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Florida Travel Blog 

Travel destinations, beaches and attractions and things to do in Florida. Documented by RESIDENTS of Florida.

Booming Tampa Riverwalk – A Florida Day Trip On the Riverwalk

Tampa Riverwalk Things To Do

For this Florida day trip, you don’t have to do much traveling. Tampa Riverwalk is a 2.6-mile-long walkway along the Hillsborough River. Our Tampa Florida day trip covers Things To Do on the Tampa Riverwalk, Attractions on Riverwalk in Tampa, Hotels on Riverwalk and the Restaurants along the way.

You can spend a day at Riverwalk Tampa and come back with plenty of things to do on Tampa Riverwalk for several more day trips to Tampa – or extend your stay for a weekend in Tampa and still have things to see and do on the Riverwalk.

Tampa riverwalk things to do - downtown
View of downtown Tampa from Amalie Arena which is on Tampa Riverwalk.

Top Attractions of the Tampa Riverwalk

We are starting with the top attractions on Riverwalk while realizing there are dozens more things to do and see. But here are the best attractions:
The Florida Aquarium
top attractions on Tampa Riverwalk the Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium is one of the top attractions on the Tampa Riverwalk just a couple blocks from Sparkman Wharf.

The Florida Aquarium, in the heart of downtown Tampa, stands as a beacon of marine education, conservation, and entertainment. Spanning over 250,000 square feet, this world-class facility invites visitors to embark on a captivating journey through diverse aquatic ecosystems.

From the serene beauty of Florida’s wetlands to the vibrant coral reefs of the Caribbean, the aquarium’s exhibits showcase the rich biodiversity of marine life. Visitors can marvel at graceful stingrays gliding through the water, witness the majesty of sharks patrolling their tanks, and discover the delicate dance of colorful reef fish. Beyond its stunning displays, the Florida Aquarium is committed to marine conservation and research, working tirelessly to protect endangered species and preserve fragile habitats. 

Whether you’re a curious child or a seasoned marine enthusiast, a visit to the Florida Aquarium promises an unforgettable voyage into the enchanting world beneath the waves. Note that the Aquarium is a 3-4 minute walk from the end of Riverwalk, but it is one of the top attractions on everyone’s list. See the Map of Tampa Riverwalk below.

The Tampa Bay History Center

Start at the Florida Aquarium and then walk about a quarter mile down Water Street to The Tampa Bay History Center

The Tampa Bay History Center features the long history of the Bay Area. Tampa’s Cuban influence is highlighted along with Tampa’s waterways. The days of Tampa’s cigar-making history tells the story of Vincente Martinez-Ybor and the move from Key West to Tampa.

The four stories of the History Center tell a different story about Tampa Bay’s history from the Civil War era, to the fun of the roaring 20’s, and on to the World War II and Tampa’s considerable war effort.

Anyone interested in history will consider this a classic period museum. Children’s programs are also available.

top attractions on Tampa Riverwalk - Tampa Bay History Center
The Tampa Bay History Center and the park in front is a must see attraction on the Tampa Riverwalk.
The Tampa Museum of Art

Located along the picturesque Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa, the Tampa Museum of Art stands as a cultural gem, showcasing a diverse array of artistic treasures.

With its sleek and contemporary architecture, the museum’s striking presence on the Tampa Riverwalk beckons visitors to explore its enriching exhibitions and collections. From classical masterpieces to cutting-edge contemporary works, the museum offers a dynamic blend of art forms and styles, spanning various mediums such as painting, sculpture, photography, and decorative arts. Whether strolling through its spacious galleries or attending one of its engaging educational programs, visitors are treated to a journey of artistic discovery and inspiration. 

As a beacon of artistic excellence and cultural enrichment, the Tampa Museum of Art continues to captivate and inspire visitors from near and far, leaving an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of Tampa Bay.

things you need when flying
The Glazer Children’s Museum

Next door to the Tampa Museum of Art is the Glazer Children’s Museum.

The Glazer Children’s Museum’s history dates back to the 1965 opening of Safety Village in Lowry Park and has grown over the years, just like the children they serve. Since the opening of its Downtown building in 2010, Glazer Children’s Museum has been a landmark along the beautiful Tampa Riverwalk.

