Downtown Tampa Riverwalk

Strolling down the downtown Tampa Riverwalk, I marveled at the “other Florida” I discovered on my East Coast Road Trip. No nightclub Miami vibe here. Forget Mickey’s Orlando getaway. Just West Florida charm. Tampa is a city that straddles two worlds—its century-old Ybor City Cuban heritage and its skyscraper reincarnation.

Tampa Riverwalk And in eight days, Tampa hosts the 2021 Super Bowl. And for the first time, a Super Bowl contender will play at Home Stadium. Go Buccaneers! So you can imagine Tampa is feeling a little cocky — ok let’s admit it bullish — about itself.

Raise the flag Tampa

Now a typical Super Bowl will draw thousands of football fans who come for football’s Biggest Day of the Year contest. But due to the pandemic, the city of Tampa will drastically reduce the attendance at its Raymond James Stadium. But I am not here for football.

Downtown Tampa Riverwalk

Since I want to see outdoorsy Tampa, I choose to explore the 2.6 mile downtown Tampa Riverwalk. It is a sprawling outdoor museum, a pirates cove, a colossal children’s playground and an adult’s gym. It is rated #13 of 178 things to do in Tampa, according to Trip Advisor.

“The Riverwalk connects Tampa’s dynamic cultural venues, family oriented parks and the city center’s vibrant business community creating connectivity and eclectic synergy.”

Visit Tampa Bay is a great source for all things to do in Tampa.

Downtown Tampa Gasparilla Festival

Convention Center

For the millions who attend conferences in Tampa each year, it also lies just outside the doors of the Tampa Convention Center. And a brisk walk can offer a respite from a full day spent looking at Powerpoint presentations at a business convention. But on this Sunday, I see an empty convention center (a sad truth mirrored across the United States as conventions go virtual during the pandemic). Today it is being used by athletes getting in shape for their next marathon. They briskly run up and down the building’s steep white steps.

Exercise Zone

Truthfully, on this Sunday (and probably any weekend year round in this temperate weather zone), the downtown Tampa Riverwalk is a people mover. Everyone is on a quest to relax, eat or exercise. I found the Big E was the chief occupation during my morning walk. Truth be told, the Tampa Riverwalk looks like a conveyor belt with bicyclers, runners and walkers. And who wouldn’t want to soak up the sun exercising along the river? And you’ll never be lonely on the Riverwalk if you visit the Monument Trail.

Statue on Historical Monument Trail

Walking Tour

But I had a purpose. My goal was to see as many of the major destinations highlighted on my downtown Tampa Riverwalk walking tour map. It was a free PDF download from Friends of the Riverwalk. This non-profit entity works in tandem with the City of Tampa to protect and publicize this waterfront jewel for residents and visitors.

“Our goal is to enhance the quality of life and build a stronger sense of community for Tampa Bay by preserving the waterfront for use by our citizens and visitors in a way that inspires a sense of ownership and invites active participation in city life.”

This website is a must-see resource for events, and festivals.

Gold Star Family Memorial Monument Tampa

Gold Star Families Memorial

I start my walk at Tampa’s Gold Star Families Memorial Monument—a major stop on the downtown Tampa Riverwalk. There are scenes etched on each of the four panels: Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice.

“At the center of this tribute, is a silhouette of a saluting service member which represents the Legacy of the Loved Ones who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our Freedom.”

Families take turns popping their head through the opening for photos.

Pirate Ships

The demographics of Tampa trend young … and swashbuckling. As the home of the Gasparilla Festival (West Florida’s version of the Mardi Gras), downtown Tampa Roverwalk is a magnet for pirates … of all ages. “Arrrgh You Ready For A Pirate Cruise?” There are options galore for short and full day cruises around the bay.

You can even learn the history of Tampa’s Gasparilla pirate festival aboard the Lost Pearl’s 1.5 hour cruise. Speaking of water transportation, you can easily navigate to your favorite stops on the downtown Tampa Riverwalk by booking transportation on the Tampa Water Taxi Company offers departure and pickup locations from 327 locations in Tampa. Consider it Uber on water.

