(Note: This article was published last year before the 2017 Gasparilla parade. It has been updated to reflect 2018.)
The Gasparilla parade — the wildest and most anticipated annual party of Tampa Bay — is coming January 27, 2018! Tampa’s biggest (and most infamous) celebration of the year brings pirates, parades, parties and people from all over the country. Not to be confused with the Gasparilla Children’s Parade, the grownup version — notorious for its drunken debauchery —happens a week after and public safety is a top concern.
The Gasparilla parade brings hundreds of thousands of people together on Bayshore Blvd every "yarrrr". And regardless of whether it's hot or cold, having such a large crowd of people packed together so tightly could bring on some serious heat. Wear your pirate coats or jackets to Gasparilla to stay warm if the weather does get chilly. But also make sure not to wear too many layers of clothing underneath so you can stay cool if the very unpredictable Tampa weather heats up while you're packed in with the massive crowd.
Alcohol consumption for the grownups on Gasparilla starts early in the morning and continues all day. So whether you'll be consuming beer, rum or mead, remember to stay hydrated throughout the day. Carry water bottles or a water container with you throughout the festivities. Vendors will also be on hand selling more than just alcohol, so be sure to carry cash with you in case you need to buy liquids to hydrate with.
Gasparilla 2018 will have established wet zones where drinking is permitted within the confines of the parade. However, you must obey the rules and public drinking laws established by the city. The Tampa Police Department will be on hand checking photo IDs and bags. That means bringing your own alcohol and coolers to the parade is heavily discouraged. And styrofoam cups and glass containers are not allowed in the parade, so leave them at home. If you’re planning on sailing the Tampa Bay waters with the invading pirates of the Caribbean, don’t drink alcohol while commandeering your ship. You don't want the "Coast Guarrrrrrgh" coming after you, do ye matey?
When doing Gasparilla, it's smart to carry some gold coins in your pockets. And by gold coins we mean cash, of course. During the daylong Gasparilla parade, you will get thirsty; you will get hungry; and you will likely have to pay for parking if you’re arriving in your own vehicle. So while there may or may not be ATM machines available throughout the parade route, it’s highly recommended that you bring plenty of cash with you to the parade.
There’s safety in numbers mateys! So bring ye krewe with you to this here wild pirate parade! Gasparilla is an immense street festival and there will be intoxicated party-goers causing mischief and mayhem — and possibly pillaging and plundering . So be sure to bring friends to the parade and stick together. Besides, Gasparilla is more fun with friends anyway, so don’t fly solo Captain!
A friend with beads is not necessarily a friend indeed during Gasparilla. Collecting as many beads as possible is almost a badge of honor to hardcore Gasparilla fans. And intoxicated people sometimes get rowdy while trying to gather them up. It’s hard to believe that grownups could get rabid about useless plastic toy necklaces. But they do during Gasparilla, so watch out! If you want to show off your bead collection skills by snatching as many as you can, cool. But look out for flying fists and elbows while the beads are firing your way. Drunk and even sober people do fight for beads during Gasparilla. So if you catch some flying beads at the same time as somebody else does, let them go. It’s not worth the fight! Also protect your eyes and head during the parade, as beads will be flying at your face from all directions during the parade. You could end up wearing an eye patch that's NOT part of your pirate costume!
It’s Gasparilla, and the grownups — many with weak bladders — will be drinking all day long! Unless your home or a home you will be partying at is on the parade route, you'll likely be sharing the many disgusting, unsanitary, claustrophobic portable pottyholes with tens of thousands of others. So be prepared to wait, as the lines are typically long for the use of the portable toilets. And if you have difficulty holding in your bodily functions when nature calls, don’t pee out in the open! It may sound like common sense to avoid peeing in public, but people do it anyway and get arrested for it. So make sure you know where the bathrooms are and if you can’t hold it in, don’t let it out in public!
It's the best tip we can give you, because fun is what Gasparilla and Tampa Bay are all about! And come on matey, don't drink and drive! You will get ARRRRRRRRested!