AHOY! I had already crossed Tampa Bay’s Mardi Gras, a.k.a. the Gasparilla Invasion, off my travel bucket list back in 2006. HOWEVER, I didn’t know the experience could be that much better when witnessed from a BOAT! Luckily, I had that ultimate experience last month 🙂 Debating whether you should experience it too (it is known, after all, as a festival of debauchery)? Check out my Gasparilla Invasion videos and photos below to decide yourself 😉 With the right crowd (and outfits), I promise you: it’s a lot of fun.
HOW to cross the Gasparilla Invasion off your travel bucket list
If I have convinced you, here’s how you can cross the Gasparilla invasion of your travel bucket list: You may hitch a ride with a Tampa Bay Couchsurfer who happens to own a boat, a friend, a total stranger. Just show up with some drinks, mixers and I doubt any friendly Floridian will deny you entry to their vessel 😉
OR, if you feel more comfortable, go the ‘conventional tourist’ route and book a one of the unlimited wine/beer/soft drinks FERRY TOURS from St. Petersburg:
Where to stay when attending the Gasparilla Invasion?
It really depends where your new found friend parks his/her boat, if you are boat hitchhiking or whether you’re taking a ferry tour. IF you are not Couchsurfing and plan to stay in Tampa, I recommend hotels close to Jackson’s Bistro (601 S Harbour Island Blvd, Tampa, FL 33602), such as the Marriott and the Westin.
You must book your room WAY in advance, as locals snatch these early. Naturally, traffic is impossible on Gasparilla parade day, so I don’t recommend any hotel outside walking distance from Harbour Island…
Getting to the Gasparilla Invasion: Parade day tips
Speaking of which, boat traffic is pretty terrible before, during, and after the Gasparilla Invasion as well. Therefore, if your friends are planning to come into Harbour Island, make sure you arrive either the night before or on parade day by 9:30 AM sharp. Also, don’t plan to leave until sunset. Otherwise, it will be a nightmare.
^^ WARNING: strong Sofia Vergara-esque accent due to all-day imbibing ^^
On the other hand, if you’re staying in St. Petersburg and taking one of the ferry tours, ask your tour company which hotel is closest to its dock. Gasparilla can get pretty crazy, so make sure your hotel is nearby!
If you have any other questions about Tampa Bay and/or attending the Gasparilla Invasion Parade, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
For more photos, check out my Gasparilla photo album here.