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Top 20 Events in Tampa Bay in 2020

A Story By

We hope everyone enjoyed 2019, but who’s ready for some of the best events in Tampa Bay coming up this year?

If Mark Twain had a crystal ball, he probably would have said we’d be teleporting by now. While dissolving from event to event on-demand sounds excellent, sadly, most predictions about the year 2020 haven’t come to fruition. 

Our favorite forecast was made in 1911 by a surgeon named Richard Clement Lucas. He told his students that “human feet would become just one giant toe in 2020,” during a lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons in England. 

Hard pass on that one, professor. 

Even though we’re not soaring through cloud-free skies in flying cars or asking our personal robots to empty the dishwasher, something magical is definitely on the horizon.

How could it not be with so many amazing events to look forward to?

Prepare for the ride of a lifetime, friends. The roaring 2020s have a lot to offer.

📷 Gasparilla

Once upon ye time, the illustrious José Gaspar led a pirate invasion throughout the city of Tampa…and for some reason, we haven’t stopped celebrating since.

On January 25, 2020, Tampa Bay residents are invited to channel their inner pirate in honor of Gasparilla’s annual invasion. The entire city will gather along Bayshore Boulevard to admire the nation’s third-largest parade, followed by nearly two months of Gasparilla themed celebrations. From dressing in festive pirate attire to adopting a newfound adoration for spiced rum, this historic tradition promises a season full of not-so-hidden treasures. 

For a preview of the festivities, join UNATION at the Gasparilla Bash on January 10th, located inside of the Rialto Theatre. While the year will be 2020, your vision definitely won’t be after Gasparilla.

Event Details
🗓 JAN 25 | 11:30AM–5:30PM
📍 Bayshore Boulevard

Three words, five syllables, and one huge reason to attend the Florida State Fair: DEEP FRIED OREOS. There are deep-fried twinkies too, and fried cookie dough, and funnel cakes and everything that’s sweet and fair-ly sacred. *See what we did there?*

Established in 1904, The Florida State Fair is everything a notorious fair should be. Vibrantly illuminated Ferris wheels and insanely fast tilt-a-whirls are scattered amongst exotic livestock and ticketed games garnished with oversized teddy bears. It’s basically the American dream, with a cherry on top. 

This year you can bring your friends and family to the fairgrounds anytime between February 6–17, 2020. There will be more than 90 rides, endless entertainment and all the corndogs you could ever eat waiting there to greet you. Don’t forget to scope out the fair’s event calendar before your visit. You’ll find out soon why this is one of the best things to do in 2020.

Event Details
🗓 FEB 6–17 | 9AM–10PM
📍 Florida State Fairgrounds

Plant City is widely known for three things: haunted hotels, its historical ties to Henry B. Plant, and strawberries. In fact, it’s the winter strawberry capital of the world!

The Strawberry Festival is an 11-day fair that brings the community together over livestock shows, carnival rides, and bottomless strawberry shortcakes. Our personal favorite? Their legendary assortment of eating contests. Seriously, the strawberry spaghetti eating contest is not to be missed. 

In 2020, you can also score front row tickets to see artists like Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, and Patti LaBelle perform during the festival. Just a heads up, you’ll be charged a separate ticket fee for headlining artists. The fun begins on  February 27 and runs through March 8, 2020.

It’s the perfect opportunity to people watch and spoil your significant other if they love all things strawberries. #datenight

Event Details
🗓 FEB 27–MAR 8 | 10AM–10PM
📍 Florida Strawberry Festival

One of the best things to do in 2020 is laying on the beach with an ice cold beer, amongst a hand-sculpted sea of sand sculptures.

The Sugar Sand Festival at Pier 60 makes that fantasy a reality. From April 10–26, 2020, attendees can sink their toes into the sand while exploring the festival’s 21,000-square foot exhibit. As you can imagine, watching world-renowned sand artists compete to win “best in show” is a pretty fascinating experience. And even better during sunset. 

Aside from witnessing incredible artists at work, there will be live music, a kids zone, and sculpting classes for those interested in learning the trade.

So, grab a drink at the sand bar, sign up for the festival’s annual cornhole tournament, and meet us there. We’ll be anxiously awaiting the sunset dance party.

