This weekend's Gasparilla guide to rum, grub

Where to spend Tampa's annual Gasparilla tradition without going hungry or thirsty.

click to enlarge Members of last year's Gasparilla crowd, decked out in colorful beads. - CHIP WEINER
Chip Weiner
Members of last year's Gasparilla crowd, decked out in colorful beads.

As José Gaspar prepares to invade the city of Tampa for the annual Gasparilla Pirate Fest, locals should get a head start on their plans to avoid getting stuck among thousands of people with no food, or worse… no pirate-approved beverages.

Here's a guide for seasoned Gasparilla veterans and rookies alike on where to go for the ultimate viewing, eating and drinking experience. All the events take place Saturday unless otherwise noted.

Pre-Gasparilla at Seminole Hard Rock For those eager for the weekend to arrive, fear not. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is hosting a couple of events to hold you over. One, held at the on-site Council Oak Steaks & Seafood on Thursday, will be a Gasparilla-themed Mount Gay Rum pairing dinner. Each guest will receive a bottle of Mount Gay XO Extra Old, and tickets may be purchased by phone. $185. 6:30 p.m. 5223 N. Orient Road, Tampa, 813-627-6630.

Gasparilla Invasion Brunch Get a ready-for-the-rest-of-the-drinks belly with this breakfast buffet at the Tampa Convention Center, a prime viewing spot for the arrival of Gaspar. The meal will include live entertainment and a cash bar. Tickets are available online, and reserved parade seating should be purchased separately. $75-9510 a.m. 333 S. Franklin St., Tampa.

Gasparilla Invasion Brunch Cruise For a fresh view of the invasion this year, Yacht StarShip will be sailing alongside the flotilla. A brunch buffet will be served, along with a DJ and an open bar, to kick off the festivities. The cruise returns in the early afternoon, leaving plenty of time to get to the next celebration. Find tickets online$89.95-$149.95. 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. 603 Channelside Drive, Tampa.

Jackson's Gasparilla Invasion Another year, another Gasparilla bash at Jackson's Bistro Bar & Sushi. The waterfront location — whose spacious patio is ideal for witnessing the invasion — will be open late for folks who want to stay put all day. Portable bars, cold beer and other beverages will keep groups hydrated, and when hunger strikes, hot dogs, hamburgers, salty snacks, snow cones, pizza (by the latest Jackson's venture, Slice & Rice), and the full menu will be on hand. Reservations for cabanas or special viewing areas may be made by phone. Free, money for food and drinks. 10 a.m. 601 S. Harbour Island Blvd., Tampa, 813-549-8886.

The Deck: A Gasparilla Event Take advantage of this viewing option from the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel. Burgers and dogs, Cuban sandwiches and more will be available, so no need to pack a lunch. Drink specials will include Captain Morgan, Budweiser, Bud Light and Pirate Punch, and music by DJ Felix Indahouse will keep the party going. Guests may access the deck through Tampa's Riverwalk, or from the parade route off Ashley Drive. Free, money for food and drinks. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. 200 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa.

Tarpon Turtlerilla Tarpon Springs is also getting in on the Tampa tradition. Head to the Tarpon Turtle Grill & Marina for $5 rum drinks, a pirate boat parade, live music, a Captain Morgan lookalike contest and more. Free, money for drinks. 3 p.m. 1513 Lake Tarpon Ave., Tarpon Springs, 727-940-5360.

Official Gasparilla After-Party When the invasion is said and done but something inside you isn’t ready for the festivities to end, Ferg's Live — where Captain Morgan will hold his signature toast at 6:30 p.m. — is the answer. There will be live music and $5 Captain cocktails to help the crowd Gasparilla its way into Sunday. Free, money for drinks. 6:30 p.m. 490 Channelside Drive, Tampa, 813-443-8403.

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