Gather the friends and family for a free, fun tradition returning to downtown Tampa Bay after its pandemic-influenced hiatus. Tampa Riverfest, held annually the first weekend of May, returns Friday, May 6 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturday, May 7 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. This year’s festivities offer a wide range of activities for all ages stretching across the entire span of the Riverwalk.
Foodies will especially love the festival’s Friday night kickoff as the Taste of Riverwalk celebrates the scrumptious tastes and aromas from some of the area’s most popular restaurants at Curtis Hixon Park from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Visitors can purchase food samples and stop by beer tents, the Margarita Bar and dessert trucks throughout the evening. VIP wristbands are also available for purchase. Weather permitting, the food event will be followed by a breathtaking Hot Air Balloon Glow display at 8:30 p.m.
On Saturday, the tasty fare continues at Curtis Hixon Park with the Taco Festival running from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and plenty of family-friendly fun at both parks along the Riverwalk. Also at Curtis Hixon Park, the Florida Wiener Dog Derby will kickoff at 10:00 a.m. with various Dachshund races and contests to be held throughout the day in what has been estimated to be the largest gathering in the state of Dachshunds and their pet parents. But that doesn’t mean other pups should feel left out. Following the Doxie fun, other small dogs and mutts will have the opportunity to take part in their own pooch games, raffles, auctions and other contests.
At Water Works Park, visitors can take part in the Urban Kai Paddle Invasion and travel to the festival that morning by paddleboard, surfski or outrigger canoe. After that, join a donation-based session of Yoga in the Park between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. then take one of several Lantern Workshops being held throughout the afternoon. Saturday evening at Water Works Park wraps up with a Lantern Parade at 8:00 p.m. Guests will have another chance to catch the Hot Air Balloon Glow on Saturday night at Curtis Hixon Park starting at 8:30 p.m.
One constant theme over the weekend will be celebrating the joy of music with live music playing throughout the entire festival as part of a full concert series spotlighting talented local bands on the mainstage at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park including scheduled artists Stereo FM, No Filter, Betty Fox Band, Caliente Band, Vision, and Actual Bank Robbers. This year’s lineup also features some special performances from students of Hillsborough County Schools and the Tampa Bay Pride Band’s spring concert. Riverfest closes with headliner Frequency Band who plays from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Admission is free to the festival. Taste of Riverwalk food sample wristbands are available based on quantity of samples the guest wishes to purchase. For example, a wristband for 3 samples costs $15 and for 5 samples $20. Similarly, wristbands will be available for tacos during the Taco Festival such as 3 Tacos for $15 or 5 Tacos for $20. Those who wish to purchase tickets to visit the VIP hospitality tent can purchase for one specific day or for both days. The VIP hospitality tent will be open from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. both days of Riverfest Event organizers suggest purchasing food wristbands and VIP tickets online prior to the event. Online sales will end 24 hours before Riverfest, but if not sold out, wristbands will be sold at the event, as well.
Parking is available at various spots along the Riverwalk. Near Curtis Hixon Park, on street parking is free on weekends and after 6 p.m. on weekdays. Public garages will be available as well as area water taxi services, bike share services and the TECO Line Streetcar which is free and stops by the park every 15 minutes.
For the latest news about this year’s RiverFest as well as a helpful map to the activities, check the Friends of the Riverwalk website by clicking here. Readers can also follow along with up-to-the-minute updates at the event’s Facebook page. Photos of previous Riverfest for editorial purposes only, all rights reserved. Content written by Chris Kuhn for Destination Tampa Bay.
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