Over the years, GCM has become an integral part of the cultural corridor of Tampa Bay’s museums, libraries, theaters, and performing arts centers. Children who play at the Glazer Children’s Museum grow up to be lifelong patrons of arts and culture.

tampa riverwalk things to do - rentals
The Tampa Riverwalk has boat rentals, kayaks, paddleboards and many other things to rent on the walkway. Riverwalk rentals are mainly near the convention center.

Best Things To Do On the Tampa Riverwalk

After the aquarium and History Center, take a ride on the Pirate Water Taxi which is on the Riverwalk adjoining the History Center.  Tell the taxi captain you want to go to Ulele for lunch. The oysters are exceptional! If you prefer other water sports, there are boat rentals, jet skis and paddle boats along Riverwalk.

The Tampa Riverwalk offers a vibrant and scenic waterfront experience, with a plethora of activities to suit every interest. Here are some of the best things to do on the Tampa Riverwalk:

  • Take a Leisurely Stroll: Enjoy a relaxing walk along the Riverwalk, taking in the picturesque views of the Hillsborough River and downtown Tampa skyline.
    Tampa Riverwalk as you head downtown Tampa
    As you leave the convention center and head north on the Tampa Riverwalk you get this view of downtown.
  • Visit Museums and Cultural Institutions: Explore the Tampa Museum of Art and the Glazer Children’s Museum, both located along the Riverwalk, to immerse yourself in art and interactive exhibits. The Tampa Bay History Center is a must visit
  • Enjoy Outdoor Activities: Rent a bike or bring your own to cruise along the Riverwalk’s bike paths. You can also rent a paddleboard or kayak to explore the waterways.
  • Dine with a View: Indulge in waterfront dining at one of the many restaurants and cafes along the Riverwalk. Whether you’re craving seafood, American cuisine, or international flavors, there’s something to satisfy every palate.
  • Catch a Sunset: Experience the beauty of a Tampa sunset while strolling along the Riverwalk or relaxing in one of the waterfront parks. Don’t forget to capture the breathtaking views!
  • Attend Events and Festivals: Keep an eye out for special events and festivals held on the Riverwalk throughout the year, such as concerts, art festivals, and food tastings. Don’t miss St. Patrick’s Day on Riverwalk!
    St. Patrick's Day Tampa turning the river green on Riverwalk
    On St. Patrick’s Day morning, they turn the Hillsborough River green for the day along Riverwalk. We got this view from the Water Street Marriott.
  • Take a River Cruise: Take a scenic river cruise to learn about Tampa’s history and landmarks from a different perspective. The Pirate Water Taxi is an option on two different routes. See the Map of Tampa Riverwalk below.
  • Relax in Parks and Green Spaces: Take a break from the hustle and bustle by lounging in one of the Riverwalk’s parks or green spaces, such as Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park or Water Works Park.
  • Shop Local: Browse through the Riverwalk’s shops and boutiques, where you can find unique gifts, artwork, and souvenirs crafted by local artisans.
  • Experience Public Art: Admire the various sculptures, murals, and installations scattered along the Riverwalk, adding an artistic flair to your waterfront journey.
  • Take an Electric Streetcar ride on one of the few electric trollies left in the country. You can catch this FREE trolley in front of the Marriott Water Street.
  • Amalie Arena is a great place to see the Tampa Lightning Hockey team play a game or catch a concert with people like country star Tim McGraw, comedian Tom Segura, Madonna, Cheap Trick, Heart and many more.
    top attractions on Tampa Riverwalk Amalie Arena
    Amalie Arena has some of the best entertainment in the state of Florida including the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team.

Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or cultural enrichment, the Tampa Riverwalk offers a dynamic and unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.

The Restaurants on Tampa Riverwalk

There are probably 50 to 75 restaurants on Tampa Riverwalk or within a half block. We don’t intend to list them all, but we can recount some of the best and most interesting ones we have experienced on many trips to Riverwalk.

