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January 1, 2020

Gasparilla Children’s Parade | What You Need to Know Before You Go

By Anu Varma Panchal

Calling all pint-size pirates and diminutive buccaneers! The Gasparilla Children’s Parade is nearly here!

And lucky you, because only in Tampa Bay do we have an entire afternoon set aside for the tiniest of our sea-faring folk to strut their stuff up and down Bayshore Boulevard.  

The 2020 Ashley HomeStore Children’s Gasparilla Parade presented by Chick-Fil-A is Saturday, January 18, 2020. Whether you’re new in town or a seasoned buccaneer who keeps her dagger sharpened and his seafaring legs braced, this day might be the most fun one of the calendar year till Halloween and Christmas swing back around.

In addition to the actual parade, which features dozens of floats rolling down Bayshore Boulevard throwing beads, there’s a bicycle rodeo, a preschooler’s stroll, an “air invasion” and SOCOM jump, and to cap it all off, a magnificent fireworks display over the bay.

Learn more about how to elevate your day with reserved seating during the parade. This is a great option if you are looking for a bit more space and a front row view! 

Let’s start with the important details…like where to park and the route!

Street parking close to the route will be hard to find and there will be a ton of traffic due to street closures. You might get lucky and snag a paid parking spot in a lot near the parade route, but if you’d rather not deal with it, plan to park in the Fort Brooke Garage (you can also park in the Whiting Street Garage if this one fills up) in Downtown Tampa–there will be a continuous trolley transporting guests to and from the parade route from 10 am-8:00 pm. It’s $10 for adults and kids riding with an adult are free. Meet the trolley at the intersection of Whiting and Franklin.

The Jolly Roger Trolley will operate for FREE from 12pm-4pm and 6pm-8pm. It will pick up and drop off at Platt & Bayshore and Rome & Bayshore. Learn more here. 

Related: Gasparilla Children’s Parade Day Pro Tips: We asked and you shared!

The Children’s Parade follows a shorter route along Bayshore Blvd than the parade during Gasparilla Pirate Fest. It steps off at Bayshore and Bay to Bay and ends at Watrous/Orleans. The Gasparilla Children’s Parade is alcohol-free, so keep this in mind. This is a family event–save the libations for next weekend’s Gasparilla Pirate Fest on January 25, 2020!

Gasparilla Children's Parade

While the parade is the main event, Gasparilla is so much more than a parade! It’s an all day long celebration with plenty of things to do before and after the parade!

Here’s the lowdown on what to expect:


Bicycle Safety Rodeo 

Ships are all very well, but sometimes, a pirate needs his or her wheels. Come check if your skills are up to par by participating in the popular Bicycle Rodeo on Bayshore Boulevard between Rome Avenue and Dakota Street  from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  

“The clinic is a basic skills course and general education of bike safety for kids ages 4-17,” explains Tampa Police Officer David DiMarco. “Our target audience is typically 6-14 years of age. Every kid participating will receive a free helmet that was donated from FDOT.” The event will be staffed with volunteers from Hillsborough County BPAC, St. Joseph’s Hospital Safe Routes to School, and Bike/Walk/Tampa Bay. 

While supplies last, children will be fitted with bicycle helmets that they can take home for free. Last year, 350 helmets were donated by onbikes and FDOT, and about 1,500 children rode in the course. Gasparilla-Preschoolers-Stroll

Preschooler’s Stroll 

At the 2020 Gasparilla Preschooler’s Stroll presented by ZooTampa at Lowry Park, a 15-year tradition that was started in 2005, kids 5 and under can strut their stuff down a half-mile parade route from Howard to Rome Avenues. Any little ones who don’t yet have their land legs can parade in or on a decorated scooter, stroller, bicycle or tricycle. Grand-pirates and others can get the best view of the parade from the Howard Avenue bleachers.  

Pirates love mayhem, but they also follow strict rules of conduct. Here’s the preschool stroll manifesto: 

  • The stroll will begin promptly at 1:00 p.m. on Jan. 18. Schedule naps accordingly. 
  • Pirate attire is mandatory. Think menacing, but overlaid with a dash of adorable. 
  • Pirates must be accompanied by a landlubber/adult. Rules are rules, and those old seadogs have their uses, such as carrying snacks.  
  • No motorized vehicles are allowed. Don’t be the son of a biscuit eater who rolls up on an electric scooter and is turned away. 
  • No walkups on the day of will be allowed. The privateers over at the Eventfest office must receive your application by Jan. 5 or you’ll have to drown your sorrows on the sidelines with a bunch of spectating scallywags.  

