After a two-year hiatus, Riverfest returns to downtown Tampa next month

This hyperlocal, weekend-long festival features live music, food trucks, hot air balloon shows, a lantern parade and more.

click to enlarge TAMPA RIVERFEST / FACEBOOK
Tampa Riverfest / Facebook
The phrase “back and better than ever” can sometimes be an exaggeration, but the return of Tampa’s beloved Riverfest is worthy of the superlative.

Fully equipped with a floating lantern parade, hot air balloon shows, live music and a taco festival—Riverfest returns to downtown Tampa on Friday-Saturday, May 6-7.

The festival spans almost the entirety of the Riverwalk—which is about 2.5 miles long and covers a large portion of downtown Tampa’s waterfront views—and showcases many of the city’s cultural institutions, restaurants and local talent.
In addition to Riverwalk’s ionic hot air balloon show and  first-ever lantern parade on the Hillsborough River, other free and family-friendly events at the upcoming festival include a weiner dog derby, a “Paddle Invasion” hosted by local paddle board shop Urban Kai, and yoga in the park.

With Curtis Hixon Waterfront park acting as a main hub, Riverfest runs from 4 p.m.-10 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. -10 p.m. on Saturday. Admission to Tampa’s Riverfest is completely free, although registration for certain events is required.

A full list of events and when they happen can be found at thetampariverwalk.com.

Live music— happening both nights on a mainstage at The Curt—will feature a wide variety of Tampa Bay-based acts like Kyle Schroeder's Sax N’ Beats, Raydio, Redhouse Trio, Spazmatics, Stormbringer and the Ultimate Lenny Kravitz Experience.

Food-centric activities include Friday’s Taste of the Riverwalk sampling event and Saturday’s TacoFest. Both events require wristbands to enter, which start at $15 for a trio of samples from participating restaurants. All tacos—which range from cilantro lime chicken to birria—will be provided by SaltBlock Catering, while the vendor lineup for the Taste of the Riverwalk tent is yet to be announced.

There will also be a wide variety of food trucks and beer tents scattered throughout the Riverwalk as well.

And if you’d like to release your own lantern at the floating parade, registration is required via  thetampariverwalk.com. There are a few DIY lantern-making workshops happening at the Straz Center and Armature Works before Riverfest, or you can purchase an at-home lantern kit directly from the festival’s website. The parade takes place on Saturday at 8:30 p.m, as the lanterns will float from Water Works Park to Curtis Hixon Park.

Next month marks the first Riverfest to happen since 2019, as the celebration is typically held during the first weekend of May. The very first Riverfest took place in 2015, as the hyperlocal celebration has been expanding since. 

For more information on this year’s installment of Riverfest, visit thetampariverwalk.com or its Facebook page at @tampariverfest, as more details will be announced as the festival nears closer.

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