5 Festivals in and around Tampa during Gasparilla Season

Photo by Simon Kellogg

It’s Gasparilla season in Tampa and there’s no shortage of festivals for you to visit if you’re escaping colder climates in favor of Florida sun. Here are our 5 picks of festivals in and around Tampa in 2018.

Gasparilla Music Festival – March 10-11

Gasparilla Music Festival
Photo by Gasparilla Music Festival

The centerpiece festival of Gasparilla season is the Gasparilla Music Festival where people can see more than 40 live acts in downtown Tampa, including the likes of Ryan Adams, Cage The Elephant, Erykah Badu and Ghostface Killah, all of whom have played at the festival in the past. Spread across two days and five stages (and side events like the Kidsfest and the Yogafest), the festival has come a long way since 2012, when the Gasparilla Music Foundation, a non-profit based in Tampa, established the festival with the goal of promoting local musical talent. Stay tuned for the line-up for 2018. In the meantime, make sure you have some place to stay when you’re there.

Gasparilla Festival of the Arts – March 2018

Gasparilla Festival of the Arts
Photo by Gasparilla Festival of the Arts

Another event that shares the famed Kiley Gardens with the Music Festival is the annual Gasparilla Festival of the Arts. This FREE event showcases talent from home and abroad and is expected to gather over a 100,000 art-lovers this time around. Everything from photography and textiles to Digital exhibitions and drawings, viewers can expect art of outstanding quality and can enjoy live entertainment afterward.  Check out last year’s entries to see just what we’re talking about. Last year’s winner David Bjurstrom nabbed the grand prize of Best in Show with his intricate lifelike drawings. Make sure you’ve got your designer-inspired pad to crash at after a day at the galleries!

Gasparilla International Film Festival – March 20-25, 2018

Gasparilla International Film Festival
Photo by Gasparilla International Film Festival

Later in the month it’ll be time to grab some popcorn and watch what the Gasparilla International Film Festival has to offer. Last year’s top international prize went to auteur Francois Ozon while the US prize went to screwball sci-fi comedy Future 38. You can buy tickets to the movies online to save yourself a queue and even turn up to the fancier shindigs like their opening and closing night parties. Film geeks can also wriggle themselves into an industry panel to hear about new themes and perspectives emerging in the world of film-making.

Gasparilla Pirate Fest – January 27, 2018

Gasparilla Pirate Fest
Photo by Gasparilla Pirate Fest

And if it’s plunder yer after look no further than the season’s Pirate Fest, which kicks off Gasparilla season. The season itself is named after notorious pirate José Gaspar, who sailed the southwest Florida seas in the early 19th Century.Events kick off with a staging of an invasion (along with pre-invasion brunch) where the pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe sail up Seddon Channel on board the Jose Gasparilla. Downtown Tampa then hosts a Parade of the Pirates, a tradition since 1904, with floats, pirates and enough music to shake your booty. No need to sleep on deck though. Find yourself a place to stay before the season kicks off!

Florida Strawberry Festival – March 1-11, 2018

Strawberry Festival
Photo by Florida Strawberry Festival

For those looking for a more genteel way to spend winter in Florida, you have the option of a half- hour drive to Plant City for the latest Florida Strawberry Festival. 11 days of hardcore strawberry action are what you can expect where over half a million visitors have a chance to enjoy the headline entertainment (Willie Nelson, Blake Shelton and Garth Brooks have all played here before) and, as you might expect, strawberries in all its incarnations. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Plant City over the festival, take a look at our handy event guide.

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