Tampa Riverfest returns with lantern parade, fiesta, water ski show, and hot air balloons

Night time view of downtown with lights and hot air balloons on ground

Tampa Riverfest is a sprawling, family-friendly event that will span the entire length of the Tampa Riverwalk. Yes, this event connects the bustle of Tampa Heights to the boom of Water Street. Previous iterations of the event have included multiple stages for live music, a wild fireworks display, glow in the dark hot air balloons, outdoor food halls, and so much more. Tampa Riverfest 2023 will take place May 5 and 6.

Riverfest includes two food-themed events and a local market

The festival typically includes multiple food festivals including the always fun Taste of the Riverwalk.  There is also a full concert series of local bands on the main stage in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and a balloon glow at sunset both nights.  Other activities include a wiener dog derby, sidewalk chalk artists and a stand-up paddleboard invasion.   


Year four of the Tampa Riverwalk’s signature event will be held on Friday, May 5, 2023, in Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa. There will be a free concert series that begins in the evening with beer trucks and activities available that evening.

On Saturday, May 6, from 11 am – 5 pm in Water Works Park, organizers will introduce the new Riverfest Market FREE. The market will feature handcrafted goods, plants and more. While you shop and stroll, enjoy music on Water Works Park Stage and multiple local food trucks to choose from. The Riverfest Market is being organized by Tampa Bay Markets, a local grassroots organization that curates local markets for the greater Tampa Bay area. 

The 2022 iteration of River Fest introduced the community to the stunning Lantern Parade | Photo via Friends of the Tampa Riverwalk

Live music, dahschund derby, and more set

There is so much to take in during Riverfest. The Wiener Dog Derby, Concert Series, Beer Tents, and more completely activate our waterfront parks. Tampa Riverfest is also partnering with The Florida Wiener Dog Derby as part of the FREE events and activities for Riverfest.


The 2022 iteration of Riverfest launched a new activity, the lantern parade. The Riverfest Lantern Parade is now a new annual event where participants decorate their own paper lanterns and join in on the parade. The parade will start at Water Works Park at 8:30pm and end in Curtis Hixon Park.

Lantern kits will be for sale the day of the event, 6pm-8pm in Water Works Park. Create a manatee, turtle or your very own design and stay to debut your lantern during the fabulous parade.

Sample from a variety of local restaurants during Taste of the Riverwalk

Taste of the Riverwalk returns

Year four of the Tampa Riverwalk’s signature event, Taste of the Riverwalk, will be held on Friday, May 5, in Curtis Hixon Park There will be a free concert series that begins at 4pm with beer trucks and activities available that evening. The Taste of the Riverwalk event will take place within Curtis Hixon Park from 5:30pm-8:30pm. A wristband purchase is required for access to the food tent area. Tickets have just gone on sale for and can be purchased online.

Organizers have also announced a brand new component: RiverFiesta. This new experience is set to take place on May 6 from 11am-9:30pm in Curtis Hixon Park. RiverFiesta will provide a delicious opportunity to try a variety of tacos, bowls and nachos while enjoying all the other aspects of Riverfest.

You need to visit the Cuban Nacho Station. These nachos will be served with mojo pork, cheese sauce, Cotija cheese, cilantro, pickled onion, and Cuban aioli. Check out the full RiverFiesta menu online.

Water ski show added to the festivities

Get ready for a new kind of entertainment along the Hillsborough River. This piece of Tampa has turned green for St. Patrick’s Day, has served as host for Super Bowl and Stanley Cup Championship parades, has carried SUP users during paddle board invasions, and even served as the track for 10,000 racing rubber ducks. On Saturday, May 6 beginning at 5pm, a troupe of water ski performers will take to the Hillsborough River for a show unlike any other.

Other events to have on your radar:

Those interested in participating, attending, or vending, can learn more on the official Riverfest website.

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