Tampa Riverfest returns to the Bay Area Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6, 2023, as part of an annual celebration of the Tampa Riverwalk and the many recreational activities the City’s signature landmark affords visitors. Riverfest is free and held annually on the first weekend each May, extending across multiple parks through which the Riverwalk weaves in downtown Tampa. This year’s event promises to offer two days of live music, food trucks, beer tents, and plenty of family-friendly fun.
Wrapped within the RiverFest celebration are two scrumptious food events, Taste of Riverwalk taking place Friday night and RiverFiesta! on Saturday. Visitors can sample cuisine from a variety of local restaurants as part of the fourth annual Taste of the Riverwalk, a ticketed event on Friday, May 5, 2023 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in Curtis Hixon Park. Guests can purchase a wristband for access to the food tent online and if not sold out, wristbands will be available for purchase at the event. Taste Stations representing participating restaurants will be set up under the event tent. Guests can choose from a 3 Tastes wristband for $15 or a 5 Tastes wristband for $20. Click here to purchase wristbands online. Wristbands purchased online will be available at will-call during the event on Friday and are non-refundable.
On Saturday, Riverfest ushers in a new event to delight foodies – RiverFiesta! Also held at Curtis Hixon Park, RiverFiesta! will celebrate the delicious and spicier side of cuisine with tacos, bowls and nachos available for purchase via wristband. Similar to the Taste event, guests can purchase wristbands for 3 Tacos/Bowls/Nachos for $15 or 5 Tacos/Bowls/Nachos for $20. Families stopping by to check out some of RiverFest’s fun activities will appreciate the chance to nibble throughout the day on their favorite fiesta fare. The RiverFiesta! stations will be open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Throughout the two-day RiverFest event, visitors will get to enjoy a wide range of activities. The Riverfest Market will be open Saturday, May 6 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Water Works Park. Here, visitors get an opportunity to stroll through the marketplace of local vendors and browse handcrafted items and other goods.
For those looking for more physical activities, Urban Kai is hosting its Paddle Invasion 2023 when those on paddleboard, surfski and outrigger canoes are encouraged to join in for two river race events – a 2-mile or a 6-mile race. Events will be held Saturday, May 6 from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at WaterWorks Park.
Meanwhile, at nearby Curtis Hixon Park, yoga enthusiasts are invited to Yoga in the Park with The Calm Collective on Saturday, May 6 at 9 a.m. This popular activity returns to RiverFest as guests attend an hour-long morning yoga session led by Robin LC of The Calm Collective. Classes do not require registration but visitors should bring along a mat and any other yoga accessories they might need. Classes are suitable for all levels and donations are welcomed.
One of the more unique events held during Riverfest is its Lantern Parade. This yearly tradition invites participants of all ages to create and decorate their own paper lanterns and take an evening stroll together with their lanterns Saturday, May 6 starting at 8:30 p.m. from Water Works Park and finishing at Curtis Hixon Park. Basic kits as well as manatee and sea turtle-shaped lantern kits are available for purchase on the event website for $20-$25. Lantern kits also will be available for purchase onsite May 6 in Water Works Park from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Those interested in getting instructional tips for designing their lanterns can attend a Lantern Making Workshop in partnership with Armature Works for a small fee. Details are available at the RiverFest website.
Another memorable RiverFest highlight is Hot Air Balloon Glow, held nightly both evenings at City’s River Curtis Hixon Park. Top off the evening with a spectacular sight as multiple hot air balloons take off to light up the sky during sunset. Balloons are scheduled to be released at 8:30 p.m.
However visitors choose to experience RiverFest, one thing is certain: music will always be playing. This year’s concert lineup features various cover bands and artists who will celebrating the music of Katy Perry, No Doubt and Journey on Friday night, and dishing out the hits of top country and rock stars like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Prince, Queen and more on Saturday.
A VIP Hospitality Tent will be open in Curtis Hixon Park over the two days for those who wish to purchase a wristband for special admission benefits. VIP Tent hours will be Friday, May 5 from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturday, May 6, 4:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. A VIP wristband costs $75 for Friday and includes 5 Tastes for the Taste of the Riverwalk; $100 for Saturday; and $150 for entry to the tent both days. VIP access allows guests to partake in complimentary beer, soda, water and cocktails, as well as light food and front row seating at any of the live concerts. Only guests 21 years or older can enter the VIP Hospitality Tent. Wristbands can be purchased online and if not sold out, will be sold onsite during RiverFest.
Guests can use downtown Tampa parking garages which are near event festivities including William F. Poe Garage and Fort Brooke Garage, both near Curtis Hixon Park, located at 600 N. Ashley Drive. Lots and garages are also available at the Heights, Armature Works and the 220 for those planning to spend much of their time at Water Works Park, located at 1701 N. Highland Avenue.
For the complete schedule of Tampa Riverfest events and to purchase tickets for events requiring wristband access, visit the festival website by clicking here. To get the latest updates regarding concerts, participating restaurants and other vendors at this year’s festivities, follow Riverfest at its Facebook and Instagram pages.
Story written by Chris Kuhn exclusively for Destination Tampa Bay ™. Photos courtesy of Tacy Briggs-Tronocoso & PamElla Lee Photography unless otherwise specified. Feature image is from a previous Riverfest event.