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Top 10 things to do in Florida this January, Part 2

6. Celebrate Gasparilla in Tampa, FL

I did Gasparilla for the first time in 2013, and I was determined to do it right. This pirate-themed festival draws an average of 300,000 people into downtown Tampa each year, making the journey, the parking, and the viewing a challenge. But there are ways to make things easier on yourself, like starting your day early with a ticket to the Gasparilla brunch at the Tampa Convention Center. For $98 + tax you get brunch and a great view of the invasion. With a combo brunch/parade ticket, $128 + tax, you also get a guaranteed bleacher seat to watch the parade from. On a budget? Skip everything I just mentioned, drive into Tampa early and scout out a nice spot to stand along the parade route. There are a lot of fantastic ways to enjoy Gasparilla, for free or in luxury.

Gasparilla is more than just the January 28th parade of pirates – it’s more like a season. The 2017 Gasparilla season begins on January 21st with the Children’s Gasparilla and doesn’t end until March 4th, when the pirates head back out to sea. Gaspiralla-related events during this time include the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, the Gasparilla Music Festival, the Gasparilla Film Festival, the Gasparilla Distance Classic, and the Knight Parade. Here are the January Gasparilla events:

January 21, 2017: The Children’s Gasparilla

Gasparilla often brings a Mardis Gras-type atmosphere to downtown Tampa, but kids like pirates too. In 1947, a compromise was struck, and the city started holding an alcohol-free “children’s Gasparilla” the week before the main event. The Children’s Gasparilla features a children’s parade, a pre-schooler’s stroll, a Gasparilla air invasion, and a “piratechnic” display sponsored by McDonald’s.

For additional details, go to:

January 28, 2017: Gasparilla Pirate Fest

In the adult Gasparilla, pirates invade the city of Tampa via the Seddon Channel. Every year about a thousand (sometimes more) boats participate, creating the largest boat parade in the nation.

the invasion
The invasion

After the invasion, the pirates parade through downtown Tampa on giant floats along with marching bands, cheerleaders, mermaids, and more.

the parade
The parade

For additional details, go to:

If you want to skip the crowds, but still see pirates, I recommend the Tarpon Turtle’s Turtlerilla, where the main event is a pirate-themed boat parade on Lake Tarpon (if they do it again this year).

7. Take a weekend trip down to South Florida

map from Eivaisla

Winter is a great time of year to spend a weekend in south Florida without melting. If you were looking for the perfect time to visit Miami, Key West, or the Everglades, it’s right now. In case you need another reason, here’s a list of festivals/events in South Florida happening in the month of January:

  • Uncorked Key Largo and Islamorada Food & Wine Festival in Key Largo, January 5-15
  • Art Deco Weekend in Miami Beach, January 13-15. Miami Beach’s Art Deco District is one of the biggest attractions in the state of Florida. Art Deco, as an architectural style, was popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s (The Jazz Age). In Miami Beach, over 800 buildings were built in this style between 1923 and 1943. You can tour Miami Beach’s Art Deco district any time of the year, but during Art Deco Weekend you can also enjoy art exhibits, a retro fashion show, a classic car show, and live music. For additional details, go here:
  • The Florida Keys Seafood Festival in Key West, January 14-15

8. St Augustine Nights of Lights

They call this time of year the Nights of Lights in St. Augustine. From the Saturday before Thanksgiving to the last day of January, St. Augustine’s historic district shines from the light of 3 million tiny white lights. National Geographic named it one of the top 10 holiday lighting displays in the world two years in a row. I saw it years ago (before I had a fancy camera and took decent photographs) on New Year’s eve and it was beautiful. There are about a dozen ways you can see the lights – either by foot, by boat, by trolley, or by horse-drawn carriage.

For additional details, go to:

If you need/want some extra help planning your trip to St. Augustine, check out the post I wrote to commemorate St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary. I list some popular St. Augustine attractions and websites here:

9. Winter Music Series & Festivals

The weather is still pleasant enough to attend outdoor concerts in Florida this time of year. Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards, in central Florida, holds a concert every Saturday afternoon in the month of January. In the Tampa Bay area, the Sunshine Music Festival will be taking place on Saturday, January 14th in St. Pete’s Vinoy Park.

January 7, 14, 21, 28: Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards Winter Music Series, Clermont, FL

Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards might be the only vineyard in Florida worth visiting. After all, Florida is known for its citrus – not its grapes. The Travel Channel listed Lakeridge as one of Florida’s 4 Finest Wineries – only two out of these four wineries actually grows grapes, and Lakeridge is one of them. Lakeridge also hosts quality festivals throughout the year, including a seafood festival in March, a harvest festival in June, and a winter music series in January.

For additional details, go to:

January 14: Sunshine Music Festival, Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, FL

This year, the Sunshine Music Festival has secured the beautiful waterfront Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, FL as a venue. The festival will bring an eclectic blend of music to Vinoy Park, including Blues, R&B, Pop, and jam bands. The Tedeschi Trucks Band, a blues rock band based in Jacksonville, FL, is headlining the event.

For additional details, go to:

10. Gallery Openings & Art Shows

It’s always a great time to catch an art exhibit. Here’s a list of opening receptions and ongoing shows in the Tampa Bay area this month:

Maira Pinto’s Clash of the Environment, Oil on canvas

The TECO Public Art Gallery in downtown Tampa is having their season opener on January 26th, with Maira Leticia Rivera Pinto’s free Talk and Tour, from 5:30-8pm. Maira Pinto paints about her love of nature and her concern for the environment in vibrant colors. The exhibit will be on display from January 6th through February 28th in the TECO Public Art Gallery, at 702 North Franklin Street, in Tampa, FL.

In North Pinellas, Maya Eventov’s work will be on display at Syd Entel Galleries in Safety Harbor from January 21st through February 18th. Maya is an internationally acclaimed palette knife painter, originally from Leningrad. She now lives and Canada and paints landscapes from around the world. You can meet her during the free opening reception, on January 21st from 6-8pm at Syd Entel Galleries on 247 Main Street, in Safety Harbor, FL.

The work of famous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, is now on display at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL. You may see her work, and a re-creation of her garden, there through April 17, 2017. General Admission is $24/person. For additional details, go to, and check out this excellent article from Julie Garisto over at Creative Pinellas to learn more about Frida Kahlo:

Henthorne’s black-and-white waterscape photography will be on display at the HCC Ybor School of Visual and Performing Arts Gallery from January 5th through the 31st. In has latest project, “Between Worlds,” Henthorne collaborated with earthscape artist Andres Amador to capture “the junction of Earth and Ocean.” Henthorne is a Tampa local, and you can meet him at the opening reception on January 12th, from 4:30pm to 7:30pm. For additional details, go to:

Pets made out of paper mâché. Intrigued? If so, then you might want to check out Joyce Curvin’s “Art Official Pets” at the Dunedin Fine Art Center this month. Joyce will be talking about her artistic process at the Dunedin Fine Art Center (DFAC) at 12pm on January 12th as part of DFAC’s “Coffee and Conversation” series. For additional details, and to see some of Joyce’s work, go to:

Did you miss Part 1? You can still read it here:

Jennifer Ring

Jennifer Ring is a freelance writer & photographer living in the Tampa Bay area, on Florida’s west coast, home to some of the best beaches in the state.