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Gasparilla Planner: What you need to know to conquer the pirate invasion

AAARGH YOU READY? What's happenin', matey?

The pirate ship Jose Gasparilla sets sail at the south end of Hillsborough Bay at 11:30 a.m. Saturday — a week after the Gasparilla Children's Parade — and ventures north between Davis Islands and Harbour Island before docking at the Tampa Convention Center at 1 p.m. Then more than 140 units, including colorful floats, marching bands and 61 pirate krewes will invade downtown Tampa's waterfront from 2 to 5 p.m., tossing beads and other treasures into a crowd that will likely balloon to more than 300,000.

It's free, though you can get reserved seats for $45-$125 at

What be th' coordinates?

The parade marches from Bay to Bay Boulevard and follows Bayshore Boulevard to Brorein Street, then north on Ashley Drive before ending at Cass Street.

For parking, start by naming your designated driver or reserving a ride home. The city of Tampa's website,, has maps showing the road closure schedule for downtown, the Gasparilla parade route, parking options and shuttle bus schedules. There is also parking along Channelside Drive near Amalie Arena if you want to take your chances before 10 a.m. Extra streetcar, bus and trolley service will be offered if you want to park in Ybor and shuttle in.

Boats are allowed in the area around the parade and invasion, but those that get too close to the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship or move erratically could get stopped for a boating under the influence check.

What scurvy capn' thought of this?

The exclusive club that stages the event each year — Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla — staged the first parade in 1904 to promote Tampa and named it for fictitious pirate Jose Gaspar. Nowadays, the krewes of Knights, Conquistadors, Gauchos, Sirens, Shamrocks, Rumrunners and Rough Riders each have a distinct theme, costume and rituals.

Plundering tips

To get your share of treasure tossed by the krewes:

• Kids win every time, so put the cuties out front.

• Pick a spot at the start of the parade instead of downtown. By the time the floats turn onto Ashley Street, supplies are dwindling.

• If it's selfies with a pirate you seek, it takes a while for the krewes to board buses at the end of the parade, so it's a good time to snap a picture.

Dress like a pirate

Only scalawags show up in a polo shirt for this. Rock a tricorn hat, wear Navy stripes and huge hoop earrings and a peasant blouse. But keep boots relatively flat to manage the many blocks you'll end up walking from your car to the parade route. The Don Me Now boutique in Hyde Park Village has designed six custom tops for Gasparilla, including men's shirts with fun sayings like "Gettin Shipfaced on Champagne" and "I Run a Tight Ship." They also have skull tops, leggings and stripes at 1627 W Snow Circle, Tampa.

Pirate parties

Nova Rex: The '80s metal legends headline the Gasparilla Pirate Fest, playing before and after the parade. 11 a.m. Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N Ashley Drive, Tampa. Free.

Gasparilla Invasion Brunch: Enjoy a breakfast buffet and entertainment to await the arrival of the Jose Gasparilla. 10 a.m. Saturday at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St. $98-$128, $78-$108 children. (813) 251-8844.

Gasparilla Invasion Brunch Cruise: Sail alongside the Jose Gasparilla on the Yacht Starship. Two free drinks, DJ and a buffet 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, 603 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $149.95, $89.95 child. (813) 223-7999.

Gasparilla Yarr'd Party: Unlimited beer, two bands, a DJ, games and contests. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, Gasparilla House Party, 401 S Florida Ave., Tampa. $50.

Gasparilla Planner: What you need to know to conquer the pirate invasion 01/20/17 [Last modified: Friday, January 27, 2017 10:01am]
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