TAMPA, FLA. (MARCH 27, 2023) – Tampa Riverfest returns for its seventh year and kicks off on Friday, May 5 and continues Saturday, May 6 along the Tampa Riverwalk, recently named one of the best riverwalks in America by USAToday’s 10Best Travel Awards.
The annual event features two days of free, family-friendly events showcasing Tampa’s cultural institutions, local music and restaurants. This year, Friends of the Riverwalk, which produces and hosts Riverfest, is delighted to welcome Publix Super Markets as the presenting sponsor.
Riverfest offers activities all along the Tampa Riverwalk, including the colorful, illuminated 2nd Annual Riverfest Lantern Parade, which celebrates the conclusion of the two-day event.
“Riverfest is a celebration of our Riverwalk and what it means to our community,” said David DeVaney, Friends of the Riverwalk Board Chairman. “We’re thrilled to offer such a wide range of activities for festival goers of all ages to experience. Friends of the Riverwalk is committed to hosting first class, free public events along the Riverwalk for all of Tampa Bay to enjoy.”
This year’s festivities begin on Friday, May 5 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. with live music and a lineup of popular tribute bands on the main stage at Curtis Hixon Park, along with Taste of the Riverwalk from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Taste of the Riverwalk showcases the variety of dining options that are available along the Riverwalk and in downtown Tampa. With the purchase of a wristband, festival goers can enjoy samples of signature dishes from local restaurants.
On Saturday, May 6, continue the Cinco de Mayo celebration with RiverFiesta. A large tent will be set up at Curtis Hixon Park offering a selection of tacos, bowls and nachos for purchase beginning at 11 a.m. The day’s festivities kick off at 9 a.m. with Yoga in the Park, a donation-based class for all levels taught by Robin LC with The Calm Collective. At 10 a.m. it’s time to head to the races with the Florida Wiener Dog Derby Guardians of the Galaxy. Back by popular demand, dogs compete in a running race and other fun contests that are open to all dog breeds including a free costume contest. One of the largest Dachshund gatherings in the state, the festivities will include games, raffles, foster dogs and more.
There’s also live music on the main stage from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., along with several food trucks with a variety of treats.
The fun continues at Water Works Park on Saturday with the Urban Kai Paddle Invasion and races starting at 8:30 a.m. Racers can choose to race on a long (6 mile) or short (2 mile) course as they compete for awards.
New for 2023 will be the Riverfest Market by Tampa Bay Markets at Water Works Park. Approximately 35 local vendors will display items available for sale from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Food trucks and a beer tent will be on hand at the park with a variety of tasty offerings for purchase from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and throughout the day, student musicians from Hillsborough County Schools will perform from 11 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with a spring concert featuring the Tampa Bay Pride Band starting at 6:30 p.m.
Building on the success of last year’s inaugural Lantern Parade, a workshop to help participants create their own lantern designs to carry along the festive parade route will take place at Water Works Park from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday May 6. Beginning April 1, DIY lantern kits will be available for purchase online from Friends of the Riverwalk or in person at the Unlock Tampa Bay Visitor’s Center located at 201 N. Franklin Street. Large lanterns will cost $25 and small lanterns will cost $15. On April 17 and April 27, local artists will host in-person lantern-making workshops at Armature Works from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $35 and covers supplies, instruction, and light refreshments. Registration for the workshops is required and can be found online.
With their colorful lantern creations in hand, participants are invited to join the joyful Riverfest Lantern Parade, a one-mile march along the Riverwalk from Water Works Park to Curtis Hixon Park featuring music and local marching bands beginning at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 6.
When the sun sets on both Friday and Saturday night, Curtis Hixon Park will light up with one of Riverfest’s signature events, the hugely popular Hot Air Balloon Glow, which begins at 8:30 p.m., weather permitting. The balloon glow is sponsored by Coastal Construction and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
All events and entertainment at Riverfest are free and open to the public. Taste of the Riverwalk and RiverFiesta require a wristband purchase for food sampling. A portion of each purchase will be donated to Friends of the Riverwalk. Taste of the Riverwalk and RiverFiesta wristbands are available for purchase in advance online at www.thetampariverfest.com beginning March 10. Wristbands are $15 for 3 items, $20 for 5 items. Online food sales will end 24 hours before the start of Riverfest, and if not sold out, wristbands will be available at the event.
A VIP tent hosted by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, JW Marriott and the Tampa Marriott Water Street and designed by Ashley, will be available from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday offering complimentary beer, cocktails, soda, water, light bites, front row access to the mainstage and access to executive restrooms. Friday night VIP tickets include a wristband for five Taste of the Riverwalk samples. Tickets are day specific and cost $75 for Friday night, $100 for Saturday, or $150 for both days and will also be available for purchase beginning March 10 at www.thetampariverfest.com. Online sales end 24 hours before the start of Riverfest, and if not sold out, wristbands will be available at the event. Attendees must be 21 or older to purchase VIP tickets and enter the VIP tent.
Event sponsors for Riverfest include: Ashley, Busch Gardens, Coastal Construction, GTE Financial, Hillsborough County Cultural Assets Program, Hotel Tampa Riverwalk, iHeart Media, Life Guard Imaging, Marriott Water Street Hotel, Matt Law, Publix Super Markets, Splitsville, Tampa History Center, Tampa Bay Markets, Tampa Bay Rays and Rowdies, Teachers Federal Credit Union, Urban Kai, Valley National Bank, Visit Tampa Bay, Wade Trim.
For a complete schedule of RiverFest events, visit www.thetampariverwalk.com.
About Friends of the Riverwalk
Friends of the Riverwalk is a privately funded non-profit that supports special events, activities and beautification efforts along the Tampa Riverwalk. Working in partnership with the city, its mission is to develop, activate and promote Tampa’s downtown waterfront. For more information, visit www.TheTampaRiverwalk.com.