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The Biggest Festivals in Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay always has something going on. And so, it should come as no surprise that the area is home to many incredible festivals. Instead of reading about the biggest festivals in Tampa Bay after they happen, attend one for yourself. 

Gasparilla Music Festival

Tampa Bay is a mecca for music-lovers. Some of the most well-known musicians perform at concerts in the area. But you don’t need to attend a concert to watch a memorable performance. If you go to the Gasparilla Music Festival, you can celebrate Tampa’s music scene and see some incredible performances.

For over seven years, this festival has been attracting musicians and spectators alike to Tampa Bay. In 2019, there were over 40 acts on four different stages. But like all good festivals, this one isn’t only about the music. Local eateries, like Malio’s Steakhouse and Ella’s Folk Art Cafe featured their best dishes. One particularly popular dish was the chicken and waffle cone, but there were many others that impressed visitors.

A family-friendly event, this music festival has a long list of kid’s activities. For four years in a row, it was ranked as the Best Festival in Tampa Bay. The proceeds from the event go towards local youth art and music programs. 

Thunder by the Bay

Because of its scenic roads and beautiful beaches, Sarasota is the perfect place for a motorcycle ride. When you attend Thunder by the Bay, you can celebrate one of the area’s most popular motorcycle events. 

Thunder by the Bay started out over 20 years ago. Although it was held in Lakewood Ranch one year, the festival usually takes place in downtown Sarasota. It’s a three-day festival that celebrates motorcycles, music, and the local community. After the event, some of the proceeds go towards Suncoast Charities for Children.

Each year, the festival attracts over 40,000 people. It’s very different from the Daytona motorcycle festival, as it’s more family-friendly. In the past, celebrity bike builders Eddie Trotta, Kate O’Shea, and Brad Ruel attended the event. Celebrities from the “Deadliest Catch” and “Knievel’s Wild Ride” also showed up. Go for the music, the motorcycles, or the ambiance and you won’t be disappointed. 

International Cuban Sandwich Festival

Florida is a hot-spot for Cuban culture. At the International Cuban Sandwich Festival, you can get a real taste for that culture. The free family festival highlights Cuban food, music, and more. 

This festival usually takes place at Centennial Park in Ybor City. One of the most popular events is the Cuban sandwich contest. In an attempt to earn the title of best Cuban sandwich, vendors gather from all over the world and make their best sandwiches. There are over 20 vendors who participate. As a visitor, you can buy samples of those sandwiches and enjoy other Cuban dishes.

There’s also dancing and live music. The best way to describe the festival is a vibrant display of Cuban culture. If you decide to attend, be prepared to do some of your own dancing. 

Sugar Sand Festival

The sand in Clearwater Beach is often described as sugar sand. While you might enjoy the sand by sitting in a beach chair and looking at the water, there’s an even better way to experience the beach. The Sugar Sand Festival features the world’s most talented sand artists. As a visitor, you can stroll the beach and look at their incredible works of art. 

There are several sand sculpting competitions in Florida, but few of them rival the Sugar Sand Festival. For good reason, this is one of the biggest festivals in Tampa Bay. It takes place on about 21,000 square feet of sand. As you walk around the grounds, you get an opportunity to watch the artists make their creations.

The festival also features live music, kid’s play areas, and sand sculpting classes. After you learn a few tricks, you can try to make your own artwork in the sand. Other unique events at the festival include a cornhole tournament, a sunset dance party, and a dog show. 

Brooksville Blueberry Festival

Festival was the brainchild of a local restaurateur named John Lee. In its first year, the festival was a major success. It attracted people from all over to the Hernando County city. Now, the annual festival continues to grow.

The festival is a two-day event that takes place in downtown Brooksville. As both a food and music festival, there’s ample entertainment. Over 200 vendors gather for spectators and local non-profit organizations sell blueberry-inspired dishes. You can find blueberry desserts as well as fresh blueberries. If you want to step outside of the box, you can treat yourself to blueberry beer, blueberry soap, or blueberry bread. You can even view some blueberry artwork.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

For a real adrenaline rush, you should attend the Firestone Grand Prix Festival. Located in scenic St. Petersburg, the festival is the season opener for the IndyCar Series. Generally, the festival and race occurs in March.

The race isn’t on a typical race car track. Instead, it’s a temporary course that takes drivers down the streets of downtown St. Pete. The festival itself lasts for a week and features a long list of activities. If you attend, you can expect to see some celebrity athletes. Make your visit more memorable and attend a driver autograph session. Or, quench your thirst in the beer garden. 

Sarasota Chalk Festival

Since 2010, Sarasota has been home to one of the largest pavement art festivals in the U.S. Every year since its inception, the festival has featured international pavement artists. They make 3D paintings on the sidewalk and bring art to life.

If you’re not a famous artist, you can still choose to participate. The festival encourages people of all skill levels to sign up and create their own masterpieces. Whether or not you decide to create something, you can enjoy listening to live music, drinking in the beer garden, or shopping from the vendors. It’s fun for everyone.

Enjoying the Biggest Festivals in Tampa Bay

Get out and have some fun! Mark your calendar with some of the area’s biggest festivals and start enjoying yourself.

For a full list of Florida Pride Festivals, click here.


**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.


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