Free Comic Book Day, Tropical Heatwave returns, and more of May’s best events around Tampa Bay

Plus, Cinco de Mayo events, theme park updates and more.

click to enlarge Bright Light Social Hour at Tropical Heatwave 2014 - Photo by Tracy May
Photo by Tracy May
Bright Light Social Hour at Tropical Heatwave 2014
The busy summer season is in sight, and the month of May is already packed with festivals, holiday happenings and theme park updates around the Tampa Bay area.

Cinco de Mayo events

While the actual holiday of Cinco de Mayo marks Mexico’s legendary win over the French in 1862, many see the holiday as a chance to indulge in lots of tequila and beloved Mexican food.

In Tampa Bay, there are more than two dozen Cinco de Mayo happenings starting Friday, May 5, with some running through the weekend. There are your standard block parties and bar and restaurant specials, but there’s also micro wrestling (The Blind Goat), a mocktail workshop (Herban Flow), a Cinco dey Mayo themed cruise (Yacht Starship) and free salsa lessons (Casa Tina).

CL Managing Editor Kyla Fields has all the details for the 25 dinner special, bar crawls and fiestas happening this weekend for Cinco de Mayo.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has its Cinco de Mayo and Viva La Música event running May 5-21. The Friday through Sunday celebration features classic and reimagined Latin dishes as well as live music from award-winning Latin artists.

Cinco de Mayo concerts include The Como La Flor Band (May 5), Celia Vie (May 6) and El Gran Combo (May 7).

Food specials include mojo pulled park and chicharrons and arroz y frijoles negros (Fiesta booth), churro sundaes and caramel flan (the Creamery booth) signature cupcakes at Xcursions, fish tacos with spicy slaw and mole beef and sweet plantains (¡Comamos! booth) and a Cocteles & Cereza bar serving margaritas, sangria, mojitos and pisco sours.

The Cinco de Mayo and Viva La Música events are included with park admission, but food and drink purchases are separate. Find more information and tickets at

Free Comic Book Day

After back to back weekends of Record Store Day and Independent Book Store Day, it’s time to celebrate our local comic book shops. Free Comic Book Day is Saturday, May 6, and it’s pretty self-explanatory: a day to get free comics.

The point of the nerdy holiday, however, is to recognize and patronize local comic shops instead of giving more money to Jeff Bezos. And there are a bunch of shops in the Tampa Bay participating in Free Comic Book Day.

Emerald City Comics in Clearwater has an all day party where guests can snag three FCBD comics, shop for 25% off books and graphic novels, enter contests and raffles, meet writer Maria Ingrande Mora (Ranger Academy) and sip on boba tea from the Moonie Boba Truck.

Yancy Street Comics in Tampa and Port Richey will also have all day parties with free comics, store-wide sales and comic writer guest appearances.

Other Tampa Bay shops with FCBD events include Comic Spot in Riverview, Read More Comics in Brandon and Comics & Stuff in Tampa. To find a participating shop near you, use

Fest, fests and more fests

Keep the Cinco de Mayo vibes going with the St. Pete Tacos & Tequila Festival on May 13 and 14.

The two-day event features more than 30 food vendors serving up tacos and Mexican inspired classics. There’s even a whole truck just for elote (Mexican roasted corn). Pop up bars and other trucks will serve margaritas, palomas, bloody Marias, craft beers and spirit samplings.

Being in Vinoy Park, there will also be plenty of room for games and live music throughout the days. General admission is $12, and a $42 Matador Cantina gets you a VIP area, drink sampling, a private dining tent and bars and an A/C bathroom trailer.

Get tickets and more information at

After a 7-year break, WMNF’s Tropical Heatwave music festival finally returns to Ybor City on May 6.

Kicking off at 6 p.m. in the historic Cuban Club, the fest features national acts in blues, jazz, Americana and more. This year’s lineup include soul vocalist Shemekia Copeland, singer/songwriter Eilen Jewell Band, ‘70s R&B group Laura Rain & the Caesars, funk/soul/rock band the Seratones, Chicago-style blues trio GA-20 and psychedelic rock group The Snozzberries.

