A Guide to the Children’s Gasparilla Parade in Tampa

Ahoy mateys! Are you thinking of taking your little pirates to the Children’s Gasparilla Parade this year? Whether you’re a long-time resident or new to the Tampa Bay area, you’ve probably heard about the invasion that happens every year. The Children’s Gasparilla Parade is an alcohol-free and family-friendly celebration that kicks off on Saturday, January 18th.

The parade, which features Krewes, entertainment, and floats, begins at Bay to Bay and Bayshore and ends at Edison Avenue. We have attended the Children’s Gasparilla Parade many times as residents of Tampa Bay. We have a great time whenever we attend this huge event. When it comes to children, it’s always important to be prepared especially for Gasparilla. Here’s a guide to the Children’s Gasparilla Parade in Tampa to help parents make Saturday a huge success.

Young black boy dressed as a pirate

When to go

The Children’s Gasparilla Parade starts at 3:30, however, it’s best to show up hours earlier to get the best viewing spot and parking. It’s also a good idea to allow yourself at least an hour to find parking and to walk to the parade route. Give yourself plenty of time so you’re not rushing with the kids. We spent a lot of time getting our son out of the car, unloading the wagon to decorate and walking to a viewing spot.  If you have younger children, I recommend going closer to parade time especially if they are still taking naps. When my oldest was a toddler, he did not make it until the end of the parade. He was tired and ready to go. If your child is able to nap while you’re out, you should be okay.

Where to park

There are many options for parking but they fill up quickly. We’ve been lucky to find parking near Hyde Park for around $10 but it’s a hit or miss.  Local businesses and churches near the parade route may offer paid parking but pricing varies. Parking in the neighborhoods bordering the parade route is not permitted and the Tampa Police Department will strictly enforce the event parking policies. Check out these maps for parking. Special event rates apply to all public garages throughout downtown Tampa and around Bayshore Boulevard. There will be a shuttle service operating from 10 am – 8 pm for $10 per adult. Children accompanied by an adult ride for free with this service. The shuttle will pick up at the Fort Brooke Garage and deliver to Bayshore Boulevard, near the beginning of the parade route at Bay to Bay Blvd. and the Crosstown. Another option is the Jolley Roger Trolley which offers free rides for parade attendees. It operates from 12 pm – 4 pm and 6 pm – 8 pm. The trolley picks up and drops off everyone at the intersections of both Platt Street and Bayshore Blvd, as well as Rome Avenue and Bayshore Blvd. The last option would be parking in Ybor City and taking the TECO Line Streetcar into downtown. It’s a free service for everyone but the price of parking in that area varies.  Please note: Do not leave valuables in your car and lock your doors.

What to bring 

Bring a stroller or wagon to the Children’s Gasparilla Parade. It’s easier to keep track of the younger children and it helps with the long walks. Trust me, your kids will get tired of walking especially after the event is over. You can decorate your stroller or wagon as a pirate ship to give the kids a cool ride. I used cardboard boxes for my wagon but some parents really go all out with their pirate ships. Bring a carrier to wear your baby once the parade starts. It’s a great way to keep little ones close and keeps your hands free to catch all the beads.

If you are planning to arrive early, bring a large blanket, towels or folding chairs to sit on. Make sure to bring extra clothing, bags for the beads, sunglasses (protect eyes from sun and beads), sunscreen, first aid kit, and hand sanitizers or wipes. Bring cash to make things easier when paying for parking or buying items from vendors. Some do not accept debit or credit cards. My oldest was not happy about the food options so we brought snacks the following year. I suggest bringing a soft-sided cooler (only ones permitted) filled with food for the kids, including lunch, lots of snacks, juice and water bottles. Bring a portable fan in case the weather gets unbearable for the little ones. If you arrive early, bring items like bubbles, plastic swords, balls, coloring books or hula hoop to keep the kids entertained. If you’re staying for the night time activities, bring glow sticks for the kids. It will be easier to spot them when it gets dark. Lastly, don’t forget a backup charger! If you’re there all day, bring a portable charger to increase your battery life.

toddler in stroller wearing pirate hat and fake mustache at the Gasparilla parade
young black boy playing with Lego figurine while dressed as a pirate at the Gasparilla Parade

young black boy playing with toy trumpet while dressed as a pirate at the Gasparilla Parade

What to wear 

It’s Gasparilla so transform the kids into a pirate. Over the years, I have stepped up my costume game for the boys. You can check out my Pinterest board for some Gasparilla inspiration.  Have no fear! Not everyone dresses up so no need to worry. You can also purchase Gasparilla pirate shirts from local shops. There’s a lot of walking during the Children’s Gasparilla Parade so wear comfortable shoes. Check the weather on the day of the parade because it’s unpredictable in the Tampa Bay area. 

young black boy dressed as a pirate at the Tampa Gasparilla Parade

African American baby boy dressed as a pirate

African American mom and son attending Gasparilla parade. Son is wearing DIY pirate costume

For more information, such as tickets for reserved bleacher seating and other Gasparilla events, visit the official Gasparilla website. Remember, this is a family-friendly event. Be kind, have fun and take plenty of pictures. 

Karimah is a SAHM residing in Wesley Chapel with her family. She is married to her husband of seven years. They have two adorable boys, a preschooler and a toddler. They also have a stubborn but loving dachshund who enjoys eating whatever his human brothers drops on the floor. Karimah grew up in Lakeland but became a Tampa resident after graduating from the University of South Florida. (Go BULLS!) Her weekdays are filled with fun activities like library programs, exploring the local playgrounds, visiting local theme parks and crafting at home (Pinterest mom). Karimah enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, participating in 5k races, watching Netflix, reading, traveling and spending time with family and friends. You can follow her on Instagram and Pinterest @craftingafunlife.