Event Details
🗓 APR 10–26 | 9AM–5PM
📍 Pier 60

Community is the heartbeat of every city. It’s the place that sparks joy in ourselves and each other. The thing that never fails to bring us together. And the feeling that makes a city feel like a home. Localtopia pays homage to the people, places, and businesses that make St. Petersburg’s community truly special. 

From 10 AM–5 PM on February 22, 2020, you and your crew can support more than 200 local makers and merchants in Williams Park. Look forward to a day full of eating the best local bites, shopping at small business pop-ups and jamming out to bands built by St. Pete natives. The best part? It’s basically free to enter. There’s a $5 suggested donation at every entrance that “helps the Localtopia team spread local love.”

We recommend grabbing an Uber instead of driving–local parking garage fees can add up fast. 

Event Details
🗓 FEB 22 | 10AM–5PM
📍 Williams Park

FORE! On March 16–22, 2020 the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor will be home to Tampa’s PGA Tour golfers. If you’re not familiar with the Valspar Championship, it’s a life-changing experience for both competing golfers and local nonprofit organizations. Since its inaugural year, the tournament has generated over $43 million for Tampa-based charities. 

As a spectator, you can hang in the Publix® Chillounge in between shaking hands and quietly applauding backswings. Frenchy’s will be hosting a pool party this year, too. The tournament is a nationally televised event covered by NBC Sports and Golf Channel. So, whatever you do, be sure to obey the fan code of conduct. 😉

Score your ticket here for one of the best things to do in 2020. 

Event Details
🗓 MAR 16–22 | 2PM–6PM
📍 Innisbrook Resort

Start. Your. Engines. The annual Firestone Grand Prix kicks off in St. Petersburg on March 13, 2020. As one of the most respected motorsport outings in North America, this adrenaline-packed event attracts people from all over the country.  

The IndyCar Series race takes place on a waterfront course that weaves in and out of the city, making it exciting to watch from wherever you can find a seat.

For behind the scenes Grand Prix perks, check out the VIP Club ticket. As a VIP, you’ll receive a 3-day pass with suite access, a pass to the IndyCar paddock, one souvenir program, and unlimited food and beverage service. 

Event Details
🗓 MAR 13–15 | 9AM–9PM
📍 Downtown St. Pete

It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. The Gasparilla Music Festival is 100% one of the best things to do in 2020. If you’ve ever danced the night away on Curtis Hixon’s waterfront lawn, then you know exactly what we’re talking about. 

With more than 40 artists rocking out across 5 stages, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The 2020 lineup hasn’t been released yet, but draw a heart around the date in your planner! The festival takes place on March 7 -&8, 2020. 

Early Bird tickets are already on sale.  

Event Details
🗓 MAR 7 & 8 | 11AM–11PM
📍 Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

John’s Pass Seafood Festival is the second-largest seafood festival on the East Coast! That’s a boatload of seafood, friends. 

From October 22–25, 2020, the festival will celebrate its 39th year with fresh seafood from the Gulf, live music, and giving back to the community. They select one lucky nonprofit organization as the festival’s beneficiary every year. So, while you’re downing bowls of paella, you should also know you’re supporting Habitat for Humanity.

The festival doubles as a non-profit organization that supports the City of Madeira Beach and the Pinellas County School district. Over the years it’s become a tourist attraction, a place to get your oceanside grub on and a platform to promote the important role seafood plays in our local economy.

Event Details
🗓 OCT 22–25 | 10AM–6:30PM
📍 John’s Pass

Contrary to popular South Tampa belief, it doesn’t have to be Tuesday to enjoy tacos. In fact, we’d eat them all day long if Acapulco Taqueria served Patron margaritas. On Saturday, February 29, 2020, you can eat your way through the city’s best taco joints in one sitting. 

We don’t know about you, but the Tampa Taco Fest feels like a very delicious version of heaven on Earth to us. There’s a $5 entry fee and we recommend you arrive early (starts at 11 AM). Food is first come first serve!

Taco ‘bout one of the best things to do in 2020.

Event Details
🗓 FEB 29 | 11AM–6PM
📍 Al Lopez Park

10 More Events We Think You'll Love

Because we appreciate each and every one of you, we’ve taken the liberty of categorizing the following events by personal mood. Carry on…

If you wish you lived during Shakespearean times:

For avid Game of Throne fans and anyone who loves gigantic turkey legs, the Bay Area Renaissance Festival is a must. Aside from 16th-century theatrics, interactive activities, and prime people-watching, you can totally dress up like Rapunzel without anyone batting an eye. The festival happens every weekend from February 15–March 27, 2020.

