The Legend of Gasparilla
This booming heart of Tampa is a Downtown with a difference, successfully mixing old and new with a southern panache. Quaint streetcars trundle along the newly developed riverfront, lined with museums, art galleries, and an aquarium. The warm tropical waters surrounding Downtown add a twist to riverfront walks—dolphins and manta rays are a far from rare sighting when strolling along Downtown's embankments. And as the warm night falls, the nighttime buzz rises, especially in Channelside with its upmarket restaurants and bars.
Things to see in Downtown Tampa
As well as being the financial heart of Tampa, Downtown is home to numerous attractions for the general visitor. In the northwest quarter you'll find the Tampa Museum of Art, which revels in exhibitions of bold contrasts. It has strong collections of modern and contemporary art, as well as wonderful displays of Roman and Greek antiquities. Next door is the Glazer Children's Museum, dedicated to an interactive exploration of childhood through its hands-on exhibits. Completing this quarter's trio of cultural attractions is the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. Housed in the intriguing Cube building by the river, it is known for works by Harold Edgerton and photographs that focus on turning points in American History. Less high-brow attractions are found along the Garrison Channel to the south. Here you could catch a pro-hockey game at the Amalie Arena, or take a chance to Dive with Sharks at the Florida Aquarium.
Good for business and general travelers
As the central business district of booming Tampa, this neighborhood makes a great base for those travelers coming here on business. Accommodation in Downtown Tampa is both conveniently located and business-friendly, with hotels laying on specific services to support the traveling business person. The airport is close by, as are the main road networks connecting to the wider Tampa Bay region. But Downtown also works well for general tourists, with its mix of cultural and fun attractions. And for those planning to cruise the Gulf or Caribbean, the hotels in Downtown Tampa are ideally situated close to the Port Tampa Cruise Terminals.
How to get to Downtown Tampa
For those flying into the city, Tampa International Airport has the best connections and is less than 10 miles from downtown. You can catch a cab into central Tampa, or take the 30 bus, which leaves every half-hour and only takes 45 minutes to travel to Downtown Tampa. There are regular modern trolleys between the main sights in the neighborhood, part of the In-Town Trolley service. But for a journey with a difference, try taking one of the heritage TECO Line Streetcars. These run from Whiting and Franklin Streets, following the Garrison Channel all the way to Ybor City, Tampa's famed Latin Quarter.
Besides the Gasparilla Children's Parade (first held in 1947), the Sant'Yago Knight Parade (first held in 1974), and the many galas and balls hosted by individual krewes, Tampa has long hosted a variety of other Gasparilla-related events from approximately January through April. One of the first was the Gasparilla Open, a PGA Tour stop which was sponsored by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla from 1932 to 1935. The 1935 edition had the largest prize purse on that year's PGA Tour ($4000), but with the deepening of the Great Depression, the tournament was discontinued thereafter. It returned in 1956 as the Gasparilla Invitational Tournament, an amateur competition which has been held annually ever since.
Other large-scale events held during the Gasparilla season include the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts (established 1970), the Gasparilla Distance Classic (established 1978), the Gasparilla Film Festival (established 2006), and the Gasparilla Music Festival (established 2013). A changing lineup of smaller events held in Tampa during the first months of the year also use the Gasparilla name.
Many of the activities, organizations, events, and businesses that make use of the names "Gasparilla" or "Gaspar" are not affiliated with Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla or the City of Tampa, as these names are not legally controlled by any organization.
The average crowd at the main parade is over 300,000 people, with over 1,000,000 attending at least one Gasparilla event. According to several studies, the Parade of Pirates has a local economic impact of over $22 million, and the combined events bring in over $40 million. Beginning in 2015, Visit Tampa Bay, the local tourist bureau, began a multimillion-dollar promotional campaign in the northern United States, Canada, and Europe to attract more visitors to Tampa during its "Gasparilla Season"