Quirky Festivals to Visit in Tampa, Flickr: aloha75

The Stars of the Florida Strawberry Festival!


If you’re like me, the idea of going to an interesting festival is the only reason I’ll go: I tend to shy away from anything generic. But paying a visit to Tampa Bay might induce visions of snorkeling, visiting the beach and fine dining with seafood options, but festivals? Not so much. But if you are indeed into festivals, consider these quirky and outlandish options for those who love to travel off the beaten path. Who knows, they may inspire you to book some discount airfare.

Gasparilla Pirate Fest

It’s fitting for a seaside city to have its nautical cast of characters, but Gasparilla Pirate Fest is those for the young at heart. During the course of the year, Tampa plays host to rowdy swashbucklers on a fully-rigged pirate ship. This has been an annual event since 2004, when over 750 swashbucklers invaded Tampa on the ship “Jose Gasparilla.” It is also the third largest parade in the U.S., and the largest children’s parade, with over 250,000 attendees including children.  This is a very unique Tampa Bay festival held on January 26, 2013. There’s also a secret treasure hunt. Get your tickets in person at will call (the option to ship the tickets to your address has expired).

Florida Strawberry Festival

If you have a hunkering for juicy treats, especially of the fruity variety, get your fix at the annual Strawberry Festival. Held from February 28-March 10, 2013, this festival features headline singers including Martina McBride and Mel Tillis. Held in Plant City, Florida (a short drive from Tampa), this festival is about music, pageantry and lots of food. There’s also the opportunity to devour strawberries by the truckload—how can you complain? The Strawberry Festival has been recognized as one of the top 40 festivals to attend in the U.S., and is over 80 years old.


Hallowe’ens more juicy, distant and unique cousin, Guavaween occurs in October as well. Mama Guava and her parade of followers take on Ybor City. It is a Latin-flavored event that occurs on the last Saturday of October. With the nickname, “The Big Guava,” Guavaween is recognized as one of Ybor City’s youngest festivals, starting 20 years ago. And yes, it’s kid and family friendly, so expect a costume contest, scavenger hunt, trick or treat, and amusement rides as well. There is a parade where Mama Guava greets the spectators and throws out candy to all. After all, it is October!

Other quirky festivals in the Tampa Bay area are sprinkled throughout the year, and include the Black Heritage Festival and of course, St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

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photo: aloha75

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