So dust off those feathered hats. Polish those boot buckles. Put the final touches of frippery and feathers and beads on that wagon. Because when you roll down that road with the kind of swagger your parents can only dream of imitating, you’ll want to be seen on the sweetest ship on the sea. 


The Children’s Gasparilla Parade  

This is the main event, and each year, the crowds have only gotten bigger! So come early and find a good spot. The Children’s Gasparilla Parade will begin at 3:30 pm at Bay to Bay and Bayshore Boulevard, proceed north along Bayshore Boulevard and end at Edison Avenue.  

Related: Local Parents Share Pro Tips to Navigate Parade Day

Past parades have seen more than 100 units roll past, with marching bands, dance units and numerous school, community and neighborhood organizations. The highlight, of course, are the krewes and their elaborate floats. This is where kids 6 and above can participate. 

Related: RECYCLE your Gasparilla beads for discounts on admission to the Florida Aquarium

Train your eyes on the skies for incredible shows put on by aerobatics flying vintage military planes AND the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Parachute Team as they perform a “Gasparilla Air Invasion,” landing on Bayshore Boulevard just before the start of the children’s parade. They’ll perform again at night just before the day’s grand finale—the Gasparilla “Piratechnic” Extravaganza Fireworks show—which will be launched just off Bayshore Boulevard. The ideal spot to watch the fireworks from is near Show Center at Howard and Bayshore, as this is where you’ll best hear the music to which the fireworks are timed.  

You can come early and snag a spot for your blankets and picnic on the grassy median, or you can reserve seats. These are $52 in advance (plus tax) for bleacher seats; $62 for reserved chair seats; and $145 for adults and $95 for children for private seating and a catered lunch. All these are available on a first come, first served basis, and prices will go up on the day of the event.  

For more information, to reserve seats or stock up on pirate gear, visit www.gasparillatreasures.com. 

If you absolutely can’t make it, here’s the other way you can watch it: It will be broadcast live on FOX 13 and streamed live on their website.

Full Schedule of Events:

*Activities and vendors open at 11am along Bayshore between Bay to Bay and Edison.

11:00 am-1:00 pm
Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety Rodeo:
You and the kids can join Tampa Police, FDOT and EventFest at the rodeo where your kids can test their skills on the bike course, learn life-saving safety skills and even get fitted for a free helmet while supplies last. This is one of our favorite pre-parade activities that the kiddos love!
Location: Bayshore Blvd & S Rome Ave

12:00 pm-3:15 pm
Gasparilla Air Invasion
Watch in awe at the precision parachute jump, be amazed by vintage aircraft, and jump for joy as the stunt planes perform their aerobatic moves over the bay!

1:00 pm-2:00 pm
Gasparilla Preschoolers Stroll presented by ZooTampa
Watch as pint-sized pirates show off their pirate best along Bayshore Blvd! It’s perhaps the cutest parade you and the kids will ever see! It steps off at Bayshore and Howard and continues down Bayshore Blvd to Rome Ave.

3:30 pm-6:00 pm
Gasparilla Children’s Parade
Get ready to catch some beads!!! More than 100 units will be participating, including krewes, local schools, community organizations, dance schools, school bands and more! Be sure to pack some snacks and waters for your little ones. No one likes a hangry pirate! 🙂

6:16 pm-6:30 pm
Gasparilla Air Invasion and Night Jump
As the night begins to wrap, precision parachute jumpers from the United States Special Operation Jump Team – The Para-Commandos will put on a show stopping performance!

7:00 pm-7:30 pm
Gasparilla ‘Piratechnics’
Don’t ye leave yet, matey! The Piratechnic display recreates the epic imaginary battle at sea between Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and the City of Tampa! This is deep rooted in tradition with the invasion taking place every year since 1904. The fireworks display is surely going to be a stunner!


Read the January 2020 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine for more Gasparilla fun!

Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine January 2020


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