. We don't begrudge the binge-drinking scallywags their good times, but, you know, public drunkenness isn't everyone's bag.

More than 100 years of tradition helps the Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest drown out all the other fun to be had in Tampa Bay during the last weekend in January.

And there's seemingly no escaping it. Publix puts out Gasparilla-themed treats, and your friends will make plans to meet along the parade route. This year, you don't have to try to make some excuse about a funeral for your ficus or an emergency scalp cleaning procedure to get out of going along.

No, this year, you've got actual plans that don't involve Jose Gaspar, or boats, or Captain Morgan.

Avast, land lubbers, our adventure awaits.


Suggestions for getting out of South Tampa will help you avoid most of the Gasparilla mayhem, but like any extinction level event, there will be residual aftershocks of trash and traffic to contend with. The only real defense against invasion is stocking up on your provisions and barricading the door until Sunday night. You can take the productive route and do all the projects around your house you've been putting off for months, or the lazy one of lying around in a vegetative state. Don't knock it. It's the road to enlightenment in some cultures.

Check for some simple or expert recipes (depending on your budget and skill level) and go grocery shopping today. Stop by a movie rental kiosk and rent an Oscar-nominated film or two, like Mad Max: Fury Road and Ex Machina. And don't forget to pick up enough of your favorite libations to drown out the din (if you live in South Tampa) or stay hydrated for your movie-thon. You can also fill up your streaming queue with the TV shows you've been meaning to binge, including Amazon's Mozart in the Jungle and Netflix's Making of a Murderer. If solitude gives you the willies, turn your lock-in into a sleep over and invite like-minded non-pirates.


Don't plan on doing anything between MacDill and Florida avenues from Bayshore to Kennedy boulevards at all Saturday. Those who bought tickets to see Chris Stapleton at Amalie Arena or Disney's The Lion King at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts will have to give up and join the Gasparilla mayhem just to find parking. If you live in the danger zone, make plans to get out early. Consider heading south to St. Petersburg for breakfast at Noble Crust (8300 Fourth St. N) if you're feeling fancy or the Saturday Morning Market (100 First St. SE) if you're not. Check our Top 50 Restaurants at to plan your culinary schedule for your day on the lam. Try to make plans using Interstate 75 or the Veterans Expressway to get north and south during the day. You'll avoid the massive traffic jam on South Tampa streets and Interstate 275 in the morning, and the death trap of impaired drivers at night.


A day at the Dali

The scene at the Salvador Dali Museum will be about as different from the scene of Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard as anything you can do on Saturday. Nestled in downtown St. Petersburg, the museum's got enough to keep you busy for hours. From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., they'll be screening Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, in which the tramp befriends an orphan girl between hilarious mishaps that get him sent to brig. It's also opening weekend for the Disney + Dali exhibit, which will use art and technology to show the friendship and collaboration between two of the 20th century's most famous artists. Museum admission is $24 for non-military adults ages 18 to 64.

Wholesome and bittersweet

You'll be at no risk for pirate attack in Dade City on Saturday. It's about as far from the water as you can get while still being in the Tampa Bay area. The folksy farmers of Pasco County will spend the day celebrating an overlooked fruit grown in abundance right in our backyards: the kumquat. This small town festival filled with local performers on the courthouse steps and quilt makers displaying their works at the library starts at 9 a.m. at the Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36722 State Road 52. It's like the Florida State Fair came early when you see all the vendors and crafts, not to mention the variety of kumquat delicacies including kumquat pie. The event is free and ends at 5 p.m.

Down home, down South

Want to hear some music that isn't Uptown Funk or Justin Bieber on a loop for three hours? The Pinellas Folk Festival will feature live music from local traditional folk, bluegrass and country artists from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Heritage Village, 11909 125th St. N in Largo. For a $5 donation (free for kids younger than 12), you can take in the music, tour the planned cultural park, a magic show, traditional craft demonstrations and an antique car show.

Geek jamboree

Nerd out over old-school toys from classic Transformers to original trilogy Star Wars Lego display sets at the Tampa Bay Toy Expo in New Tampa on Saturday. This probably isn't your typical Gasparilla crowd. Kids and lovers of the 1980s put on this annual toy show and convention to beef up their collections and score some out-of-circulation masterpieces like classic My Little Pony figures. Comic creators and artists will be on hand to talk shop, and a silent auction of rare finds will benefit Make-A-Wish. The party kicks off at 10 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn Tampa North, 13305 Tampa Oaks Blvd. Tickets start at $5.

All Out: How to avoid Tampa's Gasparilla mayhem at all costs 01/26/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 12:58pm]
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