Gasparilla Season in Tampa Bay: A Guide to Pirate Shenanigans

Gasparilla season in Tampa – one of the most popular events in the bay area – celebrates pirates and culture through special events. Named for Jose Gaspar, a legendary pirate who dominated west Florida waters during the 18th and 19th centuries, this family-friendly fest features parades, festivals, marathons and, of course, pirates.

Gasparilla season kicks off in January and runs into late March and early April, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The celebration also brings together local communities, including Tampa, Clearwater and St. Pete, some of Florida’s most popular destinations. Before setting sail, check out this guide to Gasparilla season in Tampa Bay.

Ahoy, Matey! Welcome to Gasparilla Season in Tampa Bay

gasparilla season in tampa bay fl

Photo: Gordon Tarpley

Celebrate at Pirate Fest

Gasparilla season kicks off with a 4-mile-long parade, which is the third-largest parade in the U.S. Join 750 swashbucklers – swaggering swordsmen, soldiers and adventurers – as well as 350,000 guests for the Gasparilla invasion. Visitors also enjoy the street festival, packed full of food, entertainment and live music. Gasparilla Pirate Fest is free, and don’t forget to wear pirate attire.

Take Kids to Children’s Gasparilla

This alcohol-free event is perfect for families and all ages. The Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza kicks off around 11 a.m., with a parade in the afternoon. Floats are all the rage at this parade. More than 100 floats, complete with pirates, marching bands and dancers, make their way down the streets. Don’t miss the finale: explosions fit for every pirate. Find dates and pricing.

February Events

Get beads and celebrate civic pride at the nighttime Sant’ Yago Knight Parade. This parade has been held in Tampa Bay for more than 40 years and is considered one of the largest Latin festivals of its kind in the Southeast. Parade-goers see illuminated floats, enjoy live entertainment, and have a chance to collect lots of beads.

Gasparilla Season Tampa Bay FL

Photo: Gordon Tarpley

Fitness enthusiasts can’t miss Gasparilla Distance Classic. The event welcomes runners, walkers and racers of all ages. Additionally, proceeds benefit youth organizations in the Tampa Bay area. Runners can track their times at the 15K, 8K, 5K or half marathon. Moms should check out the 5K stroller races, and dads may enjoy the Michelob Ultra challenges. Prizes are available, and register with Tampa Bay run.

Tampa Bay Art Festivals

March brings the best in art, music and film. Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in downtown Tampa showcases more than 1,000 hand-selected pieces from artists all over the world. Guests can browse pottery, paintings, photos and digital mediums at this two-day outdoor museum.

National artists and up-and-comers perform at the annual music festival. Two days and four stages host more than 40 acts to entertain audiences with music and fun. This event is family-friendly, so get everyone ready for one of the best festivals in the area. Find Gasparilla music fest tickets.

Movie buffs won’t feel left out either. The annual film festival celebrates filmmakers with four days of showings and events. Gasparilla International Film Festival hopes to inspire, educate and entertain, while supporting the local film industry and its economic impact. Guests watch shorts, documentaries, full-length features and more. When attending the festival, attend workshops, panels and ceremonies.

Need a place to stay? Check out vacation rentals in Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach.

Find more events and things to do in Clearwater, Florida.