John and I braved the estimated crowd of half a million people to attend Tampa’s biggest party of the year, the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion and Parade. It was one wild party and lived up to it’s reputation of being one of the most attended and craziest parties/parades in the USA.
Here is our take on the day’s festivities, some do’s and don’ts and what we will definitely do differently next year.
Let’s start with showing you the invasion – It is a long video about 15 minutes, but it is the entire Invasion of Pirates and the arrival of the Rough Riders who will try to save the City. The ship docked at the convention center where the mayor immediately surrenders the city to an all out party in the streets!! But truthfully, by the time the ship arrives the party has already been going for several hours. The crowd starts to arrive early, about 9:30 am to secure a good viewing spot and by the time the pirate ship gets in to downtown around 12:30 ish, the crowd has already been partying it up, by land and sea!!
After the invasion, it’s time for the parade to celebrate the pirates victory over the city. After viewing the invasion the entire crowd moves along to the 4 & 1/2 mile parade route. Keep in mind by the time the parade begins, most of the crowd has consumed a large amount of adult beverages so this movement of the crowd, is no small feat.
The Parade begins west of the downtown area and moves toward Downtown Tampa, leaving the crowd that viewed the invasion downtown, plenty of time to find a good parade viewing spot along Bayshore Boulevard.
Some do’s to Survive the Day
- Arrive Early!! About 9 am
- Park in the Ybor City Historic District parking garage and take the free Trolley to Downtown Tampa
- To view the Invasion a great spot is the bridge to Harbor Island or right next to the convention center.
- Once you get your spot to view the invasion don’t leave it or risk losing it. You will be there for a few hours with half a million of your new best buds.
- Consider pre purchasing parade bleacher seat tickets for a better (and less crowd on top of you) view. Standing on the parade route is rows of people deep. Pushing and shoving is common when the beads come a flying, and remember, most of the crowd has been drinking alcoholic beverages for hours.
- Do pack a cooler bag with bottled water you will be happy you did!! Especially if it is a warm day.
- Apply sun screen and wear a hat & sunglasses. No matter what the temperature says, if there is full sun you will get sunburned.
- When moving to the parade route, take your time. Do not rush, you will have plenty of time to view the parade.
- Pack wipes in your bag. Bathroom facilities are those wonderful port a potties. You will want those wipes!!!
- Pack some snacks. Although there are plenty of food vendors, Concession lines are long, it doesn’t hurt to have a few crackers at the ready.
- Plan for a long day on your feet. Wear comfortable shoes.
- Again it will be a long day from beginning to end. Have patience and be ready to be in a very crowded environment.
- Do expect to have terrible cell phone reception as in 2020 the cell towers could not handle the demand.
- Do expect to see it all… People watching is hysterical.
More Importantly may be the Don’ts
- Do not arrive late and expect to find a parking!!
- Know your limit of alcohol intake. Do not drink more than you normally do.
- Do not engage with any intoxicated person. Just walk away even if it means giving up your spot…..It is not worth it.
- Do not forget to stay hydrated.
- I do not recommend taking young children to the parade. There is a children’s parade one week prior. To me the Parade of Pirates, day parade is not a good environment for young children. (my personal opinion – take it for what you will)
What The View From Florida Will do Different in 2021
We really enjoyed our day at the Gasparilla Invasion and Parade but we decided to better the experience next year, there are a few things we will do different in 2021
We will book a stay in Downtown Tampa or in Ybor City Historic District. For a couple of reasons:
- The drive home was a little nerve racking
- There are hotels in the Downtown area that provide a great viewing spot of the invasion from the comfort of your room or rooftop bar.
In 2021 we will pre purchase bleacher seats on the Parade route because:
- We were on our feet for 10 hours and had to leave before all the festivities were over because we just could not walk another step.
- We had to give up a good spot on the parade route because of some obnoxious people in the crowd standing next to us, who were intoxicated and smoking pot that smelled like skunk.
- The crowd along the route is several rows deep. Pushing and shoving is a given, fights break out over the dumbest of things and people are jumping and grabbing for beads.
Even with all the crazy of the day, The Gasparilla Invasion and Parade of Pirates is a must do at least once. The people watching alone makes for a fun day, as everyone is a pirate for a day and the party goes on into the evening with live music venues all over downtown and Ybor city. Yes, it was nuts!! and the crowd huge!! but if you are prepared for it you will have a blast.
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