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Tampa’s Other Buccaneer Season: The 2017 Gasparilla Pirate Festival

Tampa Bay lays claim to a rich pirate mythology, and there’s no better time to embrace the region’s swashbuckling past than during the Gasparilla Pirate Festival. Surely one of the singular celebrations of any city in the country, this all-ages buccaneer blowout has been a Tampa fixture for better than a century, and it’s definitely worth taking in firsthand!

The “Invasion”

This year’s Gasparilla Pirate Festival takes place from 9 AM to 9 PM on January 28, and as usual, the proceedings get underway midmorning when the mighty pirate ship the Jose Gasparilla appears on the Hillsborough Bay skyline. At the helm? Well, that’d be the Spanish buccaneer Jose Gaspar, of course, and his scalawag gang: Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, intent (yet again) on invading the City of Tampa.

With a litter of private pleasure boats soon joining the proceedings, the Jose Gasparilla marches across Hillsborough Bay, into the Seddon Channel, and right to downtown’s Tampa Convention Center, where Gaspar and his colorfully garbed minions will come ashore and demand the key to the city from Tampa’s mayor.

The Pirate Parade

That prize in hand, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla pirates then commence to parade their way along the downtown waterfront in the company of better than one hundred floats, several marching bands, and dozens of other regional crews. Rest assured: Plenty of doubloons and other pirate booty shall be tossed to spectators.

The 4-odd-mile parade begins at 2 PM at Bay to Bay and Bayshore boulevards, proceeds down the latter to Brorein Street, follows that to Ashley Drive, and then concludes with a boisterous flourish at Ashley Drive and Cass Street. You can stake out a spot along the parade route for free, or purchase a ticket for reserved bleacher seating.

Live Entertainment

Ahead of and on the heels of the Pirate Fest parade, meanwhile, live music at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, MacDill Park, and other venues will delight you and your fellow festivalgoers. The pirate party thrums along till 9 PM.

The Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza

A heads-up for families: A pint-sized lead up to the Gasparilla Pirate Festival takes over the Tampa waterfront a week before! The Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza runs from 10 AM to 8 PM on January 21, and includes a kid’s parade (and preschooler’s stroll) on Bayshore Boulevard as well as some truly impressive fireworks in the form of the “Piratechnic” Extravaganza.

Don’t miss the 2017 Gasparilla Pirate Festival, and call the Westshore Grand home for the affair. A mere five miles from downtown, we offer some of the Tampa Bay area’s finest hospitality: chic accommodations and luxurious amenities much preferable to a pirate galleon’s rank quarters, to say the least.


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