best viewing spots Children's Gasparilla Parade

The Best Spots to Watch the Children’s Gasparilla Parade

Front row access for the best chance at snagging the most beads is priority for many families as they search for the best spot to view the Children’s Gasparilla Parade.

With nearly a decade of Gasparilla Children’s Parades under our belts, we’re sharing our top tips on the best places to watch the parade and even how to upgrade your day for the ultimate parade viewing experience!

But, first things first…let’s talk about WHEN the parade is being hosted! The Children’s Gasparilla Parade is on January 20, 2024 and steps off at 4 pm, but it’s an all day celebration, so be sure to check out our overview of all of the events: Children’s Gasparilla Parade: What You Need to Know Before You Go.

The Best Spots to View the Children’s Gasparilla Parade

The good news is, the crowds will be pretty spread out, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a great spot to view the parade.

First, let’s go over the parade route. The Children’s Gasparilla Parade runs along Bayshore Boulevard, stepping off at Bay to Bay and ending at Watrous/Orleans. It’s shorter than the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates which is the following weekend.

Children's Gasparilla Parade wideshot on Bayshore Blvd
Children’s Gasparilla Parade – photo provided by EventFest.

A few things to consider when picking your spot on parade day: Water side or land side?

While you can view the parade along the waterside AND on the land side, if you think that you’ll need to leave early at any point during the parade, you’ll want to secure a spot on the land side. You will not be allowed to cross the street once the parade starts.

Even though the Children’s Parade route is shorter than the main Parade of Pirates on January 27, it still takes several hours for all of the floats and units to pass by (there are a little over 125). The official parade schedule is from 4 pm-6:15 pm.

If you want to see the parade as soon as it starts and depart at your leisure, try to get a viewing spot closer to the starting point at Bay to Bay. Keep in mind, krewes are not allowed to toss beads south of Bay to Bay, so try to stay north of Bay to Bay.

Plan your seating based on events

If you’re attending the Bicycle + Pedestrian Safety Rodeo near Bayshore and Rome, then you may want to find a seat closer to this area. This Safety Rodeo runs from 12pm-2pm, so you’ll be in place a few hours ahead of parade start time which is at 4pm.

There is also the Preschoolers Stroll prior to the parade which runs from 2pm-3pm between Howard Ave and Rome Avenue, so you can secure your spot early to view both the stroll and the parade.

Choosing Your Spot Based on Parking Spot

If you’re taking public transportation to get to and from the downtown parking garages, selecting a spot close to the pick-up/drop-off locations might be more ideal for you. There are two locations at either end of the parade route: Bay to Bay and on Platt Street near the Publix on Bayshore Blvd.

Reserved seating at the Gasparilla Children’s Parade: Bleacher Seats and First Mate Seats

Gasparilla Children's Parade First Mate Seats
First Mate seats at Children’s Gasparilla Parade.

If it’s in the budget, we recommend upgrading your day to a reserved seat at the Children’s Gasparilla Parade. It’ll be less crowded and you’ll better luck getting beads.

Bleachers are great, but not exactly the safest thing for a group of rambunctious little ones which is why we prefer the First Mate seats.

We also love that there is plenty of room for strollers and wagons behind the First Mate chairs. New this year, you are able to select your seat and they’ve added a second row to keep bigger groups closer together.

First Mate seats start at $65-$70 each and Bleacher seats range from $58-63 each.

Reserved seating is primarily along the water side from Bay to Bay to Howard Avenue, but you can get a spot on the grassy median on the land side of the parade along the entire route with the exception of the areas where the tents are set up.

You can explore Gasparilla seat options here.

Scully Hospitality Tent

If you really want to upgrade your day, there’s a Scully Hospitality Tent option for $160 for adults and $60 for children. Kids 2 and under do not need a ticket here. You will have access to pre-parade entertainment, picnic-style Buffett and bleacher seating. It’s located at the event center near Howard Avenue.

Handicapped Parade Viewing Area

There is a designated handicapped area for parade viewing at Howard Avenue and Bayshore Blvd.

What to Bring with You to View the Children’s Gasparilla Parade

It’s not a bad idea to bring folding chairs and/or blankets with a waterproof layer (in case the ground is wet) to sit back and relax while you wait for the parade to begin. Most of the parade days in recent years have gotten pretty chilly, especially with the breeze coming off the water, so we also recommend bringing an additional blanket and sweatshirts to snuggle in if it gets cold.

Our other top tips on what to bring:

  • Wagon or stroller to tow tired kiddos home at the end of the day
  • Water bottles (keep in mind this is an alcohol-free event)
  • Snacks
  • Hand wipes
  • Roll of toilet paper (because the port-o-lets sometimes run out of toilet paper)
  • Sunscreen
  • Backpack to carry everything… and all of your beads

Best Spot for the Parade and Fireworks

children's gasparilla
Image Credit: Dave Pullis

Anywhere along the parade route is going to be a great spot to view the stunning Piratechnic Fireworks show launched from near the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship in the bay. Most people like to get close to the Bayshore Boulevard balustrades on the water for unobstructed views, so be prepared to move for the best viewing spot.

The fireworks show tells the story of an imaginary battle between the YMKG pirates and the city of Tampa, a foreshadowing of the invasion ahead during the official Gasparilla Pirate Fest the following Saturday on January 27, 2024.