Tampa Bay area artists include Cottondale Swamp, Glove, Have Gun Will Travel, Magadog, Synergy in a Cup, Talk to Mark and Vodkanauts.

Tickets to Tropical Heatwave start at $40 in advance, $50 at the door. Buy them and get more information at

That same weekend, the Pinellas Diaspora Arts Project launches the inaugural Tampa Bay Chalk Festival in south St. Petersburg.

The historic Deuces neighborhood (22nd Street South) will feature sidewalks covered in colorful illustrations by local artists and residents. And everyone in the community is invited to register to create street and sidewalk chalk art.

Board member and festival organizer Debbi Yati Garrett said the history and culture of the Deuces make for a perfect spot for the new festival.

“This is an opportunity to bring together the community of artists, recreation centers, youth providers, and businesses, in addition to showcasing professional artists’ chalk work from near and far,” Garrett shared on the event page. “And most importantly, to give our children a day of art expression using chalk and art while having fun.”

Along the route are local businesses and restaurants opening to serve festival-goers, including Lorene’s Fish & Crab House, Heavy’s Restaurant, Rastaman Natural Juices, Urban Drinkery and more.

The chalk festival prep begins at 8 a.m. with an opening introduction at 9 a.m. The festival runs until 4:30 p.m.

Capping off an eventful month is Sunset Music Festival, the annual electronic music celebration at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

SMF runs Memorial Day weekend, May 27-28, and more than 30 DJs and producers, including AC Slater, Slander, Audien, Hannah Wants, Zomboy and Bear Grillz + Bad News Bears. Two-day general admission tickets start at $99.95. VIP and general admission plus tickets, as well as hotel packages, are also available. Buy them and get more information at

Coming soon: Elev8 Fun indoor amusement park

The Tampa Bay area is also getting an exciting entertainment addition this month – Elev8 Fun Center, basically an indoor theme park.

Elev8 is set to open in early May, though no official date has been announced. Back in March, Creative Loafing got a behind-the-scenes tour of the space, which was still under construction in the old Sears building at Citrus Park Town Center.

The 125,000-square-foot fun center is filled with new and classic arcade games, two types of bowling, laser tag, axe throwing, go-karts, a ropes course at the mall entrance, mini golf, an interactive dark ride, multiple VR attractions and more.

Stay tuned to Creative Loafing for updates on Elev8 Fun’s opening in Tampa.

Theme park updates

One of the most anticipated new roller coasters of the year finally opens at SeaWorld Orlando on May 27.

Pipeline: The Surf Coaster is a first of its kind attraction that has riders crouching like they would on the back of a surfboard. The entire ride car is designed like a surfboard, and the track flows, banks and drops like the waves of the ocean.

The coaster is 110 feet at its tallest point and can reach speeds up to 60 mph over 2,900 feet of track.

Down the street at Universal Orlando, Poseidon’s Fury will permanently close on May 9.

While not one of the most popular attractions at Universal, Poseidon’s Fury has gained a bit of a cult following since its opening in 1999. More of an immersive trail experience than a ride, Poseidon’s Fury features a tour through ancient ruins and an epic battle show between Poseidon and Lord Darkennon.

Poseidon’s Fury was closed for nearly two years during the pandemic, and reopened again in March 2022. The closure is to make way for new experiences in Islands of Adventure. With the Wizarding World of Harry Potter right next to The Lost Continent, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Universal eventually announces a Harry Potter land expansion.

Back in January, Universal closed Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone and Shrek 4-D at the Studios park to make way for a new Minion Land and Villain-Con Minion Blast as well as other new attractions.

Universal’s new Epic Universe theme park is also well under construction near the Orange County Convention Center. Epic Universe is set to open in summer 2025 and will include Super Nintendo World.