Tampa has been such a cool place to raise a kid! Our calendar has been filled with all kinds of family-friendly events that are mostly free and outdoors. The first months of the year not only bring perfect temperatures to our area, but they also bring one of Tampa’s biggest annual celebrations: Gasparilla season! (named after Jose Gaspar, an alleged pirate who terrorized the coastal waters of West Florida during the 18th and early 19th centuries). Kids seem to love all things pirates, but they are not the only ones getting in all the fun; people of all ages get really into it! The season lasts for over two months, so here’s a quick guide to my favorite family-friendly Gasparilla events:
1) CHILDREN’S GASPARILLA EXTRAVAGANZA
A.K.A. the Children’s parade. Best family event of the pirate season, hands down. It is an alcohol-free parade celebrating the pirate’s invasion and return of the Gasparilla Season to Tampa Bay! The weather is usually a bit chilly (for Floridian standards), and extra windy by the bay, so make sure to have warm layers for the little ones. Also, parking can be a bummer. The parade is very safe (except for potential beads flying at you), since police officers are everywhere. Overall, super fun for the little ones, who can even be in the parade if you pre-register.
2) GASPARILLA DISTANCE CLASSIC
If you’re into fitness, this can be a lot of fun with kids! For the 5k option, you can run, walk, or take a stroller. The beastlier folks can run 8K,15k or half marathon events to benefits charitable youth organizations across Tampa Bay. Also, the views of the bay from Bayshore Blvd. are gorgeous and make running sound a little more appealing.
Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times
3) GASPARILLA FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS
This event happens downtown at one of my favorite places in Tampa, Curtis Hixon Park. Aside from rows and rows of awesome art, there’s music, food trucks, a very cool playground, dog park, and tons of room for kids to run and play. Because let’s tire them out.
4) GASPARILLA MUSIC FESTIVAL
This year I had the honor of attending the festival with a media pass, and it was a total blast! Watching live music is one of my all-time favorite things to do, and it had been a whiiiiiile! On day one, my two college besties and I ate delicious food from Ella’s Folk Art Cafe, drank a few adult beverages and danced to Cage the Elephant as the headliner. On day two, I brought the little man (kids under 12 are free!) to check out the fun. The music festival also happens at Curtis Hixon Park, and Glazer Children’s Museum, which happens to be next door, had free admission to go with the festival. Double score!
Children’s Museums are so cool!
5) GASPARILLA OUTBOUND VOYAGE
After weeks of shenanigans, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla celebrate their conquest of Tampa with a party at Channelside Bay Plaza, as Tampa’s favorite pirates get ready to leave the city. They even meet with Tampa’s mayor and return the “stolen” key to the city. The Captain and his crew board the Jose Gasparilla and sail back out to sea with a final cannon salute launched toward downtown Tampa. They go all out, and it’s really fun to watch!
Have you been to Gasparilla or another unusual festival before?