The town of Gulfport was originally named Disston City in 1884 when Hamilton Disston purchased land in the area. The United States Postal Service would not recognize the name as it conflicted with a town in Hillsborough County. Instead, it was named Bonifacio. In 1890, the town name was changed to Veteran City. In 1910, the name officially changed to Gulfport.
Gulfport is distinguished by its high concentration of artisans inspired by the intense light and tropical scenery. A celebration the first Friday and third Saturday of each month called “Art Walk” attracts locals and tourists. Many street performers, artists and craftspeople show up to create a relaxed cultured atmosphere in the warm balmy evening breezes coming off the beach at the end of the street.
“Old Florida” is a phrase often evoked in describing Gulfport’s waterfront district, with its mix of small-scale cottages and small independent shops, restaurants and other businesses, situated among mature oak trees and brick-paved streets. Gulfport’s recognition as a primary dining destination in Tampa Bay is exemplified by the proximity of over a dozen restaurants within walking distance along a few blocks on or near Beach Blvd.
Tuesdays are Fresh Market days in the Gulfport Waterfront district from 9 am to 3 pm, on Beach Blvd. The Fresh Market showcases fresh produce, cheese, seafood, honey, nuts, baked goods, plants, art and crafts, and local entertainment. The Fresh Market is a year-round event.
Annual festivals include “Get Rescued in Gulfport” on the fourth Saturday of February, a charitable street festival featuring pet rescue organizations from throughout the region, vendors of pet products and demonstrations. SpringFest occurs on the fourth Saturday of March and involves a day devoted to local artists, crafters, live music and more. The July 4th celebration includes a parade, vendors, live music and a fireworks production staged at Williams Pier on the waterfront. Gecko Fest happens on Saturday of each Labor Day weekend and is the largest street festival of the year, including street performers, live music on multiple stages, and food, art and craft vendors.
The Catherine A. Hickman Theater of Gulfport is located on Beach Boulevard at 26th Avenue South and is a venue for live theatrical performances. The nearby Gulfport Senior Center offers activities throughout the week for residents within and outside of the city.
The Gulfport Casino Ballroom, located on the waterfront, is one of the main event venues in the city. The Casino hosts Swing, Salsa, Argentine Tango, and Ballroom Dance events five days a week with a large turnout from all across the Tampa area. The venue also is available for rent to the public and popular for weddings, company parties and functions, and holiday parties. The ballroom features a 5,000-square-foot authentic 1930s style dance floor.
Gulfport Beach offers an attractive swath of sand on Boca Ciega Bay for swimming, sunbathing and family gatherings. Beach pavilions, a bocce ball course, a playground, and jogging circle near the Recreation Center offer amenities for all ages. Teams assemble nearby for beach volleyball, while others enjoy picnics with tots on park swings.
Stetson University College of Law, founded in 1900, is located in Gulfport (having moved there in 1954 from its original location in DeLand).
In 2011 Gulfport was named a finalist by Rand McNally for best food town in the U.S.
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