University of Tampa Bull Statue

University of Tampa

This Gulf Coast city is home to thousands of iGen (also known as Centennials) college students. This was the third stop on my See Tampa in A Day whirlwind tour—The University of Tampa. Frankly I don’t know how the professors manage to keep their students at their desks when Tampa Bay bars and restaurants beckon just outside.

This city offers everything—pirate ships, cheap ethnic food (Cuban sandwich) and rowing on Tampa Bay. Plus you don’t want to miss a popular bull that makes his home on the downtown Tampa Riverwalk. He is a symbol of great pride to UT students and alumni. On my visit, I observed countless people lining up for their Instagram post with the UT Bull.

Tampa Museum of Art

Tampa Museum of Art

This city landmark turned 100 years old in 2020. The 66,000-square-foot modern facility opened in 2010. It was designed by architect Stanley Saitowitz. TMA is a major stop at Gasparilla Plaza. I saw young and old lounging on steps, laying on the grass, flying kites and picnicking. Meanwhile, the architecture encourages contemplation through its free outdoor art installations.

“With a 14,000 square-foot LED installation of Leo Villareal’s Sky (Tampa) illuminating the south façade and the Museum’s 23-foot tall cast iron sculpture Laura with Bun by Jaume Plensa silhouetted in front of the north façade, the Tampa Museum of Art stands as an iconic landmark of downtown Tampa.”

Although the museum is limiting attendance during the pandemic, it is open to visit.

Tampa Glazer Children's Museum

Glazer Children’s Museum

Standing adjacent to the art museum is a facility dedicated to play. Glazer Children’s Museum moved into their new location at Curtis Hixon Park in 2010. The facility is celebrating “10 years of play.”

“Play with purpose at the Glazer Children’s Museum, Tampa’s interactive, learning laboratory where children play, discover, and connect to the world around them to develop as lifelong learners and leaders.”

Pretend activities include putting on a show in the Twinkle Stars Theater, caring for pets at the Vet Clinic, creating new worlds in the Fort and saving the Day in the Firehouse.

Tampa Riverwalk Dog Park

Tampa Dog Park

Our four-legged friends also like to play … and bark … and chase tennis balls. And there is no more popular destination than the dog park. Children (in size and spirit) can run and play in these delightful fenced in park located next to the Tampa Museum of Art. It’s also a great spot to lounge on a bench and just dog watch.

Downtown Riverwalk Signage

Friends of Tampa also offer a scavenger hunt on their website. During their walk on the Downtown Tampa Riverwalk, visitors are asked to find the favorite watering hole for our four-legged friends, the words to a famous Judy Garland song and the Gasparilla Parade began. Answers can be posted on Facebook. Another interesting fact: the Hillsborough River is one of the urbanized riverfronts in all of Florida.

Tampa is definitely a city which I plan to visit next time I stay in West Florida. Who doesn’t want to be a pirate for a day? Instead of walking the plank, I suggest you walk along the Hillsborough River. See Downtown Tampa Riverwalk!

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Riverwalk Tampa

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  • Tabitha Bear
    January 30, 2021 at 7:49 am

    I did not know Tampa had a riverwalk! Added to the list for future Florida visits.

    • Terri Markle
      January 30, 2021 at 8:11 am

      It is one of the best Riverwalks I ever experienced in my travels. I love how the city planners thoughtfully included major stops, such as the art museum, children’s museum and parks.

    • Anwesha
      January 31, 2021 at 10:02 am

      I love taking walking tours, helps me absorb more about the place and it’s culture. I also love exploring different cuisines whenever I am traveling. Thanks for sharing this post.

  • Carley
    January 30, 2021 at 8:34 am

    Lovely post! I’ve never been to Tampa even though I’ve lived just across Florida for two years now! I’ll have to make it there! Thanks for sharing!