  • The beginning of Tampa Riverwalk is technically Sparkman Wharf. This mixed-use facility contains open-air restaurants, walk-up bars, food vendors, shops, and lots of nightly entertainment. In the middle is a “swanky” bowling alley called Splitsville that has an incredible menu for a bowling alley. The area is full of young professionals at night looking for some fun and food.
  • Attached to the Tampa Bay History Center is a Columbia Restaurant location offering authentic Spanish food. The original Columbia is in Ybor City a few blocks away.
  • At the far north end of Riverwalk is a group of restaurants within a few steps of each other. Our favorite is Ulele, a contemporary restaurant serving an eclectic menu. Try the charbroiled oysters for a real treat!
    restaurants on Tampa Riverwalk Ulele oysters
    The charbroiled oysters from Ulele are awesome!
  • Also nearby is the Armature Works. This large mixed-use facility houses a dozen shops and restaurants which makes an interesting stop along the Tampa Riverwalk. One notable restaurant is Oak & Ola. Great cocktails and craft beers here along with their pizza.
  • At the Marriott Water Street, on Riverwalk, is an outdoor restaurant/bar called Anchor and Brine. They serve good sandwiches and dinner faire on the river.
  • If you are looking for something casual on the Riverwalk, stop at The Sail open-air restaurant next to the east end of the convention center. Great place to people watch with the docks and marina in front of The Sail.

Hotels on Tampa Riverwalk

Like restaurants, attractions and things to do on Tampa Riverwalk, hotels are numerous. There are some on the Riverwalk, some with a Riverwalk view and many more hotels near Riverwalk in Tampa.

Again, we do not intend to list all the hotels on Tampa Riverwalk, but some notable ones we can recommend.

  • Marriott Water Street – this is our favorite hotel
    hotels on Tampa Riverwalk Marriott Water Street
    The view from the Marriott Water Street hotel of the Pirate Taxi and harbor. The Sail restaurant has the blue top and the Tampa Convention Center is to the right.
    when visiting Tampa Riverwalk or downtown Tampa. The hotel is waterfront and part of the Tampa Riverwalk. It is generally expensive at some times of the year, but it is within walking distance of all the attractions listed here.
  • The Edition – also on Water Street is the only 5-star hotel in downtown Tampa called The Edition. Most of us can’t afford the prices but don’t miss a walk-through and look at the fabulous pool upstairs.
  • Embassy Suites – this hotel has a great view of Riverwalk and downtown Tampa without the cost of being waterfront.
  • Hotel Riverwalk Tampa – formerly a Sheraton hotel, this hotel is right on the river and Riverwalk. Comparatively reasonable rates and a great location in the middle of everything.
  • The Barrymore Riverwalk Hotel – lowest price of our hotel list. On the north part of Riverwalk, but near the Straz Center of Performing Arts.
attractions near Tampa Riverwalk Ybor City
Ybor City is a must-visit when in Tampa. Note the electric street car stopping in Ybor City.

Other Things to do on the Tampa Riverwalk Nearby

  • Ybor City is a colorful part of Tampa just a mile or two away from the Tampa Bay History Center. If you want to squeeze this historical few blocks, you can add Ybor City to your Tampa day trip on Riverwalk.
  • The Straz Center of Performing Arts has regular concerts. Check their schedule for a concert or show.
  • Check out one of the biggest sports bars in Tampa. Hattricks is two blocks off Tampa Riverwalk and Harpoon Harry’s is next to the Tampa Convention Center.
  • Just across the bridge at Water Street are two good restaurants – Jackson’s Bistro and American Social. Both are well-known Tampa restaurants with excellent food. The major attraction though may be the view of the Bay and the boat traffic. Speaking of boats, all along Riverwalk is an assortment of boats of all sizes and shapes.
things to do in Tampa Riverwalk Sparkman Wharf
Sparkman Wharf is on Tampa Riverwalk at the end of the walkway.

Tampa Riverwalk is the Heart of Tampa

Want to enjoy the stroll along Riverwalk? The walkway is secure, and well-lit for evening walking and the views are incredible. 

Public parking for Riverwalk is in several areas. The public garages near Sparkman’s Wharf, garages near Curtis Hixon Park, garage on Franklin Street near the Marriott, and lots near the Armature Works at the north end of Riverwalk.

Your Tampa Florida day trip is about an hour’s day trip from Orlando and about a two-hour day trip from Ft. Myers, Florida. From the Villages, Tampa is about 90 minutes. Just 45 minutes to the west of Tampa is Clearwater Beach, one of the best beaches in Florida.

Don’t miss an opportunity to see one of the nation’s best cities for living, visiting and entertainment. Visit Tampa Riverwalk soon.

Map of Tampa Riverwalk

Map of Tampa Riverwalk

Video of St. Patrick's Day and the Tampa Celebration

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