RiverFest 2016: Mayor's Mac & Cheese Throwdown, Brunch Festival and more

A breakdown of can't-miss food and drink during Tampa's upcoming RiverFest 2016.

The Mayor's Mac & Cheese Throwdown has been drawing crowds to Curtis Hixon since 2014. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
The Mayor's Mac & Cheese Throwdown has been drawing crowds to Curtis Hixon since 2014.

The Tampa Riverwalk's annual party, RiverFest 2016, will return Saturday and Sunday to celebrate local cultural institutions and family-friendly attractions. The mostly free event, which Fido and the kids are welcome to attend, will also have plenty of food and drink happenings — new and returning — to keep folks full throughout the weekend.

Along the Riverwalk's 2.4-mile stretch, from Water Works Park in Tampa Heights to the Channel District's Florida Aquarium, here's where to indulge:

Brorein Street Bridge Grab a bite from roaming food vendors or hydrate at any RiverFest beverage location while strolling this over-water portion of the Riverwalk. Sat. and Sun., 11 a.m. Brorein Street, Tampa.

MacDill Park Animal adoptions, vendors and healthy pet activities from SPCA Florida will be found here, but stay for the return of The Plank, Tampa's first pop-up waterfront bar. Sat. and Sun., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 100 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa.

Mayor's Mac & Cheese Throwdown Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s yearly food battle will again pit mac and cheese recipes from area restaurants against each other at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Tasting wristbands may be purchased online for $13; they land guests five mac samples as well as a free Pirate Water Taxi ride to additional RiverFest drop-off locations. Those with $30 VIP wristbands will receive all the above, plus three drinks and fast-pass access to the water taxi throughout the weekend. $13 for general admission, $30 for VIP. Sat., 4-7:30 p.m. 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa.

Riverwalk Brunch Festival Check out a smorgasbord of items inspired by the most important meal of the weekend: brunch. At Curtis Hixon, guests will pair beer and classic brunch beverages with the fare, while listening to live tunes. Similar to the Throwdown, three dishes and free water taxi rides come with general admission to the new event, and VIP tickets get attendees three drinks, three dishes and fast-pass water taxi access. $17 for general admission, $40 for VIP. Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa.

Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Races Be a spectator, with food and drink in hand, during this annual boat race in Garrison Channel. The event, now in its 13th year, takes place at Cotanchobee Park. Sat., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 601 Old Water St., Tampa.

Water Works Park Alongside theater, local live music and other entertainment, the park will feature Bay area food trucks, beer and soda. Bring a chair or blanket to relax on the lawn. Sat. and Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 1710 N. Highland Ave., Tampa.

RiverFest acts as a fundraising program for the nonprofit Friends of the Riverwalk.

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