  • Paula Martinelli
    January 30, 2021 at 9:02 am

    This is fabulous! I live in Clearwater for 15 years now and can you believe I have never taken the Tampa Riverwalks before? Thanks for inspiring me to get in my car now, get my dogs, and go for a beautiful outdoor walk.

    • Terri Markle
      January 30, 2021 at 10:32 am

      Your dogs will love the Dog Park near the art museum. The Riverwalk is so cool.

  • Lavi
    January 30, 2021 at 12:28 pm

    Looks so fun!! Need to go here when I visit Tampa again!

    • Terri Markle
      January 30, 2021 at 12:42 pm

      You will have a blast. I wish I had time to bicycle on the Riverwalk.

  • Neha
    January 30, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    This seems perfect to spend a day. The Children’s museum is for sure going to attract my kids.

  • Katherine
    January 30, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    I would be such a sucker for a pirate cruise. It appeals to my inner child! But I would always balance that out with a visit to the Tampa Museum of Art, just to add a little highbrow to my life

  • Josy A
    January 30, 2021 at 1:57 pm

    I love this kind of river walk. It’s the best way to explore a city isn’t it!! 🙂

  • Tanya
    January 30, 2021 at 3:25 pm

    Tampa has a river walk!! So COOL!!! Great tips here.
    My beloved Chiefs will be there very soon to win the super bowl!

    • Terri Markle
      January 30, 2021 at 4:07 pm

      Wish you and the family could be in Tampa to support your beloved Chiefs. Good luck at the Super Bowl!

  • Lisa
    January 30, 2021 at 3:35 pm

    I honestly didn’t know Tampa had a river walk!! I’d love to explore this the next time I’m in Florida!!

  • Zoe
    January 30, 2021 at 4:02 pm

    Great post! I’ve been to Florida as a kid with my parents (we’re from UK) but I’d love to be back one day in the US for exploring the non Disney locations!

    • Terri Markle
      January 30, 2021 at 4:08 pm

      You definitely want to come back to Florida and see the non-Disney version. There is so much to explore in Florida. I have probably visited at least 20 times and I still have places that I want to see, like the Everglades National park.

  • Ummi Nadrah
    January 31, 2021 at 6:37 am

    What a lovely way to spend the day in Tampa — on your own, with family, or with fur babies. Good luck for the Super Bowl!

  • Melanie
    January 31, 2021 at 7:33 am

    Love this Terri! It’s been so many years since I’ve spent time in Florida and you bring out the magic and playfulness of each destination you visit! Thank you for taking us for a walk along the Tampa Riverwalk!

    • Terri Markle
      January 31, 2021 at 8:04 pm

      Thank you Melanie for joining me on my Riverwalk! It is a great way to explore Tampa.

  • Anwesha
    January 31, 2021 at 10:03 am

    I love taking walking tours, helps me absorb more about the place and it’s culture. I also love exploring different cuisines whenever I am traveling. Thanks for sharing this post.

    • Terri Markle
      January 31, 2021 at 8:03 pm

      I love walking tours too. It is a great way to learn about a new place when you visit.

  • Bianca Montalvo
    January 31, 2021 at 12:51 pm

    I haven’t been to Tampa in years & I’m not sure I even knew they had a riverwalk last time I was there. Hopefully during my next visit I can go and explore!

    • Terri Markle
      January 31, 2021 at 8:02 pm

      I hope you can get back and enjoy the Riverwalk.

  • Courtney
    February 1, 2021 at 11:15 am

    I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida but I’ve never been to Tampa. This post definitely makes me want to check it out sometime!
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Shannon
    February 2, 2021 at 5:51 pm

    The Riverwalk is great! It’s grown so much in the last few years.

    • Terri Markle
      February 13, 2021 at 7:32 pm

      It is a real jewel for the city. I loved seeing all the people mingle on the Riverwalk.