When you need a little culture in your life:

The Dunedin Highland Games & Festival will literally transport you to Scotland. As a guest, you’ll be serenaded by bagpipes played by men in plaid skirts, participate in an array of Scottish competitions, and admire one of Dunedin’s finest parades. And yes, there will be craft beer. The fun begins on April 3, 2020.

If a flight to Greece isn’t in your budget this year, take a trip to Tampa’s favorite Greek Festival. It’s a true celebration of the culture and cuisine of Greece. As their guest, you can snack on homemade specialties like baklava, made by someone’s Yaya. Follow their Facebook page for 2020 event dates and announcements.

Gasparilla International Film Festival is hands down one of the best things to do in 2020, especially if you’re an Indy film buff. What began as a small film festival in 2007 has evolved into a platform for thousands of filmmakers, producers, and actors to showcase their work in Tampa Bay and beyond. Over the course of six days, the festival highlights more than 120 films for your viewing pleasure. Visit their website to pre-select your shows.  

If you live for the front row at live shows :

*Oontz, oontz, oontz.* That’s the sound of the bass that will be flowing through your body as a guest at the Sunset Music Festival. Sunset is designed for EDM lovers who crave dancing under neon lights to the beats of popular electronic artists. Every year this festival brings more than 50,000 music fanatics to Tampa Bay over Memorial Day weekend. The 2020 lineup is available here

For a more chill vibe, check out Reggae Riseup, starting on March 20, 2020. It’s a 2-day concert featuring well-known reggae artists like Dirty Heads and Matisyahu. Both festivals are Bob Marley approved.

To honor loving yourself and others, and have a stellar time doing it:

New year, new you. The Tampa Bay Yoga Festival is the perfect opportunity to stay true to your 2020 New Year’s resolution. This festival is designed to center your mind, body, and soul through a series of yoga classes, breathwork, and mantras. It’s just what the doctor ordered! Dates and details for 2020 are coming soon.

St. Pete Pride is one of the best things to do in 2020 for two reasons. First, it’s an entire weekend dedicated to honoring the beauty of Tampa Bay’s LGBT community. It’s about commemorating the past and paving the way for a future built on loving who you are and who you want. Because that’s a right we all deserve. Secondly, the costumes are lavish, the floats are stunning, and it’s truly a celebration. Join the festivities on June 26–28, 2020.

For anyone who loves a stiff salt-rimmed Margarita: 

The Tampa Bay Margarita & Music Festival is calling your name. This year the festival takes place on Memorial Day weekend, making it an obvious addition to your 3-day staycation. Tickets for general admission are available now, but we vote for snagging the Ultimate V-VIP Experience. For $1,000, you’ll get front row concert access, catered food, lounge seating for four guests (conveniently located in the shade!), unlimited margs and every event perk you can think of. The party starts on May 23rd at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park.

If you want to be your favorite character for the day:

You know Comic Con is in town when you’re sitting in your car at a red light and Wonder Woman and Yoda casually walk by. It’s a full-blown Comic Convention, hence the name, where you can let your imagination run positively wild. Marvel characters, comic book lovers, anime fanatics–you name it and it’s there. Tickets for the July 2020 event are on sale now.

Now that your calendar’s full of the best things to do in 2020, all you can do is sit back and wait for the magic to happen. You can always send us a message on Facebook, Instagram, or download our app (iPhone/Google Play) to stay on top of local events, too. 

P.S.  Tag us at @stufftodointampabay for the chance to get reposted on our page. Our audience of 40k followers is dying to meet you!

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Melissa Santell

Melissa Santell

Melissa is a Tampa Bay-based lifestyle and food writer, with a serious love for cooking Italian Food, photography, and reading her Aquarian horoscope. Melissa’s work has also appeared on Thought Catalogue, Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine, and Creative Loafing. She is a University of Tampa Alumni and was previously named 30 Under 30 by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. When Melissa isn’t writing, she’s flexing her digital marketing muscles for clients or shooting food photos for her upcoming cookbook. Find Melissa on Instagram at @